In order to sell jewellery (or anything, for that matter) on the internet, it’s no secret that you need to take particular care of your pictures. An online shop works like a shop window, but the potential buyer can’t come in to touch or try on the items. Pictures are all they get, which can be frustrating as we all know they are not always trustworthy. Who hasn’t bought something online that looked amazing on the photo and then got sorely disappointed when they received it?
I try to always post pictures that bring out my creations while showing as many aspects of it as possible. I do retouch them, but only to enhance, never to cheat.
I’ve made a step-by-step of how I usually proceed. I hope this can be useful to new sellers that would stumble upon it.
You should know I am lazy as hell. Also, as jewellery is a hobby, I refuse to invest too much in my shop. My way is therefore very much a ‘nevermind-that’ll-do’ way.
What kind of pictures should I take?
Fashion products are all about overexposed photos on a white background. Whatever you are trying to sell, the good thing about having an online shop is that you can create your own style.
Bear in mind that photography is a profession and that every customer is surrounded on a daily basis by big brands that know exactly what they are doing because selling is also a profession. Here, we have to focus their display on a personal, handmade, small business identity, but without looking amateur about it.
First, the material.
One cool thing about living in this day and age is that it’s not hard to get a decent camera. I use my smartphone. It’s 5 megapixel, which is plenty. Stores and advertising always make you worry that the resolution won’t be enough, and direct you towards overpriced 8 or 13 megapixel, but you won’t see any difference unless you print on a poster. Plus, Etsy recommends pictures 1000 pixel wide only, otherwise they’ll take too long to load (the internet customer has very little patience).
Then, the setting.
First and easy rule: you need light. Natural light is best, unless you own a photo studio.
For this tutorial, I’ll take ‘Morgane’ as an example. They are red Czech glass drop beads earrings with Swarovski crystals and silvertone caps. I’ll show a few tricks o get to the above picture’s quality.
One important trick is to avoid lights that are too aggressively bright. Pointing a lamp directly on your item won’t make a good picture: it will be too contrasted, the shadows too pronounced and the colours will suffer.
This was taken with a desk lamp pointed directly at the earrings. Even after enhancing, it’s quite awful.
The yellowish tone is gloomy, the shadows are terribly dark and my beautiful red beads lean towards a weird pinkish wine red. I had a hard time taking the picture because my own shadow kept coming into the shot. This photo gives a general oppressing feeling that makes me want to get out of here, precisely what we wish to avoid.
DIY is cool
You can easily build a light box, it’s very simple and cheap: this tutorial is good, or this one if you prefer video.
You can also put white paper in front of the light source (tracing paper or baking paper work best in my experience) to diffuse the light and soften the shadows. Just be very careful: hot lamps lead to burning paper. Please don’t burn your house or yourself.
Or try the lazy way
The best option, and the most simple, is natural light. Usually homes have windows or, even better, a garden; use that. This is my set.
The surface on which I display my jewellery is a cardboard box lid put on a stool. I bought the box in a general store for something like 4 €. It’s large enough and has some kind of snake skin imprint that gives it a discreet charm. My white painted wall often shows in the pictures too. I don’t really like it but it’s neutral enough and I can’t afford to change it. Nevermind, that’ll do (I did warn you).
A white display stand is best in my opinion. White reflects the light best, it looks professional and the items come out great on it.
Taking the pictures
Etsy, the platform I use, allows you to post 5 pictures per item; you should definitely use them all. Try to vary the shot angles and positions of the item. It all depends on what you are selling, of course. Get creative! Or course, pay attention to framing and ban any blurry picture.
I take at least one frontal picture that shows everything, one to show the beads or stones’ colour, shape or veins up close, and one where I am wearing the jewellery. As I don’t like showing my face on the internet, I crop that picture to leave only the necessary part. The rest is up to my mood or the item itself. For earrings, I always take one picture of them hanging to a simple wine glass so the buyer can see how they fall.
[Update: I made a more detailed article about listings and Etsy shops!]
Now, I took a picture of Morgane. It doesn’t do the earrings justice yet. It’s dull, a bit lifeless, and the red beads are much better-looking than that in real life. So I will now retouch it a bit.
Any picture editing software will do for enhancing. I use Photoshop because I had professional use for a license once upon a time (it’s an old version I haven’t updated in years), but you really don’t need to spend that much. Gimp is an excellent freeware, but Paint on Windows or Preview on Mac OS X are enough too. Very little browsing is necessary to learn on any software the basic manipulations I’m about to describe, or their equivalent.
Levels (Ctrl or Cmd + L / Image >Adjustments > Levels…)
I won’t go into technical details because we don’t care and I’m no expert.
Levels are easy to understand: the graphic shows the levels of brightness and darkness of your image. The higher the level, the lighter the picture part. Fiddle with the little cursors and the picture gets lighter or darker. By all means, go lighter. Be careful not to ‘flatten’ the picture by removing too much dark tones : contrast is essential to keep.
Now that’s better, but not perfect.
Curves (Crtl or Cmd + M / Image > Adjustments > Curves…)
Same concept. You have a line over the light and dark tones that you can wiggle around as you like. Add brightness while keeping darkness to maintain contrast or even add some.
Now, that’s quite good!
If I messed up the framing, I’ll crop the picture to correct it (in the toolbox / shortcut: C). Sometimes, putting the item slightly not in the middle gives a great effect. That’s called the rule of thirds. Don’t use it too much though; we are showing a product to sell, not making art photography.
Then, I shrink the picture to 1000 pixels for posting on Etsy (Ctrl or Cmd + alt + I / Image > Image Size…) and voilà! Morgane at its best.
I hope this was useful!