I have a shop on Etsy… actually, I have two. I etch brass, copper, and a few other metals to make cool stuff. MOST of the things I make are keychains, pendants, and other small pieces. My etching work is done in batches, so when I have something to photograph and list, I usually have many things to photograph and list.
My Etsy work is a part time job. I work on making in the evenings and on weekends. Sometimes I run out of time with the making of stuff and have to squeeze the listing of stuff in to the middle of the day. To help with this I have put together a pretty good portable photography kit. I can photograph my wares in just about any place with a small flat surface. I have used this kit during my lunch hour at work (at my desk or in my truck), while out and about with the family (picnic tables at the playground) while waiting on appointments (outside benches) and in many other odd places (but always clean and dry).
This instructable will inventory my kit and include tips I use to keep my photos clear and usable for listing on Etsy.
Step 1: My Camera (and Camera Parts)
My camera is nothing special. I picked it up on sale at a local big box electronics store. When I bought it I made sure it had 2 important things: an easy macro setting and an easily removed SD card. Since my pieces are small, the macro setting is essential. I do not use a cable to transfer my pictures, instead I just pull the SD card out and stick it in the computer.
Since I photograph in many odd places, I also want to be sure I can access my pictures in odd places. To eliminate the need for a separate card reader, I found an SD card (SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus 2GB Card) that has an integrated USB connection. With this card, I can transfer my pictures to any computer or even to my phone (with an OTG cable), even if the computer does not have an SD slot.
After I bought my camera, I also picked up an extra battery. I do not carry the charger in my kit. When the battery in the camera is low, I swap it out and charge the extra at home. When it is charged, I put it back in the kit. This way I always have an extra charged battery with me.
Step 2: My Backdrop
I have tried several different backdrops over the last few years, ranging from a piece of rough-cut wood, parchment paper, to bare tabletops. I have finally settled on (and have used for 3 years) a cloth napkin. The other things were too big or heavy, too fragile, or too inconsistent. My off-white napkin is easily stowed, looks fine when wrinkled, and provides a very portable, consistent backdrop for my pictures. The neutral color also helps highlight the color of the various metal pieces I make.
Step 3: Photographic Accessories
Since most of the things I make are keychains and pendants, I like to photograph them with the accessories that go with them. With each keychain I sell, I include a 1” splitring. For each pendant I sell, I include an 18” leather necklace. I keep 2-3 splitrings and 1 necklace in my kit. For each picture, I attach the appropriate accessory and photograph it. I switch out the ring or cord with each piece and stow them in my kit when I am finished. This way I do not have to count how many pieces I am photographing and keep one for each, and I always have the appropriate accessory for a photograph session whether I need them or not.
Step 4: Photographic Scales
When photographing small things, it is good to include something else in the photo that a person will recognize which will show how big the thing is. Hmmm… something to show scale… I etch brass to make things, so I etched my own ruler. Not only is it a ruler, but it has the name of my shop on it. I do not include the ruler in every photo, but it is in at least one photo in every listing.
As I said earlier, I have 2 shops, so I made a 2 inch, 2-sided ruler. One side has the 1st shop (CreativeEtching) and the other side has the 2nd shop (CreativeBootlace). I also have a plain 3 inch ruler for larger pieces. I have made several over the years and for some reason I keep them all in my kit…
In addition to the ruler, I photograph keychains with my own keys. I place the splitring on the piece aligned with a similar sized splitring on my keys, with one common key (kwikset door key) extended next to the keychain. On my keyring there are 2 keychains that I have made. By including this photo in my listing the viewer can get an idea how large the keychain is compared to a common key AND see that my etched brass keychains hold up to normal use.
Step 5: Camera Case
I searched far and wide for a decent camera case with an interior pocket. With this case, I can store the rulers, accessories, and extra battery in the interior pocket separate so that nothing scratches my camera and nothing gets lost.
Step 6: My Kit Stowed on My Bag
I carry a sling bag with me everywhere I go. On the front of my bag I have two extra pockets, one for my camera case and one for my backdrop. When I have a small batch of etched goods ready to photograph, I put them all in a small bag and stuff it in with the backdrop. With this kit I can stop and photograph all of my stuff very quickly from just about anywhere.
Step 7: Photography Tips
Some are obvious, some are not…
1. Good natural lighting produces the best photos
2. If your hands shake, use something sturdy to steady the camera
3. Take photos in the order you want them to be in the listing.
4. Take consistent photos for each type of item. For example, when I photograph any keychain, I take 3 pictures: front of the complete keychain only, keychain with ruler, keychain with my keyring. When I photograph any pendant, I take 3 pictures, front of the pendant (close up), pendant with ruler, pendant on necklace (far out to include the necklace ends). When I photograph a pin, I take 4 photos: front (close-up), pin with ruler, front close-up at a different angle, back showing bar pin. Unusual pieces are photographed with some variations, but always show the piece in close, with a ruler, and at a different angle.
5. Take your photos in a way that will not require any edits or cropping. Be sure to only photograph the subject piece without anything else in the frame. This saves quite a bit of time when making your listings.
6. After transferring all of the photos from a single session, use a batch program to resize your photos down to a size that Etsy suggests. This reduces the upload time significantly.
7. I personally refuse to edit or enhance my photos. I want my buyer to see what they are buying as it looks in my photos. This includes every little flaw or variance from piece to piece. I also photograph every piece individually. I make many of each item, but I want the buyer to see exactly what they are paying for… not an example of my work, but the actual piece. This also save a lot of time when listing.
This instructable covers my photographic techniques. Although I do not take the best photos, I hope someone out there benefits from reading this. Please feel free to comment with any suggestions for what to add to my kit or other useful tips!