Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Before and After Photos - taking good photos for Etsy

So I have to admit I did a long stint helping review work for Stock photography - in a now sadly defunct site. It was a real eye opener. After you have seen 300 photos of a bunch of carrots your eyes glaze over... and then some clever bugger comes along and sends a photo of a bunch of carrots and you say, OMFG look at those carrots!!!

That's the secret of a good photo. I'm not even close to achieving that.. but I learned a lot of tricks Even when i take a great and interesting photo - I still get emails from customers saying: Oh is so much better in Real life!

I try not to spend too much time ditzing around with photos. If I spend 4 hours playing with photos - and i still pay myself - my jewelry would be Much More Expensive. And to be honest I feel its not fair. A customer isn't buying a photo. So I try and limit my "ditzing around time" to about 30 min. Less if I can. Usually I have 2 shots I might spend more time with. As well I try and use all 5 photos. Photos help sell the work.

After having sold nearly 140+ pieces - this equals about 700 photos just to etsy. Thats about 350 hours of photo time. If I was working a 40 hour week that would be over 8 wks. 2 months of work. And that won't count all the didn't-make-it photos. The ones with the hairs and dust and omg-is-that-a-fly?? on the shots.

You really want to get as close to a good photo right from the start. As important as it is to take a good photo there are a few BASICS. This little article won't help much for someone who has no idea about photography. You'll have to check some other sites to help with that.

  • 1. Exposure. If your photo is over-exposed there is not a lot you can do to correct it if all the highlights are blown out. For me personally its easier to correct under-exposure. The more over-exposed the photo is the harder it gets to correct.
  • 2. Centered - for Etsy and similar sites its really vital that your product is centered. Oh sure it can be artistically placed to one side. It can come at a slant. But if you are cutting off a section of your work or say the really pretty beads aren't show then your customer won't see them. You've got just a few chances to grab their attention - so if part of your photo is missing - chances are good they won't click to find it.
  • 3. Large as Possible - You want to fill up at least one of your photos with the product. You might not get in all of it - but get the bulk of whatever it is - in the center and Large!
  • 4. Focus. - in focus not blurry. Did you use a tripod?
  • 5. Minimal Shadows - yes. sure daylight is great - but direct sunlight causes shadows. Shadows create distortion. In the tiny thumbnails people review the shadows will look like part of your work. Use a bounce. (another photo term for you to look up). A bounce will help minimize the darkness. I have used: pie plates, pot lids, pieces of paper - as well as a store-bought Bounce. The paper works fine.
  • 6. WHITE. Anything in your photo that is white should be white. Are your whites white? If your white beads look GRAY or Yellow.. you need to get a photoshop-type program and adjust them. This is critical. If your customer thinks the beads are yellow and gets white beads they won't be pleased. I won't click on any photo of anything where the product looks gray. Brighten it up.
  • 7. Straight... this depends on the shot but a good example is the huge number of shots we use to reject because the horizon was crooked. I like things that are straight in the photo - especially if I suspect the person was trying to make it straight.
  • 8. Background. I prefer neutral backgrounds. Not too fancy. If i have to spend 40 minutes dicking around with "composing a background" - say one of lace and a pretty book etc. That is 40 minutes I could spend writing, making new jewelry, sleeping. Because these are product shots you want a good, interesting background - but not one that distracts from your work. As well if I create a photo with a book, some lace, pretty flowers - I will make sure I use that in several product shots. But here's the catch - I don't want all my pieces to have the same look. Thats why I will often use layers.
EXAMPLE -- I took this yesterday. To be honest I wasn't in the mood for taking photos, so they are kind of not my best shots. Perfect for this post though...

1. underexposed. I was being lazy and didn't set up a tripod. Hand-held at 1/30 F2.8 ISO50

2. crooked - I should have spent a bit more time laying it out. sigh.

3. strong shadows. Not terrible - but I didn't use a bounce - see above: lazy. grey.

4. bland background - bland but one of my fav's. it has a lot of black spots but I knew i'd be correcting and adding in a layer.

AFTER: time - 22 min

1. exposure fixed. used - brightness & contrast.

2. straightened (still not perfect but not bad. It is straight and cropped square. My only nitpick would be that the chain is more exposed on the left. shrug).

3. shadows minimized. Cloned out most of the strong ones and dodge out others.

4. background was okay but I added a layer of texture. I did this because I use that textured paper a lot and want something different. Plus - this is a "mechanical" piece. The original background was subtle and organic. I wanted something a bit more textured. In a larger version - clickclick on it - the On-Off switch looks 3d. It does stand a bit forward of the chain so thats okay.

5. cropped - this will be the main photo in when I upload the photo. I look at the photos reduced to 30%. If they look interesting when they are tiny .. thats great. Sites like etsy want squares. Since I was a bit lazy I added some of the background to the right side of the photo. Really I should add a bit more to the bottom so it is centered - but I've hit my 20 min time limit. This will be the main photo in the Etsy upload.

one thing I did that isn't the best is along the left side of the switch it is a wee bit blurry. Thats an editing issue I will correct. later. maybe. but because there will be 4 other photos I won't worry too much. This recycled necklace is made out of different electronic elements. Steampunk jewelry 0r cyberpunk jewelry or maybe just some real geek jewelry. And yeah, the switch does work. :D

Do let me know if you liked this article!


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