Tips for Photographing, Describing Your Handmade Products

For the last several weeks, I’ve been browsing Etsy for a purse. ( is a website for artists and functional crafters who want to sell their handmade work.) I’m looking for a comfortably large purse, in leather, with interior pockets so not everything bunches up at the bottom. Ideally it will have an outside pocket. Because the sun is so fierce here in the summer, I’m looking for a brown or neutral. It will shut with a zipper. Right, no magnets. You’ve read the other post in which I discover that magnets erase hotel room keys, metro cards and mess with your iPhone.

two spouted teapotFor some reason the same generation who spends the entire day on the phone or texting, grows strangely reluctant when it comes to describing a purse. There are lots of adjectives (“awesome”,” big”, “useful”) and much space spent on color descriptions, although the photographs should manage to convey most of the color information. “A really awesome mustard-like yellow, not like Grey Poupon, more like oaker, but not dark,” reads one description. “Oaker,” I am assuming, is what passes for “ocher” if you are thinking in wood tones.

Conspicuously missing are what a customer finds important before purchasing: dimensions, the color of the lining, if the strap is adjustable, how long the strap actually is, the exact material of the purse, the number of inside pockets, and how it closes.

The purses are often shown hanging in a featureless room, from a nail. There is no way to tell how big this thing really is. The same is true if the purse is being worn by a woman who is standing against a white wall. We can make certain guesses, but if the woman is short, the purse looks larger than it is.

Some simple tips for photographing your functional product:
1. Light it evenly so the entire product can be seen well. This is not time for dramatic shadows.square egg The photo on the right could be a pat of butter or a fold of paper, but it’s a square egg.
2. Fill the screen with the product, not the model holding the product.
3. Show the product in use. A purse hanging in a tree, from a fence, or lying on a table doesn’t give the additional information that someone holding it would demonstrate.
4. Show the inside of the bag, too. I hate black linings, because my stuff disappears into the bottom of the bag. So I want to see the lining and the pockets.
5. If you claim you made the bag, and I can read a popular brand name on the label in the picture, I won’t believe much else you say about the bag.
6. Show the bag closed in one shot, open in another. That helps me decide if the bag is functional.

Write descriptions that help a reader make a decision about buying:
1. Include dimensions and which way they are given. Across, down and deep is a good order. If the purse tapers, say that.
2. Don’t use words that those of us who aren’t functional crafters don’t know. “Popper,” “drop,” “slip pocket” are familiar terms to you, but not necessarily to your clients.
3. Tell us the material. If there are many materials, tell us what is where. “Made of leather, pleather, naugahyde, cordura and brass” isn’t nearly as useful as “Leather on the outside, lined with canvas and brass rings on the straps.”
4. Keep it short and use lots of verbs.
5. Link the characteristics of the piece (features) with how the client can use it (benefits). Saying, “the straps are really long” is not as effective as “You can hang the purse over your shoulder or wear it across your chest to keep your hands free.” That helps browsers visualize themselves carrying the purse.

Using clear photographs with simple descriptions will help you sell more of your work quickly.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at
(c) 2008-9 All rights reserved Images: 2-spouted teapot: Square egg: