Written by Brandi of Catie’s Blue
Since I started selling online, the importance of great product photographs has been hammered into my brain. With jewelry, it is your selling point. People can’t pick up the piece and hold it the way they can at a craft show, so the photo will determine if someone clicks to view your listing or just leaves your shop.
Good photos have become an obsession of mine, so I figured I’d share what I know so far. Please note, I’m not saying that my photos are the best ever nor am I a professional photographer (I’m not); but I do work hard to make them the best they can be. In doing so, there are four major things I think about when it comes time to start snapping away – lighting, macro setting, staging, and editing.
When I say “staging”, I’m referring to the way things are arranged in your photo. Besides the piece you’re selling, there’s also the lighting, the background, props, and the way you angle the object to consider, too. Each choice you make creates your own style.
A lot of the way a photo looks can be determined ahead of time, and with Etsy, we have five photo slots to use, so we aren’t limited to only one snapshot to sell our pieces. So, we can take a really engaging, maybe a little artsy first photo, then do more traditional and standard pictures for the other four.
To start, look at catalogs or magazines, or even other sellers. What stands out to you? What kinds of photos do you like? Are the pieces on a colorful background or a neutral one? Are you attracted to photos with a lot of props, or do you prefer a very simple set up? As you begin to find photos you like, also start thinking of how they can fit into your style; basically, how can you make them your own?
Then, look at your own photos as objectively as possible. Give yourself a little critique, or ask a few trusted friends for feedback. What can be improved? What’s working well for you? Are your photos too dark? Are there too many highlights? Do your photos look washed out? Can the background be improved?
Here are the choices I made:
a. Photos I like: I like the artsy photos, with simple backgrounds and simple props, but prefer to see at least two or three clean, completely in focus photos showing me the details. I try to have one “artsy” shot, but if it doesn’t work for a particular piece, I don’t push it.
b. Semi-neutral backgrounds for a consistent look. Colored backgrounds can affect the way the colors in your piece can look. A green stone will appear to have different shades when put against a red background versus a gray or white one.
c. I want to keep it very simple, with only a white coffee cup as a prop to hang earrings off of, so the focus of the photo is on the piece itself (see photo), and I save time not having to set up different scenes for each piece.
d. I want each of the five photos to show something different, whether it’s the clasp of the necklace as well as the pendant, or earrings lying down as well as hanging.
If you’re stuck, consider just adjusting the angle of your jewelry piece. Angles are interesting because angled lines create the illusion of movement. Movement in a photograph keeps your eye moving around, keeps the viewer engaged.
Other low-cost ways to play with your photos: visit the scrapbooking aisle in your local craft store and pick up cardstock (be careful that it’s not too busy or it will overwhelm your piece) or look around your house for a hardcover book. Take off the dust jacket and photograph on the fabric cover (which works because the fabric is pulled tight, see photo on the right), or open the book and take photos on the pages themselves (see the first photo in Part 2). The words will then become a recognizable pattern. Whatever you choose to photograph on, try to avoid a super shiny surface – it may bounce light off its surface in an unpleasant way – or play with it till you get the results you want.
If you like the look of props beyond what I’ve shown here, check out the recent Storque article about staging and styling your photos.