Notes from a Ruby Plaza Newbie Shop Owner - Focus on Photos
inApril 26, 2011 - 6:42am
With an online shop, taking eye-catching photographs is Job One. As the months have gone by in my newbie world, I have found improving the quality and impact of my photographs is immensely satisfying. Love my new Canon G12 digital camera, however all you really need is a camera with a macro setting and the ability to adjust the white balance exposure. If you aren’t happy with your photos, try borrowing a few cameras from friends; you may notice a big difference in both ease of use and quality of photos.
Please keep in mind that I am sharing in the spirit of getting >better, not being better! For some professional advice, Ruby Lane has on file a number of great articles done by Carol Scheer, owner of the shop A Return to Splendor. Here is a link to her great, and very specific, articles http://blog.rubylane.com/search/node/Carol+Scheer
Here’s what I have learned along the way:
Build a light box: This can be a cardboard box base with parts of three sides cut away then covered over with white tissue paper. This allows diffused light in, reducing shadows. The fourth side cut out and the top are uncovered to reach in with your camera. My white background paper often shows as a grayish and must be photo edited white (done with contrast adjustment and exposure settings – sometimes I have to keep fiddling to avoid over contrast, etc.). See Photo #1 of the KJL dragon. Notice on this photo that it was taken at an angle instead of straight down to add perspective.
Use props: I take at least 20 photos of every item so that I have lots of options. One favorite prop is a thick pale blue glass dish that curves and allows the light in from the bottom, giving the jewelry a floating effect, as per photo #2 (milk glass pin). I also like the slight tint for some items (can be a distractor for others). Notice that the pin is positioned at a diagonal to fill the frame and edited with edge fading, which draws the eye to my item. I love how some jewelry looks nestled into soft chiffon or silk scarves that are either one color or a palette of softly muted colors (see photos 3 and 4). I have purchased a hand and torso mannequin – still looking for an affordable one with a head attached, like Carol Scheer recommends! I change outfits for my torso mannequin to show off the jewelry. The hand prop can be turned at various angles and can even be used to hold a piece like a necklace with the palm open. You’ll notice that the torso shots may be close up, at a distance, or at an angle (see photos 5-6). It’s fun to experiment with various props – just keep to the rule of making your prop an enhancer, not a distractor.
Edit your photos: The best shots tend to be the ones that fill the picture frame as completely as possible, particularly for your gallery shot, so use your cropping feature first off. Your photo editing should enhance your item’s strengths without masking its weaknesses. My editing routine starts with having the piece right there for reference then: crop, adjust sharpness, adjust brightness and contrast, and finally fiddle with exposure, tint, and saturation until it seems as accurate as possible. My goal is that my visitor will want to pluck my item right off the page. Recently, I’ve added the designer’s name to my gallery photo so that visitors have that key information up front in an easy-to-read font (my current choice is Verdana, size 24 in bold).
Tips from a Pro: Before writing this, I reviewed the photographs at the Ten Most Popular Jewelry sites. One shop whose photos really stood out was JordyB’s (she also has a Ruby Lane shop), owned by Kim Ingraham. Turns out she has been a professional videographer, so I asked her to share some tips. She was kind enough to do so, and here they are:
1. Use a white, black or muted solid color background - NO other items or patterns
2. No flash photography it washes out the details
3. Shoot preferably in direct outdoor light with diffusion- never shoot in direct sunlight
4. Use a photo finishing program like Picassa or Photo Shop to adjust brightness, contrast, color saturation, color hue & to crop the photo
5. Never use less than 4 photos
My last tip is to look at your own shop’s photos often. I may add a listing at one time of the day under one set of lighting conditions, only to discover that it looks too light or too dark in my actual shop photo. While transferring items to my second shop on Ruby Lane, I’ve discovered that many (actually, most) of my photos benefited from re-editing. That’s the bad news; the good news is that the more we work on our photo skills, the better we become! One last tip: the RL/RP systems allow you to edit photos right there as part of the “modify” options.
I invite others to share techniques and props, including their item photo so that all of us can keep learning.
By D’Anne Brownell
2Hearts Plaza Jewelry (Ruby Plaza) http://www.rubyplaza.com/shop/2heartsjewelry
Hearts Uptown Jewelry (Ruby Lane) http://www.rubylane.com/shop/2heartsjewelry-rl