I went to an Etsy team meeting last night and one of the members gave a brief tutorial on the importance of good photos of your products. There’s no doubt – especially for jewelry makers, Etsy can be a dog-eat-dog environment because there are so many talented artisans out there, and one way to stand out is simply to have bad-ass photos.
I’ve been working on this for a while, and I wouldn’t say mine are bad-ass yet, but I’ve improved a ton. What did I do? I didn’t buy a really crazy-expensive camera, although I wanted to do that. Here are the steps I took:
The “studio”:I spent about $60 on a lightbox, some lights, and an extension cord. The lightbox is a cube made of white nylon that folds down like one of those windowscreens you use to keep your car cool. I got mine online, maybe on Amazon or someplace like that. I set it up on a wire rack in one of my closets, and ran an extension cord and a power strip into the closet, as well. I bought 3 clamp floodlights at one of the big box DIY stores, and bought 3 of the brightest flourescent lightbulbs I could find. I clamped the lights onto the clothes bar of the closet, and onto my wire rack – two on top, on on the side, and then when I’m ready to shoot I flip them on. The lightbox diffuses the light and keeps me from getting glare on my jewelry or beads. I’ve had to fiddle a bit with the placement of the lights to get the right angle, the right amount of light, etc.
Camera Settings: I use a wee little Canon point and shoot. I asked a friend who’s a much better photographer to come give me some tips, and she was a goldmine. We set the flash to “off”. I put the camera in “macro” mode. I discovered how to bump up my exposure (depending on what background I’m using) by reading the camera manual. And with the camera in macro, I zoom the camera all the way out, and physically place it as close to the object as I can. All these things seem really challenging when you’re trying to read that damn manual, but when she told me that’s what I needed to focus on, I did. I have to adjust the macro and the exposure every time I turn the camera on, but for a while I kept a sticky note with the info in the “studio” so I’d know what to adjust.
Backgrounds and placement: This same awesome friend designed my wedding invitations, and she gave me the left-over paper that we used – it’s this super-white, sparkly paper that makes an amazing backdrop. I also have a 12″ slate tile that I bought at the DIY store, and a couple of other random things like a leather journal, a piece of wood, etc. that I use to shoot with. The paper and the slate are my best backdrops, though, and you’ll see them throughout my site. Then I got some great feedback on Etsy from a photographer who said to take angles on things – get in there, get close, surprise the viewer, get a tilt on something with the camera, but don’t settle for boring old straight-on shots. So many of my shots focus on a stone, or a wire wrap, and they may even cut part of the object off – this heightens the drama.
Again, I’m no whiz kid, but these preliminary steps have done wonders at improving my photos. I can shoot any time of day or night, I don’t need natural light, and I get good photos. What’s your set-up?