Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Esty Seller: Beaded Tortoise - A Photographer's Perspective

Color is my strong suit. I am more of an arranger-of-color than I am an artist. To me, the most important component of your online business is the quality of aesthetics on your shop. No matter how great your products may be, I will personally pass up your store if it's not visually appealing. First impressions mean a lot, and even if people aren't aware of it, they will infer that you are not serious about your work if your shop looks sloppy (unless it's really cheap-- then it takes on that thrift-store, treasure-hunt motif).

Christina is relatively new to Etsy, but you wouldn't know it from looking at her shop, BeadedTortoise. As a professional photographer, she has an edge that many of us don't. I was elated when she gladly accepted my request to interview her and share some of her tips and tricks with us. Check our interview below:

Me: Christina, you are a photographer by profession, which explains why your pictures are so vivid and the color is so beautiful. Can you explain to Etsy sellers the process you follow to get such great images of your products?

Christina: Well, thanks for the compliment on my photos! I can say that jewelry is really one of the hardest things to photograph. I've been at it for a little while now and while I've learned alot by trial and error, but I think there is still plenty of room for improvement.
I have studio lighting (flashes, umbrellas, softboxes etc) that I have used, but I do not think they are required to get great photos. Most of my best results have come from using natural light, whether direct sunlight or soft window light or a combination of the two. I like to shoot my pieces in different ways so that people can really get a better idea of what that piece of jewelry really looks like.
I use a digital SLR camera, mostly because I have one, but don't think it is necessary. You do get more control and better optics with a DSLR than your average point and shoot, but I have always believed that fancy gadgets aren't what make great photos - a good eye, some experience and creativity are what gets results.
I have a large (24x30 in.) piece of Museum white matt board which I use to lay my jewelry on and I set up by a large window inside for most shots. With gemstones, I like to take that setup out into the sun too to get that flash and sparkle that only a very strong directional light can give. I like a clean look to my product shots so keep the staging to a minimum, but sometimes a prop or two can really give the photo more character and appeal.
I process my digital files in Photoshop, but there are other good (and often free) editing programs out there. The basic tools you want are the ability to crop, and control brightness, contrast, color balance and sharpening. But if you work to make sure you have a proper exposure and white balance to start with, then the editing is just tweaking for best effect. Every type of lighting has it's own "color temperature" and matching "white balance". Almost every camera has the ability to select this white balance, and it really is one of the most important aspects to consider. Without a proper white balance, you won't get true colors and will struggle with your images. For jewelry in particular, this is SO important.
Other than that, just experiment and see what works for you and what you want to "say" about your jewelry and yourself as a designer. Have fun with it!

ME: You've been selling jewelry for nearly five years now. Do you see Etsy as being just another tool for you to advertise your designs, or do you hope to one day be an all-online seller?

Christina: I guess, a little of both really. I don't see Etsy as an advertising venue. I do see it as one of many ways I can reach my customers and offer my designs for sale. The great thing about Etsy, and selling online in general, is the reach it gives to an artist. Your work can be seen (and purchased) by anyone anywhere in the world. This is something that just wasn't possible all that long ago.
That having been said, I don't see it as the only place to sell. I do sell pieces in boutiques, craft shows, private trunk shows, etc. But on Etsy, I have the ability to perhaps take more risks and offer some more unique pieces that a B&M shop just might not take a risk in carrying. It allows me to be more flexible that way. Plus, the community is amazing, too!

ME: WTF Etsy wants to help people out there who frankly suck at listing items. What are the three biggest mistakes you see in regards to photography when it comes to Etsy sellers?

1. poor lighting (if I could use this for all 3, I would - it's the biggest problem I see)
2. lack of post-processing/and or proper exposure and white balance
3. busy or distracting backgrounds

ME: You're about to start a new job. Will it be something that will take away from your creative time, or is it one of those jobs about which you can be really passionate?

Christina: No... I took this job because I have to. It may put a dent in the time I can put into my own work, but hopefully not too big a dent. It is a temporary job though and will only go for about 2 months. My own work is important, and so is momentum. I think in order to be successful as an artist or designer, you have to make it a priority and treat it in many ways just as any other job. It takes time and effort given in a consistent manner.

ME: What are some highlights from your Etsy experiences?

Christina: I started on Etsy as a buyer. Man, did I buy. I have some GREAT stuff by some amazing artists that I love - most recently I bought a BEAUTIFUL ring that I drooled over for about a year from a seller named TammysTreasureChest! I'm a bit of a jewelry freak - that's why I started making my own stuff. I didn't marry a millionaire or win the lottery and so can't afford to feed my need! It's really cool to start something and see it develop over time - evolve, really.
I wear all my own stuff, and one of the things I love about selling my work now is seeing that happiness in those who buy and wear my designs. I'll never get tired of that - it is really inspiring.
Now, I get alot of my supplies from Etsy sellers. I like to keep it in the community, and really like the small business aspect of Etsy. I'm careful about where I get my materials from and like to support independent small sellers and responsible practices.
I love the Etsy community too.. such variety and talent in one place - it's amazing! One of the funniest things I saw, just the other day as a matter of fact, was a vintage box of Kotex maxi pads being offered by a seller. There's something you don't see every day!

ME: Who's hotter: Sayid from Lost, House from House, Angelina Jolie, Booth from Bones, or Ryan (Morris Chestnut) from V?

Christina: House. Hands down.

ME: I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one, although House's maladaptive banter is quite sexy. Sayid from Lost is the epic TV badass, though. What's up with the Tortoise?

Christina: People ask me that often. It's pretty simple really. Tortoise wins the race. They may move slowly and be at times awkward and weird, but they've been around a long time, live longer than almost any animal, and as the old story goes they blow away the hares! It was the name I gave my portrait studio many years ago, and the jewelry business name grew out of that.

ME: Lastly, tell me three things that all shoppers should know, would never had guessed, or that they would love about Christina:

Christina: wow, tough question... hmmmm. let me think.
1. I'm addicted to "sparkly" things. Gets me every time...always has.
2. I'm an active volunteer and advocate for cancer-related non profits (a cause close to my heart)
3. I am absolutely clueless when it comes to "fashion". My niece reminds me of this on occasion.

1 comment:

  1. Okay Christina, I know you're ready for a debate. I had to open a poll on the tv badass question. ;-)