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Starting an Online Business: Part 1 (taking pictures)


I am asked questions about starting an online business, well, a lot.  Sometimes I laugh because I don’t have any “business” training.  I feel like I have just faked it: tried this, added that, adjusted this, deleted that. And I still need lots of work.  However, because some of you are just starting out with a little online shop, I am totally up for sharing what I know.  But please don’t feel like my way is the only way.  Or even the right way. 


But I have a few opinions about selling online and I will share them, if interested.  And because there is more than one area to talk about, I’ll split it up.  So first…….is taking pictures.


Let’s talk about the consumer.  When someone who doesn’t know you clicks on your shop, first impressions mean a lot.  They don’t know if you’re clean or dirty, kind or dishonest, happy or cranky.  All they know is what they see in your little shop.  And I guarantee that they aren’t going to go and read the “profile blurb” about you first.  They will go and see what you’ve got.  So make all of your pictures good so that they will research your shop more, if interested.


Let me clarify something before you slump over in defeat, knowing you don’t have a super nice camera. You don’t have to have a beautiful camera with crazy good lenses.  Use what you have but maybe just change your methods a bit.


First of all……..background distractions. 


Let’s say that you are selling this super sweet little green ceramic egg-shaped bowl, with clothing labels inside. (Nope, I’m not really selling this.  It’s just an example.)  And you decide that your counter top is the perfect background for it.  So you take a few shots of it.




Good grief, can you even see the green bowl?!?!! 


Let’s point out the distractions:




If you’re going to use the counter, that’s great.  Just clear everything out of the background.  Seriously, everything.  But if you do want something else in the picture, make sure it corresponds with the product you’re selling.  For example, I could place the green bowl next to my sewing machine, or next to some scissors and a stack of fabric.  Just make sure it relates to the product.  And is tidy. 

(And I would always take a picture of the product all by itself too, as an additional image.)


Do you want to know what I use for my background 90% of the time?  A white foam poster board.  And then I zoom on in (or step closer), so the edges of the board can’t be seen.




But I use colored backgrounds too.  Most of the time it’s a piece of fabric that I lay down, or a blanket, or the grass, or a piece of wood, and sometimes even a cool plate. 

(All are past projects of mine……not actual items I have sold.)


Whatever the background is, be sure it adds to the item……and doesn’t take away from it.



Now………..product angle.


Sometimes it’s hard to tell what angle will take a good picture of your product.  My advice here, is to take lots and lots of pictures.  Try different angles, different heights……..and keep on clicking.  You can always delete digital images later.


I think at first we think it’s best to take a picture from the top.  And that’s it.  And we don’t even consider all of the empty space around the object.




Instead, zoom in (or step closer) and give that product a different angle.






See the difference?





And don’t be afraid to take several different shots of the details of your item.  The more the consumer can see, the more likely they are to get a feel for the product…….and then hopefully want to buy it.




It’s hard to get an idea of what a product is really like, without having it in your hands.  So make it easier on the consumer and take as many different angled pictures as you can.





Okay……let’s talk about lighting.


Flashes are so great.  But they really wash out your pictures.  Especially while you’re inside and it’s really dark.  And the flash just tends to bleach out the real color and detail…..making the pictures inaccurate and blah.  So unless you have all the right equipment (and flash training), the flash is out, in my opinion.



But if you take a picture inside without the flash………it can look like this:



So step outside and take a few shots.  What’s the best time of day?  Morning, evening, while it’s overcast, or in some partial shade.  Direct sun will wash out your picture too.




And then scoot in close for your shot.



But sometimes it’s either too sunny outside or it’s raining/snowing.  If you have to stay indoors, place your product right by a window or a glass door…….to get the light you need.



And then crouch down and get in close for the shot.  (Putting it up on a table/chair may be helpful too.)




Does that help?  I hope it does.  Because that’s all I’ve got.  Haha.


And I have more tips for starting an online business…….but you’ll have to wait for the next installment.



Let me know if you have specific questions too.  I’m only pulling from the common questions that I get pretty frequently… if there’s more, I’ll do my best.  However, remember what I said above……I have no real training.  So take these pointers or leave them.  They are just some that have worked well for me.



Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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