ISO etsy help
December 5, 2007 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get some items sold on etsy with limited success and I have a bad feeling my photos are to blame. I don't have an SLR... what do I do

Short of buying an SLR (and I don't know anyone who has one that would be willing to lend one), I will link to my shop and you can tell me if the photos are so bad that they won't sell. I'm specifically referring to the more expensive ornaments -- more expensive b/c they take more time to make, but I'm guessing that the intricate handiwork isn't showing up in the pix and therefore won't show.


I know Kinko's has a scanner you can rent by the minute - I don't think a scanner would help me as these are 3-D. Is there a similar service for close-up photos?
Or is it just that my prices are prohibitively high (I'm not going to lower them b/c I'd rather keep them than sell them for less than what it's worth to me, but would be interested in knowing if that is partly to blame.
posted by chickaboo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Something like this DIY Macro Photo Studio might help you...
posted by benzo8 at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2007

I think your prices are too high. Especially for the stereotypical Christmas ornaments. The dog and rooster are very cute, but I am not sure they are compelling enough to sell at that price point. The photos could be better, but they aren't horrible. The other thing about Etsy, is that you really have to do a lot of promotion in other places. It's not enough just to open an Etsy shop, you really have to work to drive traffic to it.
posted by kimdog at 8:34 AM on December 5, 2007

Part of the problem appears to be that your camera isn't capable of focusing on something as close as you are putting your ornaments to the lens. Thus, everything is out-of-focus; notice that the leaves in this photo, for example, are actually sharper than the ornament; this is because the leaves are actually far enough away to be focused on, while the ornament is not.

Luckily for you, most digital cameras have a "macro" mode that allows you to focus on closer objects (while removing the ability to focus at infinity, which you'd want if you were shooting, say, a landscape). The near-universal symbol for the button to switch to this is a little flower; see here (from a quick google image search) for an example.

I would try switching your camera to Macro Mode and re-taking the photos. You may be surprised at just how much detail even lower end digital cameras can resolve in decent lightning, and with Macro Mode, you can probably get close enough (and still focus) to really expose the hand-made detail that you're trying to showcase.
posted by tocts at 8:34 AM on December 5, 2007

What camera are you shooting with now? Also, price may be partially to blame.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2007

I've had great results using a scanner for eBay items, including many items that are not as flat as yours. If it fits on the scanner glass, you are likely to get a much better image from scanning it than taking a photo (e.g. perfectly even lighting).

Using the scanner at Kinkos is probably a good way to test this for your items, but getting your own scanner would be cheaper if you decide to keep doing it.
posted by winston at 8:38 AM on December 5, 2007

Right now I'm shooting with a canon elf
posted by chickaboo at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2007

Kimdog is right in that you need to promote your shop in order to make sales. I actually think your photos are okay, though they could be better if you fix the focus issues and maybe stage the photographs in a more interesting and artful way than "I hung this ornament on a bush in my backyard." (I hope that doesn't come off as harsh -- it isn't meant to be.)

One other thing you might want to try is having a few different types of items in your shop. Right now, the only way someone will find your store is by searching for ornaments. If you add, say, a couple of plush toys and maybe some sort of houseware, then your shop will turn up in more searches.
posted by kitty teeth at 8:45 AM on December 5, 2007

Well, for a start, it looks like your camera is focusing on the background in most of your photos, rather than your peice. You should see if you can set your camera to use a central autofocus point to make sure it focuses on your subject. You'll want to make sure the light metering is also using the center of the image. Check you manual for details. If you ever want to take a picture with the subject off-center you can center the camera on the subject, push the button half way, then recompose before pushing the button the rest of the way to take the photo.

Another thing that could be causing the focus problems is that you are too close to the subject, and it can't focus that close, but I'm guessing that isn't the case here, since most digital cameras have a fairly short minimum focus distance. Still, it's something you should look up in your manual. Move further back and crop if you have to.

On a related note, make sure the camera isn't at the wide end of the zoom range when you take pictures because that will cause some distortion.

You should also reconsider your choice of background all together. Even if your focus is more squarely on the piece, the background is going to be pretty sharp, which is going to distract from things.
posted by Good Brain at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2007

Despite the fact that they're Christmas ornaments, have you tried other backgrounds besides the green leaves? That background is relatively busy and distracts from the items. Perhaps an item like a penny next to them might help for scale.

I'll also second that they appear too expensive. $12.50 for little felt mittens just seems very high. They're not distinctive enough to justify that price. Either put a little more work into customizing them, or maybe lower the price. Maybe a 4-pack for $25?

On second glance, I realized now that they actually open! Show that opening, or a little chocolate peeking out or something. I only bothered to look because I was helping you, the casual shopper only sees the front, the price, and keeps moving.
posted by explosion at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2007

Your photos may well be part of the problem. You've got higher prices for example, on the mittens. But near as I can tell from looking at them, the mittens are the least intricate of the items you've got for sale.

That said, I also wouldn't pay nearly that much money for those ornaments in general. They've got a very naive style to them, it kind of makes them look like a child's handwork (though obviously the craftsmanship is better than what a child would do). That would make your prices hard for me to swallow.

It might also help if they were photographed on a background that looked like a Christmas tree, rather than a hedge.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2007

Nthing the prices/hedges. The pictures look fine to me, although I do suddenly have a taste for pesto ravioli.
posted by cashman at 9:11 AM on December 5, 2007

Ouch cashman!! :)
posted by chickaboo at 9:11 AM on December 5, 2007

You don't need an SLR. As others have said, macro mode would really, really help you though.

You could also experiment with different lighting methods, but I don't think the lighting is so bad in your photos.
posted by kidbritish at 9:14 AM on December 5, 2007

That strobist article on light boxes (or search the internet for "light box diy" or similar) will give you a lot of tips. It really does make a difference.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on December 5, 2007

I think the most important thing is to make sure the ornament is in sharp focus. Like tocts said, use the macro mode. Also, a tripod would help (although I don't know if your camera is tripod-mountable, if not maybe rest it on something if you can). After you take the picture, when you review it on the LCD screen of the camera, zoom all the way in to confirm that the ornament is in sharp focus.

It looks like you are taking the pictures outdoors, which may or may not be ideal depending on the time of day and amount of clouds and sunlight. For example, in the photos of the little mitten ornaments, the white trim of the top of the mittens is overexposed and you can't see any detail there including the buttons. This is partly due to the harsh lighting of full sunlight (taken at mid-day it looks like, morning or late afternoon light is better). You might want to find a well-lit place indoors, right next to a large window that gets a lot of light. The glass of the window will diffuse the light and you might get a more professional and more consistent look.

Overall, I like the style of the photos. They are simple and colorful. But since they are Christmas ornaments, I really think they should all be on Christmas trees like the felt bell ornament is.
posted by daser at 9:21 AM on December 5, 2007

There are at least three or four different light boxes you can make for cheap at Instructables and elsewhere, that would give you some nice lighting for your photographs. Outdoor sun is way too harsh for these close ups. Also consider taking at least one more photograph of each thing you sell - I wouldn't buy a handmade ornament unless I could see what the back looked like. I'd photograph each one on a christmas tree, and then another angle shot in a white box or different setting.

Your dog is totally adorable. You should consider making it in several colorways, and expand beyond just ornaments. Pins, bookmarks, pincushions, small toys, etc.

I agree with what everyone else has said so far. You mention putting little chocolates in the mittens....well, do that! Put candy in them and photograph them. I've purchased a few things from an etsy seller named Smeeta, who has items that are priced similarly to yours. She's sold over 1,000 little felt thingies since she opened her shop. Take a few pointers at how creatively and effectively she stages her photographs, and how cute and appealing she makes everything seem. Here's another shop where the cute little felt things are marketed as...whatever you want them to be - magnets, pins, cell charms, backpack buddies, etc. See where dudesbybebot writes "I can make Seth into a brooch, magnet, keychain, or an ornament. Pictured is Seth as an ornament"? You might think of doing something like that, which is going to give you tons more tags for people to search.
posted by iconomy at 9:21 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would take the photos over a solid color, something neutral. The background is too busy, and it's tough to really see them. (and your camera does seem to be trying to focus on the background and not the ornaments).

Also tough to determine size against that background. The suggestion of a coin is a good one. I've also seen it done with a ruler. Maybe close ups, too, showing the details would be nice.

And yeah, like some others have said, the prices do seem to be a bit high compared to what I've seen at craft fairs, etc, for similar items. Sorry.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:24 AM on December 5, 2007

i can't tell how delicately made they are unless i look really close- can you make it a little more obvious? like, what if you made a pair of model mittens with slightly more contrasting thread and button, to show the handiwork? don't use a bright colour combo because people will want to buy it and you're not selling it. (although i do think a brighter, more contrasty colour combo would sell, too.) but maybe a colour combo that's very close to the ones you have for sale- close enough to almost pass for same- but actually, has a bit more colour contrast so that the stitching shows more?

is there a way to link up with another etsy seller who's selling like rings or barettes or something, and pitch your mittens as a cute way to "wrap" the small items the other seller makes?

those are cute little mittens, though. they interest me more as dinner favours than as tree ornaments- the fact that they have a pocket is a key way to pitch them. i'd call them "mitten pockets", not "ornaments", and i'd stage a photo demonstrating their use as a party favour- maybe tuck a pretty candy or nametag inside, and wrap the ribbon around a cutlery & cloth napkin roll-up so the mittens are resting on top with the candy peeking out, like a place tag at a dinner party?
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:25 AM on December 5, 2007

The mittens, going along the train twistofrhyme was on, are similar to something I saw elsewhere- they were pitched as a cute way to set the table for holiday parties, or set up for a buffet. They used them as holders for silverware. Maybe make a couple up like that, and photo them on a festive table next to a stack of plates, to give someone that idea?
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:40 AM on December 5, 2007

I'd really like to see you have multiple images for each item. I love seeing them in context on a tree, but you could also have a scan where it picks up the details of the embroidery or a shot of one with something in it.

Oh, and nthing macro mode or just backing up. Your camera shoots a much bigger file than you need, so it's OK to take a sharp picture from farther back and crop out a ton of tree.
posted by advicepig at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2007

Wow so many great creative ideas here. Thank you! I am so inspired to go reshoot these, and more images... love the place setting idea...
posted by chickaboo at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2007

Definitely try getting far back enough to get a SHARP image, even without macro setting. Then, yes, you can crop it.

Outdoor light is probably really good. If you end up taking photos inside, you might need to adjust the color using a photo processing software.
posted by amtho at 10:36 AM on December 5, 2007

Also, you don't necessarily need macro features on your camera. You might be able to get a similar effect if you zoom all the way in and step back a little.
posted by rhizome at 10:39 AM on December 5, 2007

I think your pictures are fine--much better than a lot of the stuff I see on etsy.

You've only been on etsy since March. How much marketing have you done?

Etsy has tons of sellers. The market is at capacity unless you have something out of this world unique.

Take the advice about photos upthread, but also realize that if you really want to make cash thru etsy, you have to market yourself and get your name out there, and that it takes time.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:47 AM on December 5, 2007

Another point I forgot to make: if you buy things from other etsians, they will often buy things from you.

Also, join and show your stuff and invite critiques, and comment on the things that others have made. Put your etsy store url in your sig there - if people like your stuff or your comments they'll click through and check you out.
posted by iconomy at 11:34 AM on December 5, 2007

I found this crafter's tutorial on web shop photos to be the easiest to understand.

She does say right off the bat that a camera + lenses (DSLR) is going to yield the best result, but she has some great ideas about how to pose your photos. And she uses Picasa to edit her photos.
posted by santojulieta at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2007

I think your prices are too high. What are other similar ornaments going for?
posted by sugarfish at 3:28 PM on December 5, 2007

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