Rocky Mountain Creatives June Shop Improvement Topic: Photography

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Rocky Mountain Creatives is a moderated team with the following requirements:

* All members must have a Colorado shop location.
* Team members must be active on the team and post a check-in in the team forum monthly.
* Team shops must adhere to all Etsy guidelines and maintain a positive customer service record.
* Members must be willing to participate in team discussions, critiques, shop improvement exercises, and promotional activities.

When reviewing applications, we look for shops with varied item selection (at least one full page of listings), awesome photography, and an up-to-date, artistic aesthetic OR shops with excellent potential and a demonstrated willingness to learn and improve.

In your application, please tell us why you want to be a part of Rocky Mountain Creatives. If you have more than one Etsy shop, please let us know that as well, but you'll need to apply separately with each shop.

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Original Post

Hi all,

I was thinking , in an effort to help make each of our shops and in turn, our team, more successful, we'd do a monthly thread on ways we can improve our shops. I am really just a novice at this, and I know a lot of you are new at the Etsy "game", too, but I think we can do great things by learning together!

My goal is for this to be a forum for requesting and giving supportive advice on a specific topic-- this months' topic being photography.

As you all know, one of the requirements of this team is to have clear, bright photography for the items in your shop. Some of us, including myself, have some room for improvement in this area, so let's discuss how we might improve...

One thing that seems to be encouraged among the Etsy community is to have a white background for your item. Our own Sophie of Bagatelle Designs does this very well:

And so does Christina of StinkyAndSweetPea:

Check out their shops and notice how their items really pop with the right lighting (usually bright, natural lighting), a plain white background, and making sure a strategic part of the image is in clear focus.

Sophie, Christina, or anyone else have advice on how to make this happen? I've personally found that for small objects a plain piece of white paper works as a background. For a little more textural interest, I've also used a piece of weathered wood painted white:

For larger-scale photos like modeled shots, I've recently discovered that shooting against a lightly-shaded window can create a bright white background with a little digital adjustment:

What has worked for you all? Please share!

There is also the argument that plain white backgrounds don't work for every shop or item, and personally for my own shop I've chosen to mix it up a bit, while trying to maintain some consistency with three or four different backgrounds. What do you all think? Does this work or is it better to stick with one look?

Kevin and Ginny of Crawl Space Studios seem to pull off variety well, with a great (but limited) mix of non-distracting backgrounds in their shop, including this nice neutral gray one:

Melanie of Stylish Smitherines pulls off a weathered-wood background nicely, and I think this gives a nice consistency to her shop:

What do you all think? What works or might work for your shop?

Also, does anyone have any general photography tips for getting bright, clear photos? I've noticed I need to brighten most of my photos on my computer, regardless of background, to make the image really pop-- does anyone else find this?

Please use this thread as a place to ask, suggest, discuss... anything involving shop photos and photography with the ultimate goal of improving the quality and exposure of our team!

Thanks, in advance, for your participation!

Mountain Mama

Posted at 12:24pm Jun 6, 2012 EDT


Here is what I have done and learned from past up to now when it comes to photography:

First I was just so eager to start my shop that I was taking pictures with backgrounds that ranged from leopard print to just my sheets background. I DO NOT recommend this, especially if you have pretty wild sheets like I do. It's busy and if no one can find your item among the background, honestly, they probably won't click. Just think- if you were looking at the picture of your item online among others, would you click it?

Next I started taking pictures against a plain chair or the carpet, which was okay... but you've got to vacuum and little shiny fibers show up and if you've got pets, it's not going to stay clean for long.

More recently I just threw my items on my windowsill to take a picture. The windowsills at my house are just plain white, and it worked really well.


go to hobby lobby or joann's or another craft store which sells single sheets of paper and pick a natural design (wood, grass, sand, etc), place it next to your window (cut it in strips if you have a narrower windowsill) and wait for bright light. (I like to take my pictures before noon as I usually use a eastern-facing window) and take several shots. TAKE UP CLOSE/DETAIL shots as well.

Yes, what you see is just paper. I, myself find it hard to believe sometimes too, haha.

Posted at 11:32pm Jun 6, 2012 EDT

Ha ha-- Melanie that's awesome. Looks like real wood to me! Thanks so much for your tips!

Posted at 12:08am Jun 7, 2012 EDT

Hey Mama this is very timely, I had some feedback to make my photos more consistent. ( I was taking night lights against the grey wall in my study, I was taking my plates in my lighted art niche, and I was draping cloth over a box for the back ground on the jewelry) Much like stylish this throw it against what you have was not working for me. The shop does not look consistent. I have been playing with editing software to lighten the photos.

While there has been improvement from day 1 photos on the carpet...I am still not happy with my shop photos...

My solution was to order a light box and halogen lights from ebay, it has arrived, my next project, re shooting all my items and updating the postings...someday I will find the time to get after it.

Posted at 11:44am Jun 9, 2012 EDT

Thanks for sharing, Kelly. Good luck with the new lights and lightbox, and let us know if you come up with any tips to share on shooting photos that way!

Posted at 5:19pm Jun 9, 2012 EDT

I agree with a lot of what's been said above. I'm new to Etsy, but I've learned a few things so far... Bright (but not necessarily direct) light is key if you don't want to purchase expensive lighting. I try to keep my backgrounds pretty simple, but do like to mix them up a bit since all my artwork at the moment is monochromatic. I do notice, though, that the more simple photos get treasured more than the others.

Posted at 5:33pm Jun 9, 2012 EDT

I wanted to share these tips from another team I just applied to. They reiterate a lot of what's been said here and seem to fit with the requirements of this team:

-Use natural light! Unless you have professional photography equipment, nothing can beat natural light.
-Use a neutral background/surface--white is great!
-Use props sparingly
-Have some of your first shots for items be taken at interesting angles or up close
-Make sure the pictures are bright, crisp, and in focus

Posted at 11:57am Jun 13, 2012 EDT

Hi all,
I just wanted to check back into this thread and give it a 'bump' back to the top of the discussions because I feel it's a very important topic! Being in 'front page quality' treasuries is a really great way to make sales, but you won't be in many treasuries if you don't have bright, clear photos with neutral backgrounds. Most of our new members could use a little work in this area (and are on a trial membership until we see some improvement), so I wanted to make sure you all had a chance to see everyone's tips above...
And, if you've got the photography thing down or have anything to share about what works or doesn't work, please share it here!
Mountain Mama

Posted at 5:11pm Jun 15, 2012 EDT

Camryn Forrest from CamrynForrestDesigns says
Edited on Jun 15, 2012

Because of the nature of my items (reflecting liquid-filled glass with reflective items inside - sheesh!) we use a lightbox for photography.

I love the natural light suggestions, but if there is anyone who needs to get more studio-type lighting, or wants to experiment cheaply, here's a link to how to build a light-box for photography .. from a cardboard box!

My tip, that I add to this tutorial is that we have a few tiny hardware-store flashlights that I sometimes place to highlight or sparkle a certain spot in the item so it can be bright and in focus. Any small beam of light will do.

You can buy a light box, but for a number of reasons, we made our own.

You can also take pieces of wood or pvc pipe, and basically make a cube (if you don't want to use the cardboard box, or want something more permanent.).

Here's a "how to" link that uses a cardboard box.

Cover the sides with thin, light-colored cloth or paper, leave one side open. (that's the side where the camera will be.) We use a very soft white transparent paper, but in a pinch you can even use a couple layers of white tissue paper (don't leave hot lights on it unattended for safety reasons.)

Put a piece of poster board and curve it, so that one edge is on the flat table surface, and the top edge is taped to the top of the box. Then you won't get any lines from corner shadows. (See photos in the "how to".)

The size depends a lot on the items you are photographing. Then, you can adjust the lights, often having them light THROUGH the matte paper or thin cloth. This way you get soft illumination, but little sharp shadow. The tutorial shows a light above, we also have soft lights on the side --- it depends on what you are shooting.

Many people use white to get the effect of an object almost floating, with no clutter around it. For our products we tend to use a light blue, gold/tan or lavender just because the items need a little contrast with all the metal and clear parts; but with colorful items, white or ivory backdrop might work well. I've seen some shot with a piece of white/ivory wide lace fabric as a backdrop that was nice, just set on the curved poster board, if you want a little texture, but no color to distract.

Posted at 5:30pm Jun 15, 2012 EDT

Great, Camryn! Thanks for sharing your tips. I can see how it would be really challenging to shoot your subject! Your photos are very crisp, especially considering all the reflective surfaces you have to deal with. :)

Posted at 5:45pm Jun 15, 2012 EDT

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