Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Etsy Thoughts: Learning about Product Photography through Treasuries

I am (and have been) trying to ramp up my Etsy sales to the place they were before the existence of my little AJ about 2.5 years ago. A lot has happened in that time that has made keeping up a real challenge. Etsy’s search has changed from chronological to relevancy, which has thrown sellers for a major loop. New methods of promoting items are needed since the old standby of “renew, relist, repeat” is no longer getting the exposure needed to earn a reasonable wage.

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One method of promotion I am trying to improve on right now is curating more treasuries on Etsy. I am fortunate to have my items featured regularly in treasuries made by others, and I’m at the point of trying to reciprocate by featuring those same shops in my own treasuries. It’s good to have friends.

But sometimes… despite combing an entire shop for something I can work with… I just can’t do it! Some shops really have photos that are simply unfeaturable… including them would nix any shot of that treasury making front page. So it makes no real sense to include them, and that makes me sad. While not at all trying to sound “craftier than thou”, I would hope that every Etsy seller knows that there are some simple guidelines floating around the interwebs that will vastly improve the appeal of one’s shop photos. I am guilty of many many of the following missteps myself over the past 5 years, but practice and persistence has given me a much better “eye” for what looks right. One good way to quickly identify what has appeal and what does not is to make treasuries. Even seasoned veterans like myself can get inspired about styling shots, current trends and “what Etsy wants to see” by browsing for a purpose.

Some photographic faux pas are simply “a deal-breaker, baby”, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon. The following list are just some of the issues I have encountered recently while preparing treasuries. They illustrate a lot of common mistakes by “new” product photographers, as well as highlight some issues that can be easily solved by basic photo editing and artful cropping.

  • Harsh lighting with really dark shadows (you really do want natural daylight, not supernatural daylight)
  • Significantly gray-, blue- or orange-tinged backgrounds (white balance issue)
  • Images that clearly used flash (I’m seeing too many shiny babies… you just can’t hide the drool)
  • Images that are >90% BRIGHT white (item appears to be disappearing into a snowstorm)
  • Crazy, busy or just plain weird backgrounds (distracting; it’s hard to see what the item actually is)
  • Odd item placement (creative styling is good… in moderation)
  • Highly visible and/or centered watermarks (if you hold onto something too tightly, you strangle it)
  • Images with frames (misses the mark for meshing with Etsy’s aesthetic, and doesn’t mesh in a collection either)
  • Images of items whose design has clearly been “borrowed” from my shop (LAME-O!)
  • Collaged images with loud backgrounds (the magazine look gone bad)
  • Images that are not cropped well (key components can’t be seen in the main photo)
  • Black backgrounds (while not aesthetic delinquents by themselves, they just don’t play well with other photographs)
  • Fuzzy close-ups (two words: auto. focus.)

I wish I could show you some awesome examples, but since it wouldn’t be positive promotion, I won’t do it. But this stuff is important, and I hope that by identifying a few areas that could use improvement might help someone. One great basic, easy to use option for fixing the photos that are already up is FotoFuze. It’s not perfect, but it is designed to be used with Etsy and it effectively cleans up white balance issues and other simple fixes without being too clunky (but it’s still so much easier to just take better photos to begin with!).

I made up 3 treasuries yesterday to kickstart a promotion-heavy season. I use the Schmetsy treasury tool for making treasuries easily and sending convos (I’m not nuts about clogging people’s conversation boxes, but it’s how things are going these days). I used a Red Row Studio html tool to functionally link to each element of the treasury below. I am continually finding clever apps to fix challenges and time-consuming elements of being an Etsy shop owner, and I’m very grateful for that.

'Continuum in Warm Tones' by thejunebride

A collection of lovely things I've found while wandering through Etsyland today. Thankful for such a vibrant and beautiful place to be inspired!


Echinacea - 8 X 10 Photograp...
$20.00

Rustic Jute Twine / string /...
$20.00

Antique Mercury Glass Christ...
$22.00

Fall autumn gold hydrangea b...
$10.00

Wooden earrings jewelry wome...
$19.50

white birch forest topograph...
$140.00

Sweet Lemon Cream Soap Handm...
$5.75

Burgundy Red Entrelac Shawl ...
$46.00

Cranberry Soy Candle - Sweet...
$10.00

Yellow Prairie Flower Photog...
$30.00

Christmas Tree Ornament - Ra...
$28.00

Salacia -- A Royal Colar of ...
$165.00

Felted Acorns, moss nature ...
$12.00

Fruit Photograph Red Cherry ...
$15.00

Leather sandals. Ankle wrapp...
$168.00

ORIGINAL LINOCUT "Gemst...
$110.00

Treasury tool supported by the dog house

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Craftsy Education: Decisions, Decisions

Happy Feast of All Saints! I hope everyone had a lovely treat-filled evening with friends and neighbors!

As you know, I am a big time Craftsy aficionado and, more legally pertinent, an affiliate. What does that mean? I love Craftsy and have decided that, since I will promote them regardless because I think Craftsy is a benefit to humanity, I might as well use my pertinent posts to link in a way that *might* earn me a couple bucks without asking anyone to spend any extra money. You may interpret that as, “If you enjoy reading this blog that no one pays me to write and you also happen to want to sign up for a Craftsy class, you should feel very free to click a link in this post to do that; any commissions I earn are very much appreciated and will go straight towards my fabric habit.” No lie.

logo-LearnItMakeIt

I think the concept and execution of the online class taught by industry professionals is simply genius. As I have mentioned before, I purchased 3 classes with my own hard-earned cash, and have been so pleased with the immense volume of knowledge that I have gained already. I’m (still) working my way through the Bombshell Dress and have watched some videos from both Jean-ius and the Couture Dress. The lessons are so information-packed that it takes some time to really absorb it all!

Online Sewing Class Online Sewing Class Online Sewing Class

Back to the point, Craftsy is very generous (or perhaps better said, marketing savvy) and has offered their affiliates the opportunity to take a complimentary Craftsy class, with a small extra incentive to blog about it. Heck yeah! Free Craftsy class?? Sign me up. This reminds me of a really annoying commercial for a brand of gum (can’t remember which), where some parents come home  from an evening out and offer to pay their babysitter in gum. Right. But seriously, I’d be willing to do rather a lot of work to be paid in Craftsy classes.

My main issue here, people, is actually choosing a class! I am very interested in both the Pants Fitting and Pants Construction classes by Sandra Betzina. I ruled them out (for now!), however, based on the fact that I still need to fully make it through Jean-ius before embarking on another pants expedition. Also really mesmerizing is the Product Photography class, though I am likely not their target student at this point. Also the Artisan Cheese Making (oh, how I love cheese!) with Mary Karlin and the Artisan Breadmaking with Peter Reinhart. Drool. I really need a class that can fit into my Fall/Winter available time, and bonus points if it helps accomplish some Christmas gifting in the process. So…

The two leading candidates were:

Jam and Marmalade the Blue Chair Way

with instructor Rachel Saunders

jams

and

Decadent Chocolate Cakes

with instructor Alice Medrich

cakes

Either class would be amazing and helpful at this busy time of year (and beyond!). Both are kitchen-related and should be accomplishable in a day of effort (after watching the videos and acquiring ingredients). Both look really interesting to me. So… which to choose?

After thinking really hard about it (more thoroughly than I probably should have), I chose the Jam and Marmalade class. I was inspired by the delicious jam we received as a wedding favor (blogged on homemade English muffins a few days ago). My husband didn’t sound excited (but then, he’s not into cooking!) and my mother-in-law thought this might be very basic (but then, she is a very experienced canner in her own right, and I am a complete novice). I have no doubt I will benefit from watching and learning the whole process. Neither of my two experiments with canning fruit preserves turned out as desired… the strawberry jam I made about 6 years ago was soooo runny, and the citrus marmalade from 2010 set a bit too hard, though it was tasty. I clearly have much to learn. And I am going to start watching the videos today, while I oversee some house repair work. I will report back when I have pretty pictures of jams for you!!

If you are interested in learning a craft that will serve you well through the holidays, you might be interested to try some of Craftsy’s totally free mini-classes. I am signed up for the Modern Buttercream class, and I imagine this will provide some insight and inspiration for me to jazz up some Christmas treats!

free modern buttercream cake decorating class at craftsy.com