Friday, September 6, 2013

Why Handmade: Photography Tips For Craftspeople

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

I am not, and probably never will be an expert in photography. I cannot tell you how to get better lighting in your pictures any more than I can tell you how to keep them focused. The automatic setting was designed with me in mind. However, as a graphic designer I can discuss what you want and do not want in your product photos.

First and foremost, keep your pictures simple. All too often I see pictures of product with fancy patterned backgrounds, propped on a wooden log, lying around with sand dollars and shells, etc. This detracts from the most important thing in your photograph – the item you wish to sell. It may be a lovely photograph, but you do not want someone to choose to not purchase your item because they hate the beach…unless of course you are selling handmade beach towels. A simple white, black, or grey background is usually sufficient.

Dog Collar by Cody's Creations

In most cases you want to choose a neutral toned background color. As noted above, black, white, or grey is nearly always appropriate, but a beige or a tan background can have its place as well. You do not want a color that washes out or alters the color of your item, especially if you want to sell it on line. A good test is to place your product on sheets of varying color. Take note as to whether the color of the product changes with that color; it will be subtle, but the hue will take on a slight change with only some colors. If you notice a difference, this is not a good background color.

While we are on the topic of color, which is exceptionally important, make sure that the end photograph closely matches the product. A customer may be very disappointed if something appears much different than what they expected, and color is something they will likely notice. Customers need to be prepared for some variation in tone due to differences in monitor screen; however, if you start with a photo that is near perfect in color variation it will be in turn closer to what the customer thought they were purchasing.

Sterling Silver 4 Point Star Orbit Bangle by Cristina Hurley

One more thing about color -  take the picture with different tones. More often than not, I have found my product does not look better or worse on a black or a white background, but it does look different. Various details will pop out better on one background than the other. We have two goals with our photos – we want to catch a customer’s eye and we want to give them a really accurate picture of what they are purchasing. Seeing your product on the two backgrounds will give the viewer more information. If the picture truly only works with one background, then discard the others.

Consider placement. No one is going to purchase your product if it appears far away and small in your photograph. Consider that I make and sell rings, which are very tiny items. The customer has a frame of reference for the size of the ring, but what they want to see the details. If the photo is a big wide open space of white with a little tiny ring in the middle, it will get lost and overlooked. Considering the number of people selling on sites such as Etsy, we cannot afford to be missed simply because the potential buyer couldn’t see what we were selling.

Take multiple views of three-dimensional objects, including close ups of interesting details. In two-dimensional work, take extreme close ups of areas in the work the viewer may want to get a better look at. For example, a face. If you are selling something functional such as a handbag, narrow in on areas that may be of concern for a customer, such as the way the strap connects to the purse, or whether there is a zipper.

Austrian Vintage set of Two Doilies Hand Crocheted, Hand Embroidered, Filligree Hand Dyed Denim Blue by Enchanted Hue

In some instances, it is appropriate to show the item in action. A sweater may better show it’s merits if it is being worn. Consider not showing the face of the model so that the focus is on the clothing and not the wearer. You want the customer to imagine her own face wearing it, not your best friend. A wine glass ornament may need to be depicted on a wine glass, but if you are not selling the wine glass, that should be made clear and you should also include photos with just the ornament. However, there are other times that showing the product is a detractor. For example, no one wants to buy the earrings you are wearing. I know, and you know, that you can and will change the French hooks before sending it to the customer, but they are not certain.

Silver Chainmaille Earrings with Purple Freshwater Pearls by Linkouture

Some products require propping so they can be seen. Rings and earrings come to mind. There are photo products out there that will hold your item and remain all but invisible to the camera. Ideally these are best as there is nothing to distract the eye. However, if these are not available, choose a way to hold your item that blends into the background.

Finally, make sure your product, and surfaces are ultra clean! No one wants to buy something that appears dirty.

What tips do you have for product placement in photographs?

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