Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Photography Tips For Your Online Shop

One of the most asked about and important aspects of an online shop is it’s photos.  A prospective purchaser has only the computer to envision your item.  You want to try to convey in a photo what one would see and feel if they were able to physically touch the item.  What is the color, the size, the texture?

I really struggled with my photography, and I still do now but luckily I have gotten much better.  I searched the net, asked questions in online forums and what I got was the deafening sound of crickets.  I even asked a couple of friends who do professional photography and they noted that jewelry is by far one of the hardest items to photograph.  So for the next two years I got really chummy with my camera.  I use a Cannon Powershot SX20IS.  However it is not so much about the camera as it is about the set up.  And photo editing software is your best friend.  I wasted a lot of time and money on set ups that just didn’t work for me.  Outdoor direct sun is too harsh and shadowing is too heavy to be diffused properly for up close items.  I tried doing it under a covered area in the shade and this also didn’t work as it gave a bluish cast to the photos.  I tried a light box.  What a waste of money this was.  I didn’t care for it AT ALL.  The light was very harsh and artificial looking.  And dealing with the reflection off of jewelry was a nightmare.  There are ways around this but again, more money.  I decided it wasn’t right for the look I was trying to convey.  If you are looking for a catalog type image this could work for you.  It will give clean crisp images, but for me they are a bit too sterile.  I am an artist so I wanted to have arty type images.

What has worked best for me is direct morning light between 9 am and 11 am through a window.  I hold up a piece of tracing paper between the window and the item as it help to diffuse and reflect the light.  It helps cut down on shadow and reflections of the camera or items around the room.  You want to make sure you have your white balance set properly.  Play with your camera and figure out what looks best.  I always use a cloudy day setting. You will want to set your exposure also.  Exposure is the amount of light collected in the sensor.  Too much and it will be washed out and too little and it will appear too dark.  But it is better it be too dark then too light as darkness can be corrected in your editing.  Your goal is to get the best possible photo prior to edit.  For most items you are going to want to use your macro setting.  This is the setting on your digital camera with the little flower.  This is best for close ups of your items.  You will want to look at your camera manual to familiarize yourself with how these settings work. 

Bermuda Blue

As far as backgrounds props are nice but I feel they distract from the item.  You want the viewer to be clear on what you are selling and make sure nothing else is detracting from your item.  I use a large floor tile for my background.  You want a matte finish so there isn’t a lot of reflection and you want a light color, something neutral.  Also you don’t want a lot of texture especially with the macro setting.  

Finally a tripod.  You may feel as if you are holding relatively still but many cameras can pick up even the tiniest of shake causing your photo to just not be as clear as you would like.  I rarely use a tripod because of my set up as it doesn’t allow me to get close enough and easily get the angles I would like.  So I use the table to stabilize the camera.  Take lots of photos from different angles.  I freely hold my tracing paper so I can move it around and play with different amounts of light.  

Aventurine Necklace

Lastly you want a way to convey the size of the item as well as well as what it looks like on.  Descriptions are great but rarely is a customer going to sit down and break out a ruler to see what the dimensions you listed actually look like.  They are going to go by your photos.  So find a way to show size.  Hold it in your hand, put it next to a object such as a coin, and if it is an item to be worn show it so.  If you can get someone to model it for you wonderful.  And if not get a mannequin bust to do the job for you.  Boutique modeling is a wonderful way to get high quality photos in trade for you items. 

I did not learn overnight and there was a lot of trial and error.  Rome wasn’t built in a day so give yourself time to find out what works best for you and hopefully these tips will help get you on your way.  I will provide more tips and tricks for how to edit your photos in upcoming blog posts.

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  1. Thank you! I think your photos are professional quality.
    I use sunlight through a net curtain - (a must in our home as our bedroom is ground floor, otherwise I wouldn't have them in the house!) but it does the same s your tracing paper in defusing the light sufficiently so that shadows are minimised.
    I still play around using microsoft publisher and try to always have something white in the picture so that I can simply click 'change colour' then choose the white bit and the real colours come up really well - and still I get to go back using the 'undo' feature if it become too bright and just change the brightness and contrast settings instead.
    Looking forward to reading your future posts and thanks again for taking the time to help us all! XXX

  2. Thanks Lisa! Great advice. I remember these sheer white net curtains my mom had growing up that thinking back would be perfect. I wonder if she still has them.

  3. Great tips. Your photos are fabulous. I need to retake a lot of my photos because they were done before I had any clue what I was doing!

  4. Melody I have reshot my ENTIRE shop three times now! And I still have a few in there that are old. I have a handful of items I've never listed because of reflection issues.

  5. Wow amazing photography!! Thanks for all the tips.

  6. Your photos are fantastic! I love the idea of tracing paper to diffuse the light. Thank you for all the great tips!

  7. Thank you both. The final photo is of course a boutique photo photographed by Alena of Fears Photography. But the item photos are mine.

  8. Your photos are professional - I totally agree. Thanks for posting the helpful info.

  9. Extreme close up shots are definitely astonishing when it comes to jewelry. Well, photographs can either make or break one's online business, you know. Hence, choose your photographers wisely, guys!

    Jamie Viggiano


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