Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tip 3 l A Thousand Words

by guest blogger, Shirley of ::Wild Blueberry Ink::

A picture is worth a thousand… BUCKS?!

Think back to the last products your purchased online. Why did you buy these products? Because the picture made them look AWESOME and a MUST HAVE! What was it about the photo that made you decide you must have the item? Did the dress look great on the model? Did the earrings dangle at that perfect spot along the neck that makes your face appear thinner? Was it the letter “R” embossed into the fabric of the purse? Did those stunning fuchsia plates pop in the exact way you want your table setting to pop at your Valentines dinner party? Whatever the reason was, you purchased those items because the photo convinced you.

That did not happen to me last night. I was browsing around ebay for vintage sun dresses (and yes, I’m well aware it’s January… I figure if I buy them, Spring will come). I came across a seller with some great dresses. She had about 12 items to pick from. Her items were fantastic. Her prices were very reasonable. As I clicked around her gallery, I noticed she only had one photo per item. Don’t get me wrong, the photos were creative. The wood panel walls and earth tone shag carpet really gave it a vintage feel and provided a great backdrop to the orange, purple, green, and white dresses I was considering. But I wanted to see the backs of the dresses. I wanted to see the vintage, lavender lace trim in detail. I wanted to see if the fabric was a light weight linen or a slinky jersey knit. A black “sun dress” caught my eye in the gallery. When I clicked to enlarge the photo, it was blurry. Not a little out of focus… I couldn’t tell if it was in fact a dress or a pant suit. I decided at that moment that if this seller couldn’t take the time to provide her potential customers with decent shots of this beautiful vintage clothing, then she probably wouldn’t provide very good service. So, I bought nothing and moved on to the next seller.

So, yes. Your product pictures may very well be worth a thousand bucks… or more. As an online seller, the photos are all you’ve got. Those photos are going to make or break the sell. You need shots that show scale and proportion as well as up close images that capture interesting details and textures.

Crisp, clean photos that detail your work make a world of difference. Stay away from busy backgrounds, they can be distracting. Most featured items on sites such as etsy or personal blogs, have very simple backgrounds. These do not clash with the photos of other featured artists and allow your product to be front and center. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and purchase back drops. When my sister asked me to shoot product shots for her vintage shop I used two tri-fold, science project boards (purchased for $2 each at Target) and they work great! Take a look for yourself:

You can even use your backgrounds to form a theme for your shop. Maybe you use a white wall of bricks for one photo, then white pebbles for another. I like to see jewelry arranged on sheet music, a page from a novel, or a hand written letter. All of these make great backgrounds and give your shop a cohesive look without being matchy or boring.

Once you’ve picked a background, it’s time to think about lighting. Again, you don’t have to have a home studio. I purchased my lighting from the creator of this universe… the cost… free. Natural light is your best bet. If you can get outside or by a window on a sunny day, do it! It’s the best way to capture the true colors and details of your item. Play around with the product. See how the light hits it from different angles. Photographing your item from several angles adds depth and allows the customer to get a better look at the product. You’re sure to get a few great shots, some that may even surprise you. The following shots were made around 3 in the afternoon in the backyard on a $5 mannequin my sister purchased from the local flea market:

Get some detailed close ups. But beware, blurry close ups are unacceptable. Do not, for any reason, post blurry photos. Get to know your good friend macro. Macro is a setting on pretty much every camera out there. On most, it is marked by the little flower icon. This allows you to get really close to the subject and take amazingly detailed pictures. Set your camera to macro and get in there. Experiment with your macro setting. Go snap some pictures of your garden, your shoe laces, forks and spoons, jewelry, safety pens… you laugh, but trust me… once you get going with this setting, you will not want to stop. Practice focussing on the details. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is and the professionalism it will add to your photos.

If you’re notorious for taking blurry pictures, you may want to invest in a tripod. Or, do like most folks and become the tripod. Rest your elbows on something sturdy and be as still as possible. It may take a few takes, but you’ll get the shot.

To breathe or not to breathe? If you sale clothing and are able to have a live model, do it. Seeing clothing on a actual human body sales so much quicker than a mannequin… and it in no way compares at all to hangers. If you can’t get a live model, find a nice back drop that works with all prints. Keep it simple. You don’t want to distract from the clothing. A background such as a gray stone wall will make even the white clothing pop. Think contrasting colors and keep it uniform in all your photos. This adds consistency… and we (the buyers) like that!

Before I wrap this up, let’s talk about the gallery photo. This is the one photo you see when browsing. Whether your shopping for Vera Wang or an ebay find, you see that one gallery photo. You’ll either click to see the details, or you’re going to pass it by. This is your one shot to grab the buyers attention. No pressure. And it’s such a tiny picture. How will you ever show all the beauty of your item in that one little picture? You won’t. That’s why you pick and interesting detail at an intriguing angle for your gallery photo. The only time we ever need to see the entire item in the gallery is maybe when we’re dealing with a painting or a photograph. If it’s a necklace, just the pendant will do. A pair of earrings… just one will suffice. A felt robot, maybe a cropped view of half his face and an arm. You want a shot that will grab the buyers attention… the bait shot.

Once the customer clicks on your item, you want to have at least 3 to 5 photos for one product. This allows them to view the item from different angles, see the scale of the item as well as the details. The more photos, the better. It’s like allowing them to actually pick the item up and hold it in their hands.

Go over to Etsy. Pick the category your item will fall into. Scroll through the gallery and see what catches your attention. While you’re there, check out the featured sellers page. Notice the types of product photos that get picked for the feature page and take some notes. The next chance you get, take your items outside. Experiment with the settings on your camera as well as the natural lighting and backgrounds. Before you know it, you’ll be taking professional product shots.

I could write a book on this topic, so I know I left out a ton of info. Please comment with your own two cents and link us to your creative shots!

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