Etsy recently began rolling out a new shop design, as they do every now and so often. As you can imagine forums in the Etsy community are abuzz:) Some like the new design, touted as more mobile friendly and apparently many do not.
For me it’s a cue to really buckle down on a project that has kept me busy for sometime – branding.
Branding is the buzzword for business owners. It is an umbrella term used to corral several different and equally important areas. If done well, it will make your business instantly recognizable and distinguish you from the herd. Not an easy feat on an enormous market place like Etsy, in a saturated field like jewelry.
Common wisdom says you have about 3 seconds to make a good impression – better make it memorable.
So over the course of the last few months I have really buckled down on what it is that needs fixing, why and how. I decided to to group them in the order that makes the most sense to me to have a starting point:
- Marketing strategies
For simplicity’s sake I will begin by focusing on jewelry photography basics. Pictures are the first impression, the hook, if you will. What do you want them to convey?
Unlike a conventional brick and mortar store, an internet based shop won’t allow your your customers to physically pick up an item for close inspection, see how it will fit, etc. A good point to always keep in mind. What do you want to see when you are shopping for jewelry? And as a seller: what do you want your customer to be able to appreciate that makes your piece so special?
While it can easily become overwhelming, not to mention time consuming, especially when you wind up having to re-photograph your pieces again and again – it really shouldn’t be.
Lucky for you, I have made every mistake in the book at one time or another when it comes to jewelry photography, so while I am far from a professional jewelry photographer, I definitely consider myself a bit of an expert in the field of what-not-to-do:)
Let me show you an example…
Kinda makes your eyes bleed, doesn’t it? Let’s dissect the unfortunate victim.
Aside from the less than stellar perspective there are three major areas in this image that need addressing:
One of the first impressions on Etsy is the clean overall design aesthetic, minimalist look and the prevalence of “Etsy white”. And that is exactly what I was going for here – with what I considered a “natural vibe”. I thought I aimed well… BUT obviously I missed the target by a mile.
- It is not the amount of light you use, it’s the QUALITY of the light
- Choose the right kind of back ground
- Pay attention to every little detail
So what type of light should you use?
For me that has been a difficult issue to figure out. If you have consistent access to the right amount of filtered daylight, it is not only the cheapest, but also the most eye-pleasing light source.
A major disadvantage to this setup was the dependence on weather conditions to time picture taking sessions.
Finding the proper degree, amount and angle of lighting became nothing shy of a Holy Grail quest. tired of having to migrate with the light from room to room depending on the season, I bought lamps, special daylight bulbs, built a light box and relentlessly tweaked the white balance on my camera. But even all of that and a hardy amount of post processing did not achieve the result I was looking for.
So I bought a new camera. And I took photography classes. And got Photoshop and Lightroom. Still, the lighting issue continued to be a thorn in my side.
In the end I decided to go with a set of three enormous, legit photography lights. (When I bought them they were on sale for around $100 for the entire set, including bulbs and carrying case, so it might pay off to shop around)
While they may look a little like overkill, I assure you they are not. I highly recommend getting the lights with 4 bulbs. Some of my photography objects just don’t like having spotty lighting and before I got this set of lights, I found that I was constantly battling shadows seemingly coming from nowhere. The overhead lamp now nearly eliminates this issue for me. Each of the lights have a diffusing cover which results in lighting that is pretty darn close to natural daylight.
Here are some examples of what similar bracelets look like when photographed with the new lights:
And a brighter version of a different bracelet:
An example of earrings
After experimenting with various settings on my camera, I have finally found the sweet spot that has reduced any time required to edit after the fact significantly. One feature my camera sadly lacks is tethered shooting in Live View, which would have allowed me to tether my camera directly to my laptop while taking pictures.
I forgot to mention that I ALWAYS use a tripod, as well as a 2 sec delay when I photograph my jewelry to eliminate unwanted blur. Shooting in a RAW format gives me a much greater range when it comes to editing.
If you are interested in learning more photography basics, I have found Craftsy.com to be a wonderful source for classes. They are affordable and you have access whenever it’s convenient.
Here is a link to jewelry lighting basics you might find informative as well.
In the coming weeks I will be addressing more of the issues I have mentioned above. I would love to hear a little about your own experiences with photography.