Say Cheese! – Why Photography is Important to a Successful Small Business

It feels as though in every post I have written all I’ve done is bang on about how I have struggled with photography and how I am still getting to grips with taking good quality photos. It almost seems silly to sit here and tell you about how photography can make or break a business, as if I am some sort of expert because I am not. But in a way my honesty and struggles make it even more important to share it with you all so you can learn from my mistakes.

Often it seems as though photography can be overlooked and deemed less important than the actual quality of the product itself. But ask yourself this: would anyone be interested in your product if you didn’t have a photo of it? Would you buy anything without seeing it? Photos often convey far more than words can, especially when it comes to handmade goods.

When I first started out as a maker, I didn’t appreciate or understand the importance of good photography. I would often finish a piece of work late at night and take one photo on my iPad, use a generic filter on Instagram and think that was the job done. Looking back at my first few pieces I must admit I am bitterly disappointed in myself. So many of those pieces have not been made since because they were one off, custom makes and one, poorly lit photo on a basic device isn’t enough to show the hard work, skill and love that went into making them. Every piece should be shown off to its full potential and be celebrated as a work of art. Now don’t get me wrong I still like to whip out my phone or tablet and take a quick snap, but back then I was aware I needed something more.

So when my Dad was upgrading and gave me his old Fujifilm DSLR camera I honestly thought I had hit the jackpot and was immediately excited by the possibilities it would bring. I invested in a tripod and ensured it was set up as I would need it. From that moment forward I made sure that I would no longer be precariously balancing my iPad on timer mode against a vase to get a quick photo. Nor would I be photographing pieces late at night or in poorly lit conditions. I also decided that I would keep a level of consistency with my photography so that when I added these images to my shop, the listings would look similar in style. That is where my statement ‘headless, hands holding a hoop in various outfits’ shot was born. I always ensure that I take this style of photo with every piece I make and then use my hand crafted pallet outdoor furniture as a backdrop for other angles and styles of shooting such as close ups. Often I can take as many as fifteen photos of just one piece in a variety of different locations and ways. I then upload them from my camera onto my iPad using my handy USB SD Card Reader and edit them from there. I have tried a variety of editing apps and software but have settled on the VSCO app. This app is fantastic as it allows me to edit multiple photos at a time in the same style and save that style for future uploads, making it quicker and easier for me to get photos onto my social media platforms or to share with customers.

I then save these edits onto my device and share my favourites with my followers. I think it is always worthwhile to keep good quality, unused photos in the ‘bank’ for rainy days or at quieter times. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been busy working on another piece of work and have no new images to share so dip into the archives for a generic, chatty post on my social media pages or as a way to bring back some popular or favourite pieces. They are also great tools for sharing with potential customers who want to see a range of your work.

The biggest change to my photography has to be timing. As someone who works full time, my main making hours are mostly in the evenings or at a weekend which makes photographing work quite difficult. I used to rush the process in order to get the pieces packaged and shipped off but since sticking to one packaging and posting day a week, I have now got into a routine with capturing my work. If I finish a piece late at night I won’t send it until it has been photographed at the next given opportunity. If I know I will have a number of pieces completed in-between that time I will often do a batch of photography, often on a Saturday morning before packaging them on Sunday and sending them on the Monday. This has definitely helped me on my way to achieving good quality, consistent photographs that show off my work. It does however mean I can have fifty or more photos to edit at one time and a longer packaging time but I am convinced that grouping all of these elements in this way has actually saved me time and achieved better results. It also means that if I am photographing and packaging four hoops over the weekend, I have at least four different pieces of work and photographs to share over the following week.

Now I am in no way an expert, nor do I think I’ve got it sussed. I am still looking at ways to better my skills and my photos but I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think it will be even more satisfying when I have mastered a new skill. I definitely want to ‘invest’ more in my photography and myself. I am looking into backdrops and an area of my home that I can use to photograph all year round- I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying these lighter days and evenings! They really do make photography a breeze, especially when I finish a hoop in the evening and can go out and take photos of it straight away.

So what are my top tips for makers or budding photographers?

  • Invest in good quality equipment if you want to take your photography to the next level. It doesn’t necessarily have to cost the earth but it does have to give you what you want and need. For example, don’t feel you need to get a DSLR camera, I’m currently using my iPhone 8 for a lot of my quick photos and often it’s better, especially in poor lighting!

  • Find a style of photography that suits you and roll with it. If you love a good flat lay, then go for it. If you like structure, stick with it. If you want to be in the photos, then hats off to you!

  • Consistency is key. Find a way of doing things and follow it. This will not only save you time but often also deliver better results.

  • Good lighting is essential. If the lighting isn’t right it will show in your photos. Try to avoid using artificial lights or flash as this distorts the colours and finish of your photos. Instead move your subject to a naturally well-lit area such as near a window or patio door. Use this light to full effect and edit further later for a more natural end result.

  • Keep on evolving. Continue to trial different ways of capturing your work or subjects and evolve your way of working, you might just find something even better!

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