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:

5 thoughts on “Tips for Photographing, Describing Your Handmade Products

  1. This is off subject, but I wanted to check out the egg photo you credit to Link doesn’t work and I’d like to find out who the photographer is.

  2. Well it is a lot colder overhere so I get to wear a coat very often. In the inside pockets I put my i.d., one creditcard, a little mirror and some tissues. In my trousers in the front pockets I put the keys in one and cash money in the other. I use a lipgloss that has 6-hour stayingpower so no need to carry another.
    When it is too warm for a coat I use a light weight bodywarmer or a jacket. And on very warm days I only have the pockets of my trousers and so the mirror stays at home and the keys I keep in my hand with the keyring around my middle finger.
    It is not easy but I have seen too many people in a total state of panic for they lost all their important belongings in a split second.
    My mobile phone I only carry with me when I am away for more than a couple of hours and when travelling by car or taxi.

    Under safer circumstances I carry a large handbag and well then I carry so much with me: the works 😉

  3. These are very usefull tips and ideas Quinn. I still believe that buying shoes and handbags is better to do in person rather than online.

    I have seen some really lovely classic handbags in Italy in colours like cognac brown, black, red and combinations of black with a colour. Quite a few of them had also magnets and after having read about the problems that magnets can cause I decided not to buy the bag that I loved best. There were some with nice zippers and they did have usefull pockets in the inside adjustable strip and a matching wallet. The prices: not more than 35 Euros each!!
    The quality of the leather was excellent too, very soft.

    Still I did not buy a bag because in the city where I live now it is better not to carry any handbag at all because pickpockets are overactive here. “I’ll buy one the next time” I told myself.

    —Now I’m fascinated. If you don’t carry a purse, where do you put your wallet, credit cards, chapstick, tissues and pens? And pickpockets? What a thing to have to go through! -Q

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