Archive for the Photo Editing Tips Category

Etsy Photo Basics… Closing Arguments

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

A few lingering points to keep in mind for your photographs.

Keep It In Focus

The worst thing you can do is post a blurry photograph. Buyers want to clearly see what they are purchasing. Follow Etsy’s guidelines for photo size, which is 1000 pixels wide and at least 1000 pixels deep. This allows for sharp photos and for the buyer to zoom in on the photo.

Cover Every Angle

Buyers will want to see the product from all angles. Use all 5 of your photo options. Remember the whole object does not need to be in your first photo.

That’s My Style

Another hot debate on the forums is styling. Some like it, some don’t. Styling is fine and can work for you, but you need to tread carefully here. Over-styling can cause your photos to loose focus. Don’t have so much stuff in your photos that the viewer is confused as to what is for sale. Another option is to make sure that your “style” objects are not in focus.

In the photo below the left is the original. In the right photo I recropped the photo and blurred the background slightly. The right photo is much more appealing, less busy. The focus is on the product being sold, but you can still clearly make out that the photo was taken in a kitchen.


Multiplying Multiples

If you are selling supplies or multiples of the same object you don’t need to feature every single one in the first photo. Try to artistically arrange your objects. If all the objects are exactly the same, feature just one or three (odd numbers work best) in the first photo.

By the way… I’ve noticed that suppliers are especially guilty of not using more then one photo. You should always have a variety of photos. Like I said above, cover all the angles.


Try not to place items used for comparison in your first photo. Suppliers especially like to put coins in their photos to use as comparison. Using comparisons are good… just not in that first photo. Often your eye coins right to the object that is not like the others, thus changing the focus of your photo. Remember there are four other photos to use.

In the photo below the left is the original which is static and your eye tends to bottom out at the ruler. On the right I re-cropped the photo. Notice how the right photo is much more dynamic and interesting.


The 2-Dimensional Artist

I highly recommend that you scan your 2-dimensional art if you can, especially for your first photo. By scanning your art, you will get a far more accurate representation of your art. And on the plus side you won’t have that pesky “keystone effect”.

If your artwork is too large to scan and you must take a photo, be sure you correct for any lens distortion. Here is tutorial on correcting lens distortion.

Color correct your photos to accurately portray your artwork. If your artwork absorbs too much light and mutes the colors (red does this) note this issue in your description. I have a very deep red abstract painting on my site that totally absorbs the light, both in scanning and in photography. It will probably never sell online because it just looks dull.

In the photo below the left was the original photo. On the right I adjusted the lens distortion and adjust the color and brightness. The right photo is much more appealing, especially as the first photo.


The Etsy Crop

One of the most bothersome things I see over and over is letting Etsy automatically crop your photo. Take the time to crop your first photo into a 1000 x 1000 pixel square. It is important that you control how your photo is cropped. You want the most appealing photo possible for that shop door to open.

Here is a nice article on cropping. When I am cropping square for Etsy I get my crop tool and define an area (holding down the shift key will keep it square), then I move the “crop area” around my photo until I get the most appealing crop.

In the photo below; the left was cropped by Etsy, in the right photo I re-cropped it. The right is a much more appealing and effective crop.


You Spin Me Right Round

Make sure your photos are rotated to the correct position. Your buyer doesn’t not want a neck injury trying to view your photo. They might pass you right on by if that have to tilt their head to view your photo.

Be careful when taking photos at an odd angle. It can cause unintended consequences… items appearing to fall backward, awkward viewing angles, etc.

Drowning In A Sea Of Watermarks

If you’re going to watermark your photos, please use discretion. Having your watermark plastered across your photo makes it very difficult to view. I personally will not use any photograph with a watermark plastered on in a treasury… they are too distracting. And a watermark will not deter someone determined to use your photo. I can delete most watermarks in a photo editing program in very little time… all it takes is a little experience.

If you must watermark your photos do so in the bottom right or left corner in small type. I personally put my copyright notice in the text of the description.

Your Investment

As I said in the beginning… your biggest investment will be in time. Taking the time to take good photos, crop them, edit them. You have a goal… to get customer’s to open that shop door, to make sales, end up in a treasury and even the front page. The better your photos are, the better your chances are your shop will get the attention it deserves.

Etsy Photo Basics… People Who Need People

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

Now I delve into the difficult and sensitive subject of using real live people in your photos. When using live models is done well it’s great, but all too frequently its disturbing and downright bad.

A Real Live Human Being

Some of the arguments for using live models is that it gives the viewer a good sense in how the product will look like on them. There can be more “movement” in the photo and/or garment. Personally I think it depends on the item and how good the photograph is.

If you’re going to use a model…

  • Don’t decapitate them. It’s usually disturbing. If the decapitations is happening to keep the model identity anonymous, then use a mannequin.
  • Do not black out/blur out the face of your model. Once again, its very disturbing.
  • Make sure your model is not standing flat against a wall… not only boring but often looks like a mug shot that just needs a prison number.
  • Make sure your model stands out from the background. The photo needs to showcase the product, not look like a snapshot of your friends.
  • Make sure your model is clean. I know this sounds like a basic to-do, but I’m amazed at the number of models who look like they just climbed out of bed and haven’t showered in days.
  • Know your buyers… you might think that you’re targeting a hip funky teen crowd who doesn’t mind tons of tattoos and piercings… but it might be their grandmother who is shopping and you’re not endearing your shop to them. It’s important to remember that the people with the most disposable income are over the age of 30.
  • If you’re selling jewelry, undergarments, swimwear and even hats… you need to be careful. Many people consider this a big hygiene issue and do not want to buy products that have already been in someone’s ear, on their hair or on close to those “private” areas.
  • Use models that are average in size for garments… this means size 8 to 12. One of the biggest ways to turn away buyers is to have all your models be a size 0, very few people are actually this size. Your product might look fantastic on a size 2, but if your buyer can envision wearing it, they won’t buy it.
  • Make sure you’re focusing on the product… no point in shooting an entire body shot when you’re selling a neck scarf.

Below are two photos using models. The one on the left has several no-nos in it… the face is blurred, the model is flat to the camera, she is blending into the background. While looking at the photo on the left we can tell all sorts of things about the seller… she likes crystal, has a fireplace, etc. The photo on the right is the correct use of a model. The model is not decapitated nor blurred. The photo is focused on the product. The model is not blending into the background.


The Good, The Bad and the Manic Mannequin

On the other side of the coin is the mannequin debate. Some prefer using a mannequin as they feel it gives a look of consistency in their shop. There is no hygiene issue with mannequins. But, some people are freaked out by mannequins.

If you’re going to use a mannequin…

  • You’re better off with a featureless mannequin, a dress form, or a torso.
  • Stay away from the scary manic mannequin, you’ll just scare away customers.
  • Make sure your mannequin is not blending in with the surroundings.
  • Be careful of how your photo is cropped. Decapitated mannequins can be disturbing too.

Below are two photos showing the use of a mannequin. On the left the mannequin is blending into the background making the product hard to see. The photographer also tried to use an odd angle. Unfortunately it makes the mannequin look like it’s tipping backward. The photo on the left is a good use of a mannequin. The product stands out from the background.


You Baby/Child is Cute But…

A big pet peeve from a lot of buyers on Etsy is the abuse/overuse of the cute baby. Cute babies and children pop up on all sorts of listings, whether or not the listing is child oriented. While cuteness has always been a selling tactic, it can get stale fast.

If you’re going to use your baby/child in a photo…

  • Make sure your product is oriented toward a baby or a child. I’ve seen photos of babies selling yarn… ewwww is all I can say to having a naked baby on yarn I might be buying.
  • Make sure your photo is focused on the product and not the baby. There is no need to shoot the whole naked baby when you’re selling a hat.
  • Have variety in your poses, the same curled up baby ala Anne Geddes is boring.
  • If you must blur your child’s face so they can’t be identified… then don’t use them.

Below are samples babies selling products. On the left… are we selling the baby, the hat, or the photography studio? The right is a good example of using a child, the product is for a hat.


Give ‘Em A Hand or Not

Another popular photo “prop” is using hands. Once again I think it depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling gloves, mittens, cuffs, etc. I can see using hands in your photo. But too often I see hands holding up products or cupping products, etc. I find this instance of hand use disrupting. Most times the viewer will find themselves focusing on the hands and not the product. One comment I recently saw in the forums… “I don’t want to see someone’s hairy knuckles and dirty fingernails trying to sell me something.” Common sense would dictate that you would have at least clean hands. Let’s face it… most of us do not have the prettiest hands… they are calloused, scarred, wrinkled and vein-y. That’s why there are professional hand models. If you can, keep your hands out of your photos.

The Endless Debate

Model versus mannequin is and will be an endless debate. Whichever method you choose, make sure you are taking good photos that highlight your product, not the model nor the mannequin.

Etsy Photo Basics… Lights, Camera, Action

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

Ok… I admit it, not much action. But certainly lights and camera are my next subject. Lighting is one of the most important elements you need to think about when shooting your photos for Etsy. There is nothing worse then a dark blurry photo. If your potential customer’s can’t clearly see your listings, they aren’t even going to think about buying from you, let alone visit your shop. Having dark, badly lit photos is the equivalent to opening a store in your great aunt’s basement… you know the one… dark, damp, musty and smelling of cat urine.

Lighting is a difficult subject. So many things to think about… true color representation, shadows, fill light, flash, etc. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially for someone who is new to Etsy.

Natural Lighting

The easiest and cheapest solution for lighting is to take your photos outdoors or in front of a large window (shades up of course). The best time to take photos outdoors is around noon, when the sun is the highest in the sky, therefore the minimum amount of shadow. The lower in the sky the sun is (early morning, late afternoon and evening) the deeper the shadows. Early morning and evening can also cast an orange on your photos, as oft times the sun is in the smog layer.

I have read suggestions that you take your photographs in the shade. But you must be careful about shoot in shade because it casts a blue light, and you might have to color-correct your photos.

Indoor Lighting

Indoor lighting is very tricky when you aren’t using a lightbox or studio lighting. Most of the lights in our homes cast some sort of color. Incandescent lights usually cast a warm yellow light. Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights can cast green, blue or pink light.

Using a lightbox will allow you to flood your subject with light without creating harsh shadows. Building a lightbox is fairly cheap and easy, here is a good tutorial on building one.

Flash Photography

Using your flash is always an option. But flash can cause harsh shadows and reflection. You can soften the harsh lighting of flash with a bounce card. Here is a link on creating a bounce card.


One of the best and relatively inexpensive investments you can make is in a tripod. Using a tripod can help eliminate a lot of problems with: blurry photos, camera shakes, low light, etc. Most all digital camera can be mounted on a tripod.

Photo editing software cannot rescue you from blundering with blurry photos. To be taken seriously on Etsy your photos must be in focus.

Me and My Shadow

Far too often I see photos with a shadow cast from the photographer. If you aren’t using a lightbox, you must be conscious of where your shadow is falling. Stand where you want to take the photo from, and before you lift the camera up to take the shot, make sure your shadow is not falling across your subject.

Color Correction

With photo editing software you can do color correction. There are a variety of ways you can improve your photo: color balance, hue and saturation, curves, levels, etc. A handy option is Variation. In variations you can see your photo with a variety of changes… more red, more blue, etc. Below is a screen capture of the variations window in Photoshop/Elements.


If you do use photo editing software to correct color, keep in mind that you want a true represtenation of color. You want your customer’s to be happy when they receive there item, not furious that the blue scarf you advertised is really green-blue.

In conclusion lighting can make or break your photo. With good lighting you have clear in-focus photos with good color representation. Bad lighting equals bad photo which can equal bad product in buyers minds.

Etsy Photograph Basics… Change Your Point of View

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

The next subject I’m going to tackle is perspective, centering and depth of field. By altering these things you can take your photos to another level.

A Little Off Center

Too often when taking photos we have a tendency to center our object dead center in the photo. This tendency is reinforced by our camera’s center focus. Unfortunately this makes the photo very static, and often boring. In order to create a more dynamic image most visual artist’s use the “Rule of Thirds“. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. This link has a good explanation and examples of the rule of thirds.

Basically the easiest way to compose your photos using this guideline is center your product within the viewfinder, then shift the center away from the center of your object. Take the time to see whether your product looks better to the right third, the left third, or perhaps to the top of bottom. Take several photos… this is when it really pays to have that digital camera.

If you are having a hard time using the rule of thirds while taking the photograph you can use photo editing software to crop your photo to make it more dynamic. Since Etsy uses a square format for its pages it makes it easier to crop your photos for a more artistic look.

Below is an example of using the rule of thirds. The photo on the left was the original, the one on the right was re-cropped using the rule. Notice how your eye wants to move around the photo on the right. The curved bottom of the rim draws your eye back up to the top of the hat.


Some items like the bracelet below create their own movement and event though it is centered in the photograph, it is following the rule of thirds.


Change Your Perspective

Another way to spice up your photos is to change your perspective. When taking photos, we have a tendency to lay them down on a flat surface, then stand over product and take the photo. This too can make a very static image.

Try shooting your products at eye level. Kneel down take a look. Try shooting from eye level, slightly above and slightly below eye level.  Something so simple and make a big difference in your photos.


How Deep is Your Field

Another technique you can use for your photos is having a shallow depth of field. When you have a shallow depth of field only focal point  is in focus and as the rest of the image “falls away” from the camera lens it becomes blurred. Using a shallow depth of field keeps your eye focused on the most important part of the photo and eliminates background distractions.

When using a SLR camera depth of field is determined by your aperture setting (f-stop) and lens focal length. Setting a large aperture (wide open iris) gives narrow depth of field, and a small aperture (closed down iris) gives a wide depth of field. With a digital point-and-shoot you can manage your depth of field through the macro (tulip icon) setting.

With photo-editing software you can easily change a photo’s depth of field. Here is a link to an Adobe Photoshop/Elements tutorial on changing the depth of field.

The photos below show examples of depth of field.  The first photo has a wide depth of field so everything is in focus, even the printed page under the earrings. The second the focus is to the front blurring to the back. And in the third the focus is on the back object with the front object being blurred.


Up Close and Personal

Do not be afraid of getting close to your subject. There are many examples on Etsy where an item is lost in a sea of blankness. Buyers want to see what they are buying, they don’t want to search your photo for it. Once again use the macro function on your camera to get really close to your subject. This is also another application for photo-editing software… being able to crop your photos.

In the example below the left photo is exactly how I found it on Etsy, in the right photo I simply cropped the photo to zoom in on the earrings.


Opening the Shop Door

Don’t worry about not showing all of your object in your first photo. Remember… you’re trying to get people to open the door to your shop. You have four other photos to represent your product in. Especially with your first photo you want to create interest, you want to tempt, you want them to come on in!

Etsy Photograph Basics… The Pitter Patter of Patterns

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

Once again we dive deep into the background issues. Maybe you want to have something a little more snazzy then a neutral background… A little pattern or texture, maybe photograph your product on a page of words, a drawing, etc. I’m not going to tell you not to use these methods. But I am going to say your must be careful in your use of a pattern/texture background. Sometimes they can enhance your product, but all to often the pattern takes over and you lose your product in the photo.

I can tell you flat out that I never want to see your Formica table, your carpet, your simulated wood-grain table. That just screams… “I’m too lazy to take a good photo.”

Below is a sample of bad pattern/texture photos:


In all of these photos the background is competing with the products and in the last photo, making the earrings disappear almost entirely.

Here are some samples of good pattern/texture use:


In all of these photos the pattern/texture enhances the products.

The Power of Editing

One of the great things about having a good photo editing software is the ability to edit an okay photo to a great photo. In the photo below the text background was not horrible, but it was interfering with the product some. I took the photo into editing software, took about 15 minutes to define the background and did a 3-pixel gaussian blur. The difference is huge. Now the products really pops out at you. Now I considered this a quick and dirty (but I’ve been using Photoshop for over 15 years). For a novice software user, it will take you a little longer. But learning how to use photo editing software will reap you many, many benefits.

whistleedited copy

Baby Steps

If you want to start incorporating pattern/texture in your backgrounds, start out slow. Invest in a piece of natural-colored linen. The linen will give some texture and a little pattern, but won’t overwhelm most products. You also might look at scrapbook papers with very soft, patterns, white on white, ecru on white, gray on gray, etc. Another source of subtle texture can be flooring tiles.

I think you should steer away from using bed linens. First of all… they usually need to be ironed, and those wrinkles are not easy to blur out. On my other site where I sell my knitted products I use a white towel, which I blur. The towel ends up looking like fresh fallen snow, a perfect background for scarves. Towels, because of their thickness, have a much softer look and feel then bed linens.

You also want to be careful when using nature as a background. You don’t want your product to get lost in all the leaves, grass etc. We also have a tendency not to get as close-up to the product when you’re trying to incorporate a nature background.

Once again take some time to look at photos on Etsy and critique them. Are they good? Are they appealing? Can you see the product? Do you like the look and feel? If so then save the photos as an example of what you want to strive for.

By the way… I’m not picking on jewelry. But because of the size and the amount of products for sale on Etsy, it’s usually easy to find good and bad photos.

Etsy Photograph Basics… In Praise of the Neutral Background

Posted in Photo Editing Tips with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2009 by kellyjcallahan

Why should you care about your photograph backgrounds? Because each photograph you place on Etsy, especially the first photo for your listing is an advertisement, an invitation, a reason to “open” your shop door. And you have a LOT of competition. Your listing needs to stand out against 20 other products on a page, not including the promoted items. Let me reiterate that…. TWENTY. And you have about 5 seconds or less to catch a buyers/searchers attention.

Unfortunately too many sellers make the mistake of trying to catch attention with BRIGHT, BOLD COLOR IN THE BACKGROUND. Notice the caps… yes I’m yelling. That’s because if you are using bright colors in the background, that is what you are doing. You are yelling at YOUR CUSTOMER and more then likely turning them away. Also, bright colors can often clash with your product, and most importantly totally over shadow it.

It is important to remember that color has a psychological effect on people. The reason most fast foods decorate with bright yellows, reds and oranges is that those colors make people uncomfortable… and it moves people out of the restaurant in a hurry. In higher end restaurants, they make their money by you staying and ordering more, so they decorate in soothing greens, blues and tans.

Color meaning also changes from culture to culture. Take the color red… if a bride wore a red bridal dress in the United States it would be considered odd and that she was perhaps a woman of ill-repute. But in India it is the color of purity and used frequently in wedding attire. The traditional white wedding dress means innocence and purity in European cultures, but death in Japan.

Here is a short article on colors and moods that you might find helpful.

Using a neutral background with help “display” your product. By neutral I mean gray, white, black and sometimes tan. Neutral can also be considered some greens and blues. Two things to keep in mind about your background: 1. don’t let your background over-power your product; 2. make sure your product doesn’t disappear into your background.

Below is an example of bad backgrounds:


In the first photo, the color of the background is blending with the product. The product doesn’t “pop”. In a sea of twenty other photos, your eye will pass right over it. The second photo, while doesn’t scream at you, the description of the earrings are Pink Flower Power. The yellow background has totally changed the color of the earrings. In the last photo you can hardly see the product. The background should have some color to enhance the earrings.

Below is an example of good background choices:

background1In the first photo the seller used white, the earrings stand out and you can clearly see the color. The dark grey was a great choice for the silver birds, the color is not reflected in the earrings and you can easily see them. The same with great use of the green background against the pearls. The product stands out and the background is not getting all the attention.

Take some time to look at photos on Etsy and critique them. Are they good? Are they appealing? Does it give me a headache to look at? Do you like the look and feel? If so then save the photos as an example of what you want to strive for.