July 26, 2012

My Secrets to Good Etsy Product Photos

When I started my Etsy shop, I thought "I'm a pretty decent photographer, these product photos should be a breeze!"  I've shot weddings, nature, wildlife, concerts and countless other subjects with ease!  Well, needless to say, I was wrong.

I have a  Canon Rebel XT DSLR, which I love dearly.  I was a user of the film version of the same camera for years.  So, I got my trusty camera ready, got my backdrops all set up, found the perfect light and started snapping away!  I thought it went great....until I downloaded the pics to my laptop.  The depth of field was all wrong and I couldn't get in close enough to show all the details I felt I needed to show on my jewelry and still be in focus.  Damn, I was convinced I was pretty good at photography!  Well, I still think I am, but now I know a lot more about product photography.  Jewelry photography in particular.

What I really needed was a macro lens for my DSLR.  Great.  LOTS of money I didn't have to spend!  Well, lots for the one I wanted anyway.  So after searching through Etsy forums to see what others were using, I decided to purchase a point-and-shoot with a macro setting.  I ended up spending about $120 and settled on an Olympus Stylus.  I could have bought a cheap manual focus macro lens for about $100, but this way, I also have a camera that can easily fit in my purse for events that don't require great photos or a lot of messing around with settings.

Let me tell you what I love about my Olympus for jewelry photos:

Super Macro- Most point-and-shoots have a macro setting for getting in close on flowers and other things. Super macro gets you close enough to focus in on the bug on the flower! The lens on this camera can nearly be touching your subject and still focus in on it. Perfect for showing tons of detail.

Image Stabilization - This feature helps with camera shake that could make your picture blurry. I see it kick on when I'm in lower light situations. Since I shoot my jewelry pictures in natural light with the flash turned off, this is pretty beneficial to me.

Exposure Compensation - Like I mentioned, I shoot in natural light. This can be tricky. I have shot some pieces of mine in direct sunlight (shadows too harsh), under a shade tree (inconsistent light), and near a large, bright window. Without using exposure compensation near my window, I had to edit all my photos to lighten them. Editing can be time consuming and may leave the colors looking different from reality, which adds even more time for correcting the photos. On this camera, you even get a preview on the screen as to how the different exposure settings will look. This is an enormous timesaver and makes the chore of listing my items a little...ok, a LOT less painful. Download and they are ready for listing!

Here are some examples of my...um...."progression".
Holy harsh shadows Batman!  Not to mention this was taken outside in 20 degree Wisconsin weather.

Taken outdoors and not really in focus.

Yep...not in focus and a ray of sunshine on lower right.

Getting a little better, but way too dark.

Ok, starting to get worthy of posting on Etsy.  I taped up waxed paper on the window to diffuse the direct sunlight.

Nice close-up, horrible background.

Making progress on backgrounds!  Inconsistent light (under a shade tree).

A little better!

Finally!  This what I was aiming for!

Experimenting with depth of field.

Experimenting with angles.

Love this one.  Great lighting and great representation of the actual colors of the earrings.

Close-up to show detail.

Experimenting with late day sunlight.  I had to remove  a lot of yellow...the dreaded editing.

Love the gleam on this copper bracelet.

Hundreds of photos and experimenting with cameras, lighting, backgrounds and arrangements later, I'm very pleased with the results.  

July 23, 2012

First Custom Order

Just today, I sent off my first custom bridal party order for earrings on Etsy.  The woman who ordered came to me wanting to know if I could make one of my designs with different color pearls.  OF COURSE I will do that! How perfect....design already done, she was very specific about the colors to use (Swarovski Lavender and Night Blue!), AND she paid before I started!  I wouldn't mind a few of those orders a week.

July 19, 2012

July 13, 2012

Ah, Summer Flowers!

One of my favorite things on earth is the back deck on my home.  We added the deck several years ago because there was no way to the back yard on the back side of the house.  In the logical place to have a deck door, the previous owners had a very large window.  It was begging to be knocked out and turned in to the gateway of a great place to relax in the summer.  So that's what we did!
Since I've decided to become unemployed, I often have my coffee in the early morning sun.  I love soaking in the rays before it gets too warm for me and I must retreat to central air.
These are some photos of some of the many flowers and veggies I grow in pots on the deck:

I hope you are enjoying your summer too!

July 10, 2012

Goodbye, Artfire....

As much as I hate to give up on things, I have shut down my Artfire shop.  I tried for 3 months, and got plenty of views (2300+), but no sales.  I did an experiment that sealed Artfire's fate in my eyes.  I did a huge push on it and did a lot of back linking for several days.  I got significant traffic from Stumbleupon.  Great!  Except I noticed when I DIDN'T spend 2 hours a day (or more) promoting and back linking, I got very few incoming URL's. The next thing that sealed their fate was not seeing my listings in Google searches as I had previously.  This was apparently due to a Google update.

I actually LOVED Artfire's interface and seller's tools.  Etsy could learn a thing or two from these guys.  It's hard to drop something you've stuck so much time into, but the monthly cost and work to keep it going made me feel as though I was just spinning my wheels and not actually going anywhere.  So, I'm dedicating my time to the shops that actually make sales for me:  Etsy, Yardsellr and Listia.

Goodbye, Artfire.  It wasn't you, it was me ;)