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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Boutique Basics: Posting Fantastic Photos

You have created something beautiful and now you're ready to show it off! 

It doesn't take long to realize that in the boutique world of today, the pictures you take of your items are super important. Since a lot of your customers won't be able to see your items in person before purchasing, all they know of your work is how it looks in photos. And you may only have a split second of browsing to win them over!

You don't have to own a fancy camera or software to get good product shots (although it doesn't hurt) and no matter what equipment you are using, a lot of the basics are the same for showing off boutique clothing. So today we are going to share some of our favorites with you, using photo bloopers from the ladies at CKC!  Won't this be fun? Whether you are selling your creations, entering a contest, or submitting tester photos, you want to do your very best.  Let's get started! 

Tip 1: Use the best camera angle for showing the outfit.  

The photo above is not going to be effective for listing a dress! This may be how you see her when you look down at her every day (very cute, I must say!), but we can't tell anything about the outfit.   For children it is absolutely important to get down on their level. Shoot at eye level and experiment with what looks best with your model. We don't want the camera looking up their nostrils of course, but try to catch your little models from straight ahead. 

Tip 2: Always pay attention to the background.  

Always. You may be used to seeing those blankets and cords on the floor, which is okay in daily life, but anything that's not contributing to the photo is distracting from it and has no place being in your photos! (I know this makes me sound mean, but it's true and I'm just trying to help!)  If nothing else, at least take the photo in front of a closed door or a blank wall!  But usually the best way to beat the clutter is...

To move your photo shoot outside! If your yard is a mess, go to the neighbor's yard or to a park. Even the side of your building can look great with natural light.  Tiffany was quick to say that this photo isn't perfect, but look how much better you can see the DRESS than the previous one.  It's beautiful!  

Tip 3: Pay attention to light and shadows. 

This doesn't mean that shadows are the enemy.  Sometimes the best photo shoots happen in shadows. We just need to notice them and work with them. I try to have my model either completely IN the shadow or completely out of the shadow. I often see photos that were taken under sunny trees so there are sunlight splotches all over people's faces. It's so distracting, and it could possibly be avoided by moving them further under the tree or doing the shoot at a different time of day.  In my area, I aim for two hours after sunrise and two hours before dark so I don't get shadowy faces.  Noon is the worst time to take photos! 

Sometimes side shadows can add drama though. I actually think the shot above could have worked if little Natalie's outfit was facing the sunlight instead of facing away.  The important thing to remember is that you want your outfit to be the star instead of hiding in shadows. You can play around with the lighting and find what you love -- just don't try to ignore the lighting issue because it is very noticeable. Usually when people think they need a better camera, they really just need better awareness of where the light is. Never give up!

Tip 4: Pay attention to the overall appearance.  

Notice the rotated photo - this is good!  If you are taking pics in front of a brick wall (or other repetitive patterns like this), either make them perfectly straight or purposely not!  I see a lot of crooked doorways or not-quite-straight bricks. If you can't get the shot perfect then add a twist to it and make it look like you did it on purpose. 

Tip 5: Make sure the outfit is ready to be photographed!

 Look at this photo -- Gorgeous model, gorgeous photography, and gorgeous dress. But, ummm... it's really wrinkled!!  If you want customers to look at the dress, then the dress needs to look its best. 
 Remove loose threads, iron it (yes, all of it) and just make sure it is ready to be seen over and over and over again. 

The same goes for backdrops. Make sure they're not wrinkled or crooked!  "Eh, nobody will notice."  Yes, they will. They may not tell you, but it takes your professionalism down a notch. Sorry. The last thing you want is for people to "not notice" your photos! Always do your best. 

Tip 6: The model doesn't always have to be standing to get a good shot. 

This is a great outfit photo. Yes, it is from above, and yes the model is sitting, but we can still see the dress and its features clearly so we're good to go!  And notice that she's not even looking at the camera. Remember that your customers don't HAVE to see her baby blues every time.  Grandma yes, but customers no. 

Tip 7: Provide additional shots after the main photo.

Customers love to see the outfit in action, especially on twirling girls or at cute little tea parties. Again you need to make sure you first provide a cover shot that shows the most important view of the dress, but after that don't be afraid to make it fun! On Etsy you have the ability to include five photos with your listing - use them!  The more the customers can see the better!  Just make sure they all follow the lighting and clutter-free guidelines etc.  

These extra shots are a great time to get creative with the details.  I don't know about you, but when someone mentions Tori's dress in the group, this is the image that comes to mind. Does your outfit have unique features? Show them off up close!  

Also, don't forget the back view!  Set a chair there or have the child hold something. Props are fabulous for this and customers want to see the back of the outfit. 

Tip 8: Don't overdo it on your editing. 

I love this photo. She is adorable. But in the process of getting her image crisp and fabulous, it also made the wall say "Hey! Look at me first!"  It is still a good photo but remember that sometimes less is more and the human eye generally likes a natural appearance when it comes to lighting and contrast. Walls don't look like that. 

(And on that note, sometimes we get really cute tester photos that look great on their own but are impossible to put in a collage with other tester photos. You may not need to worry about it for your boutique but it's something to keep in mind if you are creating photos for a collection of them that will be seen side by side.)  

Tip 9: Be ready for your photo shoot before it begins!

We've all been there, I know. The outfit is done and you need to HURRY and get photos taken for a deadline but then you get a brilliant idea for a photo shoot so you start playing around with settings on your camera etc.  And this is what you end up with.  An unhappy little model!  She was waiting for mommy to get everything set on the camera and I think her face says it all. 

And that brings us to our last and all-inclusive tip: 

Tip 10: Remember that your models are little kids. Let them be kids and take a LOT of shots. 

The photo above definitely isn't a good shot of the outfit.  But the process of taking it was absolutely important in finally getting the one that I used for the cover photo!  I sometimes hear, "I took took ten photos and this was the best that I could get." That's okay but please know that a lot of us take hundreds of shots to get just one great one! This little boy wanted to chase his dog and throw rocks and pick flowers.  So I let him. Occasionally I asked him to stand in a certain place for the camera and because we were "playing" in between, he was a good sport and did it. (For about 5 seconds at a time.)  Here are a few more ideas along these lines, for working with kids.  We KNOW it's easier said than done!

This is what happens when you tell a child to open their eyes wider and smile big. Not what you had in mind? Remember that the best smile is a natural one.  Don't TELL your models to smile. MAKE them smile naturally! Tell a joke, make a weird face, pretend to be a crazy animal -- whatever it takes to make the child smile and the neighbors wonder about you. (My tween still hasn't grown out of this.) Kids like to smile... unless you tell them to. 

Next tip - Never use a crying child in a listing.  All kids cry of course.  They can even be cute while they do it.  But from the customer's standpoint, if that outfit makes a kid cry then I don't want mine to wear it!  

In those hundreds of shots you're taking, don't be afraid to let kids choose poses themselves.  I'm not saying you should use a photo like this on your listing (please don't), but go ahead and let them hear the click and feel fabulous! (If it's your own child, these photos may even be your favorite shots someday!)  Even my boys like to make up their own  poses in between the ones where I tell them what to do. Sometimes they even turn out looking great! 

 And finally... sometimes you may have to adapt just to keep the peace.  You're right, your kids shouldn't always get what they want. But you need them for photos, and more importantly you need them to be happy. So why not do a little give-and-take? 

Also don't be afraid to promise rewards to your models!  I'm not a huge advocate of bribes, but if you're getting paid to sew the dress, why shouldn't they get "paid" to model it?  My kids especially like payment in the form of yogurt. 

By the way, did you notice that Charlotte's shoes are on the wrong feet above? Yup.  She insisted on it. The ladies at CKC could share hundreds of these blooper photos. In fact we've been having fun with it all day.  So the next time you hear yourself say, "Oh well, this is the best cover photo I could get", come on back to our tips here and get a refresher on how you can take them up a notch.  We know you can!  Your creations are worth it!

And as one last little treat... In case you missed it last fall, Shannon and Tiffany put together a super cute video of an outdoor photo shoot they did with their girls. It's so adorable. It makes me want to sew more outfits just so I can take more pictures. 

Let's Create!  ~ Kristen 

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