The third workshop focused on product photography. This was a more interactive workshop in which we were presented with lots of pictures and talked about what we saw and why we thought the pictures were good or bad. This part was a little less relevant to me since I either scan in my artwork or it’s already a digital file. Still many good points were brought up and I learned some new things. This summary will be a big mix of my own thoughts and the things we were taught in the workshop. I’ve structured it in a way that seems most cohesive and logical to me. I will illustrate with examples from Etsy shops.
Part 2 : Product photography
The workshop was lead by Liesbeth Verhart and she sells silkscreen printed designs in her Etsy shop Pinipiru. It’s filled with adorable designs printed on organic cotton, but also offers prints and notebooks. So make sure to stop by and take a look at her lovely wares. The day was filled with mottos and I managed to find one in this workshop as well.
“Tell a story”
This is pretty much what separates the good pictures from the great pictures. Potential customers should be able to come into your online store and immediately get taken away by the atmosphere. By telling a story you are persuading your visitor to stay a little longer and really take good look at what you’re selling.
This first example shows pictures from Suzy and her shop WoolWench. It’s one of the first shops on Etsy that really struck me with its amazing photography. So why is this so special? The reason I find her photography so great is that she’s managed to transform something you’d normally associate with old fashioned, ordinary or even boring to something completely fresh! She has other kinds of pictures in her shop, but these are her strongest in my opinion. A good picture of wool shows its colours and texture, but a great one makes you wonder what you’re going to make with it. The pink wool seems even sweeter and cuter because of the candies surrounding it. I can almost smell the oranges and summer in the second picture. The key is also to not make the picture look too crowded. The third and fourth pictures also avoid this by including objects in the same colour. The props can also function as a great inspirational starting point.
I only found out about this store during the workshop, but it’s an instant favourite. The second example shows Ama de Jong’s creations from her shop MissMinoes. The reason why I immediately fell in love with these pictures is because they are very playful and the composition is just amazing! Don’t you immediately get very happy when you see great pictures like these? Don’t you just WANT to own these items? Don’t you just want to feel like a kid again? I sure do! And the playfulness just goes really well with the kind of items she’s selling, so obviously it’s not for everyone. But for her and her wares it works and it looks fantastic!
Another tricky kind of products to photograph well is vintage items. You either end up with pretty decent pictures, but with a plain background, or with crowded and cramped pictures. Macky however did an amazing job in taking her product to a next level in her shop Moonstation. Pretty much all the items in her shop are pictured upside down and it makes for an interesting view! It really makes me curious and invites me to click on the pictures to find out more about the items. Just going through all her products make for a great browsing and shopping experience. Also note the first picture: Only the clear glass wine decanter is for sale, but by photographing it in a series it stands out more. This of course only works with items of the same kind and shape; otherwise the photograph might look too crowded.
This last example is included simply because the whole shop makes me feel so excited. The shop’s name is FunFatale and boy it sure is FUN! Pretty much all the products are photographed in this way. I love them because there’s just so much energy and movement visible. The examples I chose from this shop are all pretty different, but the store still looks very cohesive. This is because 1) the model always wears a plain white shirt, 2) the background is the same and 3) there’s always a sense of fun and movement captured. The products aren’t always captured in the most representative way, but that doesn’t matter. That’s what pictures 2/3/4/5 are for.
So now you’ve seen these examples and read why I think they’re great, but how can you improve the photography in your shop? Well first of all there’s nothing wrong with a plain white/light background. During the Success Symposium it was said that these kinds of pictures are popular for treasuries because they make the product pop. On a site with a clean design and white background this is a pretty logical evolution. If you make a treasury you have 16 thumbnails standing quite closely to each other; if they all have different kinds of backgrounds this can make the treasury look very crowded, cramped and unattractive really. However, if you don’t want to resort to plain white and you don’t know if you can pull something experimental, like the previous examples show, off then you just have to take the motto “Tell a story” and execute it in a simple way. You can add props that make the picture self-referential. I have chosen the following examples to illustrate this idea.
1) On her shop announcement of Ylleanna the seller Anna Nuvoloni writes that she likes to combine wool and yarn with natural and rustic materials such as ceramics and wood. What we see in the picture is one of her necklaces with a wooden button. The fact that it’s draped on a branch enhances the statement she has made in her shop announcement. With a simple addition she enhanced her message.
2) Miranda van Dijk has such an amazing product in her shop PuurAnders. She makes necklaces, brooches and recently notebooks and little artworks out of old pictures. She does custom orders as well! It’s just an amazing way to preserve memories and the products look fantastic. Here she’s paired one of her necklaces with an old picture and to me it’s one of the strongest product photography in her store. Can’t you just imagine what kind of treasure you could receive if you order from her store?
3) Eva Vercauteren makes cute little purses with delicate embroidery in her shop TheBlueRabbitHouse. She uses some very simple props with her purses, but the imagery is strong. The dried flowers and plants really put an emphasis to her fine needlework. And that’s ultimately what you want, to show why your product is so special.
4) You might wonder why I think this photograph is special. Joana Pedroso uses yarn and thread for her beautiful jewellery in her shop TrincarUvas. Some of the yarn specially dyed, but she also uses regular yarn that is used for cross stitching and embroidery! And that is exactly the reason why I think it’s such a great idea to display her jewellery on an embroidery hoop. She also has the most clever business card design, but that’s for another day.
What did I learn from this workshop? Actually, some things that I haven’t yet mentioned. One of the things Liesbeth told us is that the average person won’t be able to determine the size from just a size description. Use at least one picture to give an estimate of the size of your product and props are great for this. You have 5 picture spots to fill so use them well. The first picture also doesn’t necessarily need to be the most representative. It can also be a detail shot to draw a visitor in. Also while this is not immediately relevant to me: use a live model if you can. It makes all the difference to make your shop come alive. She also showed us this neat photography cheat sheet by Miguel Yatko to help you with the manual settings on your camera.