Saturday, August 24, 2013

Taking Better Product Photos

The Etsy Cloth Diaper Team centers around cloth diapering shops on Etsy. We get so excited about sharing our love for fluff that we sometimes forget we are running businesses and we need to stay on top of our market. This post is here to help those on our team and our readers that need a little pick me up in the photo department. Our photos are the first thing people see and we want them to be inviting.

First, I am not an expert. I took some photography in high school. You know back when you had to develop film. Do they still do that? I still have to go back and reshoot pictures of my own and I have tried things that work for other shops, but everytime I see them in my own I remind myself to go back and take those pictures again. But time is short and I rarely get around to it.

But I don't have a fancy camera, you say. I can't talk my husband into making me a lightbox, you lament. I promise that as long as you give yourself a little time in daylight hours you can take front page worthy pictures with a cell phone if that's what you have.

A quick lesson in Greek, the Greek word "phos" mean slight and is the base for where the English language gets "photo". Plants need light to make food, photosynthesis. The pupils in your eyes open and close with the amount of light to see, they're photosensitive. You need light to take good pictures, making photographs. I'm going to take this a little further and say the number one rule is natural light. If you learn nothing else let it be this: TURN OFF YOUR FLASH AND GO OUTSIDE. That's it; one simple rule and your pictures will stop looking like this:

Hexipuff for Beekeeper Quilt I've been working on

I know some of you are thinking that isn't so bad right? You can see the shadows so there must be light and it's pretty clear and in focus. I'm even going to say that the colors are accurate, but there is nothing about this picture that pops, nothing that says "oh what a nice hexipuff!" This picture was also taken with my higher quality digital camera. 

Experiment time! Grab the hexipuff and run outside. 

This picture was taken with my crummy cell phone. It doesn't have a zoom function or a flash. It's on it's last leg. And I'll admit the photo is not the most crisp image I've ever produced. All that said in comparison to the first picture it's a much better option if I were to have to pick on for listing in my Etsy shop. I hear you asking about that clean white background. My secret? A big white piece of poster board. I'm sure my neighbors think I'm a little nutsy when I go running outside with my recent items, camera, and poster board, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Poster board is cheap and gives you a nice flat surface and depending on your items is usually big enough for most things. Did I mention cheap? And if your child decides to go all Vangough on it or it gets hit with last night's spaghetti dinner you feel less bad about it. Run to your shopping list and add poster board right now. I put my poster board on my porch just within the shade line, so I'm not in direct sunlight which overexposes. A cloudy day works well too. If I can't get outside I have a nook in my living room with 3 windows and it acts as a bit of a light box. If you have a good window to work with you don't even have to travel outside. 

I'm ok with a plain picture in it's natural state. If it's a little blue, this happens when I've missed my magic window and the porch is more shaded than I like, you can try to adjust the color balance in one of the many free photo editing programs online. I think even photobucket offers it now in their editing. Many will tell you to run and use Fotofuze to give your pictures that blinding white background. I've tried it. I'm not overly happy with the results. It's a personal preference, but anything changing the contrast that much is also altering the look of the item. Generally creating an overexposed look and making the item look less than life like. You want people to see your pictures as they will see the item when it arrives. Plus go look at the treasuries that make the front page on Etsy. Go ahead, I'll wait. While a few overly brighten photos make it in those treasuries usually the images that are ideal are the ones with clean natural backgrounds. 

Why does this matter? Most treasuries are built the same way shoppers search. They want to see items they can easily identify. And treasuries equate to more exposure for your shop. No matter how ridiculously cute your item is a picture with a cleaner appearance will usually win out by a treasury maker and the same is true when a batch of items comes up in a search. People are visual creatures our eyes are drawn to certain elements and features. Ask me about my 13 years of optical experience. 

So what have we learned?

1- Buy poster board
2- Turn off your flash
3- Go outside

A few things that are helpful to remember and every bit as important.

Get close and in focus. A macro option on your camera is great a good zoom is ok. 

Stabilize. When working without a flash the less your camera moves the better. Set your camera on a pile of books if you need, trust me it helps. I love my tripod! I found it still in it's original packaging at the Goodwill for cheap. Even if I had to pay retail it would be worth every penny. 

For the month of September I would like to challenge our team members to pick a few listings and try some of the ideas here and see if they aren't happier with the results. 


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