Check out these posts for helpful information on selling on Etsy.
How Do I Sell My Products Wholesale to Retailers?
How To Get Your Shop or Blog Featured Online
The EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series by TwoLittleBluebirds
Series Hosted by Stephanie of Two Little Bluebirds on Etsy
Introducing The EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series!
Introducing The EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series!
Welcome to the very first installment of our brand new EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series! I’m so excited about this series because improving shop photos is a constant challenge for me just as it is for other EtsyKids shop owners. High quality product photos lead to more Etsy sales and more features in shop promoting treasuries. The EtsyKids Treasury Team (EKTT) has been working hard to create visually stunning treasuries every month. Curators would love to include your photos in their front page worthy treasuries. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to make noticeable changes in the quality of your pictures. Following a few simple rules, and making a few meaningful changes can make a world of difference.
Ready to get started? Then let's jump right in by taking a look at ten common product photo mistakes.
Top Ten Product Photo Mistakes to Avoid:
- Cluttered or distracting backgrounds
- Photos taken with your products on floors, carpets, bedspreads, and other common household surfaces.
- Photos taken with your products on wrinkled fabric or fabric/backgrounds with distracting colors and patterns.
- Out of focus photos.
- Dark underexposed photos.
- Flash photography. Focus on using natural light whenever possible.
- Borders or decorative editing added to photos.
- Use of large, distracting logos and text on your photos.
- Photos that portray your items as looking wrinkled, smashed, dirty, or otherwise not their best.
- Date and time stamps in the corner of photos.
We’ll be exploring all of these 10 recommendations in more detail throughout the series. Change takes time and no one is expected to have the time to instantly make changes to their photographs. This is not an exercise in getting you to abandon your creative spirit when it comes to taking product photos either. Be true to yourself, but also be willing to think outside of the box. As with anything in life, take from this series what works for you and leave the rest behind. Only you know what is best for your business!
Here’s This Week’s Homework:
1. Do a visual inventory of your shop photos. Start taking note of pictures that you would like to improve.
2. Browse any category on Etsy. What thumbnails make you want to click? What thumbnails do you scroll right past? Why? Look to Etsy’s front page, the Time Machine 2 sold items, or the Gift Guides for inspiration.
Want to read more? Check out these helpful posts and articles:
*EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series Disclaimer:I do not hold myself to be a photography expert. I’ve made many improvements with my product photos over the past year, but I too know that there is always room for improvement. The goal of this series is to work together as a team to help each other improve our product photos in order to improve our Etsy sales and increase our chances of having our items featured in treasuries by the EKTT. The point is NOT to point fingers or snicker behind anyone’s back. Please approach comments and posts here on the blog and on the EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series Facebook page in the spirit of love, peace, and helpfulness. Thank you all! Now get out those cameras and start taking pictures!
posted on 2/7/11
Photo Makeover Series Part 1: Choosing Backgrounds
Hopefully you've had time to explore your shop photos and you now have a better idea what photos you would like to improve. So, where do we start our journey to better product photos? It's all about location, location, location!
Take this photo for example. Yes, that’s one of my very first crowns, and one of my very first product photo attempts. First, take a look at the chosen background. Wrinkled purple tissue paper and a rotary cutting mat serve as the backdrop for this photo. To top it off I took this photo at night under fluorescent light with a flash. I'm not ashamed to admit that it's a complete product photo nightmare!
What are you using for your photo backgrounds? Take a look at your shop photos. Look past the object itself and see what’s happening behind it. Past that adorable model showing off your latest creation, what do you see? Wait a minute...is that your husband lounging on the sofa next to a pile of dirty laundry...next to a sink full of dirty dishes...and is that the dog digging through the trash? Oh, wait that’s my house! All kidding aside, it’s easy to have eyes only for the object we are photographing. Remember that backgrounds count too.
Do you have a busy and distracting background that might prevent a buyer from keeping their eye on your adorable item? Choosing a solid colored background is a great place to start. Dark colored items stand out well against light colored backgrounds, and vice versa. Experiment with cardstock, posterboard, foamcore, and scrapbooking paper. A well ironed piece of linen fabric, nature inspired backdrops such as wood, or a clean neutral colored wall can also make an attractive background. Photographing small items? Check out your local home improvement store for tiles in white porcelain or other neutral tones. Decorative ceiling tiles are another great option. And don't be afraid to experiment with contrasting background textures to see how they work with or against your product.
Natural light, in most cases is the best lighting for your photographs. If you are able, take your photos outdoors. If you are stuck indoors, start scouting the best indoor location for your photos. You want a place that provides the greatest amount of natural light. We’ll discuss lighting in more detail next month so don’t fret if you're not sure how to enhance your photos with lighting just yet.
Now, let's take a look at some examples of background mistakes:
Here’s an example where cropping can make a world of difference. Are you looking at the cape and crown in this photo, or are you distracted by the other kid in the background and the lovely flood around those gorgeous electrical boxes in my backyard?
Here’s another example of a distracting background. Which shot best showcases this tea set? Is your eye constantly pulled toward the busy flowered table cloth in the photo on the left?
Things to avoid:
1. Cluttered or distracting backgrounds
2. Photos taken with your products on floors, carpets, or bed linens.
3. Photos taken with your products on wrinkled fabric or fabric/background with distracting colors and patterns.
4. Photos taken with a light source directly from behind can wash out details in your product. Set up your photos near a window, but angle your shots to ensure that the light isn’t coming directly behind or through your product. *NOTE this exception: When photographing beaded or gemstone jewelry back lighting can actually make your jewelry pop! Experiment with letting the light shine through the beads.
5. Photos taken with a flash.
Don’t let your background draw attention away from your product. Your product should be the star of the show!
Can you spot the photo background mistakes below that are keeping this cute hair bow from stealing the show?
Challenge and Goals:
1. Do a visual inventory of your shop photos. What type of background are you currently using? Is it clean, crisp, and free of distractions?
2. Start looking around your house for the best location for your photos. Where can you find the best natural light and what is the best time of day to take photos in your new found location? Scout out locations for your photos outdoors, weather permitting, and again figure out what time of day provides the best lighting. Take sample pictures at different times of the day to see how the light affects your photos, and how the background works with or against your product.
3. Eliminate any blurry photos or photos taken with a flash. Start your photo sessions out by first turning off your camera's flash. You can conquer blurry photos by:
1. Adding more light
2. Avoiding camera shake: Hold your camera steady by firmly planting your elbows against your side. Rest your arms or camera on a ledge or lean against a wall or the surface you are photographing your product on. Tripods are another way to prevent camera shake.
3. Make sure that your camera is accurately focused.
4. Learn how to use your camera's Macro setting. Learn more here.
** Want to learn more? Read this article on avoiding blurry photos.
Want to read more? Check out these articles!
posted on 3/18/11
Anyone who has ever faced the challenge of taking product photos knows how difficult it can be to capture the perfect lighting for a photo. It's a constant battle over too much light, too little light, light from the wrong direction, light that makes our pictures look yellow or blue, or light that washes out color. Sometimes light can be our best friend and other times it's our worst enemy. My aim with this post is to keep you from tearing your hair out with what I hope are useful lighting tips.
As I discussed last month, natural lighting is usually the best lighting for your products. You can achieve this by setting up your photography “studio” near a windowsill or wherever you have the most natural light in your home. Also consider taking your photos outdoors especially if you don’t have windows where you live. If you are in a low light area be sure to avoid using the flash on your camera. A flash will actually wash out the color and details of your product.
Although natural light is best, direct sunlight found on bright, sunny days can negatively impact your photos as much as low light. Consider taking your outdoor photos on bright yet overcast days to diffuse the light. Afternoons and mornings, when the sun is not directly overhead, are often best. If shooting indoors, you can use a piece of sheer fabric or tracing paper over the window to diffuse light and to create softer highlights and shadows. You can also hang this piece of fabric on a clothes line between the sun and your product when shooting outdoors.
Ultimately, you want your lighting to be soft. So, how do you determine if your lighting is hard or soft? Table Top Studio offers an easy way to determine whether you are dealing with soft or hard lighting.
“Hold your left hand out, keep it flat and slightly in front of you. Now hold a finger from your right hand a few inches above your left hand. Take a look at the shadow cast by your finger. A hard shadow indicates you have hard light conditions, a soft shadow means that the lighting is soft.”
Direct sunlight produces a hard shadow
Soft light inside a light tent produces a soft shadow
Another way to soften shadows is to create your own photographic reflector using a piece of white poster board or foil wrapped cardboard. Let the light fall on your reflector then tilt it towards the unlit side of your product. A white card can also help you achieve this soft lighting effect.
If you are photographing items such as gemstones, metal, or glass, try lighting them from behind. To prevent the reflection of light from obstructing the view of your framed artwork or prints, remove the glass from the frame before photographing. You can also try shooting from an angle either slightly below or beside the object when photographing reflective surfaces.
Lightboxes and Light tents
Depending on who you ask, you'll encounter people who love lightboxes and those that hate them. If you live in an environment where you constantly battle low light situations, or you are unable to photograph outside, a lightbox or tent may be the very solution you have been searching for. However, some of you may find them cumbersome to set up particularly if you do not have a permanent photography nook in your home. Others find their size limiting for their products, and still others find it difficult to get their desired shots working solely with artificial light.
Everybody loves peeking into another person's home to see how they do things, right? Well, I'm going to let you take a peek at my very lavish product photography setup. Okay, it's not lavish by any stretch of the imagination, because I believe in getting by as inexpensively as possible. So here is my easy to assemble and easy to take down, inexpensive lighting solution.
This is the setup that I initially used when I switched to using a white background. It consists of a tri-fold display board and a piece of white poster board all found at a local discount store. I purchased the lamp for $10 during a back-to-school sale last year. The light bulb cost me $6. So, I created a product photo setup for under $20. The best part about this setup is that I can easily fold up the board and place my backdrop on a shelf until it is needed. I take my pictures in front of three standard sized windows directly in front of my setup. I've also achieved desirable results by placing my setup at an angle to the windows so that natural light pours in from one side. On particularly overcast days, I borrow my daughter's desk lamp and place it directly across from the other lamp so that there are two artificial light sources. That way I can eliminate harsh shadows created by a single artificial light source. I usually set my lamps so that they cast light at a 45 degree angle to my product. This also helps to eliminate unwanted shadows.
The one thing that I disliked about the above set up was the crease created between the two boards. So, I started curving the poster board to create a seamless background. Now there are no lines in the background to drive me crazy!
If you chose to use artificial lighting, it is recommended that you use "daylight" compact fluorescent bulbs. Using regular incandescent bulbs can cast yellow light. You want your bulbs to be "full spectrum" bulbs. Ott-lite and n:vision light bulbs are two brands that I often find recommended. Think that more wattage means brighter lights? I was surprised to find out that that's not the case at all! Lumens are what measure brightness and more watts do not always equate to more lumens. Check out this handy lighting chart for more information.
Often light will need to be diffused to prevent harsh shadows or glare. You can achieve this by aiming your lights through translucent white material like tracing paper, tissue paper, or white plastic. Or you can use photographic reflectors as discussed above. An umbrella can be used to diffuse light through it or to bounce light off of it. Aim your light source at a silver or white umbrella to target the light away from your product. Use an umbrella made of sheer material between your light source and product to diffuse the light. Another way to create a soft lighting effect with artificial lighting is to use a softbox.
Here are some other DIY lighting options:
Interested in making your own lightbox or a softbox? Check out these DIY tutorials:
Looking for specific help for the products you sell? Check out these links.
*Feel free to share your favorite lighting tips and links in the comments below!
This Months Challenge and Goals:
1. Take a look at your shop photos and make note of any pictures that are dark, washed out, over exposed or showing any other lighting improvement needs.
2. Begin experimenting with different lighting setups using either natural or artificial light. Decide which locations and times of day and setups produce the best lighting for your products.
3. Experiment with using lighting reflectors, lightboxes and softboxes if these interest you.
4. If using artificial light, seek out the the best bulbs for your products.
And finally, start looking for your camera's manual. If you've lost your manual, most camera manuals can be found online. If you are ambitious you can start thumbing through the manual now because next month we are going to figure out how to use our camera to its fullest potential.
Holly of A&B Shoppe on Etsy!
Take a look at the fantastic improvements A&B Shoppe made!
Holly admits that she took this original picture of her wet bag late at night on her wooden floor.
But now that wooden floor background is a thing of the past! Check out this fabulous transformation! Now this bag screams "Look at me! I'm Etsy-fabulous!"
She chose a clutter free, solid colored background that really makes this lovely wet bag POP! Want to see more? Check out this functional and stylish wet bag HERE. There's no doubt that Holly has been working hard to improve many of her shop photos by following the tips and tricks that I presented in last month's post. Watch out A&B Shoppe! Holly's going to make you rock!
Holly has an adorable shop that includes a mixture of function and fun. You can "go green" with her reusable tote bags, or dry your little one off in style with one of her cozy hooded bath towels. Looking for something fun for your little ones? Check out her bean bags sets and cute pocket dolls!
posted on 3/21/11
Photo Makeover Series Part 3: Camera Settings
So you’ve figured out ways to improve your product photography backgrounds and lighting, but this series would be woefully incomplete if we didn’t tackle one very important topic. Yes, it’s time to dig out your camera’s manual and yes, you must read it. I know what could be more boring, right? But, you would be amazed at what you can find in there that can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your photos. Here are some of the most important settings that you will want to take a look at and experiment with.
Flash Off: Before taking any pictures, make sure that you disable your camera's built-in flash. This is usually indicated with a lightning bolt with a slash through it.
Macro Setting: This setting allows your camera to focus very close to an object. This feature is important if you are photographing small objects like jewelry, or you are trying to capture special detail in your item. This setting is usually indicated by a tulip for most cameras.
Tip: As you raise the exposure value to brighten a shot, the camera will take longer to gather light and take the photo. This can exacerbate "camera shake". You can compensate for this by using a tripod and by pressing the shutter button cleanly and gently, or take advantage of your camera's timer function.
White Balance: Battling yellow or blue tinged photos? Then you will want to learn how to adjust your camera's white balance. Nearly every digital camera has an automatic white balance feature (AWB-auto white balance) that adjusts colors depending on the lighting conditions. This automatic setting works great for normal snapshots, but for product photography, you will want to learn how use your camera's preset white balance settings to match the type of light you are using (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, etc.). The icon for the white balance function usually looks like a little lightbulb. Take some time to try out each setting to determine which one looks best with the lighting and background you are using. The end result will be product photos with truer, brighter colors. Many basic digital cameras also allow you to customize the white balance. When using a white background with artificial or natural light I prefer to use the "daylight" setting.
Tip: For maximum results allow your EV and white balance settings to work together. If you raise your exposure compensation to brighten a photo, but fail to adjust the white balance, you will end up with a brighter photo that still has a blue or orange tint. And if you adjust the white balance to match your lighting conditions, but fail to adjust your exposure compensation to make up for low lighting, you may find that you are left with a dark photo with true colors. Set your white balance first and then fine tune your exposure compensation until you find the perfect combination!
ISO: On your digital camera, ISO refers to the film speed. Although your digital camera doesn't use film, ISO determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light. The most common ISO settings are 100, 200, 400, and 800. The higher the ISO setting the more grainy the photo will be. So, opt for a low ISO whenever possible. One source I came across recommended using an ISO setting of 50 or 100 for the best quality photos. Keep in mind that a low ISO means that your camera's sensitivity to light is reduced so a photography setup with good lighting is important.
Aperture: If your camera allows, try adjusting the aperture (often referred to as the f-stop or f-number). Experiment with putting your camera in Aperture-Priority Mode (Av mode) with the aperture set to the highest number possible. This will allow you to get the largest area of your product in focus. Are you trying to emphasize the foreground while you blur out the background? Then try using a small aperture setting to provide more depth of field, or if you have a digital camera that doesn't allow for adjustments in aperture, use the portrait setting (picture of a head) for shallow depth of field and use the landscape (picture of a mountain) setting to achieve a wide depth of field.
Browsing through your camera's manual may put you in touch with many more settings not addressed here. Take the time to experiment with them to see how they affect the quality of your photos. You may be very pleasantly surprised! If you have a digital SLR camera you will find that you have many more options and more control over your camera settings than you will with a typical point and shoot camera. However, don't despair! Even if a camera upgrade isn't in the budget this year (or any year!) you can make very noticeable photo improvements even with a basic digital camera. I've experimented with ISO settings and shutter speeds with really no noticeable improvement, and unfortunately my camera does not have an Aperture-Priority Mode, but I've found that adjusting both the exposure compensation and white balance make a huge difference!
Check out this example:
This picture was taken using my camera's preprogrammed Auto Setting. No adjustments were made other than to turn on my camera's Macro Setting. I used my typical background setup, but because it was such a gloomy day, I had to rely on artificial lighting (with two lamps). Even with the extra lighting my picture still turned out dark.
This picture was taken with my camera on Manual Setting. In this setting, I am able to make adjustments to the white balance and exposure compensation. I set my white balance to Daylight, and I adjusted the exposure compensation to +1 to create a whiter background and a brighter overall picture.
Just like anything in life, it takes time to learn new skills, but I'm confident that if you make a commitment to learn something new about your camera each month you will soon discover the perfect combination of background, lighting, and camera settings that will make your products shine!
Want to read more? Check out these articles:
Looking for a new camera? Check out these helpful articles:
Challenge and Goals:
1. Find your camera's manual. Has your camera manual vaporized along with your favorite socks? No worries! Most camera manuals can be found online. Just search for your camera's make and model.
2. Pick a setting and start experimenting! Then show us all of your new and improved photos by entering this month's challenge.
Tricia of Sweeter Than Sweets!
In this before shot you see harsh shadows and glare.
But Tricia was up for the challenge and took this fabulously lit photo in natural light. Say good-bye to those harsh shadows and glare! Hello fabulous lighting! Now this cute shirt really is The Star of the Show!
Tricia is another one of our EtsyKids Team members who has been working hard to makeover her shop photos. And the hard work is paying off because Sweeter Than Sweets is looking fabulous! Stop by and see her new improved shop and all of her adorable items including hair accessories, boutique burp cloths, hooded towels, and appliqued clothing. You are sure to find many adorable things for the little sweetheart in your life!
Exposure Compensation (Exposure Value): Cameras have a tendency to underexpose images when you are using a white or very light background. Adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation allows you to avoid these dark underexposed photos. Exposure values are numeric values (+1, +2, -1, -2). The no-compensation setting is set at zero. Raising or lowering the exposure value from zero allows you to adjust the shutter speed and lens aperture which allows either more or less light to reach your camera. The result is either brighter or darker photographs. Look for a “+/- 0” icon. Selecting this icon allows you to move up or down a scale. Look in your camera’s monitor and you will see your shot become brighter as you move to the right (up the scale) and darker as you move left (down the scale). Check out this fabulous interactive demonstration of exposure compensation at TableTopStudio. Just drag your computer's cursor over the EV= -2 to EV= +2 to see exactly how exposure compensation can make a difference for your photos.
Photo Makeover Series Part 4: Photo Editing, Props, Styling and More!
So you've perfected your product photography background and lighting setup. You've read your camera's manual cover to cover--you did read it cover to cover, right? ;) --and you've mastered your camera settings. But, something is still missing....Enter photo editing, the saving grace for anyone who sells online!
Photo editing allows you to crop and resize photos. You can adjust highlights, shadows, contrast, color saturation ,and color temperature. You can retouch photos, straighten them, sharpen them (when they are slightly out of focus), add text including watermarks and logos, and create collages. The digital world is truly amazing!
But, finding a great photo editing system is going to cost you an arm and a leg, right? Not when there are so many fantastic and free editing tools available including Picasa, Picnik, FotoFlexer, Lunapic, Pixlr, FotoFuze, Photoscape, and Gimp. Would you love to use Photoshop, but a paid service isn't in the cards for you? Check out Aviary's Image Editor. Looking for more options? Check out this extensive list of free photo editing services.
Filling the frame through cropping may be a great way to add interest and focus and show off the details of your product, but be careful that you don't crop so closely that a potential buyer is left wondering what your item actually looks like. I've come across some really artistically cropped photos on Etsy, but after looking through all of the photos in their listing I still had a hard time figuring out what they were actually selling! Looking for an easy way to resize your photos into perfectly sized thumbnails? Check out this video tutorial on resizing your photos the easy way from the Etsy Blog.
I do most of my photo editing using Picasa and Picnik. I find them easy to use especially for a person like me who is anything but tech savvy! Picasa now allows you to edit in Picnik too which makes my life even easier!
Want to read more? Check out these helpful articles:
Using Props and Adding Style:
Do you ever wonder about using props to enhance your product photos and add style? Are you afraid that your neutral background is too boring? Props can certainly improve the quality of your photos especially if they are used to display your product or they have the effect of enhancing your product. Are you trying to show size and dimension? Then try photographing your product with other common items to help give it context and scale. Dimensions included in the product description or a photo of your product next to a ruler won't give every shopper a clear sense of the size and proportions of your product. Visual aids, in the form of props, on the other hand can speak volumes. Props can be used to demonstrate how your product can be used or how it can fit into a potential buyers home or life. Check out how this photographer effectively uses props to showcase a designer's handbags.
The downside of any prop is that it can become distracting. The last thing you want is to have potential buyers busy looking at your props and forgetting about the actual item you are selling! So, make sure that your props compliment your products rather than steal the spotlight. If you choose to use props be consistent with your theme. Consistency leads to a more cohesive and inviting look for your shop and it helps shoppers recognize your products. Remember that you don't have to use props for all five of your product shots on Etsy. Adding style and flair to just your first photo will serve to intrigue potential buyers and lead to more treasury features.
Another way to add style is the use of unique angles. You can shoot from above, below, at the same level, or off center so only a portion of your product shows. Use these shots to highlight a particular feature or detail of your product. You can also crop more conventional shots afterwards if you don't feel comfortable experimenting with new angles. When taking angled shots of your product on a model, do be mindful of the background. If an angled shot means that you are now showing the mud puddle your son is standing in or your living room floor then you may want to skip the angles and instead get down to the level of your model. Also remember over using unique angles and close-ups can make it hard for shoppers to determine proportions, dimensions, and the overall look of your product. If buyers can't tell what you are selling in your beautifully artistic photos, then you will have defeated the purpose of adding style in the first place!
Here's an example of a picture I took using both props and angles to add interest to this photograph of felt cookies.
Learning to style and enhace your photos not only helps you showcase your products, but it helps you tell a story about your creations. Styling your photos can help you create a mood and an atmosphere for your product. Check out these online articles on styling your product photos:
Using Models and Mannequins:
I think that most people will agree that they prefer to see wearable items modeled. I know when I'm shopping for jewelry on Etsy that I am more likely to buy an item if at least one of the product photos shows the item worn by a model. So, do you use a live model or a mannequin? Many people don't have willing or appropriate models in their homes. Modeling your cute hair accessories on your five year-old son probably isn't going to run your sales through the roof! However, if you have willing models (children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors) then by all means use them, especially if they are free! Mannequins and dress forms can be successfully used in place of a live model. Check out this article on Models vs. Mannequins for some great tips.
In researching this post, I was surprised when I came across some sellers on Etsy who offer product photography services using a live model. Maybe I've had my head in the sand on this one, but just in case I beat you to the punch, here are some sellers on Etsy offering product photography on live models. *Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of these sellers and I have no affiliation with them. They are simply sellers I came across when searching for "product photography models".
Another option is a modeling service that connects product models with sellers. Most of these are "free" services in which you pick a model from an agency and send that model the item you want photographed. The product is professionally photographed and you are sent pictures of your product on your chosen model. The model then keeps the item you made for the photo shoot as "payment".
It probably goes without saying, but I do recommend that you carefully research any modeling service that you are considering to insure that they are a reputable business and that you will receive quality product photos in exchange for your money or handmade products.
Another way to style your photos is through photography composition. If you want to know more about composition you'll need to take a moment to understand the Rule of Thirds and Dynamic Diagonals. This Composition in Photography article explains both quite well. It's definitely worth reading.
Most of all don't be afraid to take TONS of pictures when you are photographing your products. The beauty of digital cameras is that you won't waste any film, and you never know when you will capture the perfect product photo!
What to read more? Check out these articles:
And if you are a visual person you will want to check out: