Saturday, August 4, 2012

A little trick to make your photos eye catching - improve your Etsy photographs

A little trick to make your photos eye catching!

Taking great Etsy product photographs isn't about expensive camera equipment, in fact a new camera can slow your learning down.To make your photos catch the eye of a customer you need to know a few tricks of the trade.

If you've opened an online shop and put a few items for sale you've probably learned new skills like cropping and re-sizing, you will know how to upload photos to your shop. The next stage is to learn a few tricks of the trade to make your photos eye catching. Whether you want better photos of your family and friends or to sell your lovely products on Etsy, I guarantee that following my tips here will improve your photos.

As a photographer I have an in-built compulsion to look at lots of photos. I've never counted how many photos I look at daily, but it must be thousands. I spend a lot of time every day on Etsy, Pintrest and Flickr, I also view dozens of photography blogs and websites. In the evening I usually read one of several art and photography magazines I receive through the mail every week. On most weekends you'll find me in a gallery. I'm a picture junkie!

Of the photos I see, I'm lucky if one stops me in my tracks, if it does I pin it on my Pintrest board. Of the rest, 50% will be technically good,  but 50% don't even register because they're dull. I don't mean the subject is dull! What I mean is the photograph is lifeless and flat. Which is a shame because 9 times out of 10 a dull flat photo can be improved by one simple adjustment: Contrast.

I cannot emphasise enough how important Contrast is! Let me explain why...........

Why You Need Contrast
Photography is all about light. Modern cameras and lenses can make taking photographs easier, they focus for you and guarantee correct exposure, but they can't bring your subject to life. Surprisingly a lot of higher quality DSLR's produce a flatter image than cheaper digital compact cameras, because the manufacturers assume you have the knowledge to make the contrast adjustments yourself.

It's all about Light
Light is the key to good photographs and lighting can make the difference between a good photo and a bad one. Good lighting creates highlights and shadows, it enhances texture (see the Quebec sign below), and it makes your main subject pop out from the background, giving the picture depth.

Unfortunately you can't rely on good lighting. Light is fleeting, it changes with the time of time of day, month of the year and weather conditions. But by adjusting the contrast of your photo it's possible to bring out textures and shadows when the light has failed you.

Contrast is a simple effect you can easily add to your photographs to bring them to life and make them pop. Good photographers make contrast adjustment part of their work flow for every photograph they publish. The adjustment is simple and quick.

How to Adjust Contrast?

Photo Editing Tools

Everyone has access to photo editing tools needed to adjust contrast. Try to use the editor you already have, the one you use to re-size and crop your image. You may need to look in the help menu to find the contrast adjustment.

Alternatively you can use the software CD that came with your camera to make simple adjustments to your photos, or here are plenty of  photo editing packages available like Adobe PhotoShop and Serif PhotoPlus. And there are lots of free editors you can download, you could try these for starters: Photo Pos Pro or Pixia.

You can also use online photo editors. I suggest you try a few to find one you like. I can recommend Pixlr,  it's free to use and works well.

Time to make a start - Open an image in your photo editor

The simplest way to adjust contrast is to use the "Brightness/Contrast" control. If you're using any of the standard photo editing tools, you will find the Brightness and Contrast control under the Image Menu. I've marked it in  RED (below). If you're having problems finding the control, or your editor looks different, use the "Help" menu.
You will find the Brightness/Contrast control under the "Image" menu is at the top of the screen
The Brightness/Contrast is a simple slider control that will add contrast to your photo.

This photo is flat because of the dull light. Just drag the contrast slider to increase the contrast.
I've adjusted the contrast slider to 90 units. Notice how the colors become vibrant.
You will have noticed the Brightness slider above the Contrast slider. It does exactly what it says, it brightens your photos! It's worth playing around with both controls to get the best out of your images.

 The Hard Part
The hardest part about adjusting your photos is finding the control in the photo editor. The Brightness/Contrast adjustment is simple, it works and will improve your photos. If you're happy using this method you can stop here, just keep practising.

There is another way to adjust contrast that gives you even more control, it's called Curves and it's a method professional photographers use, I'll show you how to use it in a future post.

If you have any questions about using photo editors or about adjusting contrast, add a comment below and I'll try and help.


  1. Great ideas, I will be working on some of my photos and get back with you and how they worked for me.
    Thanks so much for the info.

  2. Fantastic! Thank you for posting such a helpful post!

  3. So simple & yet soooo important! TY 4 the tip!
    [coming via your Etsy forum post]

  4. Great examples. Contrast rules!

  5. Thanks for such an easy to understand article on such an important topic

  6. I've used the above contrast controls on my photos without knowing why. I am finally glad to have your instructions to substanciate my actions for the results you've shown....thank you

    1. I know what you mean, Judy. Even the name of the tools and adjustments can throw a light on what you're doing.

  7. Thanks so much for the great information here! Definitely going to try it!

  8. This is really helpful Tim! Like Judy said above, I always adjust the contrast on my photographs but wasn't exactly sure why, just that they look better! I'm looking forward to your post on Curves and learning more about that.

  9. Thanks for this tip. I have a great deal of trouble understanding written instruction and your use of screen shots is extremely helpful. I have two questions: how do you know when you have too much contrast...I have trouble gauging that...and how do I subscribe to your blog so that I get notification of your next post. I found your link on the Etsy forums, by the way.

    1. That's a good question!

      There are no rules, Martha. If you add too much contrast your photograph will look unnatural. Photos taken in strong sunlight need very little adjustment, but photos taken in dull flat light need more of a boost. Use your judgement to add just enough contrast to enhance the subject.

      If you want to subscribe to the blog, click on "Join this Site" it's just above the pictures of "Members" on the side bar.

  10. Sorry to comment again so soon but I have a request. Could you please do a post with tips on how to photograph silver jewelry to make it "pop". I have a lot of trouble with this. Thanks!

    1. I will do a post on silver and reflective items, very soon.

  11. Brilliant advice - Thank you for taking the time.

  12. Great tips! I really enjoyed this, thank you for sharing them.

  13. Thanks for giving an explanation to what I have been doing all along (mostly!). Although I do have to say, that over-adjustment can distort the true color of an item - so I have to be careful of that!



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