3 (Cheap!) Alternatives to Taking Your Own Product Photos

Believe it or not, you DON'T have to be an expert photographer (or have any photography skills whatsoever!) to get beautiful product photos for your shop. Today I'm sharing 3 alternatives to taking your own photos >>

If taking photos isn't your jam (don't worry-- it's not mine either!), then chances are you've probably asked yourself the question, "Are there any other options out there?!?!”

Why yes, yes there are.

Today I’m happy to share with you 3 photography alternatives that will still give you beautiful, brilliant photos to use in your shop- no photography skills required ;)


1 | Use product mock-ups + stock photography

This is one I WISH I had known about back in the day. I had NO idea how there were so many Etsy shops with perfectly consistent photographs of 100’s of items in their shop (I’m looking at you, pillow sellers!)—it seriously blew my mind!

3 years later (yes, embarrassingly, just this year!), I discovered that you can purchase product mock-ups that allow you to superimpose your image onto a photo so it looks like you photographed your product yourself. It’s amazing and seriously life-changing if you sell in the categories that include mock ups. Typically these are only available for certain items—

  • t-shirts

  • totes

  • pillows

  • digital art prints

  • stationary products

Why product mock-ups ARE awesome:
This is about as easy-peasy as you can get for product photography—all you have to do is purchase the product mock-up itself, add your design to the photo file, and upload on Etsy.

Oh, and they’re usually very cost-efficient, since you can use one photo multiple times just by swapping out your design.

Why product mock-ups ARE NOT awesome:
As user-friendly as they are, product mock-ups severely limit your creativity and product opportunities—you have to sell products that have mock-ups available or else you’ll have to photograph them yourself.  

You’ll also have to have some basic knowledge of Photoshop (usually) so that you can superimpose your designs on the mock-up itself. Instructions are usually included with your purchase, but if you’ve never opened Photoshop before, it can be a little overwhelming.

Where to purchase product mock-ups:

  • Creative Market | Creative Market is THE HOLY GRAIL of product mock-ups-- there are literally over 20,000 options to choose from-- and that's just in the mock-up section ;) I've been purchasing graphics from them for years and absolutely love that every time I purchase from them, I'm supporting the artist that designed/photographed that product.

    Besides product mock-up photos, they also offer stock photography, logo designs, fonts, templates, and a million other creative resources that can jump-start your business success.

    Seriously-- these guys are my "go-to" whenever I'm in need of something creative and I just don't have the time/know-how to create it myself. In fact, if you pop into my Etsy shop, you'll see a lot of watercolor designs on my fabrics. And guess what? They all came from Creative Market :)

  • Etsy | Another feel-good place to get product mock-ups :) There are tons of Etsy sellers out there (in fact, a few of them sell on Creative Market, too!) that create product mock-ups that are just waiting for you to add your designs too.

  • Freelance Designers | A lot of freelance designers + photographers also offer product mock-ups directly from their website. One of my favorites-- Jamie from Spruce Rd-- just launched some beautiful branding product mockups that are absolutely gorgeous.


2 | Trade product for photos

If you’re strapped on cash and determined not to pay someone to take your photos, then trading your product for professional photos is a great way to get your hands on some gorgeous product photography.

It’s a fairly simple process—all you have to do is find a few photographers/bloggers whose style you like and then contact them about trading product in exchange for high-quality professional photos.

This photo strategy works especially well in the baby, clothing, and accessories industry (since they’ll be able to use the free product as a prop in additional photos), but if you can find a professional photographer who loves your stuff—even if you’re selling something completely out there—it’s definitely worth contacting them and offering a trade!

Why product/photo trades ARE awesome:
If product mock-ups don't apply to your shop items, then trading for photos is one of the easiest ways you can get professional looking images without any of the work. You'll also be able to tap into that photographer's audience-- especially if they choose to feature some of the photos they took for you on their social media accounts.

Why product/photo trades ARE NOT awesome:
In order to get photos, you have to be willing to give away your product-- something that a lot of Etsy sellers have hesitations with. You also have to work with their timetable-- you usually have to wait a couple of weeks to get any photos back.

Where to find photographers to trade with:
How do you find these photographers? To start off, look in your hometown :) If you know of any local photographers whom you’d like to partner with, don’t be scared to reach out and propose a trade—make sure they realize what’s in it for them (hello: free stuff!!), and make sure that the exchange is fair and worth both of your time.

You can also contact photographers online—they don’t have to live nearby! Reach out to a photographer that specializes in the niche your product is in (ie, if you sell baking supplies, consider reaching out to a food photographer) and pitch them your trade proposal. I have secured many, many, MANY photos this way (pitching to newborn photographers for LittleHighbury, of course ;) and highly recommend it.


3 | Outsource Photo-Editing

Okay, okay, so this one is a little bit of a cheat (I’m sorry!), but it’s definitely worth including because when I first started out, my biggest hang-up was in editing my photos—you know, getting that elusive bright white background and perfect brilliance of colors.

Maybe you can relate?!

I remember when I first decided to tackle product photography—I had read everything I could possibly read out there and had set up my first DIY light box kit. I had purchased all the equipment this article had recommended, but when I took a couple photos, I reviewed through them and saw that they were dull and gray—nothing like the amazing photos any of the tutorials recommended.

I’m pretty sure I tried every possible way of taking photos to get that perfect white background. I added in more lights. I tried using reflectors. You name it, I tried it.

And guess what? The photos never got any brighter.

It was only months later that I learned you have to edit your photos to get that brilliant color and white background (it was definitely a “no duh” moment for me ;).

It was also a frustrating realization for me—because I had NO clue how to edit my photos. I had spent tons of time learning how to take them correctly, but I had no idea what to do beyond that.

If that scenario sounds anything like your current photo situation, then listen up:

If editing your photos makes you break out in hives, then it's time to consider outsourcing.

Did you know that there are companies out there that specialize in professionally editing e-commerce photos? I had no idea back when I first started!

Seriously though—all you have to do is upload your pre-edited photos (as in, right off your Iphone or point and shoot), tell them what you want (cropped, whiter background, less shadows, you name it, they can do it), and within 24 hours, you’ll get gorgeously edited photos of your product without all the stress and hassle of learning Photoshop :)

Now, before you say “There’s no way I can afford a service like that,” hear me out on this: most of these website will only charge you a few dollars to edit individual photos-- and offer discounts for larger quantities. I've seen photo editing services go for as low as $.99/photo.

Why hiring out editing IS awesome:
Forget learning Photoshop-- all you have to do is snap a quick photo with your Iphone (make sure the resolution is good, though!) and send it off-- they'll take care of the rest. If you have tons of products, you'll be able to get uniform, consistent photos for your entire shop-- a key factor in making sales.

Why hiring out editing ISN'T awesome:
You don't learn how to edit photos yourself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (it saves you time, for sure!), but I always recommend learning to do as much as you can on your own, so you aren't relying on someone else all the time.

Where to find photo-retouching companies:
Pixelz (a company I highly, highly recommended) has a small business entrepreneur plan that starts at just $1.25/image and they’ll get you your edited photo in less than 24 hours. They're professional, friendly, and have a lot of street cred with major brands.

Plus, they’ll edit your first 3 images FOR FREE.

I've heard Mister Clipping is a good resource for e-commerce photo retouching as well.

So there you have it-- three alternatives to taking and editing your own product photos. Have you ever used any of these methods? How did they work out for you?

Please note, some of these links are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to make free content. I only recommend products that I use and love. Thank you for your support!