Monday, August 1, 2011

Photographing Items For Sale on Etsy - Part 1

Hello My Loves!

Yesterday I decided go back and re-take a bunch of photos of my items that I had listed when I had just started out on Etsy and didn't know what the heck I was doing. My original photos are taken in bad lighting and from bad angles and were just not appealing to look at. I've learned a lot in the past couple months about how to take (and digitally manipulate) photos of products that are nice to look at and I wanted to share this knowledge with you! I am by no means perfect, I still have a LONG way to go, but I wanted to share what little I had learned already.

So this is just the first part of a 2 part post on photo tips and tricks. I want to talk about no-no's and tricks as well as how to digitally enhance your photos, but this post is just focusing on how to take a standard photo and jazz it up a bit like the example below!

So click below to see step-by-step how to take a great picture! (You can click any of the pictures to make them larger)

So, This is the photo I'm going to start off with. I took it near a window in my living room that gets a decent amount of light, but at a bad time of day (early evening). I recommend taking pictures in natural light only as indoor lighting makes your pictures look yellow. This is not only hard to correct, but is very unappealing to shoppers. Natural light is bright and white, which helps customers focus on the colors of your item. If you don't have good lighting in your house, try going outside!

You can see how this is a decent photo, but it's still a little dark and the colors don't really pop out at you. So lets fix that!

I use Photoshop CS5 to do all my digital stuff, but you can also use older versions of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or even something like Picnik (although the latter is slightly different from how you would do this in photoshop).

I start by adjusting the levels. You can do this buy going Image > Adjustments > Levels in the menu, or just by hitting Ctrl + L. A little window should pop up that looks like (or similar to) the image on the left.

There are several ways to adjust the levels in your photo. The first is to hit the "Auto" button. Sometimes this is the easiest way, but usually I find the colors look too extreme if I use this method.

In the picture to the right I clicked the white eyedropper, then selected an area on my photo with the brightest amount of white (one of the light spots on the pearls). You can see that the lighting looks a little better, but still a little strangely colored. I'm going for a really nice BRIGHT light here so I'm going to try something a little different.

The sliders down here are the manual way to adjust the levels and lighting of your photo. The one on the far right is light/white, middle is grey/midtones and left is shadows/black. I usually find that sliding the leftmost slider just slightly to the left adds just enough brightness to the photo.

You can see I fiddled around with the light and midtone sliders until I liked the result. Definitely play around with levels until you get comfortable with it. It'll take a little practice but is WELL worth it.

 After I adjust the levels, I like to go in and play with the colors just slightly. I don't want my customers to get a piece that looks nothing like the image posted, but I like to bump the color up just a little to make it POP.

In photoshop I do this by going Image > Adjustments > Vibrance, but you can also do it by going Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. I don't recommend Hue/Saturation tweaking though since it's so easy to change the color of the piece to something different. Again it's NOT about fooling the customer, it's about making your piece look as nice as possible while still remaining true to life.

Anyway, you can see in the photo that I tweaked the color just enough to make it a little more like what it looks like in person.

Finally I add a little star sparkle to the beads (tutorial for that can be made if you'd be interested) and put my watermark down in the lower right corner. Now this picture is all ready to be posted! You can see in the before/after photo (at the beginning of the post), the difference that 2 minutes in Photoshop really makes. It's obviously still not perfect (my kingdom for a lightbox!), and I have a LOT more to learn, but I really wanted to share my knowledge thus far.

I've heard from people a lot recently (and discovered this on my own) that customers are FAR more likely to click on (and purchase) items that are attractively photographed.

I have lots more tips for you guys, plus some no-no's and some super easy tricks to making taking pictures easier. I'll have the next post up by tomorrow for sure :)

I hope you guys learned something from this, or at least were inspired in some fashion!

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