Thursday, March 22, 2012

Savvy Entrepreneur: Make Your Photos Rock!

Image from Time For Memories
Your online shop is like any storefront, you need to make it welcoming, presentable, and enticing. If your photos are blurry, busy, or dull it’s tough to get peoples attention, let alone keep it.

So here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see and quick tips to help correct them.

Out Of Focus

Blurry photos generally happen because of one of three things - you’re shooting without enough light, you moved the camera, or you’re too close to the object. If you’re shooting with a manual camera it could also be that you just haven’t adjusted the focus correctly, be super vigilant about focus.

Make sure you have enough light. If you’re using daylight put your setup as close to a window as you can, shoot during the middle of the day, and reschedule if you’ve got rain and clouds. If you’re using spotlights or a flash, make sure the blubs are strong enough or your batteries are fully charged.

Tripods are a great solution for getting rid of camera shake. You don’t need anything fancy, just sturdy. You can also try setting your camera on a solid stack of books. If you don’t have either of these options and you can’t adjust the shutter speed faster (anything slower than 1/60 of a second is hard to keep still), try leaning against a wall or bracing your arms on a tabletop for stability.

Much of the time blurry images come from trying to get closer than your camera can focus. Remember you don’t need to take the photo exactly as you want to use it. Get a good, clear shot from further back and crop in to the detail that you want. If your camera was made in the last 6 or 7 years you should still have plenty resolution even if you crop half the image away.

Busy Backgrounds

This is a personal pet peeve of mine; photos taken with your product on a favorite scarf or tablecloth that has such a busy pattern you can’t distinguish the lines of the object. Keep it simple. A neutral background, off-white or grey, with little to no texture is always a safe bet. If you want to style your images a bit, a solid color that makes your objects stand out can add some distinction or visual interest. If you do use something with texture make sure to keep it very subtle, like wood or rocks. I caution you though, err to the side of boring if you’re not sure.

Bad Lighting

Lighting small objects is one of the hardest things to do well, so don’t beat yourself for not mastering it. However there are a few things you can do that will make a big difference.

The ideal is to have a soft, even, warm light. I highly recommend using natural light. Set up your object and background as close to a window as possible. Soften your light source, i.e. window, by taping up a piece of white paper or hanging a white cloth or frosted shower curtain liner. You also want to fill in those shadows with a bounce card. A bounce card can be a piece of white poster board or foam core or even piece of cardboard covered in tin foil. Move the bounce card around to literally bounce light back into the showed areas. Depending on where everything is set up you may have to play with this a little, but the effort is well worth it.

No Context

Allowing customers to see your product in context is key since they can’t pick it up and hold it themselves. Use at least one of your available 5 images to show your product being used or worn. This makes it easier for customers to imagine wearing it themselves or how it would look in their own home. It also provides a sense of scale that listing dimensions will never give.

Spend some time on these images, set the scene and select your props carefully. This is also a great place to subtly communicate the type of customer your product is perfect for, a young girl, a career woman, or a design conscious homemaker. It’s a great way to set a “look” for your shop.

And if all that wasn’t convincing enough, the better your photographs are the better chance you have of attracting blogger’s attention or getting featured in front page treasuries. 

Genevieve not only writes The Savvy Entrepreneur she is the Co-Founder of Lightbox SF where she empowers creatives to take over the world. Check out the blog or how to work with her.

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Katy or Steph about joining SFEtsy!

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