Photo editing for success

8:00 AM


A before and after composite of a product photo edit

I've been blogging since 2004, went from a time when picture did not matter much, social medias were near inexistent and branding not much of a thing I had to worry about. 

I've seen the blogging industry evolve, and I naturally evolved with it, picked up skills when they became relevant and one of those was using pictures in my blog posts. 
In the early days it didn't matter much as long as you had a picture to support your content, I think most of us blogging ancients used our point and shoot camera and just uploaded the file "as is" into our blogpost. 
But soon enough, the need to evolve stroke again, especially with social media gaining traction and blogs turning into brands. It's when making sure your picture were properly edited came. 

If I have to look back at my web journey, and my dive into creating content, and selling my art and brand, photo taking editing has been one of the most important skill I picked so far. 

How you edit your pictures matters a lot

Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded by visual content online and the window to catch one person's attention is extremely short, some say it's just a second, I think it's at the most 3-4 seconds before they scroll on to the next. 
This means that you need to make sure your pictures do stand out and capture people's attention quickly. 

A few years ago, I read "#Girlboss" by Sophia Amoruso (affiliate link) and in the book she talked about how she realised how important thumbnails were when she started her Ebay shop and how she decided which pictures make the cut by viewing them in tiny size while crossing her eyes. 
The image that still catch her eye that way are the ones that are going to be good enough to be part of a listing. 

The first thing people notice about a picture is not what is in it, it's the composition and colors. Which is exactly why I was mentioning in my previous post about social media that artists selling on print on demand websites shouldn't lift product pictures straight off their shop and use these "as is" as promotional material on Instagram. First because everybody is doing it, and then because the viewer will only notice a rectangle filled with colors on a blah grey background, put that in a feed of other colorful image and it gets completely lost.

A printable Christmas stickers set for bullet journal

The picture above is the original non edited picture I took of a printable sticker set that is going to be launched in my Etsy shop shortly (as of Saturday November 21 2020).
For most of my printable products, I make a point of printing them out and using the physical printout in my product listings in a creative way. I also use some of these pictures on Instagram. 

When I set out to do a product picture session, I stage my product beautifully in an aesthetic that is true to my taste and has become part of my branding strategy. I then take several pictures with several angles and close up variation. 
This picture above is what I got straight of my phone camera, with no filter and no editing. 

It's not a bad picture as such, and if my Instagram feed were not focused on bright and saturated pictures, it would have done the trick. Though to be fair would not have stood out much in a feed that is all about colors. 

So, I edited it to look like this : 

I did edit it for several reasons, one of which is that the original unedited one is a bit underexposed, or rather exposed to a light that is making the stickers appear duller and darker than they actually are. That kind of thing can't fly when you plan on using those pictures as a product listing picture on Etsy. People want so see images that reflect the actual color of the product as closely as possible. 

The second reason is that my whole Instagram feed and brand is about bold splashes of colors, and none of them stood out in the original picture. 
The most noticeable thing in the original is the string of lights (a prop) and the dark blue square of the bullet journal cover (another prop), none of which I want to pop in the foreground considering the product I'm showcasing are the stickers. 

To make the stickers stand out, I increased the brightness and contrast and hiked up the saturation a bit so that those bright coral splashes of color pop on the foreground and contrast nicely with the blue cover of the book as well. 

I do most of my editing on my phone these days and my app of choice is the "A color story app" which is available on iOS and Android.

If a picture needs a bit more TLC, I usually do it in Photoshop, if it needs a bit of text, I usually transfer it to Adobe Spark. 

Brand identity and photo editing

How you edit a picture really depends of what your brand is all about and what the picture is to achieve. For me it has to clearly represent the product, along with the tag line "be bold and colorful". In the early days, I let my intuition and personal preference guide me on how to edit things, and I quickly realised that there was always a pattern to my pictures : 

Brightly lit with splashes of colors. 

I still let that be my guide in how I go about editing any of my pictures, or how I go about creating product mockups. We all have personal inclinations toward certain colors and vibes, so incorporating these into your branding is probably the easiest way to look authentic and stick to it. 

The rest is pretty much all about composition, and beginning with the rule of thirds in Photography. 

I take pictures that stand out in feeds and listings on Etsy, because again, the easiest way to take a photo of a sticker is to put it on a white background, and there are too many doing just that, by staging my products a tad differently using props, I also stand out a bit from the crowd, giving them a bit more of a chance to catch someone's eyes, especially when it's a product on a generic theme like "Fall" or "Christmas" I can hardly claim originality on Christmas trees, autumn leaves and pumpkins, what I can do is portray them in a different way and still make sure it is clear that I am showcasing a product. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that a lot of people have questions about social media, marketing and building an audience when you have something to sell, so I am thinking of making more of these blog posts (and probably videos as well) on the topic, if there is something specific you'd like to know about, please let me know in the comment below. 

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