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Category: Tools of the Trade

Product Photography: Shooting your product

Finding a set up that works for you

Now that you have a better idea of how to take photos of your products in natural light, let’s explore actually photographing your product. In these next blog posts, you will learn lots of tips and tricks on setting up a shooting area, finding the best angle to shoot your product, how to capture the best pics to display your work, and more

Surfaces and backgrounds

What kind of vibe do you want? Are you shooting some clean shots for Etsy, are you trying to do some more editorial shots (your product in use)? You should try to do both! Etsy handbooks always suggest you have good product photos as well as photos of your product in use. These types of photos are great for selling your product through an image alone, and also great for social media and promotional imagery.

Discover your needs

First thing, do your research. What do you make? What vendor sells something similar and does well on Etsy? What do their photos look like? Who has something similar and has 10000 followers on Instagram, tons of likes and lots of comments? What does their feed look like?
What is your brand? What kind of look represents that? Is your work more rustic? Modern? Contemporary? Who is your target audience?
Answering these questions will help you get an idea of what look your image should have. I always suggest having a cleaner product shot, and then more editorial images that can show scale, use, etc. Finding a set up that is either permanent or easy to set up or both is key to keeping up with your photography needs.
Here are some examples of product photos I love on Instagram to give you a little inspiration

The Glitzy Gazelle is from Ontario, she makes this beautiful resin and polymer jewelry and her photos are great! She does a great job getting some nice clean product shots, and also some adding in visual interest (with textures from backgrounds and other items) and she does a beautiful job taking photos that show scale and use. These types of images are so very attainable for anyone – they require little set up, some imagination and nice light.


Little Custom Creations makes beautiful textile butterfly décor. They are incredibly successful with online sales and hail from Australia. Their Instagram and website feature beautiful artistic photos that show both the detail of their work as well as beautifully designed images that show the use of it.

Some other inspiration for clean images:

and some more editorial/products in use shots:

Product Photography: Using Natural Light Part 4

The product is about 2-3 feet from the background

You should now know exactly how to take your product photo with the light you are using, now let’s talk about the piece lots of people forget needs light too – backgrounds.

Backgrounds matter

Your background is an important part of your image. It sets the tone for the style you want, and while you want it to… fade into the background, it also needs a little love too.
The farther the background is from the product, the blurrier it will become. This is a great way to have a nice background make you product pop.

Your background also needs some light. The farther away it is from your light source, the darker your background will become. This is great if you are looking for something moody, but if you want something brighter (see below pic), you want to ensure you have enough light on the background too. If you have the option to situate your background near the light source you absolutely should. However, if you cannot move a wall closer to the window then this is where adding a few boards around your background will help.

Product Photography: Using Natural Light Part 3

You know how to place your product, what window you are using and when you are talking the shot. Now lets talk about how to add in more light or “bounce light”

“Bounce” in more light

What is “bouncing” light?? It is using a reflective surface for your light source to bounce off of and then that light bounce or reflects onto your subject. It is redirecting light.
How it works:
1. First you need something to bounce your light with. A shiny or matte white board is your best bet. You can pick up either a piece of foam core or Bristol board from the dollar store. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but the larger it is the more light you can bounce and the softer it will appear

2. Then you need to place or hold your board parallel to your light source, on the other side of your product (the side that the light is not closest to)

3. Experiment – move your board around a little and see how it effects the shadows on your product. Try adding in a second board above or another near where you are shooting from. Shift the boards back and forth, angled, side to side and see what gives you the best result

4. Take your pic!
5. See my next two blog posts for background tips, inspiration and set up ideas

Product Photography: Using Natural Light Part 2

Ok, so we talked about where to place your product. Now let’s chat about what is the best window in your space and when you should use it.

Its first thing in the morning the sun is streaming into your room. It’s so bright and warm, but not the best time to take pics. I love to use an eastern facing window between about 9:30 am and 11:30am or in the afternoon between 2pm and 4pm. Depending where you live and which way your windows face this could be different. Watch for lots of sun beams, we want to avoid shooting in a sun beam as much as possible. Take a few pics during the day to determine when you will have the “softest” light. This is when your image looks nice and bright but the light is very even, and not directional. You may find that a couple of windows look great at different times of day. I would pick a window that works best to set up on a regular basis or have a permanent set up. Having some lighting consistency in your images can make your work look more professional.

When we compare the images through the day, we can see a lot of differences in light. If you look at the shadow cast by the candle, you can see that at some times of day its quite harsh (almost black and crisp), and at other times it is soft grey and almost blurry. You want to pic the time of day that gives you the softest light. For me, around 1145 am at this time of year is going to give me the best light.
Another take away from this comparison is that during different times of day, not only is the quality of your light different, but also the temperature – this is the colour of the light. Later in the day the light is more blue, and earlier more yellow. The temperature can easily be altered later, so try to focus more on type of light you are getting vs the colour.

 

Editor’s Note: Products used are from Lamb & Kiss

Product Photography: Using Natural Light Part 1

Natural light is one of the easiest ways to photograph your products, with the minimal amount of equipment, and amazing results!
However, it can be a little tricky if you haven’t done it before – weird shadows , your colours looking off, or your image being too bright are just some of the obstacles you may encounter. Lets talk about some tips and tricks to get the absolute best photo you can.

Product Placement

Shooting with window behind me

Shooting near windows can be tricky business. Make sure your window is never behind your subject/product – a window should not be your backdrop. Instead situate your product so the light hits the front of your product or the front and the side.

If ever you are unsure, take a few shots a few different ways and compare results. Here are a few shots with the subject in the same place, and the camera in different places:

Shooting with window behind product

Shooting with window behind me

This is a great way to get lots of light on your product, but look out for your body potentially blocking your light. You will also see some shadowing behind your subject too

Shooting with product near window

Shooting with window behind product

With the window behind the product, you get lots of light on the backside but very little on the front of your products. This is not the best way to shoot your products

Shooting with product near window

With the window to the side of your product, you get a good even amount of light on one side of your product. You want to try to place your product so that the light is hitting at least part of the front. This my favorite way to shoot my product, because it produces natural shadows that enhance the image and has a good even about of light. BUT for this to work best we need to add in some light. We will talk about that soon!!

5 Ways Your Website Could get Hacked

You’ve spent all this time on creating a kick ass website – don’t let the hackers get you down.. here are some tips to help you combat the worst case scenario (Trust me when I say, it IS the WORST!)

Your Web Host Is Vulnerable

Quite frequently, many websites hosted by the same web hosting company are all hacked together. In these cases, the problem usually lies with the host. Either their servers have some vulnerability which is being exploited by a hacker OR the hackers have figured out a way to gain access to one website on a server and then use that website to infect the other websites hosted on the server. Always file a report with your hosting provider if your site has been hacked.

Your Computer or Your Web Developer’s Computer Has Been Compromised

Sometimes, the root of the problem lies with machine used to access the website and not a vulnerability of the website itself. Hackers can infect a computer with malware, enabling them to steal saved passwords or infect files as they are uploaded to a server.
To prevent this from happening, the computer used to access a website should be regularly scanned for spyware, viruses and malware. Additionally, unencrypted passwords should not be stored in FTP programs.
Finally, when accessing any protected area of the website – control panel, databases — be sure that you are using a trusted network.

Your Passwords Have Been Leaked or Are NOT Strong

When it comes to passwords, they can only protect your website is they are strong. This means that passwords must adhere to the following criteria.

  1. Unique. Passwords should all be different from each other and not used on any other website.
  2. Complex. Passwords should not be easily guessed. The best passwords do not contain words and are a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.
  3. Private. Be careful about who you share your passwords with and how you share the passwords. If sending a password via email, consider transmitting it as an image instead of via plain text.
  4. Self-Selected. When you setup a web hosting account, install content management software, or create databases, passwords are typically automatically generated. And while these passwords are often very complex, hackers can sometimes guess these passwords.
  5. Regularly Changed. By updating your passwords, you lessen the chance that a leaked password can be used to gain access to your website.

Your Content Management Software Has Security Holes

Content Management Systems (CMS) (Like WordPress) are used to make it easier to manage content or maintain other functionality. But there is a big downside. Regardless of which CMS is used, there are always security holes that can be exploited by hackers.
To keep your website as secure as possible always make sure your CMS platform is up to date with the latest security patches and versions.
While it may be expensive or time-consuming to keep your CMS updated, it is worth the effort. After a new update is released, details about security flaws in the older version are often released. And what this means is that if you don’t upgrade to the latest software version, hackers will literally have a roadmap to getting into your website.5.

Your Site or a Third Party Plugin is Poorly Written

Poorly coded website forms, dynamic pages, and CMS plugins/modules could result in easily exploitable security holes. To prevent this from happening, make sure that all custom code is fully tested and coded with security in mind. And before installing a 3rd-party plugin or module for your CMS, review the feedback and/or take a look under the hood to make sure that the plugin is well-coded.

Organize Your Home Office to Encourage Productivity

Creating a home office is a huge step towards being able to focus and get work done throughout the day. Unfortunately, if your home office space is a landing pad for other items, or a haven of disorganization, you may not realize just how much it affects your productivity. Creating an organized office space will help you organize your approach to working at home, or at the very least it will cut out distractions in your work zone.

Simplify

The first step to organizing your home office is to remove everything and anything that you don’t need or use on a regular basis. Simplify what goes on your desk surface, the items in your drawers, and everything on your existing shelves. In this step, you need to become a minimalist, and be ruthless about it. Relocate as much as you can out of your work space to keep it uncluttered and basic.

Arrange

Keep all of your most used items in constant, easy-to-access places. You will save yourself time by doing this because you will always know where items are, and because you won’t have to move around to grab them. If you’ve decided that an item is something you need to have in your workspace, but that you don’t use often, put it away so as to avoid clutter.

Organize

Find a system that works for you! Organization isn’t a one-size-fits all undertaking. If you prefer baskets to be labelled by size, colour and contents that is great. If your organization is a little more abstract, that’s okay too; it’s your office and you can organize it in whatever way makes sense to you.

Update

Are you still chasing paper trails and filing cabinets? Consider going all-digital to curb clutter. Keeping your files on your computer is often easier and takes up far less room than collecting paper. While you’re organizing your office, you may consider making this change as well.

You can find unique and interesting folders and boxes to organize your office in a certain style of décor. Try labeling folders and baskets so that you remember where each thing goes, and get into the habit of tidying your space every evening before you finish for the day. This will keep your productivity high as your work space stays uncluttered.

6 Must-Haves for a Great Business Plan

When you start a business, whether it’s the first or fifteenth time, it often feels daunting. In order to drum up support and capital, you need to have an impressive business plan package that shows investors that you are on the mark. There are very distinct parts of a business plan that you will need, so let’s run through these aspects.

Overview or Summary

You’ll want to start by creating an executive overview of the items contained within your business plan; it’s okay to do this after other sections. Consider this as an elevator pitch for your business.

Overall Business Strategy

In this section, you will want to lay out your business idea, growth plan and potential, current stage of growth, industry research and position and your business model. Be sure to put effort into understanding and explaining the competitive advantage you have over others in the field and offer a complete and realistic timeline of expectations. You may also want to break down your long and short term goals in this section.

Overall Marketing and E-Commerce Strategy

This is where you will lay out any and all aspects of marketing that you have thought out. Marketing is an extremely important part of business, especially in a competitive market. What are you going to do that will set you apart? Who is your ideal client? How can you appeal to that client directly?

Strengths and Weaknesses

A business plan must be realistic, above all. It’s important to assess the situation and identify any risk factors. This allows you the opportunity to create a backup plan.

Environmental Impact Plan

More and more in the business world, entrepreneurs are taking inventory based on how socially and environmentally responsible their company is able to be. Including a social responsibility and environmental impact plan within your business plan is a good business practice and will allow investors to feel confident in your company.

Financial Forecast

Financial forecasting is very important for any business owner. This gives your investors and lenders an idea of how much capital you’re looking to gain, how you will pay funds back and what your sources of income are going to be. It also lays out your plan clearly to determine their expectations in your business.

It’s important that you have a business plan both for yourself and for any potential investors; but don’t be afraid to revisit and change things as time goes on. Flexibility is as important as planning when it comes to owning a business.

Remote Collaboration Using Skype

As technology becomes more widespread and reliable, one thing that businesses are taking advantage of is the ability to hire a team remotely and work together, while not physically being together. For many, the best person for the job isn’t necessarily going to be the closest. When it comes to employing a team remotely, or even hiring a consultant or getting business advice, there are tools that can make collaborating easier despite geographically being apart. Skype is one of these tools.

Skype calls and meetings offer the ability to be able to see your team, to check in and read body language during conversations. This is an obvious advantage over using the phone, as it gives management teams a better idea of how things are going and what may need to be addressed.

Skype calls can be great for more than just video conference calling; they also offer your team the ability to share documents, share work screens and instant message one or more members of the team. The potential that this holds is nearly limitless, as you can easily work together on team projects in a way that is otherwise extremely difficult. Send out the agenda via Skype before your meeting starts, or even set the agenda for your next meeting before you finish up.

If you’re working with people from multiple time zones, there are days and times that a video meeting will not be plausible for everyone. Skype is great for this in that the video option is exactly that; just an option, and you don’t have to sign on to video in order to attend. If some of your staff wants to weigh in on voice only, that’s easy to achieve with just the click of one button on Skype, and it doesn’t impact the quality of call for anyone else.

Holding Skype meetings is an excellent way for each member of your team to feel as though they are being heard as an important member of the team. Not only that, but connecting visually tends to connect remote members better to your workplace and projects, which in turn leads to more focused work.

Navigating the Confusing World of Product Photography

You made this beautiful creation. You have spent time, energy, gave this piece a little slice of your soul and created it with love. Now you have to photograph it too???!!!

If any of you are like me, having to create this item but then to try to take these amazing photos so you can share and sell it online, is frustrating, to say the least. 99% of makers I have talked to have some kind of frustration dealing with shooting their product. Some just don’t know where to start, or have trouble figuring out how best photograph their specific product.

Others find that there are so many tutorials, products and suggestions on how to shoot their product it feels overwhelming. There are so many aspects of taking photos of your products, but it can be fairly simple, and I am here to help. Over this series I am going to share some tips and tricks of the trade to help you navigate this crazy world of photography so you can really focus you creativity on making and selling your creations – without tears and stress.

Over this series I am going to walk you through a number of different aspects of product photography, including:

  • Lighting – how to find the right light and use it advantageously
  • Basic Composition techniques
  • Backgrounds and product placement
  • Editing
  • Styling images to your brand
  • Equipment suggestions and how to DIY your own tools

I hope you stay with me over the course of this series and please feel free to leave comments below with any questions or suggestions that you may have.

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Follow along with our Maker Member Meghan from Sew Shenanigans as she takes you through the wonderous world of product photography.