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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On The Bias

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Finished Bias Binding

I’m not sure what sewing rock I’ve been living under, but I spent some time this weekend  relearning how to create buttonholes (with an attachment), and learning how to make my own bias binding from my fabrics.  As to the buttonholes, I learned the “old school” way how to make them using the zig-zag stitch on my machine many years ago, and am able to do this very well.  I have to admit, though, that using the special buttonhole foot for my Baby Lock machine makes it a fairly simple task!  We’ll call that discovery Number 1.

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1/2 Yard fabric squared, 1/4″ seam stitched on three open sides, and first diagonal cut made in top layer of fabric.

Discovery Number 2, however, really is just a sewing wonder.  I’ve now learned how to *somewhat* easily make bias binding.  I say somewhat because it involves a few steps, but after my second try I had it figured out, and I have to tell you it’s like magic!  I still don’t quite see how it works; all I know is that it does.  If you are a quilter you may already know how to do this, but in case you don’t let me refer you to the website of Pat Bravo.  She has a simply fantastic tutorial there that will guide you through the steps to make your own bias binding out of any fabric.  No more limits to the few colors of bias binding that they stock in your local fabric store.

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Seams pressed and cutting lines being drawn.

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Rotary and scissor cuts being made.

That knowledge, along with my Simplicity Bias Tape Maker that folds/presses the bias tape for you, gave me exactly what I needed.    Once complete, my original 1/2 yard of fabric yielded a little over 9 yards of bias tape. I also see from searching online that there may be a special foot for my machine that will fold and sew the bias binding to my project, so I may still check into that via the shop where I purchased my machines.

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Simplicity Bias Tape Maker at work.

Also, in looking further at Pat’s website, I see that she designs fabrics and creates her own patterns, both of which are sold at my favorite online store for quilt cottons, hawthornethreads.  So yeah, you bet, I ordered some of her luscious purple and aqua fabrics.  They have the modern, clean, crisp designs I love so much.

So why, you ask, did I need to learn how to make buttonholes and create my own bias binding?  I’ll reveal the reason tomorrow!  Do you have a favorite way to create bias binding?

So Very Taxing

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Taxes.  Bookkeeping.  Accounting.  Not my favorite subjects.

However, after discovering Outright, I have eased the burden of bookkeeping significantly.  Outright was recently bought by GoDaddy.com, but is the same software program.  As a small business owner, you can create a free account with access to one year’s worth of records.  There is a yearly charge if you want unlimited access to all records, and/or assistance with tax forms.

You connect your business accounts directly to Outright, giving them authorization to pull information nightly and keep your records updated.  You can include accounts such as:

Paypal, Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, and even banks and credit cards

After linking, Outright immediately starts importing your sales and expense transactions.  You are able to add your own expense records into categories, very much like Quicken does.  As for me, I use Outright strictly for tracking my income, and still use my own Excel spreadsheets for tracking expenses.  But the option is there if you need it.

So if you need a little help in the bookkeeping department for your small business, check them out.  You will be amazed at how easy it is to set up an account, and impressed with the time saving options this software provides!

Sewing Space

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Sewing Studio

As today is the last day of September and National Sewing Month, I thought I would share a few other ways I have my sewing studio set up for ease of use.  Please see my post from last Monday to see my favorite methods of fabric storage.

There’s one thing you can’t ignore with sewing, and that is how you set your space up for cutting fabric.  One of the main reasons I like to sew smaller items is that it makes setting up the space for this task much easier.  I only use a 2′ x 3′ cutting mat, along with my 2′ Omnigrid ruler, 6 1/2″ Omnigrip square, and rotary cutters for all these chores.  The real trick here is to get your cutting board at the right height for you, so that you don’t develop unnecessary back problems!

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Cutting Table

Along with my cutting space I also wanted an organized area to store all my patterns I have developed.  I knew that narrow trays would be the perfect solution.  I found the right combination for cutting/storage at the Container Store, by combining two of their 16″ stackable Elfa drawers with six narrow trays and one medium tray. These trays pull out for easy access to my patterns, and in fact the top tray holds my rotary cutters and extra blades as well.  The deeper tray at the bottom holds my Toughtek fabric, which is quite heavy, and the freezer paper I use for all my pattern making.  Labels on the fronts of drawers make contents quickly known.

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Layers of Cutting Table Top

I added the Container Store’s “stick on” silver melamine to the top of the unit, and attached four casters to the base.  I have never needed to use the locks on the casters (stays steady enough for cutting without the need to do that), but  this addition makes the entire unit easily movable for times when you might need the space for other things.  Since the melamine top is approximately 21″ square, it is not quite the right size to support the 3′ x 2′ cutting mat.  Another solution – I purchased a lightweight 1″ thick drawing board, which just happens to be exactly 3′ x 2′, from my local Michael’s store to give my cutting mat the support it needs.  Perfect!  And again if space is needed you can easily take the cutting mat/board combo off the top and store away as needed.

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Sewing Table Drawer

The other thing that helps me the most with my sewing tasks is my large sewing table.  I have to admit I splurged here and purchased a dining table for my main work area.  This table is big…long enough to hold three sewing machines side by side.  And yes sometimes I have them all set up at once, and can quickly roll my work chair from one to the other.  I have my regular machine and my serger, and a second regular machine that has black thread and a walking foot for sewing the Toughtek bases to my pet beds.  And the best thing about my table is the built-in narrow drawer, which stores all my thread, scissors, and other sewing instruments.  Keeps all that away from the kitties and neatly stored.  All in all, a perfect sewing room guaranteed to keep me happy!!

Do you sew, and if so do you have a favorite way to set up your sewing space?

 

Fabric Storage

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In honor of September’s National Sewing Month, I thought I would share my favorite methods of fabric storage.

To store my lovely fabric stash of quilt cottons, I recently purchased some white glass front shelves from Ikea. The glass doors help protect the fabric from dust and my kitties. But the best part is that you can easily see just what you need, without digging through a stack of fabric. And to be honest, I just love looking at them all neatly folded and color sorted. It’s like a nicely organized bookshelf, except there is fabric instead of books!

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I have all of my scrap or small yardage quilt cottons, that I typically use for my quilt block beds, stored in small canvas bins on Elfa shelving from the Container Store. These little canvas bins are available in different sizes, and are nicely accommodated on different shelf depths. They also come with a clear plastic label area. Again I have them color sorted, but rather than type out what colors are in what bins, I just used the fabrics themselves for the label fronts, so that I know which bin to grab on my next project.

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For bulky fabrics, like my minky fabrics, I have found that nothing works better than these large canvas pop-up laundry bags I found at the Container Store. They are wide enough, and deep enough, to hold quite a few yards of the fabric. Since I stock 37 colors, I purchased several bags for color sorting.  And, in my case, the bags fit beautifully underneath my large sewing table. An extra bonus!!

My utility fabrics (canvas/muslin/batting) are stored in large clear plastic tubs with lids that I got at my local Target store. I do have some unwashed bolts in the room, but like to transfer the fabric to these tubs once washed. Choosing clear containers lets me quickly keep track of my inventory of fabrics washed and ready for cutting.

Thanks to Lucy for assisting with the photography.

How do you store your fabrics? I would love to know!