A few thoughts on photographing your items, to use a white background or not.
When thinking of photographing your items to sell online, it is important that your photos catch and hold the shoppers attention, your photo should WOW the viewer!
Having been a jewelry designer for over 15 years and selling online for more than 7 years I have seen some beautiful handmade items on backgrounds that weren’t given much thought. For example, take a look at many items lsited on E-Bay, most sellers just slap their items on a table or the floor and snap away. Now, Take a look at teh artists and sellers from theartland.com, there is a huge difference in the way the items are presented in photographs.
When photographing I like white backgrounds for my items, mainly because my items are brightly colored, I opt for a white background so as to not over stimulate my shoppers with TOO much color!
Notice in the picture above that the item is so bright in color that if it were to have a colored background it would be over-kill.
Of course you must keep in mind not everyone is “Plain Vanilla” and some of us like to indulge in a more “Flavorful” option, and so that brings me to this; Colored backgrounds are fine if they are done in a way that is visually appealing to the shopper. You don’t want to place your gorgeous pink knit scarf on a screaming blue background, or your lovely lavender jewelry on a fire engine red background.
Use colors that work with your item, think about this: Your item needs to attract the shoppers eye, not get distracted or be visually over-stimulated by a too much of a good thing.
Look at these beautiful items, that were photographed on beautiful color backgrounds. You want to make sure that your background compliments your items like the ones featured below. These were are truly stunning, notice how the color makes the item pop!
I always suggest that you play around with colored backgrounds, take photos of your item on a few different backgrounds and then view them to see which is more visually appealing. Use props sparingly and make sure your items “FLOW” and match each other.
LunaTerra created a beautiful background that complimented her item very well.
Here are some tips on using color:
Most professional sellers will agree that a white, light colored or even a neutral background is preferred because it provides a stark contrast. It also works well for almost any item you could photograph. One note of caution when using a white background is to be careful with your light balance. Note that you may need to change your settings depending on the item colors, this is where you will want to make adjustments until you are satisfied with the photo. I always recommend referring back to your cameras instructions, these can save you a great deal of time!
Gray/dark neutral: Gray can provide a soft neutral without compromising the stark contrast. Do not to use a background that’s too dark or your item may get lost in the shadows and wont show off its true beauty!
Patterned Backgrounds: Rule of thumb, if you feel you must use a patterned background opt for minimal, remember LESS is MORE. You dont want a “BUSY” background that will deter attention away from your item. I suggest using a lightly patterned background, you will want to make sure that the pattern works well with your item. The following items below have “Patterned” backgrounds that work with the item photographed.
Notice with yifatbareket shop item she used a lightly patterned background.
gazellejewelry shop item was photographed beautifully with a “Lightly Patterned” background, notice how well the background used “WORKS” with the earrings, they really stand out and grab your attention!
Matching Colors: Some sellers like to use background colors that work with and compliment their handmade items. I cant stress enough to be very careful that the color does not distract from your item.
Here are some great examples below:
TheSpangledMaker made the perfect choice in this red background, it really complimented these cuff links well.
Using books: I love the use of an open book, it provides a nice black/white contrast and is an interesting prop. Think about what sort of book would compliment what you are photographing. There are lots of different types of books to choose from that will compliment your handmade items. If you create feminine jewelry, try a copy of Gone with the Wind, goth items paired with an Edgar Allen Poe book, you get the idea.
Here are some great examples from a few of my friends on how to use books for props in your photographs:
Roomofyourown did a fabulous job incorporating a book as a prop for her item.
Prop that match your brand: Choose props that fit your shop. Never use props simply because everyone else is using them, that is no guarantee that it will work with your items! Again, be sure that the prop you use compliments your items and wont distract from them.
Sheet music: Sheet music, if used correctly can add a classic touch to your photos. There are alot of different style music sheets that can be found online and ready to print, above all be sure it doesn’t distract from your handmade item and that it coordinates with the black and white.
Here is an item from Harrysgirls that was photographed on sheet music, notice how the sheet music compliments the bracelet:
Pictures: Pictures can make great backdrops for your items! You of course want to make sure that the colors and style compliment your items, and that the image you choose isn’t copyrighted. Here is a great example:
VickiDianeDesigns did a wonderful job using a photograph as a background for her jewelry, it fits together very well.
Outdoor and nature: Outdoor settings are endless! Think about using old wood, grass, sand, rocks and cement. Try and avoid shooting your items in direct sunlight. Look for settings that have filtered sunlight.
I love the outdoor setting chasitypetersen uses (as well as a live model) for their handmade scarf, it meshes very well together for a “Natural” look and feel.
Indoor settings: There are lots of indoor settings to try, such as window sills, tables, counters, or tile.
You will want to use areas in your house that provide a good amount of natural light. If your house is on the darker side you can always consider using Ott bulbs or a few fluorescent daylight bulbs.
Mannequin: Most shoppers and sellers will agree on this one, it is best to show your items modeled. If you cant find a real live model, a mannequin is your next best choice. When using a mannequin you can use either a full or half body depending on what the item is that you are photographing. Hand models are great for showing of rings, bracelets or holding small items such as key chains, beads or the like.
HappyCapatiller used a mannequin for displaying her item, it worked very well and shows the item off nicely.
Live model: I really love to see live models modeling products. There are some of us who dont feel comfortable with modeling our own items, in this case you can seek the help of a friend or family member to model your items for you.
Live models can make your item come to life like in the photograph of this item by stelladottir.
Use of a Light box: I LOVE my light box! It wasn’t expensive and was a great investment for me! I also believe in using natural light when at all possible. There are no set rules on photographing your items so don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun!
Here is a great example of an item I photographed without a light box (specifically for this article) notice how drab it is and also the red tinge it adopted?
Packaging prop: I include my packaging in some listings, I feel it is important and beneficial to the “Branding” of my shop. I know many sellers who photograph their jewelry on their packaging and is a splendid idea that can produce a beautiful outcome!
Here is a great example from AmpleGoddess:
Size prop: Size props are great for indicating the size of your handmade item. You will of course want to include measurements in your item description. The most popular size prop is a small object such as a coin to provide a frame of reference. Another option is to hold the object in your hand or model it yourself.
I love how DeLoop shows off her item size by holding it, notice how she cropped the image so that only a portion of the hand is in the photograph.
Your photograph is how you sell your items, really put your “all” into it!