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Guide for Shooting Great Product Photos

Learn how to shoot and prepare your product photos for selling on the Internet
Providing an outstanding product photo is the most important task you can do to improve your sales as an artist.

When selling work online the customer does not have the benefit of handling the piece, therefore it is really the photography that sells the piece. With this in mind it is important to have quality images. Ideally you would hire a professional product photographer to shoot photos of your work of art. After all, you have spent a great deal of time creating the art, you want to display it in the best possible light. If you can't justify hiring a professional photographer, then you can take your own product photos if you keep a few things in mind when taking your photos.

Step 1. The Equipment

Use a Digital Camera
If possible, use a digital camera since it will eliminate the need to convert the photo to a digital file which can reduce the quality of photograph.

35 MM Instructions
If you must use a 35mm, use film at 400 speed or better including 250 or 100. You will also need to have your photos converted to digital files. You can have this done when you take the film in for developing. Make sure the developer knows that you want high resolution digital files. Sometimes they reduce file size on the assumption that is what you want. They should give you a CD of your photo files.

You will use this CD to access your photo files and transmit them to us with your application and later through our Artist's Dashboard. ( See more instructions below.) You can also have your photos scanned to convert them into digital files. Many copy centers such as Kinkos or Mail Boxes Etc. can do the scanning for you.

Step 2. The Settingsgold roses

Select the Highest Resolution
Set your camera to the highest quality or resolution.

Step 3. Setting the Scene

Select an Appropriate Setting/Background
If possible shoot your photos outside using natural light. That way you can avoid using a flash which will often distort art. Almost any outside day light will do. Slightly overcast days (without being too dark) can produce very good results when taking pictures outdoors, as the light is naturally well balanced and not too intense. If direct sunlight produces black shadows that have no detail, use white cards positioned just out of frame to bounce light into dark areas.

Shooting Indoors - Using artificial light:
If you must shoot indoors take some time to set up artificial lighting. If you do not have access to photography lights, you may want to purchase a couple of common halogen lights available at most hardware stores. (Incandescent and fluorescent lights cause unwanted color changes.)

When placing the lights, imagine that the lights are attached at the opposite ends of a rod held level with your object. Place one light slightly in back of your subject on one side and the other slightly in front on the other side. Have both lights facing the subject. You may also use white poster boards to help reflect additional light onto the subject. If you must use a straight-on camera flash, cover it with a tissue. Experiment.

Dealing with Glare
Move lights around. Try placing them at less than 22 1/2 degrees from the subject, never 45 degrees.

Keep your background simple:
Remember we are only interested in the product . A non-distracting background is essential. Use a building wall, or purchase matte board and craft a backdrop for your work. Don't use pure white, as it tends to create too much contrast in your photo. Place the art object against a background of contrasting color. Ideally, light objects should be photographed against a dark or black background. Do not use texture or patterned back drops. If you use a cloth backdrop, avoid wrinkles and buckles.

Hide Props
Hide the things you use to prop up the art. The only thing in your photo should be the product item as it is to be sold. So if you are selling an item without a frame, photograph it without the frame.

Shoot without Frames
Unless you are selling the work with a frame, always shoot your product photos without a frame.

Sculpture can be placed on a table in front of background paper, foam core, or darkness. Hang paintings on something vertical and secure. Pin works on paper to a vertical corkboard or piece of homosote. Try to position your artwork securely on a flat surface such that you can photograph it straight on (at right angles). Take the time to do this right and you will be surprised at the professional results you can obtain.

Use a Tripod to keep the camera still. Lots of camera stores rent their lights and tripods. If you do not have a tripod, find something on which to set your camera on.

Step 4. Taking the Photo

Shooting the photograph - Technique
  1. Move close - Buyers want to see detail, so really make your item take up the whole frame. Consider taking a close-up of a section of the item in addition to the entire object in order to give buyers a better idea of the item's actual condition.
  2. Keep the product in the center of the frame
  3. Fill your viewfinder with the entire subject leaving a little space around the work to make sure you capture the entire subject. We will do the necessary cropping.
  4. When photographing paintings, check that the edges of the paintings are straight (parallel) with the sides and the top/bottom edges of the viewfinder. If they are not straight then your camera is not positioned squarely in front of the piece, or your artwork needs to be tilted up or down.
  5. Make sure that the camera is parallel and level to your piece of art. Use a level to make sure the front of the lens, the side of the camera and the top of the camera are all level.
  6. Focus your camera as carefully as possible. Out of focus images are more difficult to correct than exposure problems. Many of today's smaller automatic focus cameras cannot focus at a close distance. Check the manual or instructions for your camera to see what the minimum focal distance is.
  7. Only display one item at a time in the photos.
  8. Take lots of photos. Take multiple photos of every product. Shoot from different angles. Frame the product within the camera view finder several different ways. If you have a camera with manual exposure controls, take shots of each piece with slightly under and slightly over exposed settings in addition to shooting at the correct exposure. This will give you a variety of results to choose from. Then you can select the best photos to upload to us.
  9. Also in some cases you will want to shoot from various angles to provide the customer with a complete view of your work of art.
  10. Avoid using lenses such as a wide angle that might distort your art work.

Step 5. Preparing the Image

Digital image specifications
Please submit your images using the following guidelines:
  • Platform: Windows XP, NT or 98
  • Pixel Dimension: 2000 pixels (at the image's longest dimension) 575 pixels is the minimum size we can post to the site
  • Resolution: 300 pixels per inch
  • Mode: RGB Color
  • File Format: PNG, TIFF, PICT, JPEG, GIF
  • No watermark please
Identifying your Photos
Save your photo files using the following naming convention:
The Initial Photo: First Initial+Last Name+ Product ID or
Product Submission # Examples:
JSmith 1,
JSmith 2,
Same Product,
Additional Photos: Add a, b, c, etc following the number Examples:
JSmith1 a,

Saving your photos
Save your edited picture as one of the file types listed in the specifications above.
Here's how (in most programs):
1. Choose Save As from the File menu.
2. Name your file using the style indicated above .
3. Select a file type from the Save as Type drop-down list. (See options above)
4. Remember where you stored the files

Don't worry about the file size .
We would prefer a high quality digital photo that we compress for optimizing the download time. The smallest side should be at least 575 pixels. We prefer 2,000 pixels. This is so that the largest image of your product is not an enlargement. It is better to start out large and compress than to start small and enlarge.

Step 6. Legal Considerations

Photo Releases Once you have been accepted and are uploading product photos to display on the site, you will need to obtain a photo release from any individuals in your photos. You also need a release when you use a private building such as a business in your photo. For your convenience you can find a copy of each release type here.

Individual Photo Release
Property Photo Release