How to improve your photos

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Original Post

Hi guys,

I see a lot of posts about how to take better pictures, so I thought I'd share my top tips.

Let's start with technical issues:

PROBLEM: Dark, gray photos
1. Adjust the EV balance (white balance) on your camera. It's usually under the menu option on your camera, if not, look in your camera manual for how to do it. I heard a great tip for setting the white balance: adjust the EV until a piece of white paper looks white through the viewer.

2. After you've loaded the picture on your computer, you can increase the brightness if your picture is still too dark. This is for small adjustments- do step 1 as well as possible. Also, it may help to increase the contrast just a bit when you are increasing brightness, or your picture may look washed out. If you need help with this step, post in this thread and tell us what photo editing program (if any) you are using.

PROBLEM: Blurry closeups
Use the macro setting on your camera. It is usually indicated with a "flower" symbol. If you are still getting blurry pics with the macro setting, try either moving the camera closer to your subject and zooming out, or moving farther away and zooming in. Also, make sure you are keeping the camera still as you are taking the photo. If your hands shake, try using a tripod, or resting your elbows on something as you are taking the picture.

ARTISTIC SENSIBILITY

Ok, if your pictures are technically bright and clear, now it's time to take it to the next level. This is where you really "sell" your work to your buyer.

LIGHTING
1. Natural Light is great for shooting many types of items. You can do this outside or near a window. Don't be in direct sunlight, and make sure there are no weird shadows going on. I find morning and early afternoon light to be the best. If your camera has various settings and modes, play with these until you find one that looks good. When you find one, stick with it. Using the same mode all the time will give consistancy to all the photos in your shop.

2. Light boxes are great for smallish items like jewelry, food, small accessories. I don't use one myself, though, so maybe someone who does will chime in with some info. I found this article on how to make your own which looks interesting:
www.wikihow.com/Create-an-Inexpensive-Photography-Lightbox

BACKGROUNDS
1. Choose a background for your item that will "pop" it. Think contrasting colors- your item should jump out at me. Stay away from super busy backgrounds that will distract the eye away from your piece. Stay away from backgrounds that are the same or similar color to your item.

2. Think about the backgrounds in your shop as a whole. Using background colors, textures, and patterns that form a theme (they don't have to be matchy-matchy) will make your shop look cohesive and be really appealing to buyers.

3. If you use fabric as a background, make sure there are no wrinkles.

4. Clothing and other large items- is there a wall, or outside door, or even a wrinkle-free fabric backdrop that you can use? If no, you can try cutting the item out and pasting it on a background in your photo program.

TAKING PHOTOS
1. Prep: Arrange clothing and jewelry on your mannequin or model so it's balanced and looks great. Make sure your item is wrinkle free.

2. Take pictures from various angles- this makes the picture look dynamic and will capture interest. From the top, side, back, 45 degree angle, some up close, some showing the whole/most of the item. Take up close pictures of interesting details and textures.

3. Take lots of pictures-I will take up to 50 pictures of an item. Give yourself a lot to choose from when you are selecting your 5 photos.

4. Show scale: One pic of a hand holding the item, a coin or other small item (maybe a paperclip if you ship international?) on a printed fabric, or something else to show the size. You can make this artistic and non-obvious that that's what you're doing. Yes, measurements are great, but your buyer doesn't want to find a ruler and see how big something is going to be. You want your pictures to tell the full story.

5. If you make art to hang on the wall, think about taking a photo of your framed art hanging on a wall with furniture or something around for scale. If your apartment/house is attractive, use this. If not, maybe a friend has a great place. If all else fails, maybe one of those mock-up programs.

6. If you make zines or comics, how about showing us a page from the book? Also, think about using a scanner.

GALLERY PHOTO
1. The gallery photo must capture a buyers attention as they are scrolling through items that are similar to yours. And since the gallery photo is small, you want to give the buyer as much important info as possible in your gallery photo. The answer is ALMOST NEVER a picture showing your entire item. If your item has an interesting detail, maybe focus on that. For things that are symmetrical, maybe we only need half of it. If it's a pair of something, like earrings, do we need to see both pairs in the gallery photo to get it? If it's a pendant on a chain, we don't need to see the whole chain. Focus on the pendant. Do we even need to see the whole pendant? If it's a painting with lots of small details, maybe a closeup of one of the details or a part of the painting. For a painting that is more about the overall balance of colors, perhaps a full shot on the gallery may work well.

2. Cropping your photo- In your photo editing program, you can further crop your photo to achieve what I said in #1.

3. Cropped gallery photo- if your photo is larger than the alloted size, it will crop in the gallery. You can use this to your advantage. I've noticed that it crops a little from the bottom, and much more from the top. So, as an example, you can put the pendant near the bottom of the photo, and the chain at the top, and in the gallery we see the pendant, and when we click on the item we see the whole thing. This technique is great for art, if you want to show a detail shot of the painting, and when people click, they see the whole thing. Also, if you have a watermark, have it in the area that will be cropped out in gallery and treasury photos. Ahem, another thing about watermarks- I read (I think from luciajohnson?) that if you make your photo 72 dpi, the quality will still look good on the computer, but will be useless for people to try to print it out...just a thought...

LEARNING FROM OTHERS:

1. Go into your category, and browse through. What pictures are drawing your eye? What is it about the photos that you notice and want to click on that makes them good? What can you learn about what they are doing to improve your own photos?
2. Look at "Just Sold" in Time Machine 2 on a regular basis to see the types of photos that sold items have.
3. Check out the Featured Sellers and learn what you can from their photos.

EXPERIMENTATIONS AND THE PROCESS:
1. Experiment with your photos! Try putting up two similar items with different types of gallery pictures. Which one gets more views?
2. Remember that learning to take good pictures is a process. Enjoy learning it! Sure, it's natural to be frustrated and want to throw your camera out the window sometimes, but be gentle with yourself. With every item you photograph, strive to try something new and make these pictures even better than the last ones you took. Have a zen approach.

Now, let's take some pictures!

Posted at 1:10pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Responses

daniellexo says

wowee michelle you rock!

Posted at 1:10pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Great! I started making "head shots" or gallery photos about a month after I started my shop. Never thought about how they get croped when I upload.
Now a complaint about photos of jewelry, especially earrings:
Sometimes the gallery shot is too "macro," too close-up. We see jewelry on ourselves or others at a distance of about two feet or 30 cm. We don't see the tiny butterfly charm or whatever that little "thang" is. Sometimes all the shots are that close-up, and I'd rather see photos shot from a more practical distance.
Does that make sense to you readers? Any comments about that?

Posted at 1:29pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Great tips, Michelle!

Posted at 1:48pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

:) Awesome advice! I am going to be reshooting my work soon and this thread will be a huge help.

Posted at 1:51pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Thank you for sharing!!! silk

Posted at 1:53pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Great advice and nice to have this all in one spot! Hopefully it will get posted someplace permanent like wiki or the FAQs.

Yes Darcy, I agree. I've noticed when looking at items...sometimes there isn't a photo of the whole item! There are 5 closeups of different parts of it, but not one showing the whole thing in focus. I'm definitely not going to buy something that I can't see in its entirety. Just a thought!

Posted at 1:53pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

cipolla says

Awesome Michelle, Thank-you!

I have been wondering myself about my pics lately. I recently started chaging to a white background for all of them because I like the way it looks as a whole in the shop. But I'm not entirely convinced... hmmm.

I've also been vascilating between using full item pic for the gallery one, or a close-up or angled shot... I keep changing my mind! lol.

Thanks for your advice!
♥ m.

Posted at 1:56pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

Thank you for the great pointers.

Posted at 1:59pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT

teepetals says

Thanks so much for this!!!

Posted at 2:00pm Jul 26, 2007 EDT