Monday, 7 March 2011

Part 1 - Improving your photos on Etsy with the basics and GIMP

We have all heard it 5 bajillion times - great photos are the cornerstone to selling online. Buyers can't pick up, feel, see and try on your item, so you need to showcase the item to it's best ability in your listing. However, there are many sellers out there that think that producing great photos is too complicated, you need a fancy camera, it takes too long yada yada yada, and leave improving their photos on the back burner.

It is for this reason that over the couple of weeks, I will be outlining a few simple techiques that can be used to enhance you photos, including post production techniques within GIMP that don't take forever and are relatively simple to use. I am by no means an expert at this, yet I have learned to improve what I thought were pretty good photos into excellent ones using these techniques. I plan for this series to run over 2-3 weeks:
  • Etsy Photography Basics
  • Correcting Colour Curves
  • Contrast
  • Colour Balance/Saturation
  • Resizing and Cropping

Composing Your Shot - Backgrounds
It's true that getting the hang of composing your shots can take practise. Etsy has a unique aesthetic and it is for this reason that it is important that you experiment with what showcases your items the best.

I like to use a background that creates a moody atmosphere to my shots - you may be surprised to find out that I use the underside of a wooden trinket box! Have a play around with different textures and colours to find what works for you. White is a popular choice, and many sellers have suggested that you are more likely to be featured on the front page with a white background (I have my reservations on this one). I would advise against 'busy' backgrounds (crazy patterns etc) as they tend to make your item become lost and can overwhelm buyers. 

TwoSugarBabies is a great example of a seller that uses coloured backgrounds and subtle patterns to great effect to make their cute fondant cupcake toppers pop!

Lighting – The Sun is Your Friend!
One of the most important aspects of photography is lighting. I always take my photos in the morning sun to take advantage of the soft light. Afternoon light where I live is way too harsh for my style of shot – but again, have a play around with what works best for you. The best way to do this is to set up near a open window or glass door to be able to get the most amount of light possible. 
One thing I can't recommend more is to TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. Your flash is not your friend. Unless you are a professional with bounce flashes and other fancy equipment, direct flash photography is too harsh and does not impart the true look/colours of your item. I much prefer to wait until I can get decent natural light or play with the lighting in post production. 

dearjes has great photos with lovely natural light (be in sunlight or a sunlight lightbulb). The soft natural lighting that they use helps create a cohesive theme in their shop.

'Modelling' Your Items
Studio Revamp Scenario: I am looking for a print for my studio (more blog posts on revamping my studio/spare room soon!). There are many many prints for sale on etsy and I am tossing up between two awesome prints:
  • One only has a scan of the print. 
  • The other has the print scanned in, framed and also a shot of it placed in a room to show what it may look like when displayed. From this I can tell roughly how big it will be when put in my studio and what it might look like.
From the example above, you can see that modelling or displaying items is another very important aspect of online selling. Modelling shows the buyer what your item looks like on someone, how big is it, where could/would they display it, what are it's possible uses, etc. 
I currently sell jewellery and there is a bit of contention over whether earrings and, to some extent necklaces, should be modelled on a live person due to hygiene issues. There are buyers that would prefer to see the earrings on a real person and others that don't so you can't win either way. I choose not to use a live model, but instead to show the dangle of earrings from a surface that they can, well, dangle from. I use a plastic torso to model my necklaces.

Remember that the same principles apply for backgrounds apply when modelling items, try to get a background that allows you item to 'pop'. 

Grayworksdesign displays their gorgeous cutting boards with simple props that show the buyer what the items can be used for which includes uses that you wouldn't think of straight away!

'Bad' Camera – Not an excuse!
I am lucky enough to shoot my products using a Nikon D90, and I think that this does make my life easier during post production. However, I also have a Sony Cybershot point and shoot camera that takes remarkably good photos. Work with what you have and can afford, use natural light and you will be surprised at what you can achieve. 
Remember, even if your camera takes less than impressive photos, a myriad of sins can be corrected in wonderful programs such as GIMP. Stay tuned for my next post where I will delve into correcting colour curves and explain how to make your photos brighter in the process.


  1. Thank you for this post! It's a great one, excellent links to good examples, too!

  2. No problems, glad it was helpful! :)

  3. awesommee :) YAY i love it! I need all the help i can get for my pictures, this is like a gold mine for me hehehe thanks again!

  4. This is great help - really wonderful! Thank you so much! I will be by often to check up on new posts. :o)

  5. Yay! So glad this has been helpful to people! :)

  6. great examples - also I'm slightly in love with those Mr and Mrs eggs that you linked up to with dearjes, how cute are they!