Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking Better Shop Photos

**Originally posted by me at Bowtique Critique!

If you own a shop, you take photos of your items to sell, right? Well, have you ever noticed some photos look better than others? Here are some quick tips on making your photos look nice every time!

Tip 1- Unless you have no other options, always chose a camera vs a camera phone. While many phones these days take nice photos, you CAN always tell a camera phone photo apart from a camera photo.

Tip 2- Clean your lens. Any eye-wear cleaning cloth will give great results, and even Dollar Tree carries them. Simply wipe finger prints and smudges off the lens before taking photos. That slightly blurred spot showing up in your photos is where you smudged the lens. Clean, crisp photos require a clean lens, so take a few seconds to inspect the lens before taking photos.

Tip 3- Lighting. Lighting is important. This will actually be a multiple part tip. First up?

  1. Natural Lighting. If at all possible, always take advantage of natural lighting. You can do this by setting your 'stage' up near a window, or outside. Direct sunlight can be too harsh, though, so try to use indirect sunlight. Sunlight is only good when it's out, and somewhat bright, though- dark stormy days, or evening won't give the same results as you'll get on a nice, brightly lit day.
  2. Flash lighting. When taking photos of your items, I strongly recommend using natural lighting during the day. However, this is not always possible. Even I have middle of the night moments when I just -have- to share a photo, and can not wait till morning. So, here's some tips when using flashes. First off, don't hold the camera an inch from the object with the flash on. Back up about a foot, then use zoom. Next up, if you have spots that appear faded from the flash, take the photo from a slight angle, so the flash is bouncing off the background and not the object.
  3. Lamps. Unless you are using a bright white (not soft white) light bulb, without a shade, you are going to have a yellowed image with a lamp. If your only option is a lamp, wait until morning and go outside for natural light. The yellowing from the lamp will change the color of your item, and color is important if you are trying to sell something someone wants to match, such as a bow for an outfit. 
 A staging area- this shelf placed under a window is the perfect location for taking photos of your objects, just make sure you are closer than this to the object, or the object will be dark.
Lamp light tends to look yellow, such as the photo above. In the two photos below, only lamp light is used, and the objects and background take on a yellowed hue.
Please note- in the photo above, light blue felt was used- not grey, as the lighting suggests! This is to show how much of a color difference there is when using lamp light for your lighting!
 Everything around the photo is yellowed from the lamp.
 In the above photo, I used a flash in conjunction with the lamp light. The yellowing is gone!

Tip 4- Staging. Your keyboard, kitchen floor, deck, and any other flat surface you use are distracting, and tell the buyer you didn't put time or effort into your photos. Fabric squares or even rectangles of felt can make a decent backdrop for your pictures. But, word of advice- match the object with the background. You don't want to take a photo of a black bow on black felt. You simply can't see the item. Switch out the color of the backdrop to contrast with the item you are photographing. If you want a solid white background, felt works nice, but you can even use white poster board to take the photo with. Just avoid direct light with poster board, as it will reflect the sun, and change the items up. Felt, on the other hand, will absorb more of the light, so it won't reflect as badly.

My stage area- a tall shelf under a window. Most of my photos are taken in this location.
More staging- to help provide contrast, I use a felt "doily" shape to set my smaller bows & clippies on. This is left out of larger bow photos, and photos of white bows or clips.
The above photos are used to show off just how I stage items, NOT how I take the actual photos.

Tip 5- Save the fancy Picnik editing for photographs of people and memories, not your bows, and clips, and clothing you are trying to sell. If the photo is off color, or blurred from editing, it's harder to pin point exactly what the person is buying.

Tip 6- Blurry photos are a no-no when selling something. Here are a few tips on how to avoid that.
  1. Distance. Putting your lens right up on the item can cause the camera's focus to not work. Your best bet is to have your camera 6"-12" from the object, then zooming in. 
  2. Zoom- however, you don't want to be zoomed in TOO close. Zoom can also blur based on distance, so if your camera is too far away, and zooming in on the item blurs it, then you want to zoom out a bit, and bring the camera itself closer to the object.
  3. When in doubt, click. Digital is free- you can take 2 photos, or 200 photos, and it won't cost you anything to "develop" them. So, I recommend taking 2-3 photos of each photo just to make sure you have a clear photo to enjoy. 
 This photo was taken 10" from the item, and zoomed in slightly. It does show off the item, but I recommend less blank space.
This photo was still 10" from the item, and zoomed in closer. This is the typical distance I use on my photos.
A closer image, such as this, can be used to show off your bow, or details of your item. In the photo above, I used off-centering to make it more visually interesting, but if this is the only photo of the object, you should make sure all of the object is in your photo.
 Zoomed in WAY too close- this photo, if clear, would certainly show off all of the details on the ghost, but it's blurry, and should not be used to show off your items.
In this photo, I brought the camera down closer to the actual item. I am much closer to the object- 3" away, with no zoom. This turned out fine, but don't count on close up photos to always turn out. Make sure it's clear, or take multiple photos before moving on.

Overall, you want your photos to look nice, and professional. But, it doesn't take a $1200 camera to take nice photos of your items.  Take your time, and practice. Look at the photos on your computer and discard the bad ones. No need to save your blurred product photos!

Good luck! Please feel free to share, but give credit where credit is due.


Jill said...

Great tips! Thanks so much!

Expressions by Heather said...

You're welcome!

billiemonster said...

Very helpful post! I'm happy to be your newest follower. :o)

Valery said...

I raided by scrapbook store after they had their annual garage sale (where other sellers sold all sorts of things) and I swooped in at the very end of the event and bought about 2 boxes full of scrap paper for $9. Since the items I take pictures of are small, like cupcake wrappers, I hit the jackpot. I use different scrapbook papers as backdrops and also to lay on the surface of my table when taking a pic. works perfectly! Valery