Photography for Etsy

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I have been asked before about how I take photos for my Etsy product listings, so I thought I would take you through my process step-by-step.  One of the things that makes Etsy such a great community is the willingness of sellers there to help each other out!  Hopefully you will find some useful information within this post/video, even if you are not on Etsy.  Also be sure to do a search in the Etsy Seller Handbook for some super photography tips, and if you are into photography via your smart phone, my friend at “We Live in a Flat” has some fantastic phone app tutorials!

To start, I use my Sony Nex C-3 digital camera, along with Photoshop (older vs CS2) for my product listing photos.  Although I definitely love my iPhone with it’s apps, I find I get the best detail work from my Sony camera.  One of the best things I did after getting my digital camera/Photoshop was buy a couple of good photography books.  My favorite is “Photoshop CS4 Workflow” by Tim Grey.  Although it was for a newer version of Photoshop, it taught me the basics about keeping my photos organized and saved for later use.  After reading this book a couple of times, I developed a quick “cheat sheet” for editing/saving my photos.  Although I no longer need that list, it was indispensable when I first set up my Etsy shop!

Here are the steps I use when creating my Etsy product listings, with a video of the full process.  With photographing pets I will say that I always take photos with good daylight (windows at my back) and never, ever use flash.  I take most photos on my bedspread because it is an off-white matelasse fabric which gives a nice white background to start.  Taking photos when pets are most cooperative (i.e. not too close to dinner time) is also a good idea!  And be sure to take LOTS of photos; you can always discard the ones you don’t want to keep.

1.  Make a copy of chosen original photo and move to my desktop (this way my true original is always intact).

2. Open File>Save As, and rename photo “Master [Photo Name].”, then save to Photoshop (psd) format.  Notice that photo is renamed in top left-hand corner.

3.  Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels.  Click ok to leave layer settings as is.  Using the little triangles on the graph adjust by dragging triangles to “match” graph, and click ok.  In this case I needed to pull the small right-hand triangle in toward center of the graph, which made the photo much lighter.  This small step will do WONDERS for most photographs, which are usually too dark.

4.  Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast, click ok for layer settings, and adjust to your liking.  I usually increase the contrast and brighten the photo slightly more.  Just be sure the photo doesn’t get washed out.

5.  Repeat Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer with Hue/Saturation and Color Balance to your liking.  Increasing the yellow slightly in the Color Balance section will warm up your photos if you think they are too “blue”.  In more recent versions of Photoshop I believe you can do all these adjustments via bar sliders on your screen, but this is how I have to do it with my older Photoshop version.

6.  Now within my Layers Panel I click the icon to ‘Create a New Layer’.  Rename this layer “Dodge”.  From the left hand Tool box select “Brush Tool”.  Leave the brush settings as is, with Normal mode and 100% Opacity.  From the color picker change the color to White.  You will use your computer keyboard bracket symbols to increase and decrease the size of the brush tool.  What you are going to do now is white out any unnecessary background in your photo, which will give a very polished, professional look to your listings.

7.  I complete a quick overview of the photo for any small corrections needed.  With the Background layer highlighted, select the clone stamp tool from the tools menu, then hit ‘Alt’ on your keyboard and click your mouse once in the area you want to copy the pixels from, then click once with the mouse to the area you want to paste pixels into.  Repeat as needed.

8.  Do a final save on your fully edited Photoshop master, then go to Image>Duplicate to duplicate the image.

9.  Crop the image to 850 px wide by 550 px tall (160 resolution) for Etsy (cropping as you choose), then go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask and sharpen about 100%.  Leave “Preview” checked to see your changes.

10.  Save for Web, noting the image size in bottom left-hand corner of your screen (try to keep at 100 K or smaller).  Change name of file to “Final [Photo Name]”.  Image will be saved as a JPEG.  It is this cropped/sharpened image that will be used on your Etsy listing.  Your original Master photo will remain intact with Photoshop edits in case you want to crop to a different size/resolution later, for example if you want to produce your photo as a print.

Hope this helps and if you have questions, please ask in comments!

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