3 Apr 2009

Photography Tutorials: Staging Your Photos

“Pay no attention to all that stuff in the background”

Cluttered photos, we’ve all seen them. You know the ones I’m talking about…that lovely handmade gown, displayed beautifully on a dress form, with the overflowing laundry basket in plain sight, the hand-thrown ceramic bowl, sitting on a kitchen counter overrun with mail, car keys, and dirty dishes. Or, perhaps, my personal favorite: the shiny, silver coffee pot that clearly reflects the state of the photographer’s, ahem, undress.

No one wants to buy your dirty laundry and dishes, nor will they even contemplate touching that vintage coffee pot. We all have chores that get put aside for the sake of our art (I, right now, am surrounded by a sea of Lego and unfolded laundry) but no one wants to see this in your product photographs. If you are photographing items outside, please take care not to include your neighbor’s trash cans or your plastic swing set in the background. Some folks really like to include props when staging their photographs – sometimes this is a necessity, in the case of hats and clothing which require a model to display them properly – but it is important not to confuse the eye. Simple, uncluttered photographs will never deter a potential buyer.

What exactly am I selling here – stuffed animals? Plastic blocks? Just because you want to illustrate that something could be used in a baby’s room, you don’t need to accessorize your item to that end. Mention the child-friendly status in your item description, but let your customers use their imaginations when it comes to the visuals. If you really want to accessorize, use something that won’t distract from your item and is harmonious in color or theme.

The next major challenge: reflective surfaces. I often remove glass from picture frames if I need to eliminate glare, but if you are trying to photograph a shiny item that can’t be altered in such a way, you have to get creative.

Standing head-on is not the answer!

Simply moving to the side and reflecting the window and trees beyond is a much better image (using a light box would, of course, eliminate the problem as well and we’ll chat about that another month). For now, just step to the side and please make sure nothing untoward is reflected in that flask!

*personal note: this flask is for illustrative purposes only…no conclusions about my state of sobriety while writing these tutorials should be drawn.*

Written by Michell of MKCPhotography


  1. Great advice Michelle.
    I'd like to add, please make sure there are no hairs, toenail cuttings, used cotton buds, or suspect stains in the photo (yes I have seen all of these in photos of goods people are trying to sell). Also don't photograph your goods on the floor. There are lots of people out there that don't like the idea of the goods they might be buying being on your floor.

  2. Thanks for sharing these great tips! I look forward to reading more.

  3. Great Tips! Dont get caught in the reflection of your own shot. Thanks.

  4. Great post! Thanks for the tips. - CT

  5. Reflections are tough in jewelry, too. Thanks for the article!


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