Tips and tutorials

How to improve your listing photos

Take a look through Etsy forums/teams and you’ll often see users lament that they aren’t getting sales or that they need to buy a better camera, software etc.

Often I shake my head as I know that yes, having a macro and a light-tent is fantastic (I have neither) but that you can take fine photos with your point and shoot if you take a little time to learn how it works and how to get the most out of it. After all, you could buy the most expensive paints in the shop but unless you know how to use them, you’re not going to be on par with Monet are you?

Let’s side-step the reality that not everyone wants what it is you might be selling and let’s focus on how to get what you do have to sell looking its best.

Backdrops

When I started on Etsy I did all the wrong things. I started off by photographing my jewellery on towels. With cat hair on them. Then I progressed to photographing them on metallic bronze leather as it was the only plain fabric I could fine. Not great and probably didn’t do me any favours with my vegetarian friends.

I really didn't have a clue when I first started out on Etsy.

Over time I learnt that the key idea is to be consistent. If this means regularly reshooting all your products well so be it. But try to always photograph them in a similar light source with a consistent background.

I have recently bought a big piece of white MDF from a hardware store. It’s nice and light and I can easily pop it onto a coffee table etc to give me a large white background. If you or your partner are especially handy you could construct an S shaped product table from opaque material such as vinyl or acrylic to give you a seamless background. A large sheet of opaque paper may be all you need.

Don’t just grab whatever you have lying around at the time. Put as much thought and care into it as you did making the piece.

Lighting

Buying a better camera, moving to a DSLR etc won’t help your product photography any more than a point and shoot will if you don’t take it off the auto settings. Ever wondered what WB or AWB means? It means white balance and refers to the colour temperature.

Different lighting sources have different colour temperatures. The old style tungsten lightbulbs and many of the new eco versions cast a yellow light. Traditional fluroescants give a green colour cast and outside in the shade will give you a blue cast.

By having the WB set on auto, the camera tries to work out an average to keep you happy. But it’s a machine after all, you have to guide it. Read your camera manual and learn how to change your WB settings. With today’s modern point and shoots I’d be very surprised if you can’t change it – I even have WB settings on my smartphone. Play with the settings in various light sources. Work out which one gives you the cleanest colour with the least amount of post processing work to do.

We suspended the pendants on a chain between 2 clamp style photo holders.

When I initially photographed all my glass jewellery pieces, I got very complicated. I had a friend bring her really fancy 100mm macro lens over and we set up underneath my skylight with 2 off-camera flashes/strobes and the jewellery suspended from wire etc. It was all quite technical and took ages. We were using skills we learnt in our Diploma of Photoimaging course and yes it did come in handy.

But then on another day I also took the piece of white mdf and set up on a coffee table underneath the window in my office. I set the camera on my little tabletop tripod and used one of my normal lenses. All the light was lovely and diffused with no reflections and was perfect for the product. It had a similar effect to a light tent.

Diffused window light gives the object shape & gentle highlights.

I often read/hear people lamenting that there isn’t enough light to take their photographs in. Overcast skies are great for portraiture as there are no harsh shadows. I haven’t done a lot of jewellery photography but I’m going to hazard a guess that a lack of shadows and nice diffused light (such as under a tree) would be great for that too as you’re not picking up reflections and hot spots. Adjust your WB to compensate for the blue or green of the shade, consider using the +/- button to increase the brightness of your photograph and always take a test shot that includes something white. If you have a reference point it will be much easier to get the colour right afterwards. Sometimes you can even set your custom white balance in camera. Read the manual that came with the camera! It’s all there, you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Taking the photo

Use the largest size the camera will allow. If your photos are still dark with all the white balance and exposure compensation settings, consider adding a lightsource such as a lamp, using flash at a half setting or try raising your ISO.

This refers to the sensitivity of the camera to light. The higher you push your ISOthe less light the camera needs to take the photo. You will end up with grainier/noisier photos the higher you go.

Post production

Even with the best preparation and lighting, things can come out not quite right colour wise or you’ll need to crop the photos to optimise them for the web.

The following tutorial is done in Photoshop CS4 which you can buy or download as a 30day trial from Adobe. I’ve been doing some reading and have been led to believe that Gimp is very similar so try to apply this to your program.

I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop for my post production. Lightroom is great as I can export photos to whatever size I like and it will automatically let me export everything as a square if I like. I would strongly recommend it to anyone doing a lot of listings on a regular basis. It’s very quick and easy to fix temperature and make changes without affecting the original image.

I apologise for the quality of the video… This is shot on my point and shoot just pointed at the computer screen. I suggest you think of it more as an audio track than anything else!

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Hope all these tips help. If you have any questions please leave them below. You may share this tutorial but may not reblog or copy from it.

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