Taking the perfect Etsy photograph is a tall order. Even the most experienced sellers and photographers will tell you that there is always more to learn about getting just the right shot to showcase your product. What makes the Etsy community so wonderful is that sellers are always willing to share their experience and insight to help newcomers improve their skills. With Behind the Lens, we invite you to meet some of our talented Oh Canada Team members, and learn how they create great shop photos.
Joanniel Creations has been in business on Etsy since October of 2009. Joannie’s jewelry photos have a great look - well staged and full of sparkle. Here’s how she does it:
Oh Canada: What type of camera do you use?
Joannie: I use a 6 megapixel HP digital camera with 3X optical zoom. The Photosmart M537 to be more specific. I got it for about $100 without really knowing everything it can do. I love it. I can use it for my jewellery photos and for my own personal use. The macro setting is super easy to use and it has a pretty large LCD screen to view images on. It's simple but very good quality and I can crop on it and even change my photos to sepia or black & white. I don't use those features for my jewellery, but it makes great family photos. I can even add a border, rotate the photo, and crop in landscape or portrait format.
Oh Canada: How do you light your images?
Joannie: I only use natural light. They key for me is to never shoot my jewellery when it is in direct sunlight. I wait for the sun to change location a bit if that's the case. I get great photos between 10 am and 4 pm, and cloudy days can also produce very well lit photos. Although, I do have one item that I took with some sunlight on it. It is my flower necklace. It was cloudy and a tiny bit of sun was peaking from the clouds. It just seemed like the perfect moment to bring out the beauty of the flower pendant, so I took it and it turned out beautifully, but that was an exception. Every rule has one, right?
Oh Canada: Do you use a light box?
Joannie: I do not use a light box. I have not found it necessary at this time, but I would definitely consider it for the future. I just don't have lots of money to invest in this type of equipment at the moment.
Oh Canada: What materials do you like to use for backgrounds?
Joannie: I started out using very light color paper like cream card stock and items like sand dollars and white dishware. The problem is that when there is not enough light those photos come out very dark and have a gray tone. I have added a sheet of fancy white pearly paper, matte gray textured cardboard, and dark burgundy craft paper. That has made a big difference in my photos. I am always looking for new materials that I think would be great for my backgrounds like fabric, vintage books, frames, etc.
Oh Canada: Do you ever use models or props for staging your photos?
Joannie: I do not use models for my photos, but I do use sand dollars, dishware, and will be using more of these types of props in the future. I do not use models because I take my photos by the window and the lighting is not appropriate for the use of models. As for the other items I use to display my items, I do so because I feel that it enhances the experience of online shopping. Seeing my jewellery laid down flat in every photo would be uninteresting. I try to use whatever prop will show the best aspects of that piece. I also always try to show what an item will look like when it is worn. For example, I will hang my earrings from something to show what they will look like hanging from someone's ears.
Oh Canada: What’s your best tip for staging product shots?
Joannie: I think that being eye level with the object can really create incredible photos. These are the kinds of photos that will let the light be reflected in a way that cannot be captured when taken from above.
Oh Canada: What’s the minimum number of photos you take per item?
Joannie: I used to take as many as possible and sometimes that meant 10 and more. Now I take only 5 or 6. That's it! If I have to take more than that, I choose the best ones right off the camera and delete the rest, so that I will only have to upload 5 photos per item. It saves tons of time to do it this way.
Oh Canada: Do you edit your photos before using them?
Joannie: Yes. I always edit my photos. I use Xnview which is a free program that anyone can get online. I love it. I used to use the program that comes with Windows but my boyfriend deleted it by accident! So he found this one for me and it is even better.
Oh Canada: In your opinion, what makes a great “first photo” on Etsy?
Joannie: Well, I once asked another Etsy seller this question and she gave me a great answer, so I will quote her on this one. Her name is Jeannie from Bead Stylin'. You should take a look at her photos. They are fantastic!
"Make your first photo the "grab" shot. That's where you want to zoom in on the jewelry (use your macro setting). Cropping is important--you don't need the full picture in that first shot. Make sure your background doesn't take up more of the picture than needed. And the cropping is sort of a "strip tease", so that buyers will go, "Oooh, that's cool, what is that?". Make it so that they will be drawn in and want to click at the other pix. Also, make sure that your backgrounds aren't distracting. You want people to look at the jewelry--not the backgrounds."
Oh Canada: When making treasuries, what do you look for in a first photo?
Joannie: I look for clarity, similar background tones, great lighting, and a perfect marriage of colors between the item, prop, and background.
Oh Canada: Can you share one more Etsy photo tip?
Joannie: When editing your photos try not to add too much brightness. I know it seems like the right thing to do, but if you lower the brightness just a bit and increase the contrast a little, it can make a world of difference.
Since I use natural light I try to make sure the lighting is coming from behind the object, and place myself in such a way that creates as little shadow as possible. I position myself above the object, to the left, to the right, eye level, whatever it takes to get the perfect shot. Sometimes, that perfect photo just doesn't happen and it can be frustrating. Some colors don't photograph well, and sometimes it's just that the lighting isn't good enough. Sometimes I have to retake photos on another day where the lighting is better and that's okay. I try to use the best background for the specific color and texture of each item, rather than use the exact same background for every photo.
My photo studio is my window sill. It's not very impressive but it works and you should find a place that works for you. I have a large window in my kitchen that faces the East and have found this to be the best location for my photos. It has the best lighting throughout the day and the sun is not an issue past 10 am.
I am satisfied with my photos at the moment but am continuously trying to improve them. I don't think that I am an expert or that my photos are perfect, but this is where I'm at with my photography. I think you should always try to improve and find new ways to create the perfect shot.
Copyright 2010 Oh Canada Team and Joanniel Creations