Product Photo Props

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Now say that three times – real fast! But seriously, though, there is much to be said for giving some creative time to selecting the props that you use in your product photography. I am fortunate in that I don’t typically need props for my products, other than engaging my pets as models. But what do you do if you really need to “stage” your products to show them at their best?

My first suggestion is to just take a look around you.  You know your product, so look both online and in brick and mortar stores to see how your product type is displayed, and decide which models would serve you best.  Magazines are also a great source of inspiration.

Black-mannequin-DSC02490Great Jewelry Display

For example, do you sell jewelry or clothing?  Would a mannequin like the one above work well for an overall jewelry display?   For individual jewelry pieces, would a beautiful slab of stone, or a piece of tile or wood work as a backdrop for your products?  Look at products sold on Etsy.   Which photos catch your eye and make you want to purchase?  Taking great photos for online selling is essential, but before the product shots you need to gather the props.

Final-White-Fudge-NewRound White Plate, Vase, and Paper Lace Props

My daughter recently asked me to assist with some photography of her food (sweets) that she wants to sell online.  The first thing I did was search for some great props.  What a fun assignment!  I found plates, cups, silverware, and a couple of pretty little dish towels that work beautifully to help show off the fudge and other sweets she wants to sell.  I even used a very small vase and some rosemary twigs from the garden for some of the photo shoots.

Small-Fudge-Honey-400pxWhite Oval Platter and Celtic Honey Jar Props

For one set of photos I used some little vintage children’s blocks with lettering.  Search your home and what you already have on hand, or borrow items from family or friends to use as props.  The photo above has a Celtic design honey jar from Scotland that I have owned for many years.  You can find amazing things at antique shops as photo props; the little bit of nostalgia they provide for photos makes them quite charming!

Final-Food-PropsColorful Food Props

Have fun gathering!

 

Crafts and Fairs

Austin-Expo-Booth

Well, the recent Austin Pet Expo I attended is over.  I have been reluctant to attend a big event like this, and I think I now remember why – they are a lot, and I mean a lot, of work!  It was a fun event and I handed out dozens of business cards and met lots of pets and their owners.  I think the best thing about any in-person event is getting to meet folks directly and talk about your products/business.  And you get really great feedback.  People tell you what they do – and don’t – like, and why.  I consider all input good and informative, letting it serve as a basis for possible product refinement and new creations.  One thing I saw at the event was people carrying their small breed dogs in slings, so when I find time that may very well be my next new design!  My best seller at the expo was my new pet idBandanas, which I will be writing more about soon.

One really neat thing I finally was able to use at the pet expo was my Shopify card reader.  I used it on my iPad (after first testing it at home), and it worked beautifully.  Honestly it worked so well that I think I could just sell things from anywhere, just like you see in the commercials.  Perhaps I should carry it, along with my new pet bandanas, in my purse.  Hmmm…

I also know that I don’t want to do a really large event like this again.  I think something much smaller, and even closer to home, would work much better for me.  I would be interested in attending a fair that only requires a 6′ folding table and a couple of chairs, along with a limited number of my smaller products  like bandanas, toys, blankets, and crate mats.  I don’t want to think that all my preparation work and extra things I had to purchase or create for this event will be wasted by not having another event, I just want to keep it smaller and more manageable.  I am certain that there will be at least one local fall craft fair that will suit me perfectly!

That being said, my other decision since the Expo ended is to put my crafts back on Etsy. Etsy admittedly has the greatest global marketplace, and has been the best overall venue for me.  It worked for me prior to blogging, social media, and attending any craft events, and that’s really saying something.  I do still hope that in time my new shop website will replace my Etsy shop, but for now products will be listed in both locations.  I will be spending time the next couple of weeks getting everything re-listed on Etsy, with product descriptions that match those on my new site.  Fall has always been an especially busy time for me as a crafter, and I know that September is sneaking up quickly.

The best comment I received at the Austin Pet Expo-

Your creations take pet products to a whole ‘nother level!

Glad you think so!

 

Photography for Etsy

Photoshop-Tut-Header

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!

Etsy Shop Sale

Final-Lucy-Sale

After a couple of inquiries from customers on my Etsy site, I have added a ‘BlackFriday10’ discount coupon for 10% off on anything in my Etsy shop!  This discount is good through the end of the day on Monday, December 2nd.  You may follow the link here to my Etsy shop, or click on the “Visit my Etsy Shop” link in the sidebar.  Enjoy shopping!

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.

Final-Bias-Binding-1-

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.

Final-Bias-Binding-4-
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?