Without the budget for a pro, I picked up some books at the library and checked out some photography articles on Etsy. And I realized that (surprise!) most of the artists actually do their own pictures too!
But all I had was a puny little camera. Not one of those fancy things with the big ol' lens that you see real photographers with.
Turns out, all you need is a decent camera and a little bit of know how. Sure the big fancy cameras are nice but your camera is just a tool. It is like an artist's paintbrush. Just owning a nice camera doesn't make you a great photographer. You just need to know how to use what you have.
I am no professional, but I have learned a few tips and tricks that have vastly improved my Etsy shop photos. Hopefully these will help someone out there that is having the same problems I did.
The best tip I have learned thus far is use natural light whenever possible. PLEASE, don't use your camera's flash! It messes with the colors and shadows and always makes the photo look dark and dingy. Take your items outside or near a window and use the power of the sun! Also, try to avoid direct afternoon sunlight as it creates harsh shadows and can sometimes mess with the photo colors. I take pictures out on my covered porch in the mornings between 8 to 10.
Keep it simple. Don't clutter up your backdrop. Your customers' first impression is going to be from a small thumbnail photo of your amazing item. They need to be able to see it clearly and know what it is. I stick to all white backdrops when I am photographing just my t-shirts or onesies. A sheet of white foamboard is perfect! Just don't let little sticky fingers find your favorite white backdrop.
I have also seen some beautiful photos with simple patterns and props in the background, like this one from jacaranda designs.
If you are selling an item that someone will wear, modeled shots are fantastic to have. When I am shopping for my boys, I want to see how something is going to fit them before I even think about buying it. Find a model and backdrop, and some natural light and take some action shots of your items. If you are photographing children, get down on their level. Make sure the modeled item can be seen clearly in the photo.
EDIT! Edit! EDIT!
The greatest part about digital photography is that you can take as many pictures as you want, keep the good ones and delete the bad ones.
Take your favorite shots and put them into a photo editing program such as Photoshop. I don't have "Photoshop" but I use 3 different programs to get the exact image I want.
1.Google's free editor is called Picasa. It has limited editing features but most of the stuff you really need to do can be done in this easy to use program. I use this program to crop, straighten, brighten, and saturate the colors in my photos.
2. If you want to take it a step farther, try http://www.picnik.com/ . This is also free to use and has lots of simple editing settings to make your pictures look amazing.
3. And the last program that I use is GIMP. This is an amazing FREE photo editing program that has many of the capabilities of Photoshop. It takes some time to get to know the program because it is so versatile but it is totally worth it. This program is great for major photo editing and creating images such as shop banners and avatars.
My normal everyday photo edits include cropping and playing with the exposure and contrast in my photos. These simple things can turn a "sorta good" photo into a "wow!" photo.
After:Etsy's Guide to Photography.