Category Archives: Indie Business

Handmade Business Secrets: Get product photos that rock!

If you’re selling your handmade products online, clear and pretty product photos are key to increased sales.  But how do you get those awesome images if you’re not a pro with the camera?   I’m sharing my secret today, in the hopes that it will save you the time I wasted.

Handmade business get product photos that rock

Psst:  Before we get started, I’d like to remind you that this is not a sponsored post.

This summer I launched an independent website for my pet bed and home decor business, Janery.  After selling for several years on Etsy, launching my own online store was the natural “next step” to take Janery to a more professional level.

Janery Pet Beds Home Accessories Screenshot product photography

I was ready to launch it more than a year ago, except for one huge roadblock:

My product photography was terrible.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t terrible, not anymore.  I’d worked on it over the years, first getting a better lighting kit, then taking photos against the white wall of my studio, and then finally DIYing a large white backdrop.  I’d even played around with my camera settings a little.  But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get product images with a bright white background and well-balanced, realistic color.

My online customers don’t have the luxury of picking up and inspecting my products.  They’re  forming opinions based on the images on my screen.

Despite knowing this, I was about to settle for less-than-ideal photos for the new website, because I had delayed so long that I said “Jane, you just have to launch this.” 

A week before launch, I discovered companies that provide this photo editing service for you.  After reading reviews on several, I tried out Mister Clipping. They offer a variety of image editing services and were able to do what I needed for Janery.

I uploaded photos in large batches, then used these instructions (based on recommendations I found):

“Make the background 255 white. Keep the hard shadow under the product and fade the long shadow. Spot product and fix damaged areas. Correct for distortion. Deliver Full resolution jpegs with no compression.”

24 hours later, my edited photos were ready to download from the service.  I was very happy with the results.  62 photos edited for under $200, and all I had to do was select them, upload, wait one day, then download.

Check out the difference it made:

Janery Product Photo Editing Comparison

After the edited photos were loaded to my website, it took only a few more days to be ready for launch.  I could have kicked myself when I realized the one thing holding my business back for more than a year was lack of proper photos. 

I’d like to leave you with this lesson learned:  Sometimes it’s better not to DIY everything for your business.  Paying a professional to help where your skills are lacking is worth it, if you spend that time saved on the parts of the business you know and love.

7 Inspiring Podcasts for Indie Business Owners & Future Entrepreneurs

I love to listen to inspiring podcasts while I work in the Janery studio. Designing new products and patterns is exciting, but production sewing is repetitive.   I used to watch TV shows and movies, but I have found that they can be distracting, and they aren’t that inspiring – except for the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

7 Inspiring Podcasts for Indie Biz Owners Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Once I switched to podcasts I became much more efficient in the studio, learning and being inspired even when I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. Over the last year I’ve found a good collection of inspiring podcasts for creative business owners – or aspiring entrepreneurs.  Here are my 7 favorite inspiring podcasts for indie biz owners and inspiring entrepreneurs:

Being Boss –Kathleen Shannon runs a killer branding company, and she and her podcasting partner Emily are rocking this. I started this last week and I am hooked! I recommend starting at the beginning and listening in order.

Brilliant Business Moms – A podcast about business, run by entrepreneur moms? Sign me up! You don’t have to be a mom, though, to appreciate the topics covered. Favorite episodes include interviews with my friend Katie Clemons from Gadanke (episode 33) and discussions on Kickstarter / an ethical clothing line with Hayley Morgan of Wildly Co. (episode 35)

Elise Gets Crafty – Elise and her podcast are what got me hooked on podcasts while I work. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the handmade business arena is already listening to Elise’s podcast, but it needs to be listed. She’s hosted a variety of guests and hers is the podcast that keeps me extra inspired when I’m working.

From Scratch – Interviews with people from all industries who grew companies “from scratch.” Some have interested me more than others, but it’s interesting to learn from people outside the “indie biz” niche. Favorite episodes include one with the founder of Etsy (episode 4), and the inventor of the Coravin wine preserver, (episode 10).

Thriving Launch – This is new to me, but I could have used this several years ago! I can’t recommend favorite episodes yet, because I’ve only heard the first few, but I think it’s worth a shot.

The Sarah R. Bagley Podcast – My friend and neighbor Sarah tackles the issue of perfectionism in her podcast about living a B+ life. She hosts a wide variety of guests; some of my favorite business-related ones are Kyla Roma (episodes 18 and 62) and Michelle Ward (episode 55).

UnPodcast – I’ve been a fan of Scott Stratten’s ever since he spoke about marketing at the first Blissdom conference I attended. His no BS approach and humor rocks my world as he reminds us that sincerity and common sense are the keys to good social media marketing.

If you have other favorites, I hope you’ll share in the comments!

 

A DIY Backdrop for Large Product Photos

A DIY Backdrop for Large Product Photos

Janery Studio DIY Photo Backdrop Large Products

When you run a handmade business, it’s important to have crisp and clean product photos.  There’s tons of tutorials on creating small lightboxes for products like jewelry, ceramics, or purses.  However, solutions for large products – like my dog beds – are harder to find!

Since I make dog beds and pillows for Janery, a piece of foam core board does not provide a large enough white background.

I’ve been trying to improve my product photos for years, starting with painting the walls of my studio bright white, then buying this inexpensive studio lighting kit, and then buying a piece of white vinyl to use as a base for products.

With that gear, my setup looked something like this:

Janery Photo Backdrop Lighting Kit

It wasn’t bad, and that vinyl / light combo served me well for the last year.  However, I always had to roll out the vinyl on the table and nudge the table up to the corner to get a good white background.

The cumbersome nature of rolling it out somehow stopped me from taking photos as frequently as I would have liked.  I wanted to create a simpler solution, one that was bigger than the white piece of vinyl.

I came up with the idea to hang a bolt of vinyl on the wall so I could pull it straight down onto the table or floor, and have a seamless transition from horizontal to vertical. The vinyl aspect was important because I could easily brush lint off of it.

Janery Studio DIY Product Photo Backdrop

This weekend Ryan and I finally installed it, using two garage hooks, wood screws, and a large (1.5″) wooden dowel rod – all from Home Depot.  The vinyl is an 8-foot bolt from Fabric.com  The total cost of supplies was about $40.

The garage hooks were an ugly gray, so on a whim, I sanded them to rough the surface, then painted them gold using some gold leaf paint I had on hand.

Janery Studio Fabric Bolt Hook

Pardon the bad lighting, a result of nighttime photos!

I painted the edges of the wooden dowel rod white so that it would look better, not that it really matters.

Janery Studio Photo Backdrop Fabric Bolt Rod

Once the hooks were installed, I slid the bolt of vinyl over the wooden rod and set it on the hooks.  The vinyl can now be pulled down onto the table – or the floor – easily, and rolled right back up when I’m done.

Janery Studio Photo Backdrop White Vinyl Bolt

As a bonus, when I need to cut fabric from a bolt on my DIY bolt rack, I no longer have to roll the rack into the studio.  I simply remove the white vinyl from the wall holder, and put the bolt of whatever I’m cutting on it.

I’m really happy with this solution for both fabric cutting and product photography.  This week I’ll be taking all new product photos for the Janery website, which is actually launching soon!

Janery Update: Overcoming the “perfection procrastination”

It may come as no surprise to my regular readers that my handmade pet bed & pillow business, Janery, took a backseat in my life last year. Sales were lower than even my first year, and I didn’t reach my goals of launching Charlie Cushions or my new e-commerce website.   Family came first, and I don’t regret that.

I actually started to launch my Charlie Cushion dog beds in the fall, but in the process I found I’d made some mistakes with them that could only be fixed by ripping out all the seams and starting over. It was an important lesson in measure twice, cut once!

Janery Charlie Cushion Seam Ripper

There’s been more bumps in the road to launching these waterproof dog beds, but the whole story is a topic for a separate post.

Janery Charlie Cushion Progress Notes

The launch of the new Janery website has also been challenging. I’m struggling with a quest for perfection in the website; a quest which I have now realized has kept me from making enough progress. I told myself I wouldn’t launch it until I had a perfect product line, had launched the Charlie Cushions, and had all new branding and perfect product photos, and the list goes on.

The reason? About two years ago I got the idea in my head that I couldn’t advertise or promote my handmade business until it looked more professional. However, in my first two years, I advertised and promoted my business and had the sales to show it. My photos and back then? Completely amateur and embarrassing.

Oh, the irony.

My blogging friend and neighbor, Sarah, has a great podcast about exactly this type of challenge. The Sarah R. Bagley podcast is focused on “a recovering perfectionist’s guide to a B+ life” – and boy, is that just the kind of advice I need to get Janery to the next step.

While I will always strive to create A+ products at Janery, right now I need to be a little more accepting of a B+ backend to the business if I want to take steps towards growing it.

Janery New Website Draft Screenshot

With this in mind, I’ve been busily uploading my best product photos to the new website, and working with my graphic designer to get all the elements in place for a late April launch date. Once the site is live and the Charlie Cushions are really launched, I’ll go about upgrading the site to A+, one step at a time.