11 October 2016
Photography Bootcamp: A Journey to Product Photos that Rock!
Back in December 2015 I did I call out for any Made It stores that were keen to invest some time into their business over the festive season. It was for a mini photo workshop – boot camp style. The response really blew me away – so many people put their hand up to be involved and unfortunately due to each day only have 24 hours, I was only able to pick 2 handmade brands.
The first was ARL designs. At the time Arabella designed and made her own soy candles and melts in divine vintage teacups and glassware. As the Christmas shopping season is again ramping up and some sellers are no doubt wanting give their shop a competitive edge, here is a little look into our “journey” (such a buzz word at the moment) in setting out to give ARL Designs a cleaner look for her store by working on her photo techniques.
Now, first things first, here are the before photos…
• Photos were dark
• Business card / branding was very distracting
• Props were too big and sometimes not appropriate
• Images we not cropped correctly.
After a chat on the phone where we talked about how she was currently shooting her wares and what she wanted her brand to say, we worked through each point on how to make her photos sing.
Mastering the Background & Lighting
First of all, we created a consistent background. Unlike many products on Made It, Arabella’s products weren’t suitable to do a flay-lay from above, but we wanted to achieve the flat and clean background without too much stress and expense. Enter Blu-tack and a couple of pieces of white cardboard to create a sweep.
A sweep is a backdrop that employs a single piece of card or fabric hung down a wall and across a flat surface to eliminate horizontal lines between floor/table and wall. A sweep is a great tool to keep your background smooth and it doesn’t have to be white – any solid colour can work beautifully.
The beauty of a simple set up like this is it can be set up on a desk or side table rather than the floor, although Arabella “found it easier to keep hands steady and keep shots level” while she was on the ground.
After chatting about lighting, Arabella chose a room in her house that is very well lit during the day and being at that level also meant she was able to keep out of direct light.
Once the simple “plain background” shot was mastered, Arabella was keen to work on styling. She had mentioned she had struggled on ideas when it came to shooting her soy tea lights.
Arabella had previously put her business cards in the shots to show people who has created the wares. We discussed that with some thought about her brand voice and consistency in the photos she was taking, people would soon knew her work by just the way she shoots.
We talked about how to use simple items to compliment her designs, then Arabella got creative, using simple props to communicate more about her products visually. For example, styling a candle with something that tells the customer what scent it is, such as a wedge of lime, or a stick of cinnamon, helps the image ‘speak 1000 words’.
Crop the Shot
Cropping is something that so many online sellers struggle with but it is one of the easiest to fix – PHEW! Yes, there is the saying bigger is better and seeing that your customers can’t touch your product you obviously want them to see it in as much detail as possible… I get it! But flooding your store with super busy in-your-face images is not the best way to attract new customers.
Imagine you just walked into a new store in your home town, you walk in for a browse and the sales assistant pounces on you to show you ever new product they have on offer. You want to get out of there and away from the in-your-face crazy person as quickly as possible.
Busy images are like over-the-top salespeople so it’s important to ensure your images have light and negative space to allow your customer to appreciate your product. Styled images are great, but for your ‘hero’ shot (the one in your shop window) opt for a clean product image that won’t leave your customers wondering exactly what it is you are selling.
Taking the Ball and Running with it
In mid-2016 Arabella rebranded and shifted her focus to an Australian bush candle range, Bushwalk Candles
. Along with the products changing, Arabella’s brand voice changed and it shone through in her photography. Arabella now focused on styling her shots with the items that helped create and inspired her beautiful bush candle range. It also is a perfect way to set the tone of her brand for her customers.
After all the hard work, dedication and passion that Arabella has put into her brand, her product, and her photography, you can see why I am SUPER proud of her and she is now confidently nailing all her product shots!
Confidence is so important when taking photos. This doesn’t mean that you need to be confident that every single shot you take is amazing, but I mean you need to have confidence that you can – and will – get better.
It won’t happen overnight, but just like learning to swim or ride a bike, at the start its ‘hella’ scary and confronting: “what you mean I need to breath, move my arms AND kick my legs?”
But when you work at it, slow down and remind yourself that you are shooting digital, you will see improvements. Have the confidence to keep going.
You DO NOT need a DSLR. A good camera does not automatically make for a good photograph. If you only have a smart phone then you can still take amazing shots. You need to know how to use your camera and work around its limitations. Arabella uses her iPad for all her photographs and editing.
Almost all images will need a little editing. Using good natural light and nice styling makes this process a lot easier, so you should only need to tweak the image brightness and contrast and you can do this using built-in editing tools on your smartphone or tablet, or using any number of free photo editing tools on the web, such as picmonkey.com.
Meredith (a.k.a. “Honest Dave”)
Creative coach, pixel perfectionist and handmade obsessed.
Store: Dee Dub Designs