How to take pictures for selling online

If you are wondering how to take pictures to improve your online sales but have no photography background, look no further and check out my photography tips below.

I have been selling online since 2001 and have learned quite a lot about how to take pictures of products so that customers can see the detail and not be disappointed when they receive the item.

I often get compliments on my product photography and comments about how detailed and professional they look.

I decided to write this blog post as a sort of “Photography for Dummies” and share how to take pictures so that others can learn my process and get excellent pictures without being a professional photographer.

How to take pictures for Etsy, Ebay, etc.

When I began selling online I would take a picture on a textured surface but I have since learned how to give it that photo studio look using a white background, and I have been re-shooting everything. You can check out some of my new photos in my Etsy Shop.

Texture vs white background
Textured vs White Background Before and After

I have read many blog posts on photography, and most of them go way deep into stuff I didn’t want to know. They suggest special light boxes, lighting and other fancy gear. That wasn’t for me.

I have NEVER read my camera manual and do not know any of the technical stuff about light, shutter speed, blah, blah, blah…. but I DO know that natural lighting is THE best way to photograph beads, jewelry or just about anything.

Check out my photo studio below.

Outdoor photo studio
My outdoor portable photo studio, nothing special

Photo studio set up

My photo studio set up is in my driveway!! I always try to take advantage of the natural light outdoors. I currently use an orange storage box with a piece of tile on top to make it a flat surface, and a piece of white paper is covering the tile (see photo below).

Many items that are seen online have a white background or something really light. Ebay encourages a clean white background and Amazon requires it. In fact Amazon even patented their technique. Maybe I should patent mine!! No seriously, my process is simple and is not patented!!

The beach towel is there to keep me from getting dirty, and the concrete is really not friendly on the knees so the towel helps 🙂

This set up is portable, keeps me flexible (having to get up and down), and was totally FREE since I already had these items. No expensive light-box, lights or other fancy equipment.

Taking Pictures of beads outside in natural light

Indoor pictures need special lighting or they might turn out yellowish, have reflections of the surrounding items, flash or annoying shadows.

I take nearly all of my pictures outdoors on a cloudy or overcast day, sometimes I get good shots first thing in the morning before the sun comes out, but many times that is too blue. Light cloud cover is the best.

Camera

I have an Olympus C-4000 Zoom, 4.0 Megapixel, Optical 3x Zoom/Seamless Zoom 10x Optical x Digital. Not sure what all that means, but the optical zoom gets super close and super resolution! When I download the pictures onto my computer I can then zoom further with Photoshop.

Let me repeat my previous statement above:

I have NEVER read my camera manual and do not know any of the technical stuff about light, shutter speed, etc.

I only read the quick start guide and I have never had a photography class.

When I bought my camera it was set to take pictures on a really large format (like a poster), and I have never changed anything. This way I can have a really large picture with high-resolution at then resize it as I choose.

I spent about $500.00 on this camera and have had it for over 10 years. So today you can probably get an even better camera for less money. In fact many of the smart phone cameras are pretty good!

Photo Editing

Photo editing is a very important part for me. I have Photoshop, which was quite expensive when I bought it, but all photo editing programs have some sort of brightness and color features to edit photos.

This is what I do for pics that are a little too gray or blue. In Photoshop I use the levels tool to set the white point which will adjust the picture.

Photoshop leverls
Setting White Levels in Photoshop

To set the white levels in Photoshop you select: image>adjustments>levels and then you will see the setting box like above. The eye dropper on the far right is for white.

Before-After-white-levels
Using White Levels in Photoshop

Select the dropper for white and then touch the area of your photo that should be white.  See what a difference that makes??

You can then clean up any dust or particles surrounding the item with the paint brush. Crop your photo and then make it any size you need!

I hope this information on how to take pictures has helped simplfy things for those who want to keep it simple. Happy Photographing!!

 

Packaging photos – are they important?

Showing photos of product packaging when selling online is important if you have room to display the photos. Some people don’t really care how the items come to them, but many people are swayed by attractive packaging.

Show photos of your product packaging to improve online sales

Many of you have read different articles about creative packaging and if you sell on Etsy you have probably read articles in the sellers handbook about branding, packaging and so on. I have read them all too!

I even took a photo several years back while I was in the middle of shipping packages so that I would have a picture. However, it was pretty lame. See below…

Old Packaging
Old photo of product packaging

Looking back now I see how lame that photo was, but at the time I took the photo above, I was thinking

“This is great, it shows how the product is mailed, and what the bead or item purchased would look like when it arrives!”

However this was only a small representation of how items are packaged and mailed from Bead Lovers Korner. Then I set out to improve the photos.

packaging
Gift bags in organza and silk

Take time to shoot new photographs

I took some new photos to show the different ways that beads and small items are sent to customers. Most of my products ares small and are sent in organza bags like in the example above.

Gift box
Rosaries and delicate items come in a gift box

I use gift boxes for Rosaries most of the time, and some jewelry items also come in a gift box. This helps to protect the item in shipping and is also convenient for customers who are giving the item as a gift.

In this new era where everyone has a smart phone, it is really easy to take photos that are worthy of posting in a listing.

That extra photo in your Etsy listing just might seal the deal and convince a customer to buy from you!

Think about how you like to receive products that arrive through the mail? Is product packing important to you? Thanks for stopping by and please leave a comment with your ideas for product packaging.

11 tips to consider before you make your own website

Today there are so many ways to make your own website and establish an online presence, below are 11 tips to consider before starting this type of project.

Many years ago I opened an online business on Ebay and eventually I needed a website, too. I am now on my 3rd website, and through the years these 11 tips have been the most important.

1. Should you hire a Web designer? While you need someone to help with all the technical mumbo jumbo and programming, many times you are better off doing it yourself. My experience with Web Designers has not been good and I ended up doing a lot myself. Today there are many companies that offer websites with templates built right in, including shopping cart software, and ways to accept payment. While these seem OK and a quick way to get started, be cautious about building your website on a platform where you might not have control or be able to move it should you need to change hosting companies. Make sure you can add “plugins” for different functions such as blogs, social media, etc.

2. Domain names and hosting: Match your domain name with your company brand name, if possible. Most hosting companies can help with your domain name registration, but be sure to have a hosting company that has real people available so you can call and talk to someone if you need help. When choosing a hosting company for your website, make sure they are knowledgeable about the software you are using. This is essential if something goes wrong or you mess something up on your website.

Logos
Bead Lovers Korner Logo Variations

3. Branding: Everyone has something to say about branding these days, but to keep it simple just use the same colors, logos, and design in all other areas like social media, marketing materials, correspondence, etc. This way customers are used to seeing the same designs and will know it’s YOU!

4. Website design: Decide what image you want to portray to the world, what kind of customers do you want, what do you want the customer to feel when they see your website? Do you want them to read or buy? Designs can be changed but it is a good idea to think of this ahead of time.

5. HTML & CSS: A lot of websites today come with built-in templates and text editors but it’s useful to know and be familiar with a little basic information like how to make bold type, how to make something italic, etc. Many times text editors get all jumbled up with different things and it is helpful if you know enough about the code to clean it up.

Basic html examples:

  • <p> causes a line break and adds a trailing blank line for paragraphs, to end a paragraph use this at the end </p>
  • <br> causes a line break with no trailing blank line if you just want to bring something down one line
  • This is a <b>boldface</b> tag, this is how boldface appears
  • This is an <i>italic</i> tag, this is how italic appears

6. Photos: Invest in a good camera and photo editing program, it really makes a difference to have good quality photos to draw in your customers and keep them clicking. Read up on how to take good pictures, there are tons of good articles available online about photography. DO NOT right-click and steal photos from Google images or other websites! If you sell products and use manufacturer photos, make sure you have permission to use their images.

Picture Library
Name Images so they can be found easily

7. Image names: If you are selling products and you have a LOT, be sure to start using a good image naming system so that you can find the pictures both on your computer and in your website back-end. I use the product SKU and a short keyword or two since many people can find your items through image ALT tag attributes.

8. Organize products: Do an outline or spreadsheet to help you organize products and use that as a guide when setting up categories on a website. Well organized categories will make it easy for customers to find the products they are looking for.

9. Product descriptions:  This is kind of tricky because most online shoppers don’t want to read a lot of text, but Google and search engines are looking for good content, so descriptions should be short and concise but have enough information for search engines.

10. Security: Make sure your site is secure from hackers and that your customer’s information is secure, check with your hosting company to see what they suggest.

11. Marketing:  This is a huge subject, but briefly here are some ways to market your products and website.

  • Upload products to Google Shopping, and set up a budget
  • Have a presence in Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
  • Collect customer emails for newsletters and special sales
  • Start a Blog
  • Network in online groups in your industry

Every topic I listed could be an entire blog post in itself, but hopefully this overview will help anyone who is considering starting to build their own website. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Top 5 Selling Tips to Make Money Online

Top Selling tips take great pictures
Take great photos to represent your product

If you sell on eBay or are learning how to sell on Etsy, your own website or any other online selling sites, these selling tips will help you get started in your quest of making money online, or at least give you something to think about. I have been selling on the internet since 2001, and have found these 5 tips to be the most important.

1. Take Great Pictures

It isn’t hard to take great pictures, but like anything it does take some practice and a little bit of knowledge. You don’t have to be an expert at photography, and if you don’t have the money to hire someone to do it for you, it is absolutely possible for you to have high quality images of your products.

  • Use a good camera. The prices today are much less than they used to be, but it is worth the investment to get a good camera, for good close up shots get an optical zoom
  • Use a photo editing program like Photoshop or PicMonkey, or another photo editing program to help with color, contrast and cropping out things you don’t want in your images
  • Check out my blog post on “How to Take Pictures“, it is almost like a “Photography for Dummies” because I know nothing about photography and can still take great pictures

2. Sell Top Quality Products and Keep Them in Stock

A top quality product = happy customers!

I hadn’t been selling online too long when I received some merchandise I thought was a great deal, but it was cheap and low quality, and guess what? The customer thought so too… needless to say I never brought it in my store again

  • You get what you pay for. Cheap or low quality products will guarantee returns and customer complaints
  • Keep items in stock for fast shipping. I always keep what I sell so that I can control how fast it gets shipped, relying on a drop shipper is asking for trouble if you sell on eBay, or anywhere online where fast delivery is important
Selling tip offer variety of Price Points
Offer a variety of Price Points

3. Have a variety of price points

You have to keep a balance of low, medium and high prices so that there is something for everyone. I think there are still people who are leery of shopping online, and maybe even more so after the Target incident this last holiday season. Having all ranges of product pricing will accommodate the skeptical online shopper and the seasoned one.

  • Low, Medium and High Prices for different levels of customers
  • Competitive pricing You have to be somewhat in line with competition, so search out other sellers of your product and compare pricing frequently. Selling too cheap will hurt the value of your brand, and of course you can’t gouge customers either
  • Ability to offer sales  This is a no brainer. Everyone is looking for a deal, so you must have enough product and enough profit margin to offer sales and still make money.
Be-Everywhere
Be Everywhere, Be Social

4. Be Everywhere

Don’t rely on one selling site or your own website, people who surf and shop on the internet are diverse and you should be too. I personally sell on several sites as well as having my own website. Not all people like eBay, some have never heard of Etsy, and your private website may get lost on the internet the way changes occur all the time with search engines.

  • Be established on several online selling sites – eBay, Etsy, Zazzle, Amazon, Bonanza, your own website, etc. Yes, you will have fees, but each selling site has a different clientele and they also advertise for their site and you.
  • Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others help you to find new customers and let them know about your business
  • Join groups This is a great way to network and also establish your online reputation. There are groups on facebook, Linkedin, and other online communities. Etsy has teams that are a great way to share knowledge and support each other through activities, treasuries and more.
Don't-Give-Up
Don’t Give Up!

5. Don’t Give Up

One of the top reasons people fail is because they just quit trying, so don’t give up. I know there are stories about how people became millionaires practically overnight by selling online, but those stories are rare. Most of us entrepreneurs get up every day and work tons of hours, then become successful over time. Being successful doesn’t always mean being rich.

  • Success shouldn’t be measured in dollar figures because there is so much more to life
  • If you give up, then you never know how far you might have made it.
  • Success is a journey to be enjoyed, it’s not about the money!

“There is no failure except in no longer trying” – Elbert Hubbard

“It’s always too soon to quit” – Norman Vincent Peale

Making it to the Etsy Front Page

Pine Cone Dangle Bead

I had been on Etsy for about two years before I was finally successful at making it to the Etsy Front page. It was a wonderful thing, lots of views for my shop, but nothing magical happened nor did money fall from the sky in a windfall.

A Crisp Morning Etsy Front Page

Since the moment I opened Bead Lovers Korner shop on etsy, I have been trying to figure out:

  • How to improve traffic and get noticed
  • How to make the front page of Etsy
  • How to become a featured seller on Etsy or Ebay
  • Etc, etc.

So over the years herw is what I have discovered about the above:

  • Improve Traffic: Learn more about how to take pictures that will get noticed
  • Etsy Front Page: Making it to the Etsy Front Page does not equal tons of sales
  • Being a featured seller: Not sure exactly how you manage to become a featured seller on Etsy or Ebay, I gave up on that one!

I think to be successful you just need lots of followers and people sharing and favoring your items. Great product and customer service will keep them coming back.

Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below? What are the tricks you have discovered to get more sales on Etsy or Ebay?