Starting an Online Business - Part IV - Product Images
Part IV - Product Images
One of the most fun parts of having an online business for me has been taking images. But, it's also a terribly time consuming process once your products start numbering in the thousands.
Stock Images: Some companies make available images for their products. This is a quick way to get your product listed on your website. Once you've placed an order with a wholesaler, ask about images. Sometimes they're provided on a disk, sometimes they have a download. Why take your own images you might ask, if the companies provide them?
Well, first off.....sometimes the images are too good! Or the color may not be right at all once the product arrives. Sometimes it's very import to show the product from a different angle. An item that looks square in a photo or round....may not be that way at all. If you don't display an image from the side or back it can be misleading even if you give dimensions in the product description.
Some products may photo better in a natural setting....such as a handmade wreath hanging on a door. It just depends on the product. Sometimes I'll use images of products in their natural setting, then also an image with all the detractors removed. Adobe Photoshop or any other robust photo editing software will work.
I'm not a professional photographer and readily admit, not all my images are the best but after several years of taking images with all sorts of lighting styles.....I generally wind up using natural light. I have a corner of the shop set up for my photography and have given up on special lighting. I use basic backgrounds of white and black. I do have a small light box and I use that sometimes when I'm just doing small glass ornaments. Taking your own photos is essential when selling on eBay and websites like eCrater require it. If you use stock images on eCrater you will get listed as a "drop shipper" and this lowers your chances of being found in web searches. I use plenty of stock photos when they appear to nicely represent the product.
Backgrounds - White poster board or foam boards used for science projects. You find them at Wal Mart, etc. They are tri-fold which is perfect for standing the board up, or laying it down so you can place your item on it and have the board in the background too.
Drapes - Purchase black and white fabric by the yard at a craft store. Secure it with thumb tacks to your poster board, wall etc. A white sheet or tablecloth works in a pinch.
Red is a HARD color to photograph.
Use a good digital camera. Don't post any photos that aren't in focus!
Use your Macro setting.
Experiment with the setting by taking photos of the same project with different settings and see which one looks best. However, that same setting may not work for the next product.
Flash - Occasionally this works in our shop, but when I use flash I generally move back several feet from the product.
Shadows - sometimes your clothing may be causing a shadow and if you just hold something like a piece of white paper over your chest while taking close ups of products helps. Same in using a light box. Place your item in the light box and just have the lens of your camera poking through the opening of the light box. When using the light box I do place some lighting on 3 sides of the box.
Editing - Keep the product out so you can see it when you're editing your photo. Be very careful when editing the color and remember that what you're seeing on your screen, won't be the same image that the next person is seeing.
Positioning - Place the item in it's natural position. Something like a Christmas ornament should be photographed in it's hanging position. If showing more images adds to the description, take more. Sometimes the back of an item is just as pretty as the front. Photos from all sides will show the depth that is sometimes difficult to describe.
Lighting - Experiment - experiment - experiment. Most all my images are taking with the Macro setting. Sometimes when I need more light, I hold up a piece of a black foam sheet close to the product, get my setting, lower the black sheet out of the way and take the photo. Experiment.
Like I said, I'm no professional photographer...and these are just trial and error tips that I've learned through the years and I'm always looking for better ways to take images.
Photo Size - your website package should give recommended sizes for your images. The larger the image, the longer it takes for customers to download. I crop all of my images at 400 x 400 and keep them square. Thumbnails are automatically generated from my primary image. But, my previous experience with a couple of other websites was to take the primary image and also create a thumbnail image. I would look for a website that creates thumbnails automatically. If you don't keep your images square, the product in your thumbnail may be cropped in such a way that it doesn't show the whole product.