Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Picture Time

When Joey and I first started our Etsy jewelry shop in 2009, we really didn’t know much about marketing jewelry. We’d sold Harry Potter themed knit scarves from 2003 to 2006, and had always used the standard home method of "put it on a wooden TV tray in the living room" for taking photos. Those worked well enough for the scarves, though Joey was a good sport and dressed up in his movie-attending costume for a few shots. (Now, going to the movies in those costumes in July in the American South is a completely other level of "good sport" – though we’ve done it before. We came home feeling like we’d jumped into a very hot swimming pool fully clothed. Ack.)

With Etsy, though, the photo is EVERYTHING. And we were one of the very, very rare Etsy cases where we put something up on the site and it sold within a few minutes. I was so jubilant. We were a hit with no effort at all! Hah, take THAT unemployment!

Yeah, then reality set in. I showed off some photos of our creations elsewhere, and one kind soul made a few constructive criticisms, such as our photo quality. I can still remember how indignant I was when I read that this person thought we needed to improve our pictures. "What?!" I thought in high dudgeon. "I don’t need to be a professional photographer to do this! I make nice jewelry and I just sold something five minutes after I listed it with my photo! What do you know, you mean person?!"

Taking criticism has never been one of my strong suits.

But, after getting over the initial indignation, I realized that the person had a very good point. I can tell you that looking back at those first photos, they were truly awful. We used this horrible yellow utility light and no light box. Everything looked muddy and off-color. Our dinky little digital camera couldn’t cut it for the really high def close up shots. So, we spent a little dough and got a better camera. We learned to make a low cost light tent. We played with backgrounds, textures, fabrics, outside, inside, natural light, daylight bulbs, Photoshop tweaks, everything. We submitted photos to Craftgawker, then realized that whatever it was Craftgawker wanted, we weren’t it and we just tried to take the best photos we could.

These days, I can’t say that our photos are the best. They don’t conform to the "Etsy look" so we don’t get on the front page. But they do show off the jewelry in a better light (forgive the horrible pun there, will you?), and you know exactly what you’re looking at when you see one of our jewelry pictures. Our photos may not be the best, but we are always learning, always trying, and always evolving. In the end, it’s not about being the best, it’s about being your best, and that’s always a work in progress.

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