Friday, April 6, 2012

Photographing On Etsy

Before I start this tutorial, I want to go over a few ground rules. Every photographer is different, we all know that, and everyone is going to market their item in a different way. I tried to be as general (while being as specific) as possible. There really is no right answer to these sorts of things; this is just what worked for me, and it very well might not work for you. I'm also still learning! This is just a comprehensive review of the techniques I've learned since I've started. Call it pointers. Or basics.

Also, this tutorial is not a guide on how to use your camera. I touch on a few very basic concepts of camera usage. If you guys want a camera tutorial, you are going to have to look elsewhere. Honestly, mine stays on "auto".

This is Part One: Photographing Inanimate Objects
Part Two: Incorporating People, will be tomorrow.

Annnndddd....Without further ado, on to the guide!

Here are some of the first pictures I took for my etsy shop, back in 2009 when it was only vintage:
At this time I really didn't know much about photography, and I only sort of knew what I wanted in a picture, but not how to achieve it. I used light all wrong, had clutter in my background, and uneven frames. The only three rules I thought applied to photography and Etsy were.
  1. Be creative.
  2. Do not overly photoshop your pictures.
  3. Make sure to use a nice bright light.
This is a nice starting point. If you follow these three basic rules, you can expect pretty decent picture. I tried to follow all of these three rules when I started out, and as you can see I churned out some okay advertisements. But, I'm sure you guys will all agree--they aren't breathtaking, or awe-inspiring, or deeply creative or intuitively designed. They function well, but fail to attain any high degree of artistry.  

Fast forward a few years to 2012. Hopefully I've grown, right? About 6 months ago I was hired to create an Etsy shop for a local consignment store to feature their beautiful jewelry, and vintage odds and ends. Here are some of the pictures from their store that I designed and shot:
Obviously, I have grown. That is lesson number one. You will always get better with time, especially if you keep practicing.  Don't give up. You will surprise yourself.

Lesson two consists of knowing how to use your surroundings to the fullest. Look at what is around you. Use it to capture the idea that you are trying to sell (trust me, Etsy is all about selling ideas).

I learned to use woodgrain. Everything looks better on woodgrain.
I also learned to spend a lot of time prepping my garment and making sure it lay "just so".

The best time to take pictures is very early in the morning, right when the sun is coming up, or late in the evening, right when the sun heading to sleep. These times are called "the golden hour". Taking pictures in the golden hour is just about amazing.
However, if you are like me, and lazy, and decide to wait until noon to begin your photo-shoot because you were up all last night reading the fourth Game of Thrones book, your best bet is to stick to the shadows. The shadows evenly distribute the light and, for some unfathomable reason (at least to me) make the colors just pop. There is no glare in the shadows--its a safe place to start taking pictures if the sun is high.
Also, if you can see, the part in the sun does not show the lace detailing as finely as in the shadow picture. The sunlight just obscures all the details! No sunlight, no glare! Remember that--if you take a picture in the shadows it eliminates the glare.

The fourth thing I learned is when all else fails, you can always center things! This is nice, because it requires less thinking.
And last but not least, don't forget to add personal signature that makes the photograph uniquely "yours". I choose feet.
Hmm, so those are the basic steps I follow when photographing my vintage or handmade items. And my pictures have improved. I just go out and try to be as creative as possible with whatever I have on hand.

Good luck! And if you guys have any photographic tips, please feel free to comment. I am always looking for more pointers!

Be sure to check out my other Etsy tutorials!
Packaging on Esty: After the Sale
The 3 Most Common Etsy Mistakes

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