Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heidi's Tips & Tricks for 4/11/2012

The topic this week is... PHOTOS!

First, a question... how do you "shop" Etsy? I'm guessing you likely search for a certain type of item and then glance quickly at the photos and see what grabs your eye. Well... that's what most people do! As a show owner therefore, it makes sense to do everything you can do to make sure your photos are the ones that are eye catching.

There is a lot that can be said about taking good photos. The main things are that your items need to be true representatives of the item you created. You want it to be true to color, in focus, and attractive. Etsy has some good basic photo-taking tutorials already... so I'm going to use this thread to share some of the more unique tips I've found.


Natural light is your friend. It is the best way to get brightness without the harsh effect of a flash and it ensures that your colors are accurate. You don't want the shadows of being in the sharp sunlight... but you can play around with angles to avoid shadows, or you can diffuse the natural light with a few tricks like the time of day, slightly overcast days, or making a frame with a sheet of tissuepaper or translucent plastic to use as a "block" that still allows some sunlight through. Play around a bit with taking pictures in natural light... because when you find the "right" spot for your items... they will really look amazing!

Another way to play with light is to use a "bounce board"... and this can be done inside or outside! Get a sheet of bright white bristol board or two and set it up to reflect the sunlight back onto your items. This can soften shadows and brighten up the backside. In some cases, a piece of cardboard lined with a FLAT (no crinkles) piece of tinfoil can also work as a bounce board.

There are also two types of "lightboxes" that you might want to consider investing in. A quick search for them online will give you some very inexpensive DIY ways of making a lightbox... or you can get a box & light setup already assembled from an online supplier.  A lightbox is basically either a box lined in white paper that you shine a couple bright lights into, or a translucent box that you shine light into from the outside.  These boxes give your items consistent, bright lighting. If you make very small items like jewelry... you can also get a box that is constructed of lights itself which can really make for some amazing photos and can also be found on Ebay. You need to make sure that the box you use is sufficiently larger than your items... so this isn't always reasonable for everyone.

Some other things to consider when thinking about photos is that you want your shop to look cohesive. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use the same background for all your photos. For some items, this means a white or same-color background... for some, their items look amazing taken outside or on a prop of some kind. The main point though is to make the items in your shop LOOK like they belong in your shop! When you go to a store... it is more aesthetically pleasing when the shop has a consistent look/feel. You want to have that with your Etsy shop too.

You also want you items to be what SHOWS in the photos... they shouldn't just BE in the photos. In most cases, this means you want a plain, subtle backdrop and one of the best is plain white. If you do decide to use props (which can add interest for things like jewelry, soaps, teas, etc.)... make sure they don't overpower the photo. You want it to be obvious what you are selling. Clear glass, white ceramics, a tiny bit of greenery, rustic frame... those are some examples of props that can work really well in some cases.

Don't be afraid to think angles and crops. Your first photo is to "grab" the customer... it doesn't have to show the whole item. Tilting the camera or taking the photo from a unique vantage point can make your item really stand out.

Whenever possible, use ALL your photos! Need ideas for how to use them up but not have five that look the same? Try two or three different angles. Take a close-up of some unique detail or a section of especially fun colors. Take a photo of the item when all or partially packaged (if you do anything special like wrap in tissue or ribbon). Take a close crop just for something "different". Or how about this? Take a full item shot... then, use the exact same photo but close crop it and use THAT one for the first photo and the full one for the second photo.

The best advice? Do a search for your same or similar item and see which items grab YOUR attention! And, have a look on Etsy's main page and see what grabs THEIR attention. That can give you an idea of what you might aspire for.
(And, a small side note, also notice the types of photos that get chosen for top ranking treasuries... in most cases they will not have watermarks, frames, vignetting, or dark backgrounds... so those might be some more things to avoid).

I hope this is a helpful starting place if you are thinking your photos might need some work. I know I myself have spent hours taking and retaking my photos and many of them I still want/need to do more work on! Once you do find something you are happy with though... it's a very satisfying place to be!


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