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Product Photography: How to Tips for Cropping Photos

Updated on May 4, 2013
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

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One of the most important aspects of product photography is cropping. In order for people to focus on the object at hand, there can't be any distractions in the background of the photo. While it is best to eliminate as many distractions as possible before taking pictures, there is almost always still room for cropping.

Like all of my photography articles, I did not write this article to encourage you to buy a brand new camera and/or expensive photo software. I took all of the photos in this hub with a Canon PowerShot SD1200IS. I did all of my cropping and editing work with Picasa. Work with what you have and upgrade your resources and equipment as you can.

If you have not already read my Tips for Taking Stunning Jewelry and Other Small Item Product Photos article, I highly recommend that you do so before reading this article. I will do very little recapping from that article and will assume that you already following many of those tips before you take on these new cropping techniques.

Cropping is important for product photography, regardless of your photography experience. However, the basic tips that I provide in that article will make a world of difference for your cropping. For example, if you have your point and shoot camera set on auto with the flash on, cropping will not drastically improve your photos. Whereas if you have your camera settings adjusted properly, a few cropping adjustments will take your photos up a notch from good to great.

The following examples will give you a strong basis for taking on the technique of cropping with your own products.

There is too much space around your item.

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Empty space around an object doesn't distract from it the way unnecessary items do. However, it can still distract from the overall quality and focus of the photo. If you sell items on sites such as Etsy or eBay, the first thing that potential buyers will see is little thumbnails of your photos in the search results. These thumbnails must be enticing enough to make them click. Preview your thumbnail photos before listing items online to make sure that they look the way that you want.

As you don't have to focus on cropping out any unnecessary items, you have lots of room to work with to make a great crop before you do light adjustments and any other tweaking.

If you're photographing an item that can be worn, consider photographing it on a model or mannequin.

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When you are selling items online or through catalogs, people cannot try items on the way that they can in person. Thus when you are selling items that can be worn, it's really important that you include at least one photo that shows how the item hangs when someone is wearing it. You can use live models and/or mannequins. Personally I think that hand mannequins are creepy so I use my own hands/wrists for modeling bracelets and use a necklace display for my necklaces and pendants.

When I model or use mannequins in my light box, I often have one or both light box side walls in my photos. If you are not using a light box, you may still end up unnecessary space or distracting items or backgrounds around your models or mannequins. This is not a problem because you can simply crop them out later. As you don't have a lot of flexibility with these crops, make sure that your final photos are squares or well proportioned rectangles that are not too wide or narrow.

using props

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I primarily use my jewelry boxes as props for my wide cuffs, especially those with embellishments. The embellishments can cause the pieces to drape weirdly in some of my standard poses so this is a nice alternative. The jewelry box provides a neutral backdrop while still giving the cuffs the angle that they need.

The possibilities for props are endless. Make sure that the props do not distract from the products. Consider props that fit with your style, such as an old book or vintage plate for a pair of vintage inspired earrings.

As props can very widely, I don't have one set piece of advice for this cropping technique. In the first photo above, I wanted to crop out the tiny white corner. The second photo just needed a little crop to get rid of the excess background. However you decide to crop your photos to accurately portray the prop and item, again make sure that the final photos are squares or well proportioned rectangles.

Earrings: How do you display and photograph them hanging?

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When I started making earrings and pendants, I had a whole new learning curve for my product photography. I needed props for hanging them and a way to display my earring cards in my photos. Eventually I settled on the small clear juice glass for propping the earring cards and hanging the earrings because it is an appropriate size for most of my work and is neutral.

Even if you don't want to model your one of a kind earrings on a live model, as a buyer doesn't want to purchase earrings that have been worn, it is still important to figure out a method for showing how your earrings hang.

My backdrop, which is only 8.5 x 11", is large enough that it isn't problematic to crop the white around it out of my photos. I recommend using a backdrop at least this large, if not larger. Don't be afraid to play around with lots of angles, props, and light adjustments when you have a new skill set like this. It took me a couple months to get my technique down for earrings.

Sometimes there is something obvious that you want to crop out of your photo.

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The thing that I crop out of my photos the most often is my own hand. Sometimes I want to photograph an item so that it hangs a certain way and can't achieve this with just a prop. Thus I end up holding the item myself. As you probably know by now, this isn't a problem as I can crop my hand out later.

Unless an extra object has a specific purpose for the photo, such as a model or prop to achieve a certain pose, you don't need it in the final photo. Find a way to crop it out as naturally as possible.

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    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's great, Glimmer Twin Fan! Best of luck with your photography.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I've been trying to work on my photographs for hubs. This is really helpful. Thanks! Up and useful! Pinned too.

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Kathy! It's great to hear that.

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      These are great tips for anyone that needs to take photos of items they are trying to sell. Your photos are wonderful - as are the products themselves. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      renegadetory, you're right about many people not realizing how important a photo can be. Thanks!

      Cyndi, thank you! That means so much to me.

      web923, that's great! So glad to hear it.

      Marcy, thanks! You're right about cropping. Even a simple crop job can be a huge improvement for a light box product photo.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Such great tips - cropping is a huge factor in creating customer interest. Nice work - I will remember this one!

    • web923 profile image

      Bill Blackburn 4 years ago from Twentynine Palms, California

      This was very informative a useful, not to mention well written. I learned a lot from this most excellent hub. Awesome!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      What an awesome tutorial. Your pictures and photos are always fabulous and it shows that you know what you're doing. Beautiful hub - many votes and shares.

    • renegadetory profile image

      Carolyn Dahl 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      Great Hub! People don't realize how important a photo can be and your hub really explains that well. Voted up!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Kelley and iguidenetwork!

      SilverRing, that's great. :) Best of luck with your article.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

      Excellent photography tips! I will share this. Voted up and useful as well. Thank you! :)

    • SilverRingvee profile image

      Silver Ringvee 4 years ago from Estonia

      Very, very good hub. I am really interested in product photography, just considered writing a hub about it, and now when I have some more ideas I will certainly do it.

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      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Excellent tips Randomcreative! Thanks for sharing this. Voted up and shared!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Vicki! You're right that sometimes the simple fix is all that you need to make a huge difference.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Wonderful hub! I have noticed that something as simple as cropping can make such a huge difference. You include several great tips here. Great job! Sharing!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Thumbi! I'm glad that this was helpful for you.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

      Very useful tips! I enjoyed the hub and liked the photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks RTalloni! I'm so glad that this article was useful for you. Some cropping is very instinctive, but particular pieces will leave you scratching your head. It can be helpful to have a few new ideas to try when those situations arise.

      Thank you! The brightly colored cuff was for a Picasso beading challenge. I used the color palette from his Mediterranean Landscape painting.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this excellent advice on cropping photos. Well done and helpful. Though I've followed some of these tips instinctively, thinking through the whys and wherefores will help me focus on thinking outside the box when it comes to future shots.

      Voted up, as usual--appreciate your work very much.

      Beautiful projects you've used as examples in this hub, btw. My fav is the second of the wide bracelets under using props. Looks like the gulf's ocean floor off the Keys on a bright sunny day! :)

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Holle! Don't we all? I'm glad that this is useful for you.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Awesome tips! This is something I need to work on. Voted up!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much Eddy!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and thank you so much for sharing.

      Take care

      Eddy.

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Edi! The cropping shows; your photos are great. Haha I'm glad that I'm not the only one! I'm sure that there are some non-product photography people reading this who think that's weird, but I'm glad that those who do this regularly get it.

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      Edi 5 years ago

      Great tips Rose! I crop every photo that I take to get out all the excess background. And like you, I have to crop my hand out once in a while :)

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Deb! I'm glad that this is helpful.

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      storybeader 5 years ago

      your photographs are always so attractive! thanks for the tips {:-D

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thank you Charlotte, Thelma, and SilkThimble! I really appreciate the feedback and am glad that this article is useful.

    • SilkThimble profile image

      SilkThimble 5 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Great tips! And some clever use of props in your product photos.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      You are really a very creative person, randomcreative! I like your hubs as they are very useful, great and interesting. I learned a lot from you. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year.

    • Charlotte B Plum profile image

      Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

      This is a really useful hub about product photography - you are right, a little editing and cropping can make a huge difference in the product that you are trying to sell. Thank you for sharing this info with us!