tooling around: i’m gonna snap!

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.

14 thoughts on “tooling around: i’m gonna snap!

    1. Hear hear! Now that I set my camera back to “auto” I wonder why I switched it off. Sometimes it is so much easier to let the little box do all the work. But, sigh, then how would I ever learn?

  1. Photography is such a ordeal for me. My problems are a bit different to most, my items are often so large (bed size quilts) and are mostly white, it is very difficult to get the entire thing well lit, in focus and with correct color balance, let alone artfully styled.
    Hopefully I can pick up some useful tips from you.

  2. I used to have a big cannon slr – but it broke and i downgraded to a little sony point and shoot. It takes great pictures. I definitely want to upgrade again but for now i just use photoshop to adjust the levels and the curves to balance the weird colors my camera sometimes produces.

    my best photo tip….
    get a piece of white foamcore (or a white sheet) and place it opposite to your light source. the light that reflects off the white foam core will create a great fill light so the shadow side of your piece isn’t quite so dark.

  3. I’m shooting with a Nikon D5000. I don’t know much about photography, so I usually wait for my husband to have the opportunity to take the photos for me. He is much better at it than I am. But sometimes that takes awhile. I would like to be able to take photos on my own and as a result get more photos of my items in my shop, instead of either a) waiting for awesome photos from the hubs, or b) getting impatient and taking horrible pictures myself. I’m looking forward to learning from you over the next few weeks.

  4. I use a Canon Digital Rebel…which is basically the starter SLR camera…I’ve shot tens of thousands of product shots of my jewelry and I’m still learning. I attended a conference a few weeks ago where I had the great opportunity to chat with Danielle Maveal of Etsy and she gave my a quick overview of things to consider when shooting images of products. The two major takeaways from our conversation were to use foamcore to help you reflect light onto a product when you’re capturing the sun from certain angles and to use models as much as possible. I really need to adopt these into regular routine for product photography, but now I know I have 2 solid things to work on!

  5. Photos are a chore sometimes. I think that you need to find a style and a set up that works for you. I dislike props, think they distract from my jewelry and rarely use them. But I do like a neutral background and for me that means a slate tile from the hardware store. I can change the tile around to acheive the look I want. I tried the daylight photos in the window and while that is great, I am mostly taking these pictures at night and living in Wisconsin, it is gray and cold a good portion of the year, so the outdoor natural light thing doesn’t work for me. I tried an expensive light box (tip: find a tute to make your own) but I disliked it as I was always having to adjust my photos. I DO still use the lamps that came with it, with some vellum over the bulb to diffuse the light. And I like the effect that I get. Am I the greatest? No. But when I hit “I’m feeling lucky” button in Picasa (I prefer it to Photoshop Elements), it rarely does much adjusting for color or light. So I feel that I must be onto the right thing for me.

    This is a great article and I look forward to reading more. Oh, and I use a Canon Rebel xTI 10 megapixel camera on a macro setting.

    Enjoy the day!

  6. I have a canon digital rebel too. But I’m the kind of person who use to put her fingers in every single vacation pictures… (with this one, it’s pretty much impossible). I think the lense can make a huge difference and Photoshop is great to correct little kinks…

  7. Just in time !! I recently decided that i have to start taking atmosphere shots of my etchings and like the little red hen – after pestering the whole family for help have decided that the only real way it’s going to happen is if I learn to do it myself. So – I have a new point and shoot and Scoutie Girl has arrived on the scene of the crime (on a white horse ?? :-)

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