Selling Crafts, Art: The Secret To Making A DIY Business For Yourself Online (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 02/21/2012 9:08 am EST Updated: 04/22/2012 5:12 am EDT

Today's artists and crafters use the Internet not only to promote themselves, but to sell their wares. Good-quality images sell a product; inferior images don't.

So it makes business sense to learn a few tricks of the photographic trade.

Whether your subject is curios or objets d'art, look for the best natural light and a simple background before launching into a photo shoot, advises Me Ra Koh, a Takoma, Wash., photographer and author of "Your Baby in Pictures" (Amphoto Books, 2011).

"Get everything out of the background that doesn't enhance the story you're trying to tell," says Koh. "It only takes a second to move a pop can for a photo that's going to last a lifetime."

And ditch your automatic flash, which creates harsh lighting.

"The built-in flash is evil," says Koh. "It's never going to be a flattering shot."

If you're photographing your wares inside, put your back to a window, with the photo subject facing the outdoor light.

Outside, skip the picturesque park in favour of the parking lot.

"Grass sucks up sunlight. It bounces green," says Koh. "We end up looking darker in the photo than what we actually see."

The grey tones of gravel and cement, on the other hand, provide a neutral colour that bounces up flattering light and fills in shadows on artwork.

William Dohman, who sells wooden signs and scenic images at his store, Oh Dier, at the online marketplace Etsy.com, is an architect and self-taught photographer who plans each photo shoot in his St. Paul, Minn., studio. Dohman likes to photograph his products in front of old buildings, which imbue his images with texture and colour.

But don't overuse those backgrounds, he warns; it can look busy.

Heidi Adnum begins with lighting in her book, "The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos" (Interweave Books, 2011). She, too, recommends natural, diffused light for product shoots, and urges crafters to learn how to work with it.

"We just see light as light until we start to understand it better," says Adnum, of Newcastle, Australia.

Other tips from her book:

— Shoot outside on a cloudy day. Shade provides naturally diffused light.

— Inside, use a light tent - a box that acts as a mini-studio -- if shooting near a window is not possible. Crafters can make their own.

— If you must use artificial light, go for cheap, household lamps such as a desk lamp with an adjustable head. Make sure the bulb is white and that you diffuse the light. To diffuse light, use sheer white parchment paper or a white shower curtain.

Emily Free Wilson, a ceramics artist in Helena, Mont., needs to take professional-quality images of her colourful vases and dinnerware to post on her website, Free Ceramics, and at an Etsy shop of the same name. She thinks it was the quality of her images that landed her pottery on the cover of a recent issue of Ceramics Monthly magazine.

Check out some DIY home ideas in our Craft Of The Day slideshow. Story continues below.

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  • Gilded Moleskine Journal

    Add some personality to your Moleskine by carving original gilded designs and pressing them against the journal. Head over to <a href="http://www.designmom.com/2012/09/perfect-gift-gilded-moleskine-journal/" target="_blank">Design Mom</a> for the full tutorial.

  • Gold Leaf Notebook

    Adding gold leaf details to your journal adds a touch of style and sets it apart from others. Head over to <a href="http://www.hellolucky.com/wordpress/2012/09/05/diy-gold-leaf-notepads/" target="_blank">Hello Lucky</a> for the full tutorial.

  • Button & String Journal

    This clever button & string journal is a craft activity that you can using raw materials. Head over to <a href="http://thecreativeplace.blogspot.com/2010/02/ive-been-trying-to-decide-on-what-to.html" target="_blank">The Creative Place</a> for the full tutorial.

  • DIY Striped Notebooks

    You'll never guess how this blogger made these pastel colored designs. Here's a hint: they're repurposed office supplies. Head over to <a href="http://papernstitchblog.com/2012/10/17/make-this-striped-one-minute-notebooks-diy/" target="_blank">Paper & Stitch</a> for the full tutorial.

  • Book Binding Tutorial

    This is a useful craft if you're interested in binding your own journal. You'll be able to choose from your own selection of papers and include any number of pages you'd like -- as long as the binding keeps it together, of course! Head over to <a href="http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/2013/03/diy-book-binding-experience-journals.html" target="_blank">Modern Parents Messy Kids</a> for the full tutorial.

  • Washi Tape Journal

    These journals are given a little flair using a variety of different patterned tape. Head over to <a href="http://www.designlovefest.com/2012/08/make-it-18/" target="_blank">Design Love Fest</a> for the full tutorial.

  • Easter Ideas: Miniature Flower Baskets

    These lightweight <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/easter-ideas-tiny-flower-baskets_n_2902413.html" target="_blank">miniature flower baskets</a> are the perfect party favors for your Easter celebration.

  • Easter Ideas: Egg Hunt Bag

    These <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/easter-ideas-egg-hunt-bags_n_2917237.html" target="_blank">compact totes</a> will come in handy on your Easter egg hunt search!

  • Easter Ideas: Piñata Eggs

    Smashing these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/25/easter-ideas-pinata-eggs_n_2945141.html" target="_blank">confetti-filled pinata eggs</a> can be a fun activity for your festivities.

  • Easter Ideas: Alternative Egg Crafts

    Ditch the typical egg-dyeing routine and try a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/easter-ideas-alternative-egg-designs_n_2901928.html" target="_blank">different approach to glamouring your eggs</a>.

  • Easter Ideas: Paper Crafts

    These <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/easter-ideas-paper-crafts_n_2957631.html" target="_blank">adorable paper crafts</a> make for easy instant Easter decorations.

  • Easter Ideas: Bunny Crafts

    Head over to our list of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/28/easter-ideas-bunny-crafts_n_2963748.html" target="_blank">Easter bunny crafts </a>that you'll want to start working on ASAP!

  • Yarn Decoupage Vase

    Set the St. Patrick's Day mood with these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/st-patricks-day-decoupage-vase_n_2853027.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home" target="_hplink">charming decoupage vases</a>.

  • St. Patrick's Day Candle Centerpiece

    Make <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/st-patricks-day-ideas-candle-centerpiece_n_2854731.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home" target="_hplink">a candle centerpiece</a> with green split peas for St. Patrick's Day.

  • St.Patrick's Day Shamrock Barrette

    DIY <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/st-patricks-day-ideas_n_2853111.html" target="_hplink">felt shamrock barrette </a>to show off your spirit.

  • St. Patrick's Day Yarn Wreath

    A DIY <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/11/st-patricks-day-yarn-wreath_n_2831120.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home" target="_hplink">St. Patrick's Day yarn wreath</a> to start the celebration early.

  • Paint-Dipped Flower Vases

    Make these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/10/paint-dipped-vases-spring_n_2830169.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">paint-dipped flower vases</a> that remind us of spring.

  • Paper Photo Lanterns

    Turn paper lanterns into <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/paper-lanterns-photo-spheres-_n_2715981.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">personalized glowing photo spheres</a>.

  • Storage Tins

    Dress up your refrigerator with a touch of personality by adding these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/17/-refrigerator-storage-tin-magnets_n_2695726.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">DIY storage tin magnets</a>.

  • Snowflake Votives

    Relish the last few weeks of winter with these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/diy-snowflake-votive_n_2669265.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">charming snowflake votives</a>.

  • Painted Vintage Silverware

    Give your antique silverware a dose of personality by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/11/vintage-silverware-neon-paint_n_2663527.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">painting them with vibrant, neon colors</a>.

  • Reusable Fruit and Vegetable Bag

    Reuse vintage flour sacks and turn them into fruit and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/reusable-vegetable-fruit-bags_n_2536944.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">veggie bags</a>.

  • Paint Dipped Bud Vases

    Add some color to your space with these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/make-paint-dipped-bud-vas_n_2530606.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">paint dipped vases</a>.

  • DIY iPhone Cases

    Brighten up your winter by designing your own <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/21/a-diy-iphone-case_n_2517019.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">iPhone case</a>.

  • Retro Inspired Clock

    Make these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/retro-inspired-clock-diy_n_2515834.html?utm_hp_ref=crafts" target="_hplink">retro-inspired clocks</a> with wood shims.

  • Crepe Paper Fringe String Lights

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/crepe-paper-fringe-string-lights_n_2500859.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home" target="_hplink">Make these</a> for any festive occasion.

  • Paint Splattered Vases

    These are a throwback to the '80s and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/paint-splattered-vase-craft_n_2492400.html" target="_hplink">a blast to make.</a>

  • Wood Burned Sign

    Make this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/wood-burning-craft_n_2482645.html" target="_hplink">cute rustic decor </a>for your next get-together.

  • Painted Platter

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/painted-platter-craft_n_2476038.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost Home" target="_hplink">Update a simple</a> plate with glass paint.

  • Paint Dipped Pots

    This is a great way to use<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/paint-dipped-pots-craft_n_2449767.html" target="_hplink"> up those extra paint samples</a>.

  • Sequin Pillow

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/13/sequin-throw-pillow-craft_n_2449523.html" target="_hplink">This is made from</a> a forgotten piece of clothing.

  • Faux Malachite Hardware

    You'll never guess <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/faux-malachite-knobs-craft_n_2441673.html" target="_hplink">how these are made. </a>

  • Fabric Feathers

    You can <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/11/fabric-feathers-craft_n_2448757.html" target="_hplink">use these for countless projects</a>.

  • Glitter Thumbtacks

    Turn <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/glitter-thumbtacks-craft_n_2434717.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">boring office supplies</a> into this.

  • Hand Warmers And Ice Packs

    Heat them up or cool them down -- these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/hand-warmers-ice-packs-craft_n_2425960.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">hot/cold packs</a> can do it all.

  • Linen Napkins

    Add some color to your table and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/linen-napkins-craft_n_2411487.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">never use a paper napkin</a> again!

  • Braided Rug

    Turn scrap fabric into a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/06/braided-rug-craft_n_2404200.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">bright and welcoming rug</a>.

  • Book Page Boxes

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/book-page-boxes-craft_n_2403665.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">Try this</a> instead of throwing out your old books.

  • Painted Votive Candles

    A craft project that will <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/painted-votive-candle-holders-craft_n_2398283.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">help you unwind</a>.

  • Snowball Wreath

    Stay festive after the holidays with this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/snowball-wreath-craft_n_2389757.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">wintry wreath</a>.

  • Pom Pom Bookmarks

    A simple way to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/01/pom-pom-bookmark-craft_n_2389135.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">never lose your place</a> in a book again!

  • Honey Bear Vases

    An <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/craft-of-the-day-gold-honey-bear-vases_n_2094626.html?utm_hp_ref=craft-of-the-day">adorable way</a> to repurpose these little guys!

  • Polka Dot Pillowcases

    These <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/craft-of-the-day-polka-dot-pillowcases_n_2088768.html">spotted pillowcases</a> will help add some personal flair to your bedroom.

  • Add some flair to your fridge with these bright and colorful magnets.

    Add some flair to your fridge with these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/06/craft-of-the-day-neon-wood-magnets_n_2088075.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">bright and colorful magnets</a>.

  • Magazine Page Heart Dish

    Reuse old magazines to create an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/06/craft-of-the-day-magazine-page-heart-dish_n_2083477.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">adorable and useful box</a> that holds jewelry or other small items.

  • Pumpkin Patch Fall Wreath

    Keep <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/craft-of-the-day-pumpkin-patch-fall-wreath_n_2077058.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">the pumpkin decor</a> going throughout this fall season.

  • Rustic Birch Bark Candles

    Add a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/craft-of-the-day-birch-bark-candles_n_2058318.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">natural look</a> to your fall table setting.

  • Indoor Mason Jar Herb Garden

    The perfect way to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/craft-of-the-day-indoor-mason-jar-herb-garden_n_2051655.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">bring your herbs indoors </a>this winter.

  • Color-Blocked Coasters

    Add a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/craft-of-the-day-color-blocked-coasters_n_2049875.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">splash of color</a> to your table and protect it at the same time.

  • Halloween Candy Printables

    These <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/craft-of-the-day-halloween-candy-printables_n_2041213.html?utm_hp_ref=huffpost-home&ir=HuffPost%20Home">candy printables</a> were designed exclusively for HuffPost Home readers by Carla Chadwick from <a href="http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&key=b057a0c538f3356fa4383d50d05abcbf&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2012%2F10%2F29%2Fcraft-of-the-day-halloween-candy-printables_n_2041213.html%3Futm_hp_ref%3Dhuffpost-home%26ir%3DHuffPost%2520Home&v=1&libid=1351792186409&out=http%3A%2F%2Fprintablepartykits.com%2F&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2012%2F10%2F31%2Fcraft-of-the-day-color-blocked-coasters_n_2049875.html%3Futm_hp_ref%3Dhuffpost-home%26ir%3DHuffPost%2520Home&title=Craft%20Of%20The%20Day%3A%20Halloween%20Printables%20To%20Personalize%20Your%20Candy&txt=Carla%20Chadwick%20from%20Printable%20Party%20Kits&jsonp=vglnk_jsonp_13517923719541">Printable Party Kits</a>!

  • Book Page Pumpkins

    These <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/craft-of-the-day-book-page-pumpkins_n_2039041.html">festive decorations</a> are perfect for the entire fall season!

Her secret weapon? A white-to-black gradation backdrop that creates an optical illusion: white in the foreground and black in the background. It adds depth to an image.

"The artwork has a stronger presence, like it's on stage," says Wilson. "It's a really nice little trick."

If a photo needs help, Photoshop can come to the rescue. But experts caution against relying on the software to turn an average image into a dazzler.

For Koh, it's a time issue: She'd rather take the time to set up a great shot than clean it up later. "Good photographs don't need to be saturated with 'what I did in Photoshop'," Koh says.

Adnum recommends using Photoshop to crop out distractions, or add graphics or text - especially handy for describing products on Etsy - but that's it.

"If you're selling an item based on a photograph, and your photograph makes your item look different, there's a risk (the buyer) will be disappointed," she says. "Ultimately, I think you want to keep your photograph as simple as possible, and convey the messages that you want to and show your product in its best light."

If Photoshop is necessary, Adnum's book includes a chapter on some basics. There are Photoshop tutorials online and companies that offer online classes.

These photographic and editing techniques serve a new era: that of passing images not hand-by-hand but via the Internet.

"Everyone has a 'share' button," says Jodi Friedman, of West Bloomfield, Mich., whose MCP Actions sells Photoshop shortcuts online. It's worth it these days to learn how to take better pictures, she says: "The whole world sees them."

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