Mistake #1 – White balance
White balance is also referred to as color temperature, and it is a spectrum, just like a thermometer. On the colder side, the whites in your picture are going to look a little purple or a little blue. On the warmer side, they are going to look a little bit yellowish or even a little bit orange.
How to avoid pictures looking purple or yellow and keep the whites looking white? The first thing to understand is that color temperature is measured with a unit called Kelvins. You might never have heard of it before, but it’s actually on any light bulb packaging. If you buy a light bulb, it will tell you what kind of color temperature that light source is going to create for you (e.g. 2,000 K or 5,000 K). To make sure that in your pictures the white looks the same as in real life in natural daylight, so we want to try to mimic that daylight as closely as possible. The natural daylight temperature is between 5,000 K – 6,000 K so if you’re going to be shooting with artificial lights, you want to make sure that you’re using a light bulb that’s around 5,500 K.
The second tip is to set your camera’s white balance to match the color temperature that you’re using. If you know your light bulb is 4,500 K then set your camera for that temperature and it will auto adjust so that the whites look white. If you have a DSLR (a manual camera) there is going to be a setting for that, but you can also set it on your smartphone if that’s what you’re using for your product photography. To do that, I recommend you download an app called VSCO (it’s free). It will let you adjust the color temperature before you take the shot to make sure that your whites are white.
My last tip when it comes to color temperature is for those of you who are thinking: “but Deb, I already have light bulbs and I really don’t know what color temperature they are, how do I figure this out?”. There are apps that can help you do that. I paid around $2 for the one I’m about to mention so you can look for free options, but I think that $2 is still pretty reasonable knowing that getting that right is really important for you to be able to make sales. The app I use is called Light Spectrum Pro. You can simply open the app and move your phone around and it will show you what the color temperature around is.
Mistake number two is bad exposure, and what bad exposure really means is bad lighting. Your picture can be too dark – that means it’s been underexposed, or way too bright, meaning it’s been overexposed. It’s a fine balance between getting enough but not too much light.
The reason we want to avoid underexposing or overexposing is that it doesn’t look good and you lose details on your products. When it’s underexposed pixels go dark and black, and when it’s overexposed, the pixels are getting burned and they turn white in part of your picture. It’s not something you can fix, even with editing.
How to avoid that? First of all, you want to be close enough to the source of light (a window for example) to get enough light, but you don’t want to let it directly hit the product. If you’re using natural light, you want to be in the shade instead. If you’re using artificial lights, you can use a white umbrella or a lightbox to make sure that the light is being filtered before reaching your product.
Mistake #3 – angle
Mistake number three is a weird or awkward angle. This one is a little harder to explain but the idea is to use common sense to pick the right angle at which to shoot your pictures or you’re going to distort the perspective and whatever product or object you’re taking a picture of is going to look longer or wider or just weirder. To avoid it, my best tip is to think about how people in real life would hold and look at this product. Using a mug as an example, I’m realistically never going to look at it from an awkward, diagonal angle. I want to see the front of it and I’ll look in and then maybe I’ll look down to see what’s written at the bottom of it, but it’s never going to be on an awkward, sort of “in between” angle.
It’s really important to think about that because people can’t touch the product so they want to see what they would want to see in real life, and also because again, if you take it from a weird angle, you’re going to make it look wider at the bottom than it is at the top when it’s not like that in real life and we don’t want to have some distortion of perspective.
Mistake #4 – cropping
Mistake number four has to do with cropping. It’s something I see in so many different shops all over Etsy and all over the Internet, to be honest. It’s really easy to fix, and it’s really important. What you want is to be able to see the product in the picture in its entirety, not too zoomed in and not too zoomed out. That’s really important because it means that you might need to crop and size each image differently if you’re using it on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, on your own website and for whatever use you want to make of it.
Please try to think about the platform and where this image is going to be used and make sure that we can see your product in its entirety and it’s not being cut because that is not going to help you get clicks and sales.
Mistake #5 – editing
The last mistake, mistake number five has to do with editing. There are two sides to that mistake: one is you are not editing your pictures at all or enough and the other is you’re editing them too much. You always need to edit your pictures! Even if you follow all the tips we’ve covered in this video and your set up was perfect, there is always something that you can improve, even slightly, with a bit of editing. It could be brightness or color adjustment, but you need to be editing your pictures to make sure that they look as good as they can.
Don’t take it too far because you risk editing too much, and it makes your image look like it’s not real. It’s really easy to get carried away, maybe because as you edit, your eyes are getting used to it; you make a change, and then another one and another one and you forget what your original picture actually looked like. I’ve definitely been there myself! That’s why it’s important to check: “Have I taken this too far?”. I see pictures online where you can’t see any shadows at all and that just doesn’t look real to the human eyes. You don’t want to delete your background and your shadows entirely because that looks like your product is flying. You also don’t want to push the brightness too much because that changes your colors and then people are going to receive the product and think “that’s not what I ordered”. We definitely don’t want that!
If you don’t know how to get started with editing your pictures, I recommend you read another blog post about
That’s it! I hope it was helpful. What’s your favourite tip?