Thursday, January 14, 2010

Full Frontal - Etsy Style

Well, I guess I ought to introduce myself to those who might not know me. I am Benjamin Krudwig, and I am the Guest Blogger on the CreateCrochet Team.

Here I am with my first post!

We all know what that is; the elusive “Front Page” posting of our item. Do you wonder why none of your photos have made it? I have a few observations I have collected over time. I understand this is text heavy, but stick with me to the end on this and your photos will be geared up and ready to compete with the “front-pagers.”

When I started on Etsy, I thought ‘as long as I get some sort of picture on here it doesn’t matter, it will sell.’ Well, it was a few months until I got my first sale and this gave me plenty of time for me to skim the stores of Etsy and see what shops were doing well and which ones weren’t. The picture quality…. No one told me that I would have to be pro-photographer to make a sale. I realized it wasn’t that I needed to be a pro, I just needed to take the time and be very careful in the “staging” of my shots and get great shots. I was antsy in getting my product on the web to sell it, so I didn’t give the photography the needed attention.
I wanted to change this, so after creating something I took extra care and thought about each photo carefully, and edited them if there was a need for it. I wanted to give the buyer an accurate representation of my product.
After my interweb travels in the land of Etsy, I have decided to re-shoot most of my items to increase “front-page visibility.”

Here are a few tips and tricks I have found to be quite useful in my quest for the FP grail.

I would like to preface this with a comment. This is not meant to be an attack on anyone, and no one was specifically mentioned because all of these problems affect at least a few of us. Also, if you would like any further help, let me know!

We all have a style, a personality that is unique to us. How do we translate that into a photo that is front-page worthy? I decided to take a look at the front page of Etsy, every time a new set was out.
The styles I found to be most often chosen were those that were slightly artsy, but still showcased the product.
Choose an appropriate style for the item you are selling, and the image you want your shop to project onto buyers. However, don’t change your style because it is different; just learn how to incorporate your style into a quality photograph. One way I thought useful, would be to take the fun shots, but put those as pictures 2-5, leave picture 1 for the hook to snag buyers.

I think it is important here to muse about the grocery store. What? Yes, the grocery store, when you walk down the aisles, there are products that can only entice you by the photos on the box. If they look rushed or kinda “blah” you won’t buy it. Imagine you are in a foreign town at a local supermarket that doesn’t sell any of the brands you buy. In fact, you have never seen these brands or products before. You want some potato chips. Do you buy the bag that has a badly lit bowl of chips, or the one that has the rich golden chips pouring out of a bag? Most would choose the second bag.
I realized that most sellers on Etsy don’t understand that the pictures for their item aren’t just a quick shot to show what the item is, they are advertisements.

Below are tips for taking better pictures, and more effective advertisements.

Many of us work out of our homes with our craft, and thus take our photos in or around our home. These are some tips for photographing within the home.
Think about what you are selling.
What are you selling, the couch or the afghan on the couch? If it’s the couch, why are you on etsy, and if it’s the afghan, why is it all folded up and pushed to the side? My suggestion to you, if your couch is a complex design, cover it with a white sheet, or solid color that is mute enough to not over-power the attention that your item is supposed to get. Pretend your house is a show-house and it is to be featured in Better Homes and Garden.

Are you selling hats or apparel of any sort?

 Find a wall in your home, or outside your home that gets plenty of light (preferably natural light) that is a neutral color, put your model in front of that (whether they are human or mannequin) and snap plenty of shots. Ask them to wear a solid color that isn’t too bright or “loud.”  Dark-muted colors and light shades of certain colors are preferable. No the clothing doesn’t need to be “matchy-matchy” with the product, but you don’t want to create a dissonance between the colors of the item and whatever the model is wearing. Make your model comfortable (if you are using a living being), no one likes an awkward shot, if they look like they are having fun, your buyer will see that and feel the whimsy and comfort from the photograph. Pay careful attention when photographing a baby in this, nothing says “buy me” like an adorable happy baby. Crying and screaming says “I hate this product, and why is it on me????”

What about accessories?

 Small goods aren’t necessarily in need of a model, a plain background, or a light-box (plenty of tutorials online to learn how to make them) is a perfectly acceptable way of photographing them. However if it is a product that can be used, why not have a photograph of it being used as it is supposed to be? If it is meant to be an appliqué, show it being used as one.

White is boring...

I am not necessarily saying that the background must be a plain background, I have seen many backgrounds that worked well, but they are strongly related to the item being posted, or they are simple enough that they add to the experience of seeing the item. What you want to watch for is a background that over-powers your item. Think about what you want buyers focused on.

Up until now, I have been talking about the style and “staging” of a photograph, and not much on the technical aspects of photography, because you don’t need to be a professional, but you do need to know something.

The most common mistake I see usually involves lighting. A flash doesn’t automatically give you great lighting, and in some cases it make it worse. I always try to use natural light, but if I can’t get that, I use daylight light-bulbs in my light-fixtures. Try to get the most even light you can, light has the natural tendency of creating shadows, so by evening out the light, you can potentially eliminate large, unwanted shadows. This will help in keeping colors true and the need for future editing is minimal.
Also watch out for flat light (most commonly caused by overcast days or not enough light) this can wash out the colors of your item, no amount of editing will fix it to a “real-life” look.

Flash…. Try not to use this as much as possible. Most cameras have an uneven flash that usually washes out (bleaches) the model and the product and often creates harsh shadows and glare from any reflective surface.

Ritalin for your camera!

Another very important item here is the notion of focus. No one wants to look at a blurry picture, there are a few causes.
First off is at the camera level. Make sure you are in focus before snapping the photo. Using a tripod helps reduce camera jitter and a timer (most digital cameras have these built in) also helps reduce the shaking of the camera due to the actual act of pressing the button to take a snapshot.
If you get past the camera stage, and the photos look great, but when you post them on Etsy, they look fuzzy, make sure you are sizing the image properly, don’t down-size too much, or you run the risk of blurring a photo. Use the file-size that Etsy recommends.
Another mistake I have seen made a few times is the time-stamp of some photos has not been edited out of the pics. This sends out an air of hurriedness and nonchalance. This tells me that someone didn’t care enough to take it out of their shot and frankly it looks tacky.
Hopefully you read this and the examples were good enough for you to see the difference between a good shot and a not-so-good shot.

Here are the examples: note, I never moved the bear once during the shoot, I only changed the techniques used for photography.

Original listing photo: as you can see, he is cute, but it's a little busy, even with the out-of-focus bamboo. This shot would be acceptable as a "fun" shot.

Here is a shot where I used flash: notice the awkward shadowing and glare.

Now I alternated using one light and two: the even light in the first provides great visibility, the uneven light in the second produces harsh shadows on half of the bear

I don't  need to show any blurry pictures, because we all know what those  look like :-)
but here is a shot of my set up just to show that there wasn't anything fancy except for my macro lens.

-Benjamin Krudwig
p.s. If you want to see any other tips and tricks on specific topics, let me know!


Kaye's Creations said...

Thanks. Photos are my issue so this is very helpful

Mamta said...

Great tips! It really helps.

Mamta said...

Great tips! It really helps.

PeanutandTommy said...

This is great information, Ben. Thanks so much!!

CrochetBouquet said...

Thanks for the tips. I couldn't agree more that taking the time with pictures is well worth the effort.

Jean said...

Great writeup, Benjamin! Thanks for the tips.

Irene Strange said...

Excellent tips, thank you! :)

jbcrochetdelights said...

thanks. I hope I can implement your suggestions.

nutsaboutknitting said...

I have been searching around for a while to join an Etsy team. Could anyone tell me how I could do so. I certainly seem to follow with the crafters on your team. But I would love to know more. I love your blog

Anonymous said...

Good tips. Photos are my worst downfall. I need to redo all of mine, but I dunno if I'll have the time within the near future.

The Hat Shop said...

Thanks Benji! Great article to point out how simple improvements can make a huge difference in the final product when it comes to photography.