Taking Photos That Work

by Diana White.
(Upstate New York)

I’m writing to share some examples of why investing some funds and spending the time to take the best photos possible is really key to marketing your work online.

One of the first 2007 one of the first Viking Knit pieces I ever did. Laid on a piece of fabric and snapped with the flash indoors

One of the first 2007 one of the first Viking Knit pieces I ever did. Laid on a piece of fabric and snapped with the flash indoors

I’m sharing here some pictures that progress from my early work, and the abysmal photos I took, to my more recent work and some much improved (though never perfect) photos.

My first jewelry photos, I simply laid the piece out on a cloth or table and snapped a picture. Later I rigged up my own light box, but had so much difficulty with white balance that the colors of my pieces were never really true to life.

2008 Copper Knot Link Bracelet in rigged light box but I couldn't get the black background to be truly black.  I didn't know about white balancing back then.

2008 Copper Knot Link Bracelet in rigged light box but I couldn’t get the black background to be truly black. I didn’t know about white balancing back then.

I went through about 4 different home made light box setups, before I opted to spend a little money and get a pop up light tent. I used that from late 2010 until mid-2014 when I finally invested in a professional level set-up.

Over the years I tried various props, and a series of background colors, to include hot pink (what a disaster). I used scrap book papers. The thing that always hung me up is that I could never seem to get my work to be the main focus.

In 2010 scrapbook paper background, and my second rigged up light box.

In 2010 scrapbook paper background, and my second rigged up light box.

I also fiddled around with tons of Adobe Paint Shop Pro photo editing bells and whistles to highlight my jewelry. Using those bells and whistles worked, but I was spending more time on picture editing than I was making the jewelry.

And while I could see my pictures getting better, I still struggled with making it so my customers could see all the details without being distracted by my props or backgrounds.

I did, over time begin to notice a pretty strong correlation where poor photos equaled zero sales and the better pictures netted me more sales.

Three huge things I learned through trial and error, I’d like to share with you.

1. Hang your work from a piece of fishing line a few inches away from items you are using as backgrounds or props. As an example, draping a wire work piece in copper across a piece of wood looks great on a table display.

But when you take a macro shot of the jewelry you’ll get a lot of the wood grain in focus along with your jewelry. And if the piece of wood is what catches the viewers eye, your jewelry will not get the attention it deserves. If hanging a piece isn’t feasible, try changing your camera angles. Looking straight down from above makes for a flat image without visual interest.

2015  Example of changing the camera angle on a piece that is laid directly on the backdrop surface.

2015 Example of changing the camera angle on a piece that is laid directly on the backdrop surface.

2. Remember (and I’m really terrible at this) that if you plan to sell online, the first thing a buyer will see is a very tiny thumbnail image. If your photo isn’t crisp, or has too much going on, then potential customers’ eyes will move past the thumbnail. No clicks equals no buying.

3. No matter how great your setup, you’ll still have to do some editing to get the most out of your photos. Cropping is one of the most helpful ways to make your picture pop.

Etsy, (like a number of online sales venues) uses a square photo space for all their images. But cameras take rectangular photos, so cropping to a square format helps.

No matter how well you clean the studio or light box before photos, there’s going to be a speck of dust, a stray hair, or a seam you didn’t notice while snapping the pictures.

Post processing to reduce or eliminate those visual distractions is faster and easier than going back and having to redo your pictures.

Diana White
Mockingbird Lane Wire at Etsy
Mockingbird Lane Wire on Facebook

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Comments

  1. Great suggestions, Diana! Thanks for sharing these tips – and especially for sharing the big difference between before and after.

  2. I have struggled with the photographs of my jewelry through the years also. You have given some wonderful tips that will really help me out.

  3. Nancy says:

    I have lighting problems … I prefer natural light and have always heard that morning light is best, but was still struggling. Then I read somewhere that in Florida, afternoon light is best. And guess what … it works!!! Also, a professional photographer told me that when photographing silver, it’s best to have something black on the side away from the light source and outside of the picture range … it helps give the silver a crisp outline.

  4. Valerie says:

    Taking good photos is such a challenge. I bought a pop-up light tent last fall and recently sold it on CraigsList. It was too big and cumbersome. I kept the lights that came with it.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. After years of struggling with photos. I finally tried OUTSIDE in the shade – you facing the sun and the back of your work to the sun. No reflection. If you can hang your work about one inch out from your WHITE backdrop or lay your piece on a piece of glass raised about one inch from the white under the glass (no shadows) – then this works great. NO flash. And use the Natural light, micro flower setting. And of course use the 3.2MM pixels, the smallest size. Do not ‘save to the web’ after editing, but do save to about 600 x 600 square. This has given me the best photos I have been able to take for about 12 years. I really wish someone had taught me 12 years ago. Good luck

  6. I too bought the light tent and sold it. The lights were ineffective for me. Usually I’m photographing like crazy on a bright day inside running from room to room chasing the light.

  7. victoria beasley says:

    Thanks it always helps to get new insites to shooting photos

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