best of… janice bear: I’m gonna snap!

Let’s take a look back on 2011 – the posts that inspired, challenged, and encouraged us. Today, enjoy one of Janice Bear’s most popular “Tooling Around” posts from August.

How many times have you heard it?

The key to getting sales at your internet shop is having good photos.

Great! Sign me up! Oh no, wait. I take pretty mediocre pictures.  Just ask the numerous family members who I’ve snapped from only the chin down.  I also have some great shots of heads floating at the bottom of an expanse of ceiling.  And then there’s all those barely discernible figures in my too-dark photos. And my overexposure phase…Oh my gosh I am never ever going to make a sale!

Actually, over the years, I’ve gotten a lot better with my aim and judging the lighting conditions.  And cameras have gotten loads better – er – more user friendly.  I probably get a really good photo 2/5ths of the time thanks to my digital camera and all the handy things that pop up to help me take a better photo: the camera shake icon, the darkening and lightening of the display screen, auto focus, etc.

But when you’re running an online shop, a 40% photo success rate really isn’t good enough.

I don’t want you to get the idea that I think every photo I take should be perfect. Even fantastic photographers do not take a great photo every single time. They probably don’t even take a good photo on every snap. But most of their photos are good or better, and that is what every online seller-of-things should strive for.  For every not good picture of my garters I have to invest time either taking more photos or using photo-enhancing software to tweak the mediocre photos I already have.

Again, don’t get me wrong. Software such as Adobe Photoshop* is awesome stuff and you should totally take advantage of it. Adjust the color saturation, crop, play with the brightness, add your logo! Just remember, the more time you have to put into making photos of your products look good, the less time you have to make those good-looking products.

Get ready, ’cause I’m gonna snap!

Over the next few Tooling Around posts, we’re going to talk about using a camera. I am not a professional photographer. I’m not even a good photographer, but I am tired of having to spend so much time fixing photos. I want to make garters! But if I want sell those garters, I have to recognize my camera as one of the tools in my arsenal.

Me with my Canon PowerShot

I have a Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Digital Elph. My parents bought it for me a couple of Christmases ago to replace my (you guessed it) 10-year-old digital monstrosity. I love my little point n’ shoot! I have had a couple of years to play around with it, so I’ve already been adjusting the settings for awhile.  But it has been mostly trial and error (okay, mostly error), so it is time to wipe the slate clean and read the manual. For the last week I have slid the button back to the “Auto” position and allowed the camera to do all the work.

So far, so good.  Occasionally my camera has opted to use a flash  for reasons unbeknownst to me, and it has issues with bright sunlight. Starting this week, though, it will no longer be up to the camera.  I’m pushing the slide into the “Program” position and tooling around with all sorts of settings. Won’t you please come play with me?

What kind of camera are you snapping with and what tips can you share with us noobs? Comments are open, so shoot!

*Photoshop Elements is my software of choice. There are free internet programs, programs for amateurs, and professional grade programs. I have absolutely no authority to recommend one over another.  That will have to wait for another day and another tooling around.

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Editor’s Note: This post was the first of a three-part series. To read Janice’s other posts on photography tools, check out Vocabulary Snapshot and Lights, Camera, Composition.

6 thoughts on “best of… janice bear: I’m gonna snap!

  1. I shoot with a Pentax DSLR and a Fuji point-n-shoot.

    My tips would be to fill the frame with the subject (get really close), use a plain or blank background, and use as much natural light as humanly possible (much more than you think you need). And playing with perspective and angles can be fun. =D

  2. As a photographer, my pocket camera of choice is the Canon S95. Learning to find natural light (set up a product table by your biggest morning light window!) and experimenting with the advanced settings can help take your photos to the next level.

  3. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and my small camera is a Canon G9. One thing that can be really advantageous is using a light box, especially with metallic or reflective things.

    Big windows are great for natural light and one way to make the light/shadow not be so hard edged or dark would be to hang a white sheet in front of the window to soften it and a reflector or even a big piece of white foamcore or card on the opposite side can help fill in the shadows so they aren’t so dark and brighten up the product for more even light.

    Complimentary colours when using a solid background can also help make the product pop and engaging for the viewer. Of course being sure your image is in focus and with a medium to short depth of field can be useful too.

    Being sure your white balance is set for the type of lighting you are shooting under is really important. You want your whites to be white and your colour to be accurate so people know what colour things are.

    I hope that isn’t too overwhelming, I’m always open to answering questions. Good luck!

  4. I’m still very much learning (and hope to always be a student), but I’ve found that nothing beats real sunlight, but in a pinch, a flash light and a free hand do wonders.

    Great job with the blog over 2011, and good luck in 2012!

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