Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photo Shop

It's been a busy week, with no time for blog posts -- sorry, dear readers -- but now I'm back, this time with a piece about how we do the photos for the etsy site. On Thursday, friend Eleanore came over with her camera and we set up to take pics of my newest creations.

I use the central beading area on my studio counter for taking photos. I have two lamps that illuminate that section of the counter, both with what is called "natural sunlight" full-spectrum bulbs.

A lot of the etsy photography tips talk about doing shots outdoors in the sunlight. Here in east central Illinois in late January, we can hardly remember what sunlight looks like! But these lamps are pretty good, and I put up a white sketch pad to intensify the lighting more.

We were doing a mix of new earrings and necklaces this time, and the problems are different in each case. But Eleanore's camera has a macro with forced flash and a supermacro to choose from, and even the first level macro gets much closer than I could with my own camera. That's why I had to use the generous resources of the piknik software to crop and enlarge the photos on etsy that I had taken previously. Here's one of the originals.

And here's one of the cropped and enlarged pics. See the difference? Of course, etsy shoppers can still use the Zoom feature to see details on any of the photos, but it is nice to have a bigger picture, at least for the main or first photo, I think. So I have cropped and enlarged the first view for nearly all of the 200-plus earrings on the Beaded Jewelry by Susan site by now. I'm still working on it.

I'm also listing, little by little, the set of large photos of SS/GF earrings (special beads, on sterling silver and goldfilled earwires) that Eleanore took the last time she came for a photo session, for example:

To give some variety of angles and viewpoints for shoppers, we used a few props in the photo shoot. A brandy snifter, for example, as shown in the photo with the faceted gold-coated Swarovski crystal earrings, allows us to display the hang of the earrings and yet the glass lets a lot of light through.

Another prop is a small book of subtly colored and patterned papers (bought at a fabric store that carries scrapbooking supplies as well) that provides interesting backgrounds.

The background paper can be used standing up in its booklet, with the earrings hanging down from the edge of it. It can also lie flat and the earrings can then be placed on it in various positions. We try to display the two earrings fairly close to each other, to avoid having a lot of wasted space to detract from the beads, but still far enough apart to make each earring distinct and easy to imagine on one side of the wearer's head!

Here are a couple of examples of photos taken using the background papers. The faceted blue quartz, crystal, and pearl earrings hang over the top of a sheet of blue-green swirled background paper.

The brown jasper and topaz crystal earrings were placed flat again a white and yellow-brown background paper.

It's also interesting to use the edge of the scrapbooking paper tablet as a part of the photo, as shown in the shot of the faceted rainforest jasper earrings, leaning against the edge.

 As you can see, these props, the lighting, and Eleanore's great camera make for pretty nice photos! They show you just what the earrings are like, with lots of the great detail that occurs in naturally patterned stone and intricate designs in handmade beads of glass, silver,and so on. This way, you can also see the effect of the small trim -- spacers, rounds framing both ends, flattened rondels, etc. that aren't as apparent as the main bead in a pair of beaded earrings, but which play a big role in the overall fnished look and represent a lot of small but often crucial design decisions.
This shot of Eleanore taking aim shows some of the many storage boxes with compartments filled with beads that make up my studio collection. I'm thinking about doing a blog post sometime about the evolution of the collection itself and how I store (and find!) it all.

In addition to quite a few pairs of new earrings, we also photographed (I saw "we" because I experimented a bit with getting used to Eleanore's camera) a few new necklaces. It's trickier with necklaces. You want at least one shot that shows the whole piece and others that highlight the clasp, zoom in on individual bead detail, and so on. For multiple-strand necklaces, it's difficult to get everything in the picture without it looking too full of detail. But here are a couple of our experiments, including a "funky" shot using the snifter.

This multiple-strand pearl necklace has a lot of different color, size, and shape going for it, as well as a different design pattern for each of the three strands. It may take all five etsy photos to get across the complexity and beauty of a piece like this. I guess that's part of the challenge of photography jewelry for the etsy site!
With a piece like the ocean jasper rectangles, dangling from circle chain, with Czech smokey quartz glass dangles in between each one, it was tricky to know how to lay out the piece for photography and still get enough of the whole in the picture.

This last example of necklace photography, using the snifter, is a bit odd, perhaps, but it may catch the etsy shopper's attention.

As we finished photographing earrings, they needed to be put on one of the plastic rotating displays. The displays will make it easy to find earrings when etsy sales for them come through (soon, I hope!), and we'll use them for face-to-face customers at the April show in the University of Illinois Illini Union. Husband David helped out with placing them on the display tiers.

The picture of David shows some more of the storage
boxes for beads, as well as the window leading out onto our cat patio. The six felines tried to get involved with the photography project, but we discouraged their participation for obvious reasons :)

All in all, it was a fun and productive session. Thanks once more to Eleanore! Stop by her etsy site, too, dear readers, and see her wonderful fiber beads at Ebrown2503.


  1. This was very interesting. I don't make jewelry but the photo tips are good for anyone who has to take pics of items to sell. Your jewelry is beautiful by the way!!! Thanks for a great post!

  2. WOW! Saw this post thanks to Annette's tweet. Great photo tips! I'm impressed!

  3. really cool to see how you take your photos! :)

  4. Great tips! The multistrand pearl necklace is gorgeous, by the way.

  5. Wow! Thank you for the great photo tips. I make jewelry also and I am always looking for better ways to take the photos. Thanks again!

  6. Thanks Susan. I have been so dependent on outside lighting. Now I look forward to photographing indoors with your simple and practical tips!