10 Tips for Taking Great Photos for Your Artist Store

By Marlo Miyashiro

Now that you’ve got your Minted Artist Store up and running, it’s time to turn your attention to the presentation of your work by taking outstanding photos to fill your Store’s photo carousel, in addition to other branding materials such as social media and your personal website.

If you’ve tried to take photos in the past only to find limited success, you’re not alone. Product photography can be very challenging and requires a good amount of skill and practice to master.

Of course, the best thing to do is to work with a professional photographer. However, if you are unable to work with a professional right away, here are some DIY tips to help you easily improve your product photography using the camera you already own.

Get to Know Your Camera

Whether you are using a simple point-and-shoot, a fancy DSLR, or your phone camera, it’s worth the time to read your owner’s manual in an effort to get to know some specific settings on your camera that can help you improve your photos right away.

Carly Reed’s elegant black-and-white portrait

Carly Reed’s product photography on her @carlyreeddesigns Instagram

1. Exposure Value (EV +/-)

Adjusting the exposure value changes the camera’s shutter speed in very small increments. In essence, it slows down to brighten or speeds up to darken the image in your camera. When used correctly, this setting can lessen the time it takes to adjust the brightness in your photo editing program. So if you find that your photos are consistently too dark or too bright, exposure value is a setting that can help you create better-looking photos in your camera almost immediately.

Pro Tips: As a general rule of thumb, when shooting indoors, it’s best to avoid taking photos when sun is shining directly into your room. Also, cloudy days are a photographer’s best friend, as the lighting acts a natural diffuser. When photographing framed art, you might want to remove the glass in the frame to avoid catching glares.

2. White Balance

Different light sources project different colors that are almost imperceptible—until you take a photo. For example, household light bulbs shine a warm, yellow tone while fluorescent lights project a cool blue hue.

If you find that the colors in your photos aren’t as true as you’d like, you might want to try adjusting your camera’s white balance setting. This setting allows you to change what your camera sees as pure white by choosing a preset white balance range that matches the ambient light around the things you are photographing. If your camera allows for a custom white balance, give that a try. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make in the overall tone of your photos.

3. Camera Timer

If your photos are very blurry, there is likely too much movement of your camera when you are pressing the shutter button. A very easy way to minimize movement is to use a tripod, focus in on your work, and then set your camera’s shot timer to take the photo a couple of seconds after you push the shutter button. Crystal-clear images every time!

4. Macro Focus Mode

Auto focus mode is usually fine for most photography. However, if you are taking close-up photos of your products to show detail, you’ll want to learn how to set your camera’s macro focus mode (or use a macro lens for your DSLR). Look for the little flower icon on your camera or macro mode in the settings menu. Your camera can now focus in on the smallest details and your photos will seem to pop right off of the page.

5. Composition 

Experimenting with composition is very important when it comes to improving your photos and creating interesting images that your potential customers will want to learn more about.

Kristy Kapturowski of Hooray Creative did a great job composing this shot by using visual elements and props to express her personal brand. Annie Clark, a Minted artist and the company’s Associate Creative Director, recommends keeping propping minimal, so as not to overwhelm the product.

6. Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is to imagine your camera’s visual field divided into a grid, much like tic-tac-toe. If you place your main focal points in the intersections of the lines, you’ll create visual tension and interest within the image. This commonly used composition technique is why many cameras have a view screen grid option in the menu settings. Try placing your work at an angle, putting the focal point in the lower right or left intersection, or in the center but very low in the frame. It may be a bit uncomfortable to place items off-center at first, but when you step back you’ll certainly see a positive difference.

Amy Moen’s creative-process shot is a good example of using the rule of thirds.

7. Fill the Frame

Bringing your viewer up close and personal with your items emphasizes the fine details of your product. Using the macro-mode tip, focus in closely and fill the frame while keeping a keen eye on your composition. If you get close enough and hold steady, you might be able to catch the grain of the paper or the depth of your print—everything that shows the great quality of your work. This type of close-up photography is something that can be a bit difficult to master, but give it a try and see if this type of photography enhances your presentation.

8. Choosing Backgrounds

Beware of distracting textures and props. Oftentimes simple is better—especially if your Store’s branding supports it. Pay attention to the details to ensure the most interesting part of your item is the focal point and not the surrounding area. Experiment with letting your background elements fall outside of the edges of your photo to de-emphasize them so your piece is always the star of the photo.

Pro Tips: When shooting stationery overhead, place thicker pieces of paper beneath your stationery (they should be smaller so they don’t show). This approach will add a bit of a shadow and create more depth.

Minted photographer and stylist Olivia Kanaley recommends shooting products against interesting surfaces and backgrounds that help define your brand. In the above photo, Amy Moen does a great job of displaying her Minted artwork in a decorative setting.

9. Using Blanks

Make the most of styled product photography by using “blanks,” as shown below. For art, set up a scene with picture frames holding white paper or foam core, and for stationery, photograph plain white cards.

Then in post-production, insert the digital images of your work, making sure to set the artwork layer in Photoshop to multiply to preserve the shadows on the white cards and prints. Voila! You’ve got a interchangeable slate for featuring your products on your Store carousel as well as social media and your personal website.

For Minted Home products, we recommend photographing the actual products instead of using blank pillows and curtains.

10. Finding Photo Inspiration

As you’re browsing around, watch for photos that catch your eye. Think objectively about the photographs you find and determine what made you pay attention to them. Strive to create photos for your Artist Store that clearly represents your overall brand and you’ll find that your customers will appreciate the clarity of your presentation.

As with learning any skill, it will take time to learn how to take great photos of your work. However, if you take these tips one step at a time and give yourself lots of practice, you’ll soon have the photos you need to make your store the best it can be!

Marlo Miyashiro is an artist, teacher, mentor, and arts business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. She teaches arts business workshops and small object photography classes at conferences such as Craftcation Conference in Ventura, California, and School House Craft in Seattle, and helps emerging artists start, run, and grow their creative businesses at Creative Arts Consulting. Connect with Marlo M. on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest @imakecutestuff.

This is the second article in our 2015 Minted Holiday Playbook for Artist Stores, a one-month program designed to teach artists how to better merchandise, market, sell their work. The next article will be published on in the Community>Resources section of Julep on October 8.

Minted’s 7 Tips for Creating a Unique Artist Brand
How To Merchandise Your Artist Store for the Holidays
Minted Artist Stores Merchandising Tools Tutorial Video
Minted Self-Launch Templates

Published October 6, 2015 • Learn how to become a Minted artist here.

  1. Carly

    Thank you for including me in this post!

  2. Gamechanger! Great post!!!! Hoping to implement these tips on my storefront! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  3. Amy Schroeder

    Hi Angelene! Glad you feel like this information is a game changer for you. We’d love to hear from you once you’ve implemented some of the photography tips. Get in touch at amy.schroeder@minted.com. If you have requests for more photography advice, let me know.