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It’s humbling how many people have told me, particularly in the past few months, how talented a photographer I am. Here’s a secret – I’m not a naturally talented photographer. Honestly. I just work really hard, keep trying, and consistently try to learn as much as I can. I’ve been on this photography journey for years! I first started trying to improve my photography (with a ‘point and shoot’ camera) about five years ago (!). I was selling painted minifigs on Ebay and starting my Etsy store. I knew I needed to have nice product photos that helped sell my listings, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. A couple of years into my journey, Etsy teammate Rose released the first edition of her Product Photography Made Simple. I bought it, read it, and it completely changed my life.
That may seem like a bold claim, but this e-book ended up impacting my life in a major way! Before reading Rose’s book, and her photography resources blog posts, I struggled with product and blog photography. I had horrible lighting issues, my white balance was perpetually off, I only used free online photo editors, and I was clueless about photography terms like “ISO” and “exposure triangle.” Rose’s resources are what convinced me to purchase Lightroom, which eventually also led to me getting Photoshop. Perhaps most importantly, though, the first edition of Product Photography Made Simple convinced me to abandon shooting in JPG and start shooting in RAW. Without RAW captures, much of the creative work I do today would not be possible.
If you’re wondering, like I was, what on Earth these crazy terms like RAW and ISO mean, I have great news for you – Rose has a new and even better second edition of Product Photography Made Simple! When she reached out to me for a review of the new version, I was so excited about the opportunity to share such a fantastic resource with you all. The book changed my photography life, and I’m sure it can change yours, too.
Product Photography Made Simple really is a simple, though not simplistic, guide to photography. Honestly, it’s a guide to all indoor photography – even though many of the lessons are geared towards product/small object photography, the same techniques are helpful for blog photography, still life shots, and even lifestyle photos. She covers diverse topics, including:
- Why good product photos are important
- Key terminology (photography speak like “aperture” and “ISO”)
- Recommendations for cameras and things to consider before upgrading
- Lighting basics
- Buying/building a lightbox
- Props, backgrounds / backdrops, and styling
- How to make product photos more compelling
- Cropping and basic editing
- Etsy photo considerations
- The DSLR “Exposure Triangle”
- Shooting RAW files
- Editing in RAW step-by-step tutorial
- Reasons to use Lightroom for your product photography
- And more!
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Let me show you what implementing Rose’s techniques can do for you! I dug back through the archives to find some product photos from a few years ago. These are from after I owned my first, very basic, DSLR camera, but before I started shooting RAW, using Lightroom, etc.
I can’t believe I’m posting these for the world to see! Here we go:
Um, wow. I was trying for a white background, which is better than having a bunch of distracting stuff in the the frame, but the lighting was harsh and the photo wasn’t even level. At least it was fairly bright and not like this one:
Here the lighting was softer (there are no visible harsh shadows), but the photo is so dark and dull! It also isn’t completely level.
Here the background is distracting:
And yet another. This one has lighting and white balance issues, plus there’s unnecessary negative space (a concept Rose explains in the book).
While these are not the worst product photos I’ve ever seen, I’m honestly pretty surprised anyone purchased any of these items!
Enter Product Photography Made Simple.
At Rose’s suggestion, I began trying to incorporate different, but not distracting, backgrounds, soften my lighting, and improve my cropping. This photo is far from “hero,” but it totally isn’t a zero! It was taken just a couple of months after the photos shown above:
As time went on, I began implementing some of Rose’s other advice, particularly with working on my white balance and playing with depth of field (don’t worry – that’s one of the terms explained in the book!). Because I’d started shooting in RAW and using Lightroom, I was able to control my white balance better.
Wow! Look at the difference! The potion bottle earrings above were shot with the exact same camera as all the other old product photos, but by following the steps Rose outlines in her book I was able to completely change the look and feel of my listing photos. If that isn’t proof that her book works, I don’t know what is!
As I mentioned above, Product Photography Made Simple is really a guide to indoor photography of all varieties.
If you don’t have an online store, you can still benefit from this book. If you don’t have a blog, you can still benefit from this book. If you don’t even have a “real” camera and are shooting with your phone, you can still benefit from this book!
In addition to being a wealth of information that assumes very little prior photography knowledge, it isn’t pushy or sales-y. Rose does not tell you buy a fancy DSLR if you want good photos. On the contrary – she advises you that a ‘nice’ camera does not automatically equate to ‘nice’ photos! Also, Rose is a Cannon shooter and mentions she can only offer personal recommendations for Cannon, but doesn’t overly push the brand. I’ve watched classes or read posts before that made me feel awkward and like my choice of Nikon instead of Cannon/Sony/Fuji/etc was going to doom me to photography failure, so I really appreciate Rose’s gentler approach!
Although Product Photography Made Simple is a fantastic beginner resource, there are also helpful tips for folks who already have some photography experience and Rose’s techniques are easy to use with non-product photography. For example, when shooting the image for yesterday’s post with a free blog planner printable, I remembered her suggestion to try a textured background. I grabbed a piece of linen and tried it out!
I love the organic, textured look of the linen and you will definitely see it again in future photos!
The second edition of Product Photography Made Simple includes a brand new for 2017 resource 8 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Your Product Photography.
Rose’s resources are what finally convinced me to make the switch to Lightroom several years ago. Even though I’m now a ‘seasoned’ Lightroom user, I learned some new tips from 8 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Your Product Photography! (I don’t want to give any major spoilers, but Rose suggests setting keywords for photos in Lightroom…which I’d literally never thought about before. I could have saved so much time over the past 3+ years if I’d spotted this feature earlier!).
The best news of all? The current investment for Product Photography made Simple is only $4.99! It is a fantastic value and will absolutely be the best five dollars you spend on education or photography this year. I really hope you take advantage of this fantastic resource and purchase your copy.
If you have any questions about the book or photography, please don’t hesitate to ask me or head on over to Rose’s blog to check out her wealth of photography resources!
When’s the last time you made an investment in yourself and your continuing education?
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