Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Etsy Banner How To

After chatting with some of my friends in one of the Etsy Chat rooms there was a request for me to do a quick Banner how to. I am going to use Gimp to create the banner. Gimp is a great Photoshop like program that is free. It can be found at www.gimp.org.

First thing you want to do is create a new image. Once you click on the new image you will see a screen like this

Remember that your Etsy Banner can only be 760 x 100 pixels at most so go ahead and set that as your image size as seen here. Go ahead and click ok then. Tada! There is your new Etsy store banner. Its kinda boring right now so lets spice things up a little.

You can do just about anything here insert pictures, text, patterns. I am going to do a simple style banner with a simple background and text with a single picture. You can build on what I am going to show you and create much more advanced banners.

First thing I am going to do is decide what picture I want to use. Looking through my shop I found that my lioness picture has had a ton of views so that is the image I am going to use. Since the Banner can only be 100 pixels high I am going to open and resize my picture so that the height will be 100 pixels.

Resizing the picture once it is open is really easy. Click Image than Scale then input 100 for your picture height and hit enter. This will automatically set your width. As you can see here. Go ahead and click scale and your picture will now get smaller. Seen here.

Now go ahead and copy and paste the image to your banner. My picture is now in my banner as you can see. In order to move the picture around make sure there is a dotted line box around the image then go to the cross hairs in the tool box click and move the picture to the area you want it like I did here.

Now I am going to add a background color to my banner since I dont like the white. I want to use a color from my image I am going to use one of the blues in the sky behind the lion. In order to do that I need to go to my tool box and select the eye dropper and select a color from the image.

Once you have selected a color you should see the box in tool box change to the color you have selected. You can pick other colors if you dont like that color by simply using your eyedropper and clicking another spot in the picture.

Now I want to fill my back ground with the color I have selected. So I am going back to my tool box and going to select the spilling paint bucket. Now because my lion image is still selected I cant spill my paint. I need to go back to the cross hairs and click on the white space so I can spill my paint in the background. Remember you need to go back to your paint bucket now. Ok now my background is blue rather than white.

Ok I am happy with this look. Now I want to add some text to my Banner. Go ahead and get back into our tool box and find the big A which will allow you to entry text. This will end up showing you a box below with text options and will give you a new pointer that you can use to put text into your banner area. The tool box for text will allow you to select different colors, texts, sizes and some other advanced options. Go ahead and place your text as I have done here.

You can move your text around to where you want it. If you want to add other text to your banner as I have done here.

Dont worry you can go back and edit the text and move it around utilizing the dialogs box. Go to the layers menu and it will bring up the different layers that you have going on. Go ahead and click the the layer you want to work with then go and edit it.

This is my finished product. As I said before you can get more advanced utilizing the tools that I have shown you. I am sure there are steps I have missed along the way. If you run into any issues just send me an email.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Print Quality.

Ok I am thinking that many of you have ran into this problem at one time or another. You took a great photo and want to get it printed. So you send your print off to whoever you use to print your photos and it comes out not all that great. Believe it or not it is an easy fix with Photoshop or Gimp.

The reason this happens (scary photography terminology coming up) is because your dpi isnt high enough. Now before you get all freaked out and stop reading DPI is just an abbreviation for Dots Per Inch. Basically this is just telling you how many times your printer is going to print something in an inch. The more dpi when printing the better. For standard viewing and the internet 72 dpi is more than enough really. It is about what all of my images are online. When printing however 72dpi will look horrible and pixelated. So in order to fix that all you need to do is up your dpi.

This is a really easy fix using Photoshop or Gimp. Gimp is just like photoshop(It is too and just because your used to photoshop doesnt mean I am wrong)and has most of the features that photoshop does. Gimp is free and you can find it at www.gimp.org

I will run you through a quicky how to with Gimp as that is what I use. First thing you want to do is pull up the image you want to resize. Once you have your image open you need to go to the Image menu on the picture page. Once you are there go to scale image. Here you will see four boxes. Two for pixels (size) and two for resolution (dpi) we want to change the resolution to change the dpi. Go ahead and change your resolution to 300 in each box. This will also more than likely change the size in the pixels boxes as well. Dont worry about that its going to be ok.
Go to the pixel boxes now. Change the box that says pixels to inches. Now take and put in the image size you want 8x10 5x7 4x6 whatever size you want. If it didnt change your image size than dont worry about it. Then when you are done scaling the image do save a copy. That way you keep the original photo file. I never never never save over my original files. Once you have saved the image you can send it off to your favorite printer. Many of them offer online photo upload with one hour pick up.

Hopefully I have answered some questions here and offered a not so scary view into the scary world of photography. I know many people especially on Etsy think that photography is this big bad evil thing but in all honesty it really isnt as hard as people make it out to be. Check out some of my previous blog entries for other tips and tricks. Also subscribe to my blog so you know when I update it (about once a week).

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day Car Accident

Ok soooo it was a great Labor day. My Mom and Dad came over for dinner we had a good time. There was BBQ Chicken, German Potato Salad, Tossed Salad, Corn on the Cob and Strawberry shortcake for desert. However after we cleaned up and before dessert we were interupted by a rather large crash and what sounded like a colapse of some sort. So I hopped the fence and started running in the direction of where it came from. One of our neighbors was taking a car that had been involved in an accident yesterday to the mechanic to go get looked at. The car was acting funny he said and went to pull back in and the car sped off running against their house then through the neighbors fence and through the deck... Thankfully nobody was hurt.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Its been a while but I am back

I apologize to everyone that it has been so long since I have posted a new entry. Life kinda took over for a while. For those of you who dont know my grandfather passed away at the very end of the July. It was something that was expected for a while now not that it makes it any easier when it happens. After that I wasnt feeling really inspired to do anything much less blog. I did do a little traveling around locally and took the kids and some pictures. So now that I have explained my absence lets get on to the topic of the week.


I see a lot of people asking what background to use or which one is best. The answer is not so black and white(god I kill myself sometimes). At any rate I am going to give you guys my input on choosing the right background for your items.

As far as back grounds go there is only one rule I can come up with that should always be considered. That would be DONT ALLOW YOUR BACKGROUND TO COMPETE WITH YOUR ITEM As long as you remember that one little gem you should be ok. To many times I see items that get lost in the back grounds. Beautiful items that just disappear because of the background they are on.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it doesnt have to be a white or black background. Most of us know what the color wheel is but do you know how to use it?

The great thing about the color wheel is that it can pick out back ground colors for us. Depending on your likes and dislikes. There are many different options to choosing a color scheme but I am only going to cover the two most popular. Complementary and Analogous.

Complementary color scheme involves using colors that are directly across the color wheel from each other. This creates a dramatic statement and POP. See the example below. Examples would be blue and orange, purple and yellow, and red and green.

Analogous color schemes are basically a color scheme that ties in two or three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel such as red orange, orange and orange yellow. These are generally more pleasing and harmonious to the eye. They are more relaxing.

Of course these are not the only acceptable backgrounds you can use almost anything as a background the only thing I would say is stay away from anything that competes with, hides or camouflages your item.

One more thing... I would like to thank Marnyt of www.marnyt.etsy.com for the fantastic feedback she gave me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Light Boxes

Many people dont know what this very valuable tool is. Light boxes make life easy when it comes to product photography. If you dont already have one you really should look at either making one or picking one up from any of the different retailers out there.

Light boxes work very well for product photography because you can flood your item with lots of light from top or either side. If you have a fancy light box you can even light from underneath if you choose to. I have two different light boxes to choose from depending on the size of the item I want to shoot. One is for smaller items and the other is quite large. The larger of the two I set up for shooting my wife's(more info on her shop as she opens up)bags and other larger items. They are fairly easy to construct and extremely inexpensive to build.

The first on consists of an air conditioner box but any decent size box will do. You can see this set up below. Basically you want cut a window out of three side of the box leaving about a 2" border. To help diffuse the light I put freezer paper over the windows I cut out. I also taped a piece of dry erase poster board that I picked up at Michaels to the top of the inside of the box for my items background. the key here is to let the background curve to the bottom of the box. This provides that seamless look to the photograph. I use work lights that I have lying around for my light sources. One BIG halogen (careful with these they get really hot) light at the top and two smaller clamp lights to the sides. The purpose of this is to provide flooding diffused light on your item. The more light the better.

Total cost of this set up to me was $12 for the two clamp lights. The rest of the stuff I had just lying around the house.

The Setup1

The Setup2

The Results

The second light box is MUCH BIGGER as you can see below. This was made from a bunch of pvc pipe and couplers. To be honest I bet in total it cost me about $15 in parts. The frame is 1/2"pvc pipe that you can get at almost any hardware store. The backdrop is a roller shade that I removed from the roller. Fabric could be substituted as well. Really anything that can drape enough will work just fine. I used the clamp lights as you can see here. I need one or two more though to get rid of the shadow you can see on either side of the bag.

The Setup

The Results

The results after my simple one click fix in gimp as seen here

Both of these light boxes were super easy to make if you would like futher instructions or detailed parts lists feel free to email me at MGWPhotography@gmail.com

Friday, July 18, 2008

Join Me On Plurk Now

Thats right I am now Plurking as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quick Fix for the not so white backgrounds

Many people talk about getting that perfect white background in their photos. I have already had two entries on how to do this with your camera settings. There is another way to tweak them as well just in case they didnt come out as white as you were hoping for.

Many people have post processing programs like Photoshop and the likes. If you dont have one of these programs though there is a free alternative. Gimp is a free program that does a lot of what photoshop can do http://www.gimp.org/ is the site.

Here is a quick reference on a quick fix. Open Gimp then open your photo with the not so white background. Then go to Colors>levels

Drag your cursor to the white eyedropper and click

Then pick what should be the whitest spot in your photo. I am picking the highlight reflected on the surface from one of the beads. You can see an arrow pointing to where I am talking about. Then click on it with the eyedropper. Click ok to save the changes.

Here are the results.

Full size before and afters


Depending on how off your original is your picture may require more tweaking. We can get into that another time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Product Photography for Etsy Part II

Using your cameras white balance settings.

In part one we talked a bit about different ideas on how to stop motion blur in order to get good clear pictures. In part two I want to talk about your cameras white balance settings. Believe it or not YOU DONT HAVE TO SHOOT YOUR PICTURES OUTSIDE TO GET GOOD RESULTS. I know I am nuts everyone has told you that YOU NEED TO SHOOT PICTURES OUTSIDE but its simply not true. While yes outdoor lighting is great and it allows for good lighting you dont need to take all your pictures outdoors. As long as you remember that your camera sees things differently that we do everything will be just fine. Our eyes adjust to the different light hues that are given off by different light sources. Cameras on the other hand do not. So when you take a picture with your camera it records what it sees. All lights vary in the color they give off. Many times you will hear this refered to as temperature of the light. The two more common lights that we use in our houses are Incandescent and Fluorescent. Incandescent lights give off a warm color by warm they start to add more red to the image the results are usually a more orange tone. Fluorescent bulbs on the other hand give off a cool blue/green tone. You can see an exagerated examples here.

In the time that I have been using digital cameras I have only come across one person that had a camera that didnt have the white balance option. I know this is scary for many people but sometimes in order to change the white balance you have to take the camera out of AUTO mode. Dont worry your camera wont self destruct. For most of us on Etsy that shoot jewelry and small items your going to want to have your camera on the MACRO (flower)mode anyway. All cameras are different and all have different ways to adjust the white balance. You're going to have to break out the manual and figure out how your particular camera works. As for mine this is how it works. Most cameras have a menu that will look similar. They will have different icons that look like the sun, clouds, incandescent bulb, fluorescent bulb and maybe some others. You can learn what each item does to manipulate the picture or just take test shots until you find the one you like the best. But many times auto white balance just doesnt do the best job. Some more advanced cameras offer even more fine tuning.

Setting the proper white balance is essential to accurate color reproduction. If you set the white balance correctly you wont need to retouch your images for color correctness. White balance can also be used artistically as you can see below. These two shots were taken within 5 minutes of each other but I changed the White Balance setting on my camera.

So now its time to break out the camera manual and learn as much as you can about white balance. Its not a hard thing to learn and it can improve your pictures by leaps and bounds.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Calculating Costs/Pricing For Etsy

Here is another topic that we run into all to often on Etsy. People dont know how to value their work. Most of us are stuck because we dont know how to value our work. Many times we look at the costs of listings, paypal, materials, but we forget about our time and effort. In this blog I am going to put my two cents into pricing for Etsy.

Your going to see a recurring theme in my blogs and that is about quality and perceived quality. In my last blog on Photography For Etsy part 1, I talked about how you have to show people the quality of your work through photography. The same holds true with your pricing. You need to be able to justify your pricing through photography and your item description. If you are taking the time to make a quality product you should be compensated for it.

To many times people are trying to look at their competitors and undercut their price. STOP DOING THAT!!!!! Instead of underselling your competitor tell people why they want to buy your product. Give them reasons to buy from you. I dont know all the crafts on Etsy or the proper terminology but use it. If you are making a bag to be sold on Etsy did you use interfacing(my wife helped me with this one) between the layers of fabric? Are the zippers sewn in correctly are you using a stronger stitch on your seams or whatever it is you are doing tell people. It helps build value in what your selling.

As for figuring pricing only you can come up with a price. You need to figure out what your true cost is. I am going to keep using the bag example because my wife makes a ton of them (however doesnt list them on Etsy yet anyways)for friends and herself. Now lets look at what her actual cost is the pricing I am using is made up I have no idea what this stuff costs.

Fabric $3.00
Thread $1.00
Interfacing $1.00
Shipping/packaging $6.00
HER TIME 2 hours @ $7.50 (minimum wage)
Listing/paypal fees $2.00
Misc costs $2.00 (electric, gas, equipment, tools etc.)and yes set this aside for this purpose.
Total Cost $30.00

This only accounts for the cost of the materials, labor and pricing. As far as I know people are on ETSY to make money. If it costs you $30 to make a bag we still havent figured in the money for you. Yes we figured in a labor cost for you but not a profit. This is the hard part in my opinion. What do you feel your work is worth. This is where I think people have the hardest time making their pricing decisions. This is where you have a little bit of play. Do you want to make 25% profit or 50% profit? How do you figure out what you can add to your cost? Keep reading.

Now its time to shop your competitors. Look at their products their pricing and most importantly their QUALITY. If you look at these things it should make pricing your items easier. If your QUALITY is better then you know you can charge more as long as you SHOW PEOPLE YOUR QUALITY. If you show them with pictures and tell them with your descriptions you can justify the price of your products.

I am sure there are a ton of other people out there with their own thoughts and theories on pricing for Etsy. This is just my take on the subject. I am sure there are costs that I havent thought of but I dont know all of your crafts. All I am saying is make sure you take the time to figure out what your TRUE COST is and then mark up based on your competitors.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Photographing For Etsy Part 1

I know I have only been here for a very short period of time but I have come to a realization. Maybe its because I consider myself a photographer but I really believe that EVERY ETSIAN NEEDS TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER! There I said it well YELLED it in Etsy terms. I know that this is somewhat a somewhat intimidating statement for most of you but dont be intimidated. I am going to walk you through what I know in a weekly series of blogs.

Lets start with the reasoning behind my statement. Lets say you shop at a Brick and Mortar (B&M) Store or store in the real world. When you go to purchase something you are able to use all five of your senses. You can see and feel the quality and texture. You can smell the scents or taste the flavors. All of these things play in your desire or willingness to purchase something. If something feels or looks cheap your less likely to spend your money on that item. If something smells like skunk or tastes like spoiled milk are you going to buy it? We rely on our senses every time we make a purchase.

Now lets look at our stores on Etsy. Etsy and online shopping as a whole is an entirely different world. On Etsy you cant smell or feel the Ginger, lavender, goats milk beauty bar (not sure if this is a real item or not but you know what I am saying)to see what the quality is. So how do we know what the quality is? Thats right the photography. In Etsy world we rely solely on our site to judge that quality. Thats why EVERY ETSIAN NEEDS TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER!

Lets look at some of the most common mistakes in Etsy photography. We will start with one of the most common mistakes I see and one of my biggest pet peeves. That would be not using a tripod. EVERY ETSY SHOP NEEDS TO OWN A TRIPOD. Of course owning the tripod is only half of the battle. Once you own a tripod YOU NEED TO USE THE TRIPOD. Tripods are essential when photographing smaller items like soaps and jewelry indoors or any other low light situation. Hand held pictures in low light situations will result in whats called camera shake. You have all seen it from time to time.

The picture above is an example of an image suffering from camera shake.

Now lets talk about how to fix the camera shake problem. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the best lighting possible. Natural light is great which is why many people photograph their items outdoors. However for many of us running outside every time you want to photograph one of your items is not reasonable. The answer to this problem has been discussed quite a bit. Its what is called a light box. You can see a picture of my set up below. Light boxes help photographers take great product pictures. Light boxes or light tents as some will call them also come in all different shapes and sizes. They are great tools for shooting products. Remember up above how I said OWN A TRIPOD and USE THE TRIPOD now is when that comes into play. Get your light box set up as well as your tripod and camera. My last tip for this blog is USE YOUR CAMERAS SELF TIMER OR REMOTE SHTTER RELEASE. The reason for this is to remove the possibility of camera shake from pussing the release button.

Here is my set up with my light box camera and tripod.

And here is the results.

As I said at the beginning of this blog this is the first of what will be many blogs about Photography for Etsy. I hope you all will come back and visit my blog again next week.

Check out my Etsy store www.mgwphotography.etsy.com

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Monday, June 16, 2008


I Decided to wander around downtown Binghamton today and brought my camera with me. The Ross Building on the Corners of State Street and Court Street is scheduled to be demolished any day now. I thought I would go down and get some before and after pictures.

The Ross Building has stood at the corners of State and Court street for almost 12o years.
Built in 1889-90 by local banker Erastus Ross, it was designed by local architect Truman I. Lacey in the Victorian Romanesque style. Last year the building Oneil Building was demolished which was attached to eastern side of the Ross Building due to increasing structural issues.

The location and construction of the building pose some real issues. The building is actually physically attached to another building. The south wall of the building is leaning outward over an adjecent connected building. The plan was to demolish that wall by hand however the building has shifted considerably and it has been deemed unsafe for that plan. Since the building is no longer safe to be in the construction company has brought in biggest excavator I have ever seen. It was brought in on the back of 5 tractor trails from North Carolina. When fully constructed it will stand about 135' tall.

The use of this construction equipment is effecting the City in many ways. The intersection where this building sits is probably the busiest intersection in the City. It blocks both main roadways in and out of the City. Detours arent long just around the block but it is still effecting businesses. Two local businesses have been shut down until the demolition is complete. A pizza parlor and a night club. State street is where most of the bars are. Many of these places see big lunch time crowds. The street would normally be lined with cars at lunch time however the scene today was quite the opposite.

As I was walking around downtown with my camera apparently people though I must know something more than them. I say this because people kept asking me questions about the building and the demolition plans. One older guy decided to chat with me about the architecture of the building. Asking me if I thought they were going to keep any of the architectural work. He proceeded to tell me about how he had even approaced the Mayor on the subject.

As with many buildings in Binghamton the building does have some interesting architectural design to it. I think it would be awesome to have some of these pieces of concrete someplace on display. Below are a few of the details of this building.

Many of the buildings here in Binghamton have this kind of architectural work. There is one building that the facade is actually painted cast iron. Our city is full of these types of buildings most of the time going unnoticed and or unappreciated by most of the people that live here. The architecture of in this town is by far one of my favorite thing about this area.

The City does not have any real plans on what will happen with the property at this point in time once the building is demolished. Downtown Binghamton needs revitalization in a big way. I hope that something will go in there that will somehow help the Downtown area.