First off, I’d like to say I am by NO means an expert photographer. In fact, I am barely an amateur but I make it work and you can too!
It wasn’t long into my “career” of selling crochet items that I realized the picture means everything. Your photo is the first impression you get because it’s the first thing your customer sees. A photo determines if they will click on the listing or not.
Here are some of my earlier photos I used in my Etsy shop. Yes, that’s the Squid and isn’t she cute!?
Today, if I ended up with these pictures they would automatically go in the trash. They have a few good things going for them. There’s no messy background but some are horribly out of focus. Also I used the flash for the bottom left one so the colors are a bit distorted and the lighting could be better.
Later, I started to get the hang of getting pictures in focus (mostly). Once the Squid got mobile she was less willing to sit for a photo so I made a hat stand (instructions coming soon!) which worked out well for a while. For these photos I used a white poster board as a backdrop. For some of them I even deleted the background because the white wasn’t white enough which I find distracting.
These photos do well because they are clean, no messy/distracting background. Also, even though I didn’t use a model customers still get an idea what the hats will look like on a person because they have some shape and aren’t just lying flat. I would recommend using a model when ever possible. Even if you have some kind of foam head or dress form items always look better on a live model. If you don’t have kids or other family members handy ask around. Some models will work in exchange for hats or whatever they are modeling.
I got tired of using the hat stand so I started contacting photographers. I got mostly lucky. I’ve sent a few items out and never heard back from the photographer but I ended up finding one really good newborn photographer and got some amazing shots for the price of the item. When thinking about working with a photographer first, look at examples of their work. Make sure they are consistent. I like to keep it simple so I’ve done straight trade. The photographer gets to keep the item and I get a photo (sometimes more). With this method I’ve been burned in the past so I like to play it safe and only start with one item then go from there. If you are really worried about it you can charge the photographer then refund them when you get your images. Another thing to keep in mind when working with a photographer is to not let them talk you into making something you have no intention of selling. I have a few photos that are really cute but they do me no good because I don’t want to sell the items anymore. I ended up making a few knit hats because the photographer liked the look of knit better. I HATE knitting so it was just a waste of my time. Learn from my mistake and DON’T DO THAT.
Here are some photos I got on trade. *Photos by Lauren Bedell Photography
When the Squid was 3 or 4 she finally decided she didn’t mind taking pictures so I took full advantage! My son isn’t always so willing but I make it work. These I took at our old house that had a great big window. I’d take these in the morning when the light was coming through the window but NOT hitting the wall.
Here’s some simple tips to photographing your items.
1. Get to know your camera. You don’t need a fancy DSLR but you should learn how to properly use your camera. Before you start snapping pictures play with your camera, read the manual and take that baby out of auto! You may need to practice on some subjects that don’t move like a toy or something.
2. Go outside! Unless you have a professional set up with flashes and backdrops pictures always look better outside in natural light. I don’t have great lighting in our house now. We are surrounded by trees so I don’t get much natural light coming in the windows. Outside shots just work better for me. It’s really a win/win. The kids get to go out and play and I get a workout trying to keep up. I have them pretty well conditioned to know Mommy needs a few good shots before they can go too crazy outside. If you really can’t get outside indirect sunlight from a large window works pretty well (see the photos above).
3. Pay attention to your background. Avoid snapping pictures in your living room with a mess in the background. You don’t have to live in a huge beautiful house with amazing landscaping but no one wants to see a messy background. It’s all about using what you have. Have a small patch of grass, maybe some brick, a wood floor, or even a deck? Great! I like to sit the kids down, I get up high (maybe stand on a stool) and have them look up at me. All you see is a little grass (or whatever it is) behind them.
You can even use a plain colored wall that is near a decent sized window. Even simple things like a white or black poster board can be used as a background. Try to avoid sheets or fabric. They get wrinkled and look bad in my opinion. These were taken with a poster board as a background by a window.
4. Lighting. Direct sunlight will ruin your photo and give you horrible shadows. I can get really picky with lighting sometimes. I hate when a shadow ends up on the kids face so I try to go out when it’s overcast or I’ll go to the side of the house that’s in the shade. I can correct a little lighting in editing but not harsh shadows.
This photo is ok but I hate how the light is hitting the Squid’s face. The sun was just too bright when this was taken.
5. Pay attention to the item you are photographing. Remember this is what you’re trying to sell so make sure it’s shown in the best way possible. If you are using an energetic model this can be a bit tricky so an extra hand might come in helpful if you can get one. If your’e photographing a hat make sure it’s on correctly and that the right side of the hat is showing. Make sure all creases are out of garments. Try different angles because one might look more flattering on your computer later. Also, pay attention to other things in the photo. Like clean faces and hands (s0me people may be turned off by things like that).
5. Take lots of shots. I know you’re only looking for one maybe two good shots but kids move and sometimes it looks in focus on the camera but ends up not on the computer. This is why I might take 50 or even up to 100 shots at a time. The more you take the more you have to work with. Just remember to delete the ones you don’t need. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to take pictures only to realize my card is full :/
6. Bribing? Yes, I bribe my kids for photos (hangs head in shame). It use to be candy but lately I can get away with outside play time (yay!). Hey, sometimes a sucker is actually cute in a photo!
7. Edit your photos. I use Photoshop but if you cant afford that or if it’s above your head Picmonkey is a great free site to use. They even have a very affordable paid version that does a lot of what I use Photoshop for. Again, I’m no pro but I like to adjust lighting then I sharpen the images but you can play with it to see what you like. There are tons of tutorials online for editing photos so look around. At the very least you should crop the photo to size (I like a 10×8 size) Warning: don’t go so far with your edits that the photo looks unnatural!
8. Colors. I know I have issues with photographing certain colors so I just try to avoid them if I can. My main problem is when I have a bright color (like white) right next to a darker color (like navy). The white usually ends up too bright. If I can I might try to get the white part in the darker side of the photo. I also got a great tip. If your having issues with a particular color try adding a complementary color to the mix. So if red is your issue add some green. You can check a color wheel to see what the complementary color is.
This video on Etsy is older and a bit cheezy buy still may be helpful 🙂
Keep in mind your photos represent your product. If they look cheap and sloppy people will think the same of your product. Maybe you’re already selling your items but are feeling a bit of a slump even though you have a great product. You can always go back and try to revamp your photos just to see if that helps. I’ve done it plenty time with great results! Good luck! As always, if you have any questions I will try my best to answer.
For my next post I will be talking about advertising and possible shipping as well. Keep an eye out!