Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The art of photography.

I've heard a lot of artists in the Etsy forums say that they love to design and create their pieces, and they adore their shops and really enjoy selling online, but they hate photographing their items. I completely agree. I've struggled a lot with my photography. I love creating jewelry, I'm always pondering new designs, pairing beads together in my mind and thinking up names for my future creations. I want all of my pieces to find loving homes, and I know as an online seller and shopper that good photographs are the most important tool when selling over the internet.

Online shopping has its advantages. You can do it in your own time, pop in and out between work or chores, view a wider selection of items than there tends to be in any one regular store, and easily compare similar pieces. But the biggest drawback is that you can't pick up, turn over and feel the object. It can be hard to get a sense of size, true colour, or quality. This is where photos become crucial.

Unfortunately, most people who spend their time sewing, potting, sculpting, painting, making jewelry, etc, aren't spending their time learning to become world class photographers, and we can have a very hard time creating photos that are as incredible as our handcrafted items.

As with all aspects of my business, I want my photographs to be the very best they can be. I want them to have the "lust factor," as my mother calls it. That almost indescribable quality that compels you to click on an item photo no matter what it's a photo of.

The first thing I tried was a homemade light box. I found a tutorial online that described how to cut the top and sides from a cardboard box, cover the spaces with thin paper and aim lights into the box to illuminate the object. Those photos came out quite dim and a bit grainy looking, like so:

I quickly realized that though some people seem to have success with it, this method wasn't working for me. It was suggested to me that one of my items might photograph better on a dark background, so I laid out black paper on the cold stove top, turned on the hood range light, set the camera to flash and gave it a try. It seemed to be an improvement, so I spend a lot of time trying to perfect the technique, using PhotoShop to lighten the pictures where necessary. This is what that looked like:

Even though this seemed to be an improvement on the light box, the photos had an almost surreal quality to them. The black background was a bit stark and didn't help to give any depth or proportion to the items. I had about 30 items in my shop at that time, all photographed this way. They certainly didn't inspire "lust" in me, so how could they do so to my larger audience?

It was at this point that I started to understand why there is such a wide spread opinion that indirect nature light is the best method for photographing one's products. I decided that it was time to give the method a try. After experimenting with several backgrounds, including white and coloured paper, my sister, Natashia, tried an item on a weathered wooden bench that our aunt had given us as a housewarming present. The pale gray wood provided an interesting visual and some perspective to the pieces. Combined with the indirect natural light (the bench is in the shade of the garage) it created photographs that make it look like you can reach out and pick up the items.

Very pleased with this presentation, I set about rephotographing my entire shop. It took a few weeks, but I finally got all of my items changed over and was able to add more (I'm up to 79). I did need something a bit different for the first photograph of my earrings, and that was quickly remedied with a small house plant that I take outside with me.

I love the way that the natural backgrounds in natural light convey such a friendly, summery feel to my whole shop. And they do the most justice to the jewelry that I work so hard on. Now I just have to worry about what I'll do come winter..... ;)


tattytiara said...

Wow, those are such pretty earrings. Very elegant solutions, and you absolutely did get wonderful results with your shots.

Photographing is my achilles' heel too. I'm resisting doing it outside because there's way too much winter for way too much of the year for that to be a reliable option. I need to find an indoor solution, but I'm thinking even better might be to find a way to move somewhere warm!

Sarah Jane said...

Yeah, I'm worried about winter, too! :)

Do you have any big windows that let in lots of natural light? I'm thinking of trying that when it starts to snow.

Thank you for the compliments on my earrings and photos! :D

Inky Productions said...

Beautiful photographs. I can see why the trend is for outdoor settings. I'm starting to photograph my pendants that way on the person. Lovely jewelry!

Sarah Jane said...

Oh, thank you! I'm so happy to have found a photography method that works. I hope that my post here can help other people find something that showcases their items to their full advantage. :)

Good luck with yours!

Walk in the Woods said...

It is a challenge. And natural light is always my preference - for my own work and when looking at others.

Your images are quite stunning and I really love the earrings dangling from the branch. But, I would.


Pfeiffer Photos said...

You are so correct that the right light makes all the difference for a great photo. You've used your macro settings to their full advantage and your blog and shop pics show it well. As an Etsy seller that offers my photos for others to purchase, I am constantly learning what makes a great photo subject and how to achieve it.

Like your jewelry pieces, too...happy selling! :0)


Sarah Jane said...

Thanks, Tina! :)

It's great to have the opinion of a real photographer. It's always a journey to learn all the little tricks, eh? :)

RedBessBonney said...

thanks for the tips! I keep trying to improve my photos when I have time.


JuliaA said...

interesting to read the evolution of your photography. your photographs are so great now!