Monday, August 30, 2010

Etsymaaaazing!

I am so, so excited to have the very talented Crystal of Crystal Chick Photography guest blogging here today! You might recall her generous donation during Krafts for Katelyn back in February.  Well, she's back & happy to be sharing some helpful photography tips for all you Etsy & Ebay sellers.

Take it away, Crystal!

So you’ve made some really awesome crafty thing, and you want to sell it online. Once you’ve washed the paint off your hands or bandaged up the needle pricks in your fingers, you’re ready to photograph your item!
You know how great your product is. You know how much time, effort, heart & soul you’ve put into creating it. A great photograph of your item can help relay that to potential buyers – they can see the quality of your work, plus it gives them a feeling of security that you are a serious & professional seller. (And that’s what you are, right? Don’t hide it!) Below are a few tips on how you can flaunt your goods!

Let’s start with lighting.
The best light is natural light. And by natural light, I mean Mr. Sunshine. God gave us light, and light is good. Open up your curtains, and let those lovely UV rays embrace your product. Your product will thank you. 

This is an example of a necklace I photographed near a window.

If you are photographing your item outside, set it up in open shade, not direct sunlight. Light is good, indeed. But too much light is not good. Overcast days are great for photographing out in the open. If it’s sunny out, find a shade tree, or go under the porch awning.

This is an example of a craft I made, and my son demonstrating it.

Remember when I said too much light is not good? Well, using a flash is more than not good. It’s eeveel! Sorry, I don’t mean to alarm you, but I have to keep it real. The long and short of it is this: Flash is harsh. Narrow. Unpredictable. It only covers a certain area, and the parts it covers, it covers too harshly. That’s why we like the sun. It’s big, it’s continuous (until night time, of course), and spreads it’s light around for all to share. And if the sun fails us, we also love lamps.

This is an example of a toy robot I took a picture of using desk lights and a white sheet of paper. Domo.

Camera notes: Some digital cameras will allow you to adjust White Balance. (Check your user manual.) White balance is how the camera reads the whiteness of the available light. If you are outside, set the White Balance to outdoor mode, if you are inside, set it to indoor mode. (Just for fun, set it to outdoor mode inside and see how it skews the lighting in your room.)

Let’s talk about backgrounds.
Now that your product is properly lit, we can talk about what’s behind your product. For most of your pictures, a clean, simple, distraction free background is the best way to show off your item.

You’ll see a lot of photos on Etsy, for example, with completely white backgrounds. You can accomplish this by placing your item in front of a white wall, and on top of either a white table, or a table covered with a white table cloth. If your item is actually white, then ignore what I just said. The point is to get your object to stand out.

You can create a tabletop photo studio called a light box. There are lots of tutorials online for creating a light box. It’s basically a cardboard box with holes cut in the sides and lights shining through. Google it. There are people who have written tutorials with pictures and everything. The Internet is amazing.

Image from Etsy user gabrielsaunt.

Not all backgrounds have to be plain white. If you feel your product would be better displayed with some color, play around with it. You might add a colored sheet to that light box you just rigged up. You might like to use a brick wall, an old piece of wood, funky wallpaper. Whatever you choose, place your object a good distance from the background (1-3 feet should do the trick). This way your camera will focus on the object and slightly blur out the background, making your item stand out more. And it’s all about the item, remember?
 
Image from Etsy user lavenders.

Let’s talk about using a tripod.
Anytime you’re photographing products to sell online, it’s a good idea to use a tripod. In low-light situations, your camera’s shutter has to stay open longer to let enough light in to capture your photo. This is when you get camera shake. We aren’t statues! The gorillapod is a fun tripod that can be used table top, or wrapped around objects to be mounted in unique angles. It’s small, and travels well. You might be interested in getting a larger tripod, instead. One that will mount on the ground so you can adjust the height yourself. If you really want to go nuts, you could just prop your camera up on a stack of books. Crazy, right?
If you find that even with a tripod, you are still getting camera shake, first make sure you have plenty of light in the room. Second, did you really need that second cup of coffee? Third, you might considering setting the self timer. This way you press the button and step away for 10 seconds (You can breathe while the timer is counting down. I give you permission.)

Ready to shoot?
Your item is mounted on a table. You’ve got plenty of light. Your camera is on the tripod. You’ve checked your White Balance. You skipped the second cup of joe. You are ready to shoot!

Let’s get creative with it.
Take pictures. Lots of pictures. (and don’t delete them.)

As you are putting all these tips to practice, might I suggest the following: Don’t delete photos in the camera as your snapping away. Wait until you get them loaded on your computer. There have been many times I thought something didn’t work when I looked at it on the camera screen, but once I pulled it up on my monitor, I was surprised with the results.

Take pictures at different angles.
**Take a few photos straight on.

Image from Etsy user elsee99

**Take a few photos with your camera slightly above the item, angling downwards.
Image from Etsy user shabbylanebaby

**Get in close to show details. (Use the macro setting on your camera for this!)

**If it can be opened, show the inside. Any area of importance should be featured.
Image from Etsy user shamsandcoverups

Take pictures that demonstrates the product.
After you get lots of photos of your product, you might consider also taking a picture of the item being “used.” 
An article of clothing on a form or a model.

Image from Etsy user Lwangslife.

A headband on a head. (Mind blowing, I know!)
Image from Etsy user ThreadRare.

A purse on the arm of a friend.
(Remember, the focus is the product, not the model.)
Image from Etsy user ringopie.

Display that teapot you hand-painted on a table next to a fresh pastry. Display a hand-crafted bowl filled with candy or other items.
Image from Etsy user MarkHudak.

Mirrors, frames, wall art, sconces, etc – Hang it on a wall. Fill it with items. Let the viewer see how this product would be used in their home.
Image from Etsy user bluebirdheaven.

Take pictures then photoshop them.
No wait. I’m afraid using that phrase means that you will all go berserk photoshopping and making your photos look keeeerazy. Remember, keep it simple & clean. You want to be as true to your product as possible. I know there are all these photoshopping trends right now. (I’m a photographer, I’ve used many of them myself!) But listen. If you throw a vintage action, or funky texture, or super saturation over a clean & simple photo of that adorable sundress, then your potential buyers are not going to be able to see it as it truly is. Even if it does make your photo look a lot more hip. Remember, it’s about your product.

I’m not here to blow your mind with everything you ever wanted to know about Photoshop, but here are a couple of quick tips:
- If you find your photo is too dark, you can slightly adjust the brightness. (In Photoshop, adjust with Brightness, Curves, or Levels). If your photo is way too dark (or way too bright), just go reshoot it.
- To bump the color up, tweak the saturation slightly.
- If you find your photo is too warm (yellow/orange) or too cool (blueish), adjust the temperature (usually there is a color slider that can be dragged back and forth between blue and yellow).
- Crop your photo if you need to center it, if you need to remove something that accidentally snuck in the corner of your photo. (If you live in my house, you’ll find a dog’s tail sneaks into photos every now and then.) As long as you are not cropping too much. If there is too much that needs to be cropped (ie. you just realized you can totally see that laundry basket in the background), reshoot it. And this time put the dog away 
somewhere. Or the laundry. Or just relocate your shoot if you can’t be bothered with either.

In closing… (it had to end sometime!)
When Jen asked me to write up this blog post, I wondered if I’d come up with anything. The focus of my photography is wild & crazy children, not inanimate objects. But once you photograph wild & crazy children, inanimate objects are a walk in the park. An inanimate walk in the park. If that’s possible. Thanks for having me, Jen. I always enjoy reading your blog, and it’s been a pleasure to be a guest here.
As for you readers out there, I wish you all success in your crafting adventures & businesses. I hope you find these tips helpful in taking your craft photography to the next level. Now, I know you all have some craft laying around that has been freshly made that you can practice photographing right now. (If it’s food-related, don’t bother, just package it up and ship it to me directly.)

1 comment:

Emili said...

Great post with some very good points and tips! I still struggle with photos. I'm always re-shooting them. I usually take 15-25 photos of my items and at different times of the day. My photography "studio" is my kitchen counter top directly under our skylight.

Thanks for the post!

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