The Importance of a Good Image – A Tale of Two Purses

A pet peeve of mine is bad pictures. Now, I know not everyone has a state-of-the-art camera, a high-end light box or professional photographer in the family. However, we all can recognize a dark, over-exposed, blurry or out of focus image and those types of photographs should not be used to represent your merchandise. I’ve actually sat looking at images and had to ask other people to come look at them to try and figure out what they were a picture of… “Do you see a clasp?” “Are there beads?” “Is that an arm?” I’m sure you’ve seen those types of images before too. Do you know how many sales those people are going to get from the merchandise in the picture? I’d venture to say, “None.”

Something else to be on the lookout for? Wayward items in the background of your pictures. If you set an item on a table in your house, make sure to put some kind of fabric drape behind the item. No one needs to see your dirty dishes on the table in the background, your cat or your underwear hanging on the doorknob (yes, I’ve seen that photo!). You also want to try to avoid getting other people or your own body parts in the picture. Laying the beautiful, painstakingly-created sweater on your dirty carpet with your toes in the photo is not going to get you customers. So, make sure to check your pictures for all outside intrusions that could prevent a sale.

Background, lighting and focus are key to good photographs. We’ve taken many quality photos with bed sheets as our backdrop, light ones if our merchandise was dark and darker ones if our merchandise was light to really bring out the details. My daughter made a make-shift light box with a box lined with white paper and her pictures look as close to professional as any amateur photos could look. There are directions on how to make an inexpensive light box online.

I use to have a hairdresser who would say, “It’s all about the product, babe.” In this case it’s all about how you set up your merchandise to be photographed. If you take the time to find a good backdrop, take some practice shots adjusting lighting and learn to focus your camera on the right spot every time, in no time the process will get easier. That means that in the future you will have a shorter set up time to arrange things in the way that worked before and that your pictures will turn out better every time.

Don’t default to, “I don’t take good pictures.” It just takes a little practice. Sure, there’s a learning curve, but it’s worth the time! Good pictures can make a huge difference in how people respond to your handcrafted merchandise. Make sure to take a few pictures with different lighting and from a few different directions. You can always delete them later, but to put everything away and then realize the one shot you took doesn’t look good once you uploaded it to your site is a waste of one of your most important resources – time!

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I’m going to tell you a quick tale of two purses that I bought from crafters on etsy. One was just beautiful in the pictures online. The person had a lot of sales and I could see why, all of her craft work pictured on her etsy site was exquisite. When the purse arrived I was surprised and kind of disappointed. The purse was actually flimsier than it looked in the picture. It was not quite the show stopper I was hoping for or that I’d imagined it to be from the pictures. It was still an attractive, quality item, but a little less impressive than I was expecting. This person has thousands of sales to their credit.

The second purse I bought looked okay in the online images. I was shopping based on color, pattern and size, more than looking for a show stopper though. I was ambivalent about buying it, but it fit my wardrobe and the season, so I purchased it anyway. When the purse arrived, it was so much more attractive than the pictures I had seen! I have had so many complements on that purse. Someone even offered to buy it from me after I had been using it! People are always stopping me to ask where I purchased it. The person who created this purse had a few dozen sales to their credit, nothing even close to the other seller yet their purse was more professionally crafted and much more attractive in person. There wasn’t much difference in how they ran their businesses except the quality of their images and that is why I’m saying make the effort! Practicing taking pictures of the items you sell before you're in a time squeeze to get your online shop stocked. A few hours dedicated to learning to take better photos is really all it will take.

One final thought, I know photography might not be your passion, but why take the time and heart to handcraft your wonderful merchandise only to spoil it with a "good enough" attitude when it comes to taking pictures? Take a cue from the Tale of Two Purses. Respect your handiwork enough to represent it in photos with the same care you craft. It could make all the difference!