Saturday, 28 February 2015

How I Photograph Small Items for my Etsy Shop

photography techniques for Etsy listings product photography


I'm a day late with this blog (you'll forgive me, right?!) so I hope it's going to be helpful!  This is not so much a tutorial, as an explanation of where I'm up to with photographing my items for my Etsy shop, and an invitation for any feedback from those of you who may be more experienced and can offer some more pointers (ok, I admit, it's a bit of a call for help!).

Firstly, here's a behind-the-scenes shot of my set-up (taken with my iPhone):

photographing for Etsy basic photography setup easy

Fairly straightforward.  I have my neutral background (grey tissue paper), next to a big window with natural light (it was cloudy here today, which works better than direct sunlight because it creates very harsh shadows).  Check out my expensive tripod! (Seriously, anyone whose ever bought anatomy textbooks knows I'm not kidding!).  My camera is a Fuji Finepix 2980.  It's basically a point and shoot with a bit of DSLR capability.  I'm happy to say I no longer just set it to auto and trust it to do the rest.  I set it to a setting that tells it it's in natural light.  Then I trust it to do the rest!  That's about as technical as this is going to get, folks!

Once I've taken all my pictures, I get them across to my computer and edit them with Photoshop.  I have an ancient version of Elements, which is mostly adequate for my needs at the moment.  I definitely find it easier to tweak the pictures here than at the actual 'taking the pictures' step.  By adjusting the shadows, brightness and contrast, I'm aiming for a clear pic that shows the true colours of the item as much as possible.

Here's the raw pic.

unedited small item photography

I used the timer function so I could stand still side-on to the camera.  It took a couple of goes to make sure it was in frame, as I couldn't see the screen on the back of the camera!
I've read a tip in other blogs that using a tripod and remote shutter control helps in low light situations.  The equipment eliminates camera shake, so the shutter can stay open for longer, letting more light in and still having a crisp photo.  I'm not quite at the point of dictating the shutter speed myself, but I'm thinking that if you use the timer function on your camera, even a couple of seconds, if it's sitting on a flat surface or on a tripod, this would also eliminate that shaking without having to invest in a shutter remote, as you're not touching the camera when the photo is being taken.  Just a thought!

Next, I soften shadows and adjust the mid-tone contrast (Enhance - Adjust Lighting - Shadows/ Highlights):

adjusting product photography for Etsy

Bringing out the true colours using the brightness and contrast settings (Enhance -Adjust Lighting - Brightness/ Contrast).  Don't be afraid to really play with these settings, but remember you're going for as close to real life as possible!

editing photographs for Etsy listings

Crop it and here's the result:

clutch purse product photography for Etsy

Yup, those are my pudgy fingers.  I don't think I have a future in hand-modelling, but as my partner declined to allow me to paint his nails and shave his knuckles, I had to work with what I had!

Obviously, each picture is a bit different, and you have to tweak the values for shadows, brightness and contrast based on each one.  So long as you can get a fairly consistent look across all your pictures, and your pictures illustrate the item comprehensively, that's a great start!
Of course, I'm going to keep plugging away at photography, learning more so I can have more control in getting consistent results.  It will be interesting to see how this side of things evolves over time, and I'm sure this blog, and my Etsy shop will tell that story as I go along.
If you have questions because you're a beginner like me, or you can offer some helpful hints, please leave them in the comments!

Just an extra note, it's Spoonflower contest time again!  Ok, so Spoonflower have a weekly contest, so that's not really a newsflash, however they have a big one coming up involving designing a fabric to be used as nursery decor and bedding for Carousel Designs.  I've been planning a fabric collection that will fit in beautifully with this theme (hint: check out the platypus sketches on my instagram @liliflorapretty).  As always there will be plenty of reminders when it's time to vote!

Take Care until next week!
Emma

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