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Mock ups vs. Real Product Photos

Mock ups vs. Real Product Photos

Have you struggled with getting your product photography just right?

Or, you’ve noticed that some Etsy sellers seem to have literally flawless photos?*

*those flawless photos are most likely mockups!

Shocking, right?

It’s hard to know what’s “real” and what’s digital today, and Etsy shops are no different.

Today, we’re going to compare real product photography and mockups, share the pros and cons of both, and help you decide which is best for your handmade business!

You can listen to this podcast episode, or keep reading below!


What exactly is a mock-up?

A mockup is a digitally created or altered photo that shows your products in an image they are not physically located in. 


Essentially, you take the digital image of your products, remove the background, and place the product into a new backdrop, this is the mockup. 


For example, if you wanted to show your art prints in a French cafe setting but you're selling your products from your temporary military base apartment, you can use a mockup to place your products in the setting that makes sense for them.


Mockups can vary in complexity, sometimes they are just a digitally altered version of your original product photo, but sometimes they are entirely new photographed spaces. And sometimes they might show the same product in multiple colors or patterns in the same photo over and over.


Traditionally, mockups have been used with print-on-demand products and graphic designs like wedding invitations, but in recent years, more sellers are using mockups in new ways and in new niches. 


They might be able to be used for just about everything, but some handmade products like crocheted plushes or scarves are more challenging to photograph and remove the backgrounds for mockups.


Some products that mockups can work well for include: 

  • Clothing
  • Party supplies
  • Candles
  • Coffee mugs and tumblers
  • Stickers
  • Art prints or paintings
  • Acrylic signs
  • Earrings
  • Keychains

Basically, anything you have a digital design file for, that you are putting onto a physical product.


(the photo above is a mockup!)

Let’s dive into the Pros & cons of Real Photos Vs. Mockups!

Real Photo PROs & CONs


  • 100% unique to you
  • They can really show off more of your style and personality
  • Can capture high quality details
  • More flexibility, options


  • You need physical samples of every product
  • Natural light is best
  • It takes practice
  • Still need to edit


Mockups PROs & CONs


  • Much faster
  • Easy to create brand consistency
  • You might not need to create Samples and physical products for every photo
  • No editing the lighting!!
  • Just drag and drop your products into the photos


  • Can look fake
  • Many mockup models are not inclusive/realistic
  • Tech learning curve

When comparing using real photos vs mockups there are pros and cons to both. Real photos are 100% unique to you and can show off your style and personality, but it takes a lot of practice to produce good photos and you need physical samples of every product. 

While mockups are much faster, easily create brand consistency, and you don’t need to create samples and physical products for every photo, they can look fake, the models are not always inclusive, diverse, or real.


So, what makes a good mockup?

  • The style fits your niche and is realistic to your dream customer
  • The lighting is right
  • The product is to scale
  • The background is easily removed, clean lines


Where are the best places to buy Mockups?


You can also download copyright free images from websites like unsplash.com or pexels.com that have mockup style images.

What apps can I use to create Mockups?



Should I use mockups in my Etsy shop?


One question we get asked a lot is, “are mockups bad?” or “should I switch to mockups because my product photography is not great?” or people just asking, “should I do this?” 


So we wanted to share some of our personal experiences and thoughts on mockups as well.


In early 2022, we began switching our entire product photography suite to mockups.


We did this for a couple of reasons.


  1. Product photography just takes SO much time, and honestly, once you are at a high level of sales volume in your business, you are always in a state of finding ways to cut out tasks, optimize them, outsource them, or make them faster.


So, in my mind, we could eliminate the task of product photography altogether.

  1. Because we had so many new product designs we have been rolling out this year, getting consistent product photos over months is definitely a challenge. So I wanted to make achieving consistency easier. There are other sticker sellers out there using mockups, so I wanted to try it.

More thoughts on mockups:


We didn’t want our mockups to look fake, and one thing that was most important to us was that our mockups actually felt like our brand, because we have seen a lot of other shops mockups that are honestly not great.


But we really loved the idea of streamlining our process. So after looking around online at different mockups for free or for sale, we actually settled on paying a photographer for our own custom set of high quality mockups.


This was actually a lot of fun to plan out this photo shoot. We brainstormed a list of “standard” shots that we would need to get, and ordered some specific props for the photos.

(an example of our mood board for planning out our mockup shoot) 

After we got the mockup photos back from the photographer, Katie uses Photoshop to simply drop the digital images of our stickers into the mockups.


We’ve been about 90% mockups now for around 10 months, and we honestly love not having to shoot product photos. It’s been a time-saver.


It’s also fun to be able to change up seasonal photo backgrounds without having to go and retake photos!

In conclusion, deciding whether to use real product photography or mockups in your Etsy shop is a personal choice that depends on your needs, resources and preferences. Both have their pros and cons, and it's up to you to decide which approach is the best for your business.


Real photos are unique to your brand and can showcase your style and personality, but they require more resources and skills to produce high-quality images. On the other hand, mockups are faster and can create brand consistency but they may look fake, lack diversity and involve a technical learning curve.


When it comes to mockups, it's important to make sure that the style fits your niche and is realistic to your dream customer, the lighting is right, the product is to scale and the background is easily removed. 


There are many online resources and apps that can help you create mockups, and you can also consider buying them from Etsy, Placeit, Canva Pro, or even from copyright-free websites like Unsplash or Pexels.

In the end, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to product photography, and it is important to test different approaches and find what works best for you and your brand!

And, if you want to learn more about DIY-ing your real product photography, check out this blog and podcast episode for more photo tips! 

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