Monday, February 18, 2013

Click & Connect: What to Consider When Photographing Your Art

This month the Focusing Series hosted a workshop with renowned local photographer Matt McKee.  The purpose of the workshop was to teach nontechnical folks how to take great photographs using readily found (and generally not too fancy) cameras. 

There is no need to go out and purchase an expensive, state-of-the-art camera unless you want to.  Regardless of what advertising tells you, the ability to take a fantastic photo has virtually nothing to do with the equipment you are using.  Just look at what people are doing with the cameras in their Smart Phones! However, as creative entrepreneurs and small business owners we need to have visually appealing images of our product in order to entice customers and attract an audience.  If we are visual artists it goes without saying that our images need to be delightful to the eye.  Photographs must be used to market our brand.  We must create inviting images that depict the quality of our craftsmanship, and the experience one will have when interacting with our product. 
This may sound overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  There are thousands of reliable resources on the internet about how to take great photographs.  Etsy has several blog posts on how to ensure one’s online shop is visually strong.  Here is one article, complete with instructional video:

I’ve listed some general tips-not about the technical side of photography but from a marketing angle.  Having a strong idea of what you are trying to communicate and how you are going to do so is a good starting point before you press the button on that digital camera or Smart Phone.

Remember Your Brand
Who are you?  What is your brand’s mission?  Keep this in mind as you select the setting and the props for your photographs.  Your goal should be to consistently strengthen your brand through the images you share online. 

Here is a great example of this.  The artist has used very simple but effective methods to define his brand even through the subtlety of an appropriate backdrop.  http://www.etsy.com/shop/pureGARAGE
Here is another example of an artist using visual display to clearly communicate what her brand is about.  Note the set design and the props.  http://www.etsy.com/shop/thepatternedpeacock?ref=shop_sugg

Remember Your Product
I often see people sharing photographs that are gorgeous but have little or nothing to do with the product they are selling.  The actual product gets overshadowed by artistic elements, making it unclear what the viewer is supposed look at.  Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of your photograph is to sell your product.  A customer will more likely be dissatisfied if they are persuaded to purchase based on a fictionalized image rather than the product itself. 

This is a good example of an interesting photograph that has allowed the product to become secondary.  I enjoy looking at the image, but I have no idea what it is selling.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/44792009/vintage-beige-brown-plaid-full-skirt?

Here is an example of a set design that serves to bring focus to the product.  Despite the fact there are a lot of elements to the image, you have no doubt what is being marketed.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/104145983/lunch-bag-recycled-cotton-geometric?ref=sr_gallery_26&ga_search_query=patterned+peacock&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all

Lighting and Photo Editing
You must have good lighting to put your product in the best light. Your product should be sharp and well-lit.  And you must keep photo editing to a minimum so that the actual product is not overly manipulated.  The customer should receive exactly what they thought they were buying.  Avoid “false advertising”.

Again, keep in mind the purpose of the image.  It is to entice customers. Your goal is to communicate what your product is and why someone should want to buy it. 
The photograph series for this item doesn’t work for me, despite the fact it is a fun, vintage dress.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/108569482/turquoise-peplum-wrap-dress-80s-print?ref=sr_gallery_18&ga_search_query=dress+80's&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_page=6&ga_search_type=all

Keep It Pretty
I don’t care how enlightened you perceive your customers to be-your objective should be to present your product in the most alluring manner possible.  There is a good reason why beautiful people make a lot of money doing this for a living.

If your product is wearable art (clothing or accessories) photograph your inventory on attractive people.  Remember, the customer-whether they want to admit it or not-yearns to be desirable.  Beyond the physical nature of your product they are investing in a concept: that your item will make them more beautiful or handsome.  Keep this in mind when staging your photograph and selecting your models.
This idea can be applied to all products.  You should be conveying through images that your item will improve someone’s life.  Keep this in mind.

Going back to wearable art-I’m not suggesting you use supermodels. In fact you can hire real people-just make sure they further the purpose of your brand and entice your targeted audience through their sense of style.
Here are some examples of what works and what doesn’t in this regard:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/108381740/victorian-corset-tshirt-womens-medium? Check out Carousel Ink for their wonderful work in visually forwarding their brand.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/118124447/kelly-green-arnold-scassi-drop-waist?ref=sr_gallery_35&ga_search_query=dress+80's&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_page=4&ga_search_type=all

I’ve also included this entire shop, Gaia Conceptions, because they have done a wonderful job of hiring models who demonstrate the nature of the brand in an authentic way.
Keep It Simple

You only have a handful of seconds to share your product with a customer so remember your images need to clearly communicate what your item is and who it is for.  Be sure to include helpful suggestions to the viewer for how to use your item.  For example, in my etsy shop: art25bya2n2  I include a photograph of my wood block paintings on their own along with an image of my wood block paintings in a group.  This demonstrates that the customer can display them separately or in a set.  Your goal is to make it easy to buy your work and learn about your brand. 
 

 
I hope this has been helpful as you embark on photographing your inventory for the purpose of sharing your brand with the public and selling your work online. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Focusing Series February Workshops


I am thrilled to share with you a nice little write-up by one of my recent students, the uber-talented Warren Croce.  He attended my most recent workshop, Focusing Your Art Career: a two-day boot camp that covers just about all one needs to know to develop a strategy for taking their career to the next level.

 
I am hosting this workshop again this month on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 12-13,
10-2:30pm both days.  Registration runs through this Friday, February 8th @ noon. 

Boot Camp is $150 .  Class rate includes materials and a one-hour private session with the instructor, Anna Koon-me!  This allows students to personalize the lessons and ask specific questions. 

The Focusing Series is also offering an evening workshop this month by the fantastic, Matt McKee.  Matt is going to share secrets on how to take great photographs of your artwork or product, no matter your skill-level or technical ability.  Bring your Smart Phone, your digital camera, whatever you want to use.  We all know we need images to entice customers and encourage new opportunities, to develop our online presence, and to market our brand.  The more stunning the photographs the better.  Hiring a professional photographer is costly, time-consuming and slows down the process of getting your work in front of the public.  Learn how to do everything yourself during this one evening with Matt! 

The workshop is Monday, February 11 6:30-9pm. 
Again, registration ends at 12pm on Friday-this Friday, February 8th.  The evening workshop is $45.



I am excited about our curriculum this year and the instructors who are presenting the topics. 
To find out more about the entire schedule, or to register, contact focusingseries@gmail.com
or phone 617-955-3472.