5 tips for great photos on a budget

I can not tell you how important it is to have nicely done photos, and if a professional photographer isn’t in the budget right now, it’s really not that hard to do it yourself while keeping a few things in mind.

Here is the best advice I can give you regarding your shop. If you have crappy photos of your products, you will have crappy results in your sales. End of story.

Quality takes time and effort though, so here are some tips that I think are the most important when it comes to making a good first impression.

For the following photos I went and purchased 2 pieces of bead board from the home improvement store and used them for the flooring and background. I then purchased a sail boat, silk flowers and a decorative box from a hobby & decor store on sale.

Lastly, I went to a used book store and got a steal on some beautiful books, 25 cents a piece! My total cost for this photo shoot was $35 bucks. The results, however, are immeasurable. Could a professional with a large lighting setup do better? Yes, but when you’re a start-up, you need to do what you can with what you have and come in under budget.

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1. Backgrounds: Do not, I repeat, do not just put your product down onto your carpet and snap away. This is fine for Ebay (barely), but not a professional shop. Nothing is worse than going to an awesome shop that has a great design only to be disappointed by seeing pictures that look like the latest Ebay offering.

No wrinkly bed sheets. Yes, I’ve seen it, and yes I can tell that’s your bed sheet. Did I mention carpet? Sometimes you can find nice fabrics on sale or even large scrapbook papers with subtle patterns that will compliment the colors of what your selling and will make a great background. Handmade is fabulous, but looking unprofessional is not, just because it’s handmade doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to show off your creations properly. ;)

2. Lighting: This is a very important step. It decides how much of your product we can actually see, and also how sharp the photo will be. It’s hard to take a photo in low light that isn’t blurry, especially for macro shots. Natural lighting is the best for taking photos, in my opinion, if you don’t have the proper equipment. So get your setup by some nice big windows or even go outside. If that’s not possible, it doesn’t mean you can’t get nice photos with a lightbox.

Unfortunately, professional setups can be very pricey, but here are a few tutorials on how to make your own light box, very inexpensively. Check it out here. Or you can now find one on Amazon for about $25 that will do. For my photos I wanted a larger area, so I went outside to do them. I got to say I may or may not have let loose several expletives when the wind tried to blow the cards and props away… several times… but in the end all worked out. ;)

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3. Cropping: Creative cropping can be extremely useful to you. With cropping you don’t have to worry about shooting beyond your background and catching unsightly areas. You can just crop them out later. Also try to crop all of your photos in the same way, square or rectangle. Uniformity is good when it comes to showing off products. While cropping is great don’t forget to zoom into your area. Use your camera’s tools.

4. Photo size: This is a biggie. Keep your photos 1000 pixels and under at 72 DPI. I repeat, 72 DPI. Most cameras are high-res and will load to your computer either smaller at 300 DPI or bigger at 150 or 72. The point is your photos should be 1000 pixels wide or less and always, always, ALWAYS, 72 DPI for the web. This ensures when we click to enlarge we get an enlarged view of the entire photo, but not a photo so large you have to scroll around a mile to view it all.

5. Backgrounds: OK, I admit, this top 5 list seems like I’m cheating since I’m repeating myself. But I can not express the importance of number 1. So it’s number 5 too. Really people… NO FLIP’N CARPET!

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* This article 5 years old and the style is a bit dated now, but the gist still stands today. There are new trends to consider now with the birth and explosion of Instagram and Arianne from Aeolidia has a really nice piece on lifestyle vs white backgrounds that you should definitely give a read. Check it out here