Photography – Make or Break?

When you are selling things on the web or elsewhere, your pictures make or break your sales. On Etsy, you’ve got about a second or less to interest your customer in taking a look at your item. Your picture has to make sense and attract the customer in thumbnail format. Your picture has to look good in 7/8-inch by 7/8-inch format. You can find a lot of help by searching for photography on Etsy. The Etsy Success emails also help the seller and periodically include tips on photography.

However, remember that these tips are not necessarily always right. One tip I see over and over is don’t use flash. Many photos use a shallow depth of field with only a small portion of the picture in focus. These pictures can appear quite arty. But, who is your customer and what are you selling? I sell supplies, books, and patterns. My customers are much more concerned with clear, sharp images. They want to know what they are getting.

I take pictures both with and without flash. I take a number of photos and compare them in photoshop. I also clean them up, crop and resize to the size and dpi I need for the web. If you don’t have photoshop, check out Picasa from Google. This is a free program that lets you edit photos.

How can you get better pictures from your camera? Your highest priority should be reading your camera manual. Boring – I know. But how else will you know what all the symbols on your mode dial mean?

My camera's manual

My camera's manual

My camera’s manual is as large as a novel but as boring as most technical writing. But, it has helped me improve my photography tremendously. You do not need an expensive camera to take great pictures. The pictures below are from my other camera. It’s a small point and shoot but still can be set for aperture or shutter (TV) mode.

Camera Back

Camera back

Do you just ignore all the buttons on your camera? Do you just leave your camera in Auto mode like this camera?

Camera mode dial

Camera mode dial

Do you know what all the symbols and letters on your mode dial mean? If you want to take a picture of your child playing soccer or some other sport, what should that dial be set at? That might depend on if you want to freeze the action or show the blur of the action. If you want to stop the action, you might want to learn about the TV mode.

Control dial

Control dial

Do you know what the control dial does? Ever want to take pictures in a place where they don’t allow flash? This dial might come in handy. You can toggle through your flash options with this dial. Do you want to take a picture of something small and need to get up close? You might want to learn what that tulip symbol means.

My mom (sorry, Mom!) was given a very nice digital camera by my brother. She only gets out the manual when she wants to transfer the pictures to the computer. I made her a pair of earrings for Christmas. She wanted to take a picture of them but could only get blurry pictures. She was too close to them to allow the camera to focus. Turns out, if she had read the manual and learned what that tulip (Macro) meant, she could have taken a very nice picture!

So, my number one piece of advice to improve your photography is to read the manual! It won’t cost you a thing. Try out all of those different buttons. Scroll through the menus. Get out and take some bad photos. That’s what the trash can button is for!

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