An Indie Biz: Photo Magic

Pierogi Picnic: Made in Chicago Clothing & VintageAs I sit at my computer late on a Monday night I realize that I am way way way overdue. Not for returning my library books – but for writing a post on running an indie biz! So here’s my much belated installment – and it’s all about photo editing.

Let’s say you’ve developed a beautiful new line of products and are ready to introduce your creations to the world. You’ve painstakingly planned the shoot, took the time to set up quality lighting and have captured a great set of photos to show the masses.

Now what? 

Don’t even think for a second that once your photos are logged and stored on your SD drive that you’re free to frolic about. Your next task as a handmade business owner is to make those pics magical. And I’m not talking pseudo-well-done they get a passing grade magical. I mean stop-em-in-their-tracks, make-heads-turn, kind of attention. Sure – paying a pro to do the dirty digital work can seem promising – but there’s nothing more fulfilling than empowering yourself to take that DIY step to enhance pictures on your own.

So before I sit back to tackle the 300+ photos I snapped of new Pierogi Picnic gear recently, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tricks and short cuts for photo editing on the fly.

Crop it. Crop it real good. In my work there’s nothing more powerful than the art of cropping. Whether it’s bringing the viewer’s focus into a garment’s stunning details, or clearing out the distractions of my messy studio, using this basic tool will take your pictures farther than you could ever imagine! The trick to using the crop function properly is to save each version of the edit as a new file. Then, you can view each version as a slide-show full screen to see how things turn out. Sound tedious? Once you get the hang of it I promise it won’t be. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that you can make multiple snapshots out of one base photo. And while I’m on the topic – don’t forget to leave all your original pictures intact – lest you decide later that your edit didn’t leave you satisfied.

Pierogi Picnic Biz Tips: Photo Magic - Cropping

If in doubt – overexpose. There’s nothing worse than a dark, dingy looking product photo. Whether you’re shooting beads, bracelets, hand-carved totem poles or vintage housewares, making sure your pics are bright and light is key. Do a quick search on a site like Etsy and you’ll find that your eye is naturally more drawn to items that convey light. Obviously this should be at the forefront of your mind when actually taking the pictures, but if you need to, doing it in post can compensate. So when editing your pictures – be sure to add more punch using your light level tools.

Pierogi Picnic Biz Tips: Photo Magic Overexpose

Don’t be afraid to touch up. Now – I have to be really really careful on this point. In no way, shape or form do I encourage anyone, whether name-brand designer or humble crafts-person, to doctor photos into something they shouldn’t be. This includes lengthening models, altering products or casting things in a dishonest light. One of the reasons many consumers shop handmade is because they know there’s integrity in our business ethics. So it’s important to maintain that trust and not cross the line. But, it also doesn’t mean that you can’t use stamp, smudge or blur tools to clean up an image. This can be anything from fixing red eye, dulling down a glare (think digital polarizing) or softening up a blemish. One of my points of pride with Pierogi Picnic is that all of my models are all gorgeous and real women – whose beauty originates on the inside and then glows out. I won’t ‘thin’ them out, smooth out bumps or alter their physique in any way. But – I may use a de-focus tool to draw someone’s gaze away from a skinned elbow or fly-away.

Pierogi Picnic Biz Tips: photo magic touchups

Have some fun with effects. In many ways I am a photo purest.  But there’s something to be said of playing around with your product pics if your original is a plain, no frills photo. Sites like PicMonkey make playing with filters, exposure and masks fun! You can stylize a vintage china set with a sepia tone and rounded corners or add a pre-set like lomo to make the vibrancy of your colors pop. And the experimenting doesn’t have to stop there! Just look at photos on sites like Pinterest and you’ll find there’s subtle ways to enhance a picture using effects as well. Think directed soft focuses or strategic use of desaturation (aka making things black and white). There’s also lots of ways to brand your pics, add subtle water-markets or fun seasonal themes that will make your photos marketing and social media ready.

Pierogi Picnic Photo Tips: photo magic effects

And there you have it! A handful of quick ways you can enhance your product photos in 10 minutes or less!

Remember that the key to high-quality images lie mainly in your raw file – but beyond that – the sky truly is the limit for how far you can take your pics. So roll up your sleeves, grab a pet or two, cup o’ joe and get to doing some digital dancing with your pics. And who knows? You may find that you actually enjoy the experience!

Pierogi Picnic: yellow vintage blouse

Do you have a favorite photo editing tip that’s your ‘go-to’ trick? Is there a free program you’d recommend to your fellow crafts-peeps?Share your tips with us below!



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