We have been working hard on the web site and also making soaps. We have our first two batches, Lavender and Devine, drying and we will make two more batches this weekend. I plan on setting up a video camera and will see how taping the making of the soaps go. I think it would be neat for people to see how they are made and then the finished product. As we get product made we are also going to have to start taking pictures for putting on the web site. Having already spent a few years developing product, labels and presentation.. I know photos will catch a buyers eye.. or they will not. My goal with photos is to present my product in the best way possible to attract buyer. Knowing that photo taking is not my strong creative suite, I look for ideas and inspiration to get me headed in the right direction in my product presentation.
Since I think I want to create an Etsy shop I headed over to Etsy.com and searched for handmade soaps. I got 250 pages as the result of my search. The product items are listed three across and fifteen down plus the three across the top that are ads. There is a lot of competition on one page let alone those 250 pages. So how does one stand out in that sea of soap? Good photography and properly presented product. To see what products caught my eye, I did as any consumer would do looking for a bar of soap, I just started to scroll down the page to see what looked interesting. I saved photos of what I liked.. and what made me think yuck, and spent some time thinking about why I was attracted to one soap and not another. And this is my research.
It did not take me long to determine I liked soap presented on wood. Since handmade soap is rather earthy and organic, it makes sense that it would present well on other organic and earthy surfaces. These first two photos are soap on a natural wood surface that compliments the natural coloring of the soap and does not compete with it. The soaps are well lit and I think the black background really shows off the soap well. The depth of field also is set so the soaps are clearly in focus and anything else goes to a blur. When you look at these photos you know that soap is for sale.
In contrast, this photo on the left makes it difficult to figure out what is actually being presented for sale. When I first saw this photo my eyes bounced all over the place trying to make sense of what was going on and to find the soap. The pebbles are earthy and organic, but they are too busy compared to the simple repeating lines of wood. The busyness also is seen with so many of the colors clashing in this shot. There are at least six different shades of blue in the photo. One can see a royal blue in the center background but there are more teal blues and greens that are in the soap. We also see something else blue in the background to the left that I have no idea what it is trying to tell me in the photo. To top it off everything is on some yellow backdrop. Even the yellow is busy as it has a line going off to the left in the front and some circular shape to the right. And what is with the blue candle thing in the very back to the right? What I “see” in this photo is the yellowish pebble in the middle. It is in the center and is the same color as the background. And, being surrounded by the natural stones makes it “pop”.
Photos of your products should be very simple. There should not be a lot of different items in the photo and there needs to be a focal point. The first photos are very simple and all you see is the soap. If you look close you can see the props and the grain of the wood. But the soap is center and draws the eye towards it always. The yellow pebble is in the center and because of the contrast becomes the focal point of this photo. A buyer should never have to figure out what it is you are offering for sale.
Make sure before you snap the photos there is nothing you do not want seen. I can’t tell you how many times I would go to take a quick shot of something and would notice all kinds of other things in the view finder that would be a distraction. Bruce loves to view the world upside down and he is fun to take photos of like that. But .. as cute as he is I don’t want the dish towel in the photo. I also don’t want people to see I just got done with dinner and have pots in the sink to wash. Sure.. they would see cute Bruce. .but they would also see all that as well and it would distract from the subject.
The photo of Molly to the right is cute., but having the blinds out of kilter as well as the salt and pepper shakers and the spray cleaner can in the background take away from what I am trying to show you you with my photo. So, when making your shots, make sure there is only what you want seen in the view finder.
One also needs to consider the color of the subject and the color of the props. This photo to the left is a bit busy.. but it still works. The black and white of the soap is set off nicely by the various wood tones of the props. The base and back drop share not only wood grains but many of the same hues. Though I think the soap may be better displayed in another way.. the starkness of the white against the back drop caught my eye. And, because I love Primitives, the worn and aged chipped look of the paint I found interesting as well. Overall the soap is well displayed and all the colors compliment the look and color of the soap. It managed to make me stop and take a closer look.
The bar of soap here to the right is a lovely bar of soap. It is too bad it is not displayed better to make its bright artistic pattern really pop. The base the soap is on has two different textures and does absolutely nothing for the soap. The soap is swirled and the base also has lines that compete with the soaps pattern. This soap against a dark or black backdrop would give someone scrolling through all those products a WOW factor that would make them pause and want to find out more. I would love to see this soap set up like the first photo. Artistic soaps like this need very clean and simple backdrops where the soap is presented to show off its spectacular beauty.
These soaps to the left are also beautiful soaps that could use just a bit more to make them pop from their competition. Again, I like the wood in the background. For some reason, even though wood gives color and texture, it stays in the background and does not compete with what is on it. However, in this photo, the soaps are blending into the backdrop. To me, this photo seems a bit over exposed. Now, I am not a trained photographer or even a good amateur. But I do know from the gazillions of photos I have taken that at times, they can be a bit washed out. Maybe a flash was used when not needed or maybe it was just that bright and sunny when you took the photo. If you catch it when reviewing the photo, you can make some adjustments to the setting to see if you can bring a bit more color and contrast to the shot. Otherwise, any good photo software should allow an auto correct or even just darkening the entire image to bring those nice soaps more to the focal point of the photo.
With my basic photo software I took the photo and darkened it all up a bit… then made the darker areas even darker so they would be more of a contrast. Then I bumped up the contrast a hair. The photo did not change much but the soaps are a bit more stand out in the second photo. I also think if the soaps were not in the white dish the wood would have set off those bottom soaps and they would not have disappeared as the kinda do in this shot. Because of the lack of contrast where the soaps stood out more, I almost missed these soaps.
One thing I learned scrolling through twenty five pages of product is I am not impressed with white backgrounds. I know that presents just the product, but I did not feel they really stood out from all the hundreds of soaps presented on Etsy for sale. The photo to the left is well done, but at least for me, it lacked the pop and pizzazz to make me want to stop and look further.
I found that I learned quite a bit in the few hours I spent looking at soaps over on Etsy. If you are going to sell hand crafted items and venture out with a web site or to Etsy, take the time to look at your competitors and how they present their product. Which ones made you stop and take notice of them and also, which ones made you cringe. Really think about what you like and don’t like and then decide how you are going to present your product. You do not need to be a good photographer, just good at R&D … Rip off and Duplicate. When you see what you like, see how you can adapt it to make it your own.
For me and soap, the wood bases really appealed to me. I also found I liked other simple organic back drops and props. I also noticed the darker backgrounds tended to stand out more as you scrolled through the items than the lighter ones. My notes to self are find wood objects I can photograph soaps on and also figure out how to get that darker background. Going forward I am now on the look out for wood items I can use as possible backdrops for my items. I have a light tent I am going to play with and I am also looking at other organic items with an eye as to how they may be used to display my soaps. As the soaps are curing we will be photographing them in different ways looking for a style to define us as well as seeing what will work best for our situation. Then when the soaps are ready for market, I will have quality photos to use in my shop both here on the site as well as Etsy.
The photos of soap I liked the best came from a great Etsy shop called Artisan Bath and Body. I ended up there looking at a lot of their soaps because they stood out from the competition. I also spent some time looking at how they were photographed. With over 11 thousand sales and over 23 thousand admirers, I am sure their great product presentation has a lot to do with those numbers. And, if I was in the market to purchase handmade soap, it would have been this shop I purchased from. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when you are talking about product presentation, that photo can be worth a thousand of sales.