Monday, February 21, 2011

Shop Make Over: Photos

I've been busy fixing the photos in my shop, samsstuff. When I look back at some of the first shots I'm struck by just how bad they were. The new ones may not be perfect (Is anything ever perfect?), but most of them are a vast improvement over the early shots. I love photography, but product photography is a whole new thing for me. It has been a process learning the ins & outs of product shots. I was not a digital photographer. I learned old school, with film. Digital is a whole different process. So what have I learned?

1. Simple & plain is better. You want the product to be the focus, not the distracting background or the props. You can use props, just make sure that they compliment the product & focus the attention back on the product. You don't want your item to become the background to your props. If you have lots of people commenting on the props or the background, it probably means that the focus is not on your piece.

2. It's not necessarily bad to have your first shot be a close up. Focus on an interesting detail or the workmanship that has gone into the item. Draw the viewer in, then move back to the big picture.

3. Think about how the item will look in a thumbnail, this may be the first way a customer will view your item. Will it stand out among the other thumbnails? Will the viewer be able to tell what the item is? Will they be intrigued enough to click on the item?

4. Crop your shot so that you product takes center stage & one of the best tips I've seen: crop your shot square. This is the format that Etsy uses for the thumbnails & you can be certain that your product will be seen in the 'just listed' stream, as well as in your last 4 shots.

5. Natural light is best. The colors are truer & they won't have the yellow tinge that often comes from fluorescent light or the glare that comes from a flash. Adjust your camera settings so that white turns out white & black comes out black. You can also do this in post editing (there are many great free programs available: my favorite Picnik, Irfanview, Picassa ...)

Here are a few of my before & after shots:

White bag

Before shot taken on a fabric covered footstool. The red background is distracting. It's plain, but the bag handles, also red, fade in to the background. The angle is 'wonky,' so while this is not a horrible shot, it's a meh shot. It doesn't grab attention, ultimately forgettable...

White Handbag: Fancy Free

White bag

After shot: The background is still basically plain, the colors contrast & compliment the bag & they're nuetral, so not overly distracting.  The light pattern (ok, I'm a sucker for light patterns...) adds interest, but still doesn't distract from the bag. The light is natural here, no flash, so the colors are truer. The before picture was taken under florescent light, so it has a yellowish tinge, adding an old fashioned, frumpy look.

Pink Preppy Punk Headband

Before picture: It's a close up & has good detail, but the background is kind of distracting. Even though it's blurred & fairly plain, there's too much of it & it does nothing for the headband. I was trying a 'laundry strewn about by the wind' look. The biggest problem is that they're just hanging there & there's no indication of what they look like when worn...

Headband: Preppy Punk
After shot: The background here is neutral & plain, the light is again, natural. This also has good detail, but not we also have an idea of what this might look like when worn. It's also not just hanging there, so it looks more dynamic. I've styled the shot to have a retro 'hippie,' through the way I've placed the headband on the mannequin & the way I've done her hair. I've shot her in profile, giving her a far away look & the focus remains the headband, rather than the mannequin (or worse, the wall).

Steampunk Skeleton Key Pin:

Before: There are many issues with this photo, glare from a flash, for a start. The background is plain, but the yellow is to bright & distracting, the green might have been better. It was even worse, as I started from too far away, so not only was there yellow & green, but white wicker & the pin itself was a speck, one of those "what is it?" shots...

Steampunk Skeleton Key Pin

This is better in some ways, not as good in others, so it still needs work. I've kept both in the shop, for now. This one is better, in that it shows what the pin looks like when worn & I've placed it in a unusual spot, on the pocket of a vest, to show that it's versatile. I wanted to show the buttons & the pocket to hint at the fact that it's on a vest (more of a Steampunk look). The tiny check on the vest may be a bit distracting & the pin is  in the same color family, so it kind of fades into the background....

An update of the key pin. Just a bit of color in the background, but not enough to distract from the pin, itself

So, as you can see, it's a constant process. I'm still working on more photos & the last tip that I have for you:

6. Create a clean & unified look for your shop. This has to do with branding & marketing specifically to your customers. It looks less cluttered & gives the customer something to focus on. If you can, when re-arranging your shop stagger the light & dark photos: light, dark, light, dark...This makes it easier for the customer to see each individual item & separates them from each other, making them stand out.

 I hope that this has helped & given you some ideas for your own 'product shots.' Thanks for stopping by. SAM


Spittin Toad said...

Great thoughts...Thank you so much. I too struggle with my etsy photos...part of the problem is I have a very old point and shoot digetal camara.....I try to take all my pictures outside...which sometimes poses as a problem here in the Pacific Northwest, when it can rain for a week. :)
PS: I'm a new of last night and I'm sure glad I found you!

samsstuff said...

Hi Denise! I'm in the Pacific Northwest, too, so I also often have to take my photos indoors. I like the side light the I get, filtered through a light curtain, from one of my windows. (I wish it wasn't usually so damp here).

Debbie in Nashville said...

I love photography too and agree that product photography is a whole other ballgame. I have rephotographed many of my items for my shop and ofter wonder what the best way to show them will be.

Your after pics look great! Thanks for all the helpful tips!

[] said...

I am a full time professional product photographer with 9 years in the field. & am here for anyone who needs me. You can contact me at for a list of services and I would be happy to send it your way.

samsstuff said...

I published the last comment to illustrate that there are many professionals that you can go to, if that is the direction in which you want to go (I don't have any experience with any specific product photographers, the above comment included). There are, as I illustrated in the post, many ways in which you can improve you own product shots, with little or no personal expense. I hope the article here has spurred some thought about how you can improve your shots, as I have improved mine.

Julia & Cori said...

Great advice, I too am another gal from the Pacific Northwest!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

HeadpinWear said...

Thanks for the great advice!
I always struggle with pics.

I found you on the Handmadeology Forum, and I am now a "follower" of your Blog!
Here is the link to my Blog:

I hope you will do the same,

Thank you,