Monday, November 05, 2012

Me, the Page 84 Girl - the blog post also known as Tips for Taking Photos for Online Sales

It's quite strange opening the Sunday paper and finding yourself gracing one of its pages, but  that's just what happened yesterday.

Now you'd think I would have tidied up more on the day the photographer came into my studio...

The article was about a talk I give from time to time about taking photos for online sales for BrisStyle's "I heart Craft sessions".  I used to be a professional photographer, back in the darkroom days, but there are many simple set ups and basic tips that can really make a big difference and let your images make a huge impact.

Think about when you go shopping in a bricks and mortar store.  You often pick up a piece that you're interested in, you can feel its weight and texture, instantly know its size, can see it from all different angles... online shoppers still want that experience and your photographs can help give it to them.  Years ago when I began selling online I remember hearing the advice "Photograph as if there is no written description (and write as if there is no photograph)".  High quality photographs also give your store a professional edge and help with online marketing through Etsy treasuries, blogs and sites like Pinterest.

These simple things can really improve your imagery;

Write with Light
The word "photography" comes from a couple of Ancient Greek words that mean "to write" and "light".  With this in mind it's easy to understand why the light on your subject should be your first concern.
  • Where possible, use soft, natural light.  Don't use the flash on top of your camera (unless you know what you're doing with it) or go into direct sunlight in the middle of the day, this will create harsh shadows and be unflattering.
Retro Black Cat Hairclips

  • In Queensland we're lucky enough to get lots of lovely light all year round.  I photograph next to a large window and use a white piece of cardboard to reflect light back into the other side.

  • If your light source isn't very bright, use a tripod to steady your camera and avoid blurry photos.

Learn About Aperture
The camera's aperture controls how much light enters your lens at one time and as a result, affects how much of your subject will be in focus at the same time (this is called the "depth of field").  The easiest way to remember which way to go is that the smaller the number (f stop), the smaller the amount of your photograph will be in focus.  A small area in focus can really help to separate your item from the background, but a large area can help if your active toddler is modelling your carefully made children's clothes.

There are some great pictorial examples online to help you understand the aperture's affect; here, here, here and here are some places to start.

If not feeling comfortable with going on a full manual setting on your camera, most digital cameras have an "Aperture Priority" setting that will allow you to control your aperture and then will adjust your shutter speed to ensure that you have correct exposure.

Choosing Your Camera
The great thing about today's technology is that you can get amazing digital cameras for quite reasonable prices.  When choosing your camera, pick one that you're going to feel comfortable using.  There's no use buying an expensive DSLR if it's going to sit on the shelf because you don't know what to do with it.  If you make small items like jewellery put your main investment into a good macro lens, even some small point-and-shoot cameras have great macro lenses.  If you ask at any decent camera store, they should be able to point you in the right direction.  Etsy have written some good advice when it comes to choosing a camera.

  • It's usually best not to place your item smack, bang in the centre of your photo, but rather off-centre them a bit with the Rule of Thirds in mind.  It makes for a much more interesting photo.
  • If your subject is directional, have it moving into the frame and not out.
Chevron Necklace by Modrn

  • Think about different angles that you can photograph from to make the photo more interesting.  When photographing children's items for example, it's great to get down low to give a feel of how they'd see it.
Vintage Mattel Blocks by Flume Street

Model it for me Baby!
Photographing your gorgeous creation on a model can not only really help a buyer understand it's size, but also allows you to create a feel for your brand.

Gold Zing Headband by JanineBasil

Backgrounds, Props and Staging
Your backgrounds and props is another chance to tell a story about what you make and to communicate your brand.
  • Keep your background simple.  Don't let it distract from what you're actually trying to sell.
  • In most cases, try to avoid horizon lines.  
  • A little bit of subtle texture can go a long way, but you don't want it to be a "muddy" looking one or one that creates too many shadows (your eyes will be drawn to those shadows instead).
  • Make sure that any props you use add to the story of your piece.
Cosy vintage Caravan and Combi Convo by Sconnie and Jam

  • A hand or a mannequin can be a simple prop.
  • Props can help to communicate how your creation can be used as well as give an indication of size.
Red hair sweet face zipper pouch by sweetdolls

  • If you have nice packaging, it's good to include that in one of your photos as well.
Teapot Brooch

Editing Your Images
I recommend to always edit your photos before you upload them to an online store or site.

The most important things to do are; 
  • Crop and resize (but when resizing, keep a copy of the original larger file first!  You never know when your favourite magazine is going to call and ask to feature your creation).
  • Check your exposure and contrast.  You want your whites white, your blacks black and a nice range in between.
  • Correct any colour casts.   The cause of these includes indoor lighting (fluorescent lights have a green tinge, incandescent bulbs an orange colour etc).
There are other many different photo editing programs out there.  
  • I think PicMonkey is a great site (and the "Weight loss" tool is lots of fun!)
  • This post has a good list of other options, both downloadable and online.

A Few More Things to Think About...
  • Be consistent with your images - remember they are all communicating your brand.
  • Think about how a store thumbnail is going to look once the photo has been cropped to the site's format.  Etsy now allows you to adjust this when listing an item.
  • Use all the images that the site allows (Etsy allows five).  A teaser image (often a close up) can work well as the first image and you can show your product from different angles as well as illustrating your packaging.
  • Look at sites such as Etsy, Flickr and Pinterest for inspiration (but inspiration only).  Look at what images you like and think about why they work.
  • Save yourself some time by photographing in batches.  This will also help with the consistency of your images.
  • And lastly, do what your time and lifestyle allows.  I don't practice all that I preach due to the time constraints that a busy wholesale business plus a very active three year old put on me.  Even if you put a few of these tips in place, you should be well on your way.
Do you have any tips you'd like to share, or ones that you've found particularly useful?  Or feel free to pop some links to your online images in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.


Hot Fudge said...

Remind me to bring my autograph book with me next time I come to Brisbane. Congratulations on becoming the much desired Page 84 Girl Mel, and thank you for this most informative post.

Raw Ceramics said...

Thanks so much for sharing all your helpful are truly inspirational Melanie.

Red Hen (dette) said...

Great post mel. Some fabulous tips.

Hannah said...

A bit late finding this post, but thanks for sharing some excellent tips. They'll help me improve my photos for sure!


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