Monday, May 23, 2011

Photo Makeover Series Part 4: Photo Editing, Props, Styling and More!

Photo Editing:
So you've perfected your product photography background and lighting setup. You've read your camera's manual cover to cover--you did read it cover to cover, right? ;) --and you've mastered your camera settings. But, something is still missing....Enter photo editing, the saving grace for anyone who sells online!

Photo editing allows you to crop and resize photos. You can adjust highlights, shadows, contrast, color saturation ,and color temperature. You can retouch photos, straighten them, sharpen them (when they are slightly out of focus), add text including watermarks and logos, and create collages. The digital world is truly amazing!

But, finding a great photo editing system is going to cost you an arm and a leg, right? Not when there are so many fantastic and free editing tools available including Picasa, Picnik, FotoFlexer, Lunapic, Pixlr, FotoFuze, Photoscape, and Gimp. Would you love to use Photoshop, but a paid service isn't in the cards for you? Check out Aviary's Image Editor. Looking for more options? Check out this extensive list of free photo editing services.

Filling the frame through cropping may be a great way to add interest and focus and show off the details of your product, but be careful that you don't crop so closely that a potential buyer is left wondering what your item actually looks like. I've come across some really artistically cropped photos on Etsy, but after looking through all of the photos in their listing I still had a hard time figuring out what they were actually selling! Looking for an easy way to resize your photos into perfectly sized thumbnails? Check out this video tutorial on resizing your photos the easy way from the Etsy Blog.

I do most of my photo editing using Picasa and Picnik. I find them easy to use especially for a person like me who is anything but tech savvy! Picasa now allows you to edit in Picnik too which makes my life even easier!

Want to read more? Check out these helpful articles:

Using Photoshop:

Using Aviary:

Using Gimp:

Using Picnik:

Using Picasa:

Using Props and Adding Style:
Do you ever wonder about using props to enhance your product photos and add style? Are you afraid that your neutral background is too boring? Props can certainly improve the quality of your photos especially if they are used to display your product or they have the effect of enhancing your product. Are you trying to show size and dimension? Then try photographing your product with other common items to help give it context and scale. Dimensions included in the product description or a photo of your product next to a ruler won't give every shopper a clear sense of the size and proportions of your product. Visual aids, in the form of props, on the other hand can speak volumes. Props can be used to demonstrate how your product can be used or how it can fit into a potential buyers home or life. Check out how this photographer effectively uses props to showcase a designer's handbags.

The downside of any prop is that it can become distracting. The last thing you want is to have potential buyers busy looking at your props and forgetting about the actual item you are selling! So, make sure that your props compliment your products rather than steal the spotlight. If you choose to use props be consistent with your theme. Consistency leads to a more cohesive and inviting look for your shop and it helps shoppers recognize your products. Remember that you don't have to use props for all five of your product shots on Etsy. Adding style and flair to just your first photo will serve to intrigue potential buyers and lead to more treasury features.

Another way to add style is the use of unique angles. You can shoot from above, below, at the same level, or off center so only a portion of your product shows. Use these shots to highlight a particular feature or detail of your product. You can also crop more conventional shots afterwards if you don't feel comfortable experimenting with new angles. When taking angled shots of your product on a model, do be mindful of the background. If an angled shot means that you are now showing the mud puddle your son is standing in or your living room floor then you may want to skip the angles and instead get down to the level of your model. Also remember over using unique angles and close-ups can make it hard for shoppers to determine proportions, dimensions, and the overall look of your product. If buyers can't tell what you are selling in your beautifully artistic photos, then you will have defeated the purpose of adding style in the first place!

Here's an example of a picture I took using both props and angles to add interest to this photograph of felt cookies.

Learning to style and enhace your photos not only helps you showcase your products, but it helps you tell a story about your creations. Styling your photos can help you create a mood and an atmosphere for your product. Check out these online articles on styling your product photos:

Using Models and Mannequins:
I think that most people will agree that they prefer to see wearable items modeled. I know when I'm shopping for jewelry on Etsy that I am more likely to buy an item if at least one of the product photos shows the item worn by a model. So, do you use a live model or a mannequin? Many people don't have willing or appropriate models in their homes. Modeling your cute hair accessories on your five year-old son probably isn't going to run your sales through the roof! However, if you have willing models (children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors) then by all means use them, especially if they are free! Mannequins and dress forms can be successfully used in place of a live model. Check out this article on Models vs. Mannequins for some great tips.

In researching this post, I was surprised when I came across some sellers on Etsy who offer product photography services using a live model. Maybe I've had my head in the sand on this one, but just in case I beat you to the punch, here are some sellers on Etsy offering product photography on live models. *Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of these sellers and I have no affiliation with them. They are simply sellers I came across when searching for "product photography models".

Another option is a modeling service that connects product models with sellers. Most of these are "free" services in which you pick a model from an agency and send that model the item you want photographed. The product is professionally photographed and you are sent pictures of your product on your chosen model. The model then keeps the item you made for the photo shoot as "payment".
It probably goes without saying, but I do recommend that you carefully research any modeling service that you are considering to insure that they are a reputable business and that you will receive quality product photos in exchange for your money or handmade products.

Another way to style your photos is through photography composition. If you want to know more about composition you'll need to take a moment to understand the Rule of Thirds and Dynamic Diagonals. This Composition in Photography article explains both quite well. It's definitely worth reading.

Most of all don't be afraid to take TONS of pictures when you are photographing your products. The beauty of digital cameras is that you won't waste any film, and you never know when you will capture the perfect product photo!

What to read more? Check out these articles:

And if you are a visual person you will want to check out:

The Photo Makeover Final Challenge:
We are looking for your very best product photos. This is your chance to show off all that you have learned throughout this series. Show us your fabulous backgrounds, lighting, photo editing, style, composition, and camera knowledge. Stop at nothing to reveal your very best shots! We want to see them all! Post a before and after picture of one (or more) of your current shop listings that you've turned into a fantastic photo on our Facebook page. Be sure to post the listing URL in the comment box under the posted pictures. You can read more about how to post pictures on Facebook here. If you don’t have a Facebook account, please email your before and after pictures along with a link to the listing in your shop to with “Final Challenge” in the subject line.

Enter as many photos as you like into this contest. You can also re-enter any photo that you previously submitted for any of the other challenges in this series. Three winners will be chosen and the winning photos, including a link to the winner’s shop, will be featured in our very last EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series post on June 27th. The winners will also have their new and improved listing featured in an Etsy mini on the EKTT blog!

The Deadline for the Final Challenge is June 24th

**Miss an installment in the EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series? Click HERE for the entire series.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a great article with all kinds of resources I'll be bookmarking! I've been both dreading and looking forward to the topic of props/styling... I know I need help in this area but it is such a challenge for me. =)