Since I am in the process of taking and editing hundreds of photos of TheJuneBride Etsy products this week, I figured it would be a nice idea to share how exactly I go about planning and setting up my product shots. Any Etsy seller who has ever stopped into the forums or read a featured seller article has learned that the best way to make sales is to have great photos. But how exactly does one do that? I’ve stumbled my way through product photography (and I’m still stumbling… I’m no professional) by way of point-and-shoot, then dSLR… but I’ve realized that nothing makes better pictures than simply thinking about composition, then working on technique.
First, there are a few things I think about when I plan to photograph items:
- What can I highlight about the product to grab potential customer’s attention in the main photo?
- How does the item display best?
- How will the product be used? Can I show it in a “real life” situation?
- Should I include a “group shot”? Will showcasing this item with other related items help make a larger sale?
My first question gives me the foresight to plan one picture to really stand out among the millions of item photos on Etsy. Rather than simply choosing the “best” of the pictures of any particular item, I try to take one with “wow factor”… something to make people want another look to see what it’s all about. Most of my items are small, so getting a close up of the texture of the wool I use tends to get good results in the view department (and more views turn into more sales). But this will vary depending on what you’re trying to sell, time of year, relative saturation of that category on Etsy, etc. It’s worth the time and energy to come up with something unique that can be fairly consistent throughout your product line, something that will ultimately become recognizable as yours.
When planning how to display the item, I have a few cardinal rules that I have come to realize cause the best views for my items… this may differ for yours, but it’s still worth considering. Below you can see my setup for photos of my flower brooches (and sometimes the food stuffs I blog about) – a foam-core board with or without a scrapbooking paper “curve”. Near a window in indirect sunlight. On the floor. Classy, eh? But it works… I just get as close in as I need to feature the item, and later can digitally crop out any undesirable aspects. No flash means naturally lit photos that best represent the true color of the item.
I always use a simple uncluttered backdrop for smaller items… a solid color without majorly noticeable lines is generally the ticket. The photos below show some “cluttered backgrounds” that draw attention away from the product. These examples could be worse because they are not too bold, but you get the idea. Polka dots would be a bad idea…
I choose a background (almost always gray or white) that helps the items show up best. I try to find the tone that best makes the item “pop”, and it can also help solve the bluish tinge that is very hard to edit out in some photos (see the pink flower below for an example). For bigger tabletop items (handbag, scarf, etc) I use a giant roll of white paper as my “curve” and background… cheap but very effective, and easy to white balance when you are digitally editing your photos.
Now, if you’re shooting larger items or “real life” situations (ex. a skirt modeled on a real person in your backyard), you’ll have to figure out how to keep the attention on the item you’re trying to sell, while letting a compatible background complement your color scheme. Aside from that tip, all I can say is that the overall picture should be appealing. It should not look like a snap shot. Using a flash is generally not a good idea. Get creative. Try out a few things till you find what works.
Now, I’m not completely sure what to recommend for a product “group shot”… it depends on a few things. Imagine you’re shopping for soap on Etsy. You find something that looks good, and in that particular listing, the seller has included as the last photo a shot of a grouping of that soap with other bath and body products from her shop that have the same scent, congruent packaging and clearly could be given together as a gift set. Maybe your Aunt Gertrude would love a combination of those items, and you decide to buy a few for her for Christmas. This is GOOD and is an example of a successful group shot. It turned into a bigger sale than would have happened if you had not seen more available items together. Now, imagine you’re shopping for a hat. In that particular listing, the seller has added as the last photo a shot of just a pair of mittens, indicating that she also sells mittens. Is this good? Well, maybe. Maybe they don’t match the hat, so you don’t think about them as a possible set. Maybe they’re cuter than the hat so you just buy mittens and forget about it. Maybe you do purchase both. The goal is for a “group shot” to act as a non-pushy way to encourage the buyers to consider making a larger order. So make sure the grouping is of compatible items and, if possible, the item for which the listing is intended should appear in the photo (or a VERY similar item should be shown so the buyer doesn’t forget why they’re there).
One caveat to being successful with a certain photography style is that people will copy your style, if not your product itself. It’s a fact, people, and the best way to not be bothered by it is to simply move on. If it’s affecting your sales, think of a new way to display. Or choose a unique prop that your competitors couldn’t possible have. Getting upset won’t solve the problem (trust me), but getting creative will always give you an edge. And it goes the other way - use others’ styles as inspiration… obvious copycatting will not help you make friends!
For editing my photos, I generally only use the basic Windows Photo Gallery option (the default on any machine running Windows), though I like Google’s free Picasa software for straightening crooked photos (it happens to everyone!) as well as other basic edits if I’m already in it. I’ll even use Paint from time to time to resize images if I forget to use the small file size on my camera for photos intended for the web (I hate doing it that way, but sometimes it’s necessary and Paint is really quick and easy). For major edits and full-photo makeovers, I use The Gimp. I don’t have the funds to purchase Photoshop right now, and all these applications really work well as an alternative.
There’s so much more, but I don’t do much more than that myself. I try to keep the non-creating aspects of the business as short and sweet as possible to maximize my time creating, and I find that this works for me right now. It must be done, and it really must be done well if you want to generate interest and sales.
Happy photo shooting! Feel free to chime in with your own tips or questions in the comments… there’s always more to learn!