Web banners are an important factor in e-commerce, and website advertising. They can be used on your own website, or as advertisements on other sites, such as marketplaces and the like. They can be created to show a lifestyle setting allowing the consumer see a tantalising hint of your brand, or be more product-specific selling a particular benefit.
Why they are so important is something we will discuss in this blog post, after-all why should you use part of your marketing budget if they don’t work…
Reason 1 – Web banners create an ‘Abruption’.
Before the internet came along, businesses relied upon print adverts to grab people’s attention. These adverts consisted of great product photography and a catchy headline – it was the days of print advertising where the term ‘headline’ came from. Because it appeared at the top or ‘head’ of the page. It captured their interest and created an ‘abruption’. Today’s digital version, the web banner, does this in the same way and makes potential customers stop what they’re doing and channel their attention through the same use of captivating product photography and thought provoking headlines.
In the digital world attention is something that is a real premium, we all have our own ‘in-built’ filters so that we can get to the information we really need, and capturing this attention is so very important. Professional photography really helps the web banner stand out amongst the competition.
During the initial briefing process and the creation of the shot list we discuss where the designer will be using the product photography post-shoot.
Reason 2 – A Picture (product photograph) says a 1000 Words
We’ve all heard the cliche that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. This is due to the fact that our brains have large portions completely dedicated to visual processing. As discussed in ‘The Power of Pictures. How We can use Images to Promote and Communicate.’
A good website banner should represent your business and products accurately. If it can include professional quality, studio shot photography this will mark your business out in a professional manner. It has to instantly sell you and your products, and allow the viewer to make that crucial connection with you and your business.
They can be as targeted and pared down to perhaps a sale, or a more broadly created banner that points out a mainstay of your business. you can reuse them whenever you need to.
Reason 3 – To Differentiate Yourself and be Unique
Of course you can buy off the peg stock images from a number of locations, but if you’d like images that are unique to only you, a very important factor in branding, particularly if you’re trying to create difference to other similar businesses. Afterall your customers want to get to know you and your products. Not an overused image found on a stock photography site. They are of course much cheaper for a reason, they get sold in multiple copies and become very widely used.
They are not photographs of your business or your products. The best way for potential customers to get to know you is by commissioning a shoot with a professional photographer and to show them your actual products.
That said, stock images can be useful. Particularly if you’re just starting out in business, at this stage they can be very beneficial are preferable to poorly lit, or out of focus images. There’s plenty to choose from with various stock sites such Adobe Stock, istockphoto, and Shutterstock. There does comes a point in time when any business that is wanting to progress, and to differentiate themselves within often crowded marketplaces, needs to have their own unique imagery, to go with their unique products.
If you produce any type of product that can be superimposed – we do produce designers template images, and these are a cost effective alternative to a stock image. While they would never be able to compete with a stock image on price, where they are far superior is in their uniqueness.
You can also get more use from existing imagery by creatively cropping to create a web banner. This can also be done during a photoshoot, where secondary images are created at the point of shooting, cropping them down and ensuring nothing is missing within the image.
Reason 4 – To Make Your Products Real, and Add a Third Dimension
Of course it’s possible to create graphic only web banners featuring typography. The advantages of using photography within your banners are several fold.
They add depth and connect with your customer as it shows real objects, in a real scene showcasing your products. It’s not abstract, they are textures, and tangible elements. it shows light too, and as with all styled and lifestyle photography it enables your potential customer to envisage your product in their home or in their life.
This is important for any type of product, but particularly in the case of flat product such as a greetings card. Yes the primary importance is the design printed on the card, but it’s still a three dimensional real product. This needs to be communicated in the photograph. Otherwise why would people still buy many more real cards, than simply send an ecard? Because real products that are tangible, and more personal and simply deliver on an emotional level in a way that a message sent via the internet can’t.
Generally we produce web banners in 3:1 format, which is similar to a widescreen (or cinemascope) film. This may seem like a very wide banner but when viewed in an Internet Browser it’s pretty much the norm. We can also also produce them at 16:9, see here for a guide to aspect ratios and which to use in given situations.
Reason 5 – To Communicate your Message Faster
Not only do images have more power, they communicate much more quickly than text based information. Time is becoming evermore precious and this is certainly true online. Images are much more likely to create an abruption than text alone, as we mentioned earlier.
We process images at an incredible speed. When we see a picture, we analyse it within a very short space of time, gathering its meaning almost immediately. Due to our evolution our visual senses are the most active or all our sense, and these primitive elements affect us even though we are now far removed from our hunter gatherer beginnings!
To ensure your banners are completely relevant the key is to use the image as an anchor to draw attention, and to make instant communication, then finish off with a headline or some copy to complete the communication.
Web banners can be created using any of the studio’s stock of props and settings and of course if you have any of your own props you would like including you can send those across with the products. They can be photographed in a white background type setting, or more usually have a lifestyle or styled approach. If you’d like to discuss your own web banners or website advertising photography send us an email at or give you a call on 01723 375141
Product photography tips for designer makers and creatives. These will help you achieve the best possible photography with limited budgets and equipment. I regularly write new articles and blog posts, so don’t forget to check back here.
Progressive Greetings Online / PG Buzz
How to…Photograph Greetings Cards
Rise Shine and Design, Blog Series
This blog series delves into creating a story through your use of photography, how to light your work. Keeping things consistent in terms of style. It then moves on to technique and practical advice, finishing with advice on creating your very own studio.
Further articles and Interviews.
Aura Creative Media
Great British Exchange
Howling Moon PR
Make it in Design
We’re going to start posting some articles here that we feel are very helpful in understanding product photography further.
Starting off with this article from Wix
For all shoot I supply the full size high resolution images, and if you require further sizes from there you can either do those yourself or I can upload additional copies for you – this is obviously an additional charge, if you are wanting to do this yourself there’s several different ways, most designers will have a copy Adobe Photoshop, and please see https://photofocus.com/photography/adobe-tip-save-time-in-photoshop-with-the-image-processor-script/
If you don’t have Photoshop there are several online apps that can always do this for you – such as https://tinyjpg.com/
One last one if you’re a Windows user, this was actually recommended by a client, its an app to download https://www.bricelam.net/ImageResizer/ this one is very handy and easy to use, after installing, simply click right mouse button on an icon and the rest is easy.
I like this article by Farrow and Ball on how different light affects colours, something which is very important in photography. Direction of windows has a dramatic effect too, so if you’re creating your own place within your home to carry out photography, take a look at this
How Dpi Affects Printing and Images for the Web
PACKSHOTS & STYLED IMAGERY
The Spirit of Yorkshire distillery are creators of Yorkshire’s first single malt whisky. they contacted us recently about producing a range of shots, to mark the release of a new whisky to their portfolio. Firstly they required packshots, followed by styled line up shots, and (after lockdown is over) a range of lifestyle shots.
Packshots are a standard in product photography, in particular they’re very commonly used with beverage photography as bottles, and glass in general is notoriously difficult to photograph. It can be a double edged sword to photograph, initially it’s all about removing all distracting reflections from the surface of the glass. For those who have done this, they will realise that, although the result looks much more professional, the material doesn’t actually look like glass anymore! The next step is to create a lighting solution that lights the glass in a more pleasing way, introducing diffusion to soften any highlighted areas upon the glass.
Their brand identity features a Gannet, “a large seabird with white plumage which catches fish by plunging into the water”. The bottles and cartons also feature the Gannet, and we’ve picked it out on the carton above. The business is based in Yorkshire, just near to Bempton Cliff’s which is nationally renowned for being home to the largest gannet colony in the UK.
For this the client really wanted to emphasise the natural part of their process, and also their traditional processes that are used in the creation of the product. So although the packaging and bottle design are quite modern, it needed to reflect this tradition too.
The client supplied us with the barley grains, we then added some stones, and one of the studio’s stripped vintage tables, which has just the right amount of patina and age. We photographed this against a hand painted background, which was lit across it’s surface to accentuate its texture. Three different shots were composited together to provide the optimal lighting on the surface of each bottle. A bottle was removed in each of these shots so that there were no reflections from one bottle to another. Diffusion was used to soften the highlights on each piece.
These couple of images show how the scene is split up photographing each segment of the scene independently, also it’s separately diffused, and then all composited back together to form the final shot.
To check out their unique products see their website at https://www.spiritofyorkshire.com
We do also have a range of drinks ephemera in our prop store (in the kitchen section) which allow us to style the images, including artificial ice cubes, tumblers, champagne flutes, wine glasses, cocktail shakers and glasses all suitable for use in drink photography.
Are you thinking about selling your art, craft or designs online? Folksy is one of the best places to sell handmade in the UK and a great alternative to Etsy. They are a small team, based in Sheffield, who are all passionate about craft and handmade. In this article, Camilla Westergaard from the Folksy team shares her top tips for selling online. You’ll find loads more advice on the Folksy blog too – check out the Folksy Sellers’ Handbook for tons of articles and everything you need to know about selling craft online and at craft fairs.
Above…The Folksy website, featuring one of their sellers Alma Caira
Essential tips for selling art and craft online
There is a craft to selling online. It’s no good making something, snapping a quick picture, listing it in your shop, then sitting back and waiting for it to sell. The makers movement that we’ve seen grow over the last decade or so, combined with the changing internet, means that there is now so much competition for people’s attention that you have to work hard to get seen. It can be a challenge but it’s also fun learning those skills and a huge thrill when you get that first sale – knowing that someone has chosen to spend their money on something you have made is an incredible feeling and worth chasing!
In this article, we’re going to look at seven things you can do to build a successful online shop.
1. Define your niche
When you’re starting out, it’s a common mistake to think that you need to offer lots of choice and a wide variety of products. If you try to please everyone your shop will end up feeling muddled and it will be harder to build a brand and reach your target market. It’s much better to choose one thing and carve out a niche doing that. Do one thing well.
As artist Susie West explains in this interview: “When we first started out, we sold a variety of artwork, but the business didn’t really take off until the focus was on the travel poster prints, giving us an obvious, recognisable product.”
Customers need to understand who you are and what you make, and trust that they are buying from someone who really knows what they are doing. If you can build a reputation as the expert in your field, you’ll have a stronger brand and a more sustainable business.
Read how to find your niche – http://blog.folksy.com/2015/09/14/how-to-find-your-niche
2. Start to think of yourself as a brand
You may be an artist or an indie maker, but if you can start to think of yourself as a brand, you’ll be able to build a strong identity for yourself across your social media channels and your online shop.
This starts by understanding what your story is, why you make, why what you do is special and what your values are. Once you have identified those, you can start to project them in everything you do – from your shop name to how you style your product shots, how your write your product descriptions and how you talk to your audience on social media.
Read how to build a strong brand identity for your craft business here – http://blog.folksy.com/2015/01/21/how-to-build-a-strong-brand-identity
3. Price your products so you can make a profit
Pricing is a headache for most artists and makers, especially when you’re starting out. It helps to think about pricing as a quest to find the ‘sweet spot’ where your work sells well and you can make a profit. It’s no use pricing your work so cheaply that you get lots of sales but you aren’t making a profit, as ultimately your business will fail (unless you’re Amazon and you plan to sell trillions of things at a minuiscule profit). It also doesn’t help to under-price your work because if you don’t value your time or skills, you can’t really expect other people to!
Unfortunately, there is no magic one-size-fits-all formula for pricing handmade work, but there are some methods that can help you work out a price that gives you enough profit to maintain a sustainable business. This article should help and has a handy profit calculator too – https://blog.folksy.com/2018/01/23/how-to-make-more-profit
Remember to factor in ALL your costs when pricing your work (time, materials, packaging etc) and consider whether you want to sell your products wholesale in the future, as this will affect the retail price. Don’t forget potential promotions either. If your margins are rock-bottom slim, you’ll struggle to offer any discounts. You also need to think about where you want to sit in the market. Would you put yourself in the luxury, fine art or artisan bracket, or are would you rather make affordable pieces for the masses? Research similar products that are available – how are they priced and how do you compare in terms of quality, experience and skill?
Once you know the cost price of your products, there are various ways to calculate the retail price. You could set a multiple of your cost price, or add on a set amount as your profit. Or you might prefer to set your retail price based on comparable products and what a customer expects to spend. Find the one that is right for you, but bear in mind that if you sell to shops they will take a percentage of the retail price (often 50% or more), that it’s useful to leave room for offers and promotions, and also that if you go below your cost price you will be making a loss.
We have a whole section on the blog dedicated to pricing, with lots of tips and advice. Find it here http://blog.folksy.com/category/seller-tips/pricing-tips
4. Make sure you have brilliant product photos
If you’re reading this article, you probably know this already but it’s worth saying again: to sell online you NEED to have good photos. It’s proven that shops with good product photos sell more. No matter how amazing your products are, if you don’t have great photos, they are less likely to sell. Your pictures can make the difference between a sale and a scroll – and it’s not just about grabbing their attention, it’s also about giving a customer confidence in you and your product.
In our ever-more social world, photos are increasingly important in getting attention, follows, shares, as well as press and features. They also play a part in SEO, as the more shares you get, the more Google and other search engines will love you and show your shop in their search results.
Aim for a consistent style in your photos as this will help reinforce your brand and make your product shots instantly recognisable as yours – and remember that when shown on index pages on Folksy (so search results, gift guides, recently listed), photographs will be cropped to a square, so make sure your product is the hero of the shot and that the photo works well when resized.
5. Learn how to write titles and descriptions that get found by target customers
Once you have your amazing photos, have set your prices, understand your niche, your brand and your values, you’re ready to get your products listed and in front of people.
To get your listings seen on search engines like Google and showing up within Folksy, you need to write clear, easy-to-read titles and descriptions that contain words people will actually use to find your product (these are called keywords). A search engine can’t “see” your photos, so think how you would describe your product to someone over the telephone.
It’s really worth spending some time researching the best words and phrases to use here, so that you can reach your ideal customers. The aim is to identify words and phrases that you can rank for, rather than ones which are dominated by the big online sites, but also the exact phrase that your audience are actually using to find pieces like yours.
We have some really great free tools and advice on our blog that can help you here, including product listing review videos that you can watch and learn from – http://blog.folksy.com/category/seller-tips/product-listing-tips
Include as many details as possible so the customer has all the information they need, and don’t forget to add tags to your listing as these will help your product get found too.
6. Make social media part of your daily routine
Social media is an amazing tool for sellers – not only is it free but it allows you to build a relationship with your customers. It enables you to build a customer base of fans who love your work and want to know more about what you do. The trap a lot of people fall into, though, is to broadcast rather than connect and interact. If you approach social media just as a place to promote your products, it’s unlikely to work. Social media is all about being sociable – the clue is in the name.
There are lots of different channels you can use – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – each with its pros and cons. The good thing is you don’t need to cover them all. In an ideal world, you want to spend most of your time on the same channel as your customers, but if you’re brand new to social media it’s ok to focus on the one you find easiest to get your head around, and go from there.
Always keep this in mind though: you need to interact with your followers, not just post and run. So use hashtags to find people interested in similar things and start conversations, join in with Instagram challenges, be interesting, engaging and genuine, and spend as much time commenting on other people’s posts as you do on your own.
7. List often, review your shop regularly and keep up to date with Folksy news and features
Once your shop is up and running, check in every day to ensure you haven’t missed any messages or sale notifications, and make sure there are no items still listed that have already sold at a craft fair or elsewhere (eek!).
If you can keep your online shop well stocked and updated regularly with fresh products it encourages people to come back to see what’s new. If you’ve had the same items in your shop for a while, they can start looking a bit tired and you might find your shop views and sales start to drop, as regular customers lose interest. Introducing new pieces or even just photographing your best-sellers in new ways will give you new content to share and new opportunities to tempt customers to your shop.
The Folksy Plus Account comes in handy here as you can list and relist as often as you like for just £5 a month – read more here https://blog.folksy.com/why-open-a-folksy-plus-account
Listing regularly also puts your shop and products in front of more people, as new items appear on the Folksy front page, in our Recently Listed section and in customers’ Favourites. Recent listings are one of the factors used to sort results in Folksy Categories and Gift Guides too, meaning new items appear closer to the top. We also send Folksy subscribers an email that features new items from their favourites sellers, so every time you add a new item to your shop, you increase your chance of going directly to a customer’s inbox.
It’s worth checking your Stats page every month, to see which items are getting the most views and where those views are coming from. If there are particular products that are getting more views than others, are there lessons from these listings that you could apply to others, for example popular tags or particular titles that are working well? Are you getting lots of views from one social media changes – if so can you spend more time growing your presence and following on there?
Keep up to date with what’s happening on Folksy too, by joining our Folksy Clubhouse Facebook Group or the Talk Folksy forums, and reading our Seller Tips emails. That way you won’t miss out on any new features, updates or opportunities. Our forum and Facebook group are also a great way to connect with other sellers and pick up tips.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be off to a great start but you can find even more advice here – https://blog.folksy.com/2017/07/11/how-to-sell-craft-online-beginners-guide
Ready to start selling? Open a shop on Folksy today and get three FREE listings to help you on your way. Join Folksy – https://folksy.com/selling
Camilla Westergaard is an occasional designer and maker, and owner of a hedgehog called Herb. She is in charge of words and pictures at Folksy.
A ceramics photographic shoot for maker Febbie Day Ceramics. This shoot shows the various different styles that ceramics can be shot in. Ceramics are very interesting to photograph. The technique and resulting images depend much upon the surface quality of the work, the most important being whether they are glossy or matte. Either way I tend to use additional diffusion to what the standard softbox will provide. For the still life images below I picked wildflowers, which can be a good alternative to bought-in versions as they have a different, more raw appearance.
OVERHEAD / FLATLAY
Digressing slightly, I picked this set of cutlery up a while ago for a couple of pounds as I thought the style of them was amazing. They’re extremely simple, modernist and geometric and definitely have the look! They have ‘Air France’ stamped on them very subtly and when I looked them up recently and they were designed by Raymond Loewy a French American industrial designer. I will be picking up some more soon of varying designs, I think this time I will have to pay a little more though.
INTERIOR STYLE / LIFESTYLE
For more handmade ceramics photography, please see the Ceramics Gallery.
Above – Screenshot of the clients own website, showing how she has used the images.
Michelle Thexton creates stunning handmade wedding stationery. The work features amazing typography and beautiful illustrations and is created using various textured paper stocks. After several discussions we decided upon five different shots to represent the collections. Most shoots proceed in this manner, in a collaborative way.
Michelle bases her collections upon people in her life that she has found inspirational. For example, the collection ‘Sarah’ is shown below.
Two alternative settings were used and as Michelle’s overall branding is based upon green and white. The first setting used a white planked surface, while the second introduces a pale rustic wooden plank. Surfaces and backgrounds are something I continually develop, and this particular example had been recently stripped and toned down with wood bleach. Flowers are always a staple for use in photography of wedding stationery.
“Thank you Richard for working your magic on my wedding stationery designs. I am over the moon with the pictures – they are exactly what I wanted. Thanks also for making the process so easy & straightforward … you’ve been such a pleasure to work with.” Michelle Thexton, shells-bells.co.uk
See more examples of stationery photography see the Stationery and Paper Gallery
“Since getting your photographs on my website I’ve managed to become a listed supplier with a venue (which I hope will be a game change for this year) and I think having professional photographs has really been the driving force behind that”
I was recently approached by Naill from CGB Giftware to shoot one of their ranges; Dapper Chap. CGB design their own products, and are also a wholesaler. This means they had a large number of products and product ranges to consider. They already had white background photographs of their products, but wanted a cost effective way of helping consumers visualise their products in a more suitable context. Wishing to achieve a balance between cost effectiveness and differentiation between images was of importance for this shoot, and the range consisted of different product types.
Most shoots are based upon a repeating setting where the products are swapped out in series. That works very easily for products where the design is changed, but there is only one actual product type.
The initial test shot is shown here…
But what about if you have a large set of products in a collection, and they’re not all the same product type. If your product range contains giftware or homewares this will most likely be the case. Sometimes different settings would be created for different product types, that’s fine but it takes longer to do, and therefore costs more. Alternatively keeping both the setting and lighting simple means the camera angles and viewpoint can be changed more readily. Ensuring that both cost effectiveness and consistency are achieved.
With a shoot like this, many clients wonder if they are going to have to do work themselves on the images. My post production as standard includes all dirt removal, and require no additional enhancement. The only time where an additional charge may be made, would be when the products are damaged, or perhaps mis-printed. I would always speak to you about this before going ahead.
For more examples of giftware and homewares photography, see here.
Pinpointing the Purpose of Social Media for Your Business.
Knowing what tools to invest in to generate growth in your small business can be a challenge. There are so many options, and social media is a very popular choice for many, myself included. However, it is not necessarily going to suit every business.
In the most part, we are all trying to get off our devices, I’m personally putting great effort into being on my phone less. However, social media has handed me a free platform to showcase my business and gain new customers by doing what I love, so any time I spend on the ‘gram helps me to make money. So how can you determine whether it will help you? These are the steps I run through with my coaching clients:
What Do I Want to do More of in My Business?
Firstly, ask yourself, what do I want to do more of in my business? Bear in mind that the most popular answer is usually to make more money. This makes it worthwhile to check your margins and see what earns you the most money for the least effort. As an artist I want to sell paintings, but selling my digital learning tools generates the most profit for the least effort. Therefore, I concentrate on providing value to my social media audience via my digital teaching tools and paint for pleasure. So take stock, and make your decision wisely.
Once you have determined what you want to do more of and explore whether you can make content that showcases that. For example public speaking, selling art, securing more coaching spots etc. If you want to do more public speaking, create an Instagram feed that showcases the public speaking you have done. Share pictures and videos of you doing the thing you want to do more of, or sell more of. Share testimonials where you have been given glowing feedback.
If you can come up with ways to do that, I would go and practice this on Instagram. Showcase your work in a cohesive way, tell people what you offer in 3 seconds and give value.
If you want more help, register your interest for Sticks + Ink’s brand new online programme, ‘Instagram School’. This will be launching this Summer with lots of free tutorials! In the meantime, check out these eBooks to help you on your journey. Come and join me and my wonderful community over on Instagram where I share Instagram tips + tricks with you every week.
Kia, who works under the pseudonym, Sticks + Ink, is an abstract artist who teaches her expert knowledge of Instagram to creative entrepreneurs. Posting work from a weekly art class on Instagram, things started to snowball into a fully fledged business with an audience of 10,000 in just 12 short months.
The space in which I use to photograph work has always been very important. The room next door to the current studio became available and I jumped at the chance of extending the space.
It did mean a lot of work however, as the previously adjoining space had previously been separated and plastered over. Not to mention it had most of the original features stripped out and was in definite need of renovation. So with a trusty sledgehammer in hand, I set about joining the spaces up back up again.
One room within a Victorian building, the other room within an older Georgian building. It’s been a bit of a challenge as you can imagine, with such old spaces nothing quite lines up, nothing is square, and nothing is flat! But after many repairs and the installation of brand new period correct skirting boards and a brand new floor the space is starting to feel like a product photography studio. Finished off by renovating the original cast iron fireplace and fitting picture rails.
Here’s an image I recently produced for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (featuring the work of I Like Birds). This shows an example of how the room can be used to create a home styled setting, a lounge setting in this case.
As you can see the the old bathroom has been turned into a room where all the backgrounds, surfaces and equipment live. A local gallery was closing and I managed to get hold of a large art stand which is great as it stores most of them away in one area.
The original studio has now become a storeroom for all of the props and furniture. You can see more images of the studio, and the facilities here
Small businesses make the world a more interesting place!
There’s lots being said about the decline of the high street with the focus being on the big names that made town centres look much like duplicate copies of each other – and then in some cases moved to bland out of town retail parks – adding further to the problems.
But are things changing? Take a look around the corner and you’ll discover pop-up shops, farmers markets, makers markets, art and craft fairs all showcasing small business and local producers all of whom are passionate about their products.
The supermarkets and large chains have their place and certainly contribute to the economy – but nothing compares to a specialist designer, artist or retailer – someone who not only knows their stuff inside out and is passionate about it but who also has an exciting and unique array of products on offer. It’s far more interesting stepping into a lovely craft gallery, delicatessen or cheese shop or craft gallery and discovering things in there that you’ve never seen before! There’s also something very satisfying about finding something for a gift for someone – or yourself – that you know hasn’t been mass produced.
Design is now much more accessible than it was just a couple of decades ago with the rise of the TV makeover programme bringing aesthetics into everyone’s living room and there seems to be a real demand for ‘experiences’ as people look to fill their leisure time.
The internet has also enabled people to get creative and set up their own business – a hobby or interest can easily be capitalised on with a small beginning and little investment. Growing organically by first selling on line, then progressing to local fairs can allow designers and makers to establish themselves and their brand first whilst still being supported by regular full or part-time employment.
Where do you want to be?
You need to decide what’s right for your brand and how do you see it developing – with increased competition for every centimetre of shelf space the glory of seeing your products stocked by a high-street name can be short-lived.
There’s also the “all your eggs in one basket” syndrome – it may be great to have a mahoosive order from one of the big boys, but should anything go wrong (as in the case of BHS, House of Fraser etc) then where does that leave you?
Not everyone wants to be supplying products on that level – it may not fit with your business plan – and even though expanding the business is one of your goals, you may want to keep your distribution to a smaller scale. If you’re hand-making products, then that may be one of your main USP’s that you want to continue to capitalise upon.
There’s lots of support out there…
One of the biggest problems for small businesses – and it is stating the obvious – but they all need sales to survive and for many that’s an uphill struggle. That’s why awareness initiatives – be they days, weeks or year-round campaigns – are important to highlight the plight of the smaller business.
The Just a Card campaign is an initiative run by volunteers (including a little help from Howling Moon PR!) from the creative community that runs all year and encourages everyone to get involved – designers, artists, galleries, craft shops and independent retailers alike. Then there’s March Meet the Maker, started by Joanne Hawker, a campaign using Instagram to let your followers and the wider community know all about you and what you make.
Designed to get everyone shopping in their local independent stores, there’s also Independents Day – aptly named to coincide with the big American holiday on the 4th July!
There’s been a Small Business Saturday in the UK for a number of years and they are now more active at ‘making a noise’ throughout the year.
Experts in business, The Federation of Small Business offers members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Their mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.
There are also lots of ways to get involved on social media too – worth a look at are the regular chats on Twitter including #handmadehour, #justacard hour (every Thursday evening) and some really interesting Instagram challenges for designers and artists which encourage month-long participation and help to build a real sense of community and support.
It’s vital to support small businesses – they really do make the world go around!
Written by Roy Mouncey, from Howling Moon PR
With over 25 years of experience in PR, Roy has worked with a diverse range of brands and products; from a Royal Milliner to hiking socks, designer fragrance to haemorrhoid cream and everything in between!
Once described by a tutor at college as a “Renaissance man” (being able to turn his hand to most things!), Roy contributes constructively to each project. As well as PR campaigns he has been creatively involved in helping businesses to develop and grow – even going as far as to design and make tea pot and hotbox covers for one client to supply to a major London hotel.
Roy enjoys working with niche brands that have a great story to tell and that have been developed through a passion rather than because of a big budget.
The images shown below are examples from an introductory shoot produced for a greetings card designer. Adriana Lovesy provided a brief which, explained that the products were to be pitched as a sophisticated choice in the greetings card market. To achieve this I created a setting that was simple and elegant, but maintained a contemporary feel.
A subtly textured backdrop was used, alongside a pair of modern geometric vases from the prop store. Using softboxes combined with additional diffusion material produced a very soft light and appearance.
Since the introduction shoot Adriana has had further shoots individually photographing collections of cards for her website product listings.
This is what she said about the shoot “Richard has produced beautiful photographs and interpreted my brief perfectly. Having never paid for a professional product shoot before I was a bit nervous and unsure. So Richard suggested we start with an introductory shoot. I was impressed with the results and he showed me what was possible and it gave me the confidence to hire Richard to shoot my whole product range. I was really happy with the service that was given to me and would highly recommend Forever creative photography to anyone.”
See more in the Greetings Card Gallery.
A couple of behind the scenes images, getting the white balance right, and tweaking props as the shoot progressed.
“I wrote this post to share my experience of doing a trade show as a maker. This is not a ‘how to’ guide, it’s simply my particular experience of attending my first one. In April 2018 I exhibited at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate, UK. BCTF is the biggest trade fair for handmade goods in the UK and has been going for over 40 years.”
“Humblewood started as a rather unfocussed ‘woody’ hobby. Then in 2015 I decided to try a few craft fairs to make some pocket money. Expecting huge demand for what I was making, I attended the first few fairs with the car loaded down with my woody wares and boundless hope in my heart! What I soon found was that craft fairs weren’t what they once had been, and certainly, few visitors were in the mood to buy my particular lovely things…
As an aside, it seems to me that the word ‘craft’ has been largely absorbed into the general hobby, home-craft, industry, so now I prefer to think of myself as a quality, small scale maker, for want of a snappier description! My problem, short of stalking, was finding where they shopped.
Anyway, fast forward to 2017 and the misty-eyed hopes of actually making a modest, pint-of-beer-sized profit from attending fairs had evaporated, and I was on the verge of returning my woodworking to hobby status. But I had had some successes, particularly in a couple of shops and at longer running events, where I did not have to be present (maybe there was a clue to my lack of success?!). These highlights suggested that some folks did like my stuff enough to part with their hard earned cash in exchange for a piece. I had however, come to recognise an obvious truth for anyone trying to sell anything; first, find your audience. My problem, short of stalking, was finding where they shopped.
There had been shops asking if I did wholesale and even an approach to attend a previous BCTF, but hey, this was just a hobby, that sort of grown-up stuff was a bit out of my league. I should say at this point that I have actually had my own design and print business for 35 years, so I knew in principle how to run a business. Looking back, it was this thinking like a hobbyist that was the barrier to me seeing it as a proper business with wider horizons.
I hadn’t done much with Humblewood in the early half of 2017, having decided to stop attending fairs, and the graphics business was busy anyway. But I did have a couple of long-term events booked for the autumn through to Christmas, so I had to get back in the workshop. While these events had previously been among my few successes, the sales in 2017 were amazing! So amazing that they rekindled my enthusiasm and I revisited the idea that maybe Humblewood had a future after all. In the space of a few hours (and I don’t recommend this approach), I had decided the answer was simply to get other people to sell my lovely things – easy! So on one day in November I made the switch from direct selling to wholesale and had booked a stand at BCTF 2018…”
“With the decision made and the stand booked, I set about preparing for the event with renewed boyish enthusiasm – no mean feat for someone of my advancing years! I had visited BCTF before on the pretext of considering a future booking, but really I’d felt a complete fraud, seeing all those seasoned makers with their trade catalogues, wholesale price lists and minimum orders strutting their stuff. Anyway, I’d booked now and got to work planning. Designing the promotional and display stuff was easy – it’s my day job – but to be taken seriously I knew I needed professional photography. That turned out to be the single most effective thing I could have done. Overnight, Humblewood went from hobby to serious small business. I will say now, that having the show organisers use several of my photographs in their publicity material was a big bonus, but the effect decent images had on the overall quality of my presentation has been invaluable. As one very perceptive woman said to me; ‘money spent on quality photos is more effective than the equivalent spent on advertising’.”
Here are some of the images Bob mentions, in and around the show hall.
“Another big talking point among newcomers was the theory that some buyers deliberately avoid newbies, preferring to buy only from more established businesses. Apparently, a few years ago there had been a number of newcomers who had taken orders at the show and had then, for whatever reason, disappeared without fulfilling them. Certainly the exhibitors around me weren’t playing at it, and many were past the first flush of youth, so (I would suggest) more likely to take a responsible approach. That said, there were also plenty of young ‘uns with their heads on straight. As I said, everyone brought their own expectations, and had their own experiences during the show. On the whole, I came away with little to complain about. I suppose it all comes down to how successful the show is for each individual.
Talking to potential buyers wasn’t as daunting as I imagined. Indeed, talking out loud to strangers, while still making sense, isn’t normally one of my strengths! But I found chatting to people who are actually interested in what you make, pretty easy. Especially as I was taking about something I’m passionate and knowledgeable about. Such a different experience from standing behind a 6ft table in a drafty church hall 🙂 Thankfully I had prepared my buyer pack – pricing, terms, catalogue etc. – and it wasn’t like I was making a formal presentation to the board of Harrods!
It was only a last minute decision to take order forms with me. And then it was more about having them to hand to go with my catalogues, than expecting to use them during the show. As it turned out, I’d have looked a right chump if I hadn’t had them! Another 11th hour choice was to display my trade prices clearly on the stand. I had read somewhere not to do it, but as the show loomed I began to wonder about the sense of that. It wasn’t like I didn’t want people to know, or that I might change them during the event. As it turned out several buyers commented how helpful it was to be able to see the prices and decide whether my items at those prices were a viable option for their particular shop or gallery. I only had one comment that my prices were too high, but I’m confident that was just a case of them being too much for their particular location. One thing I did do was to call my order form an ‘order planner’ which seemed to me to be less pushy and more helpful looking to the retailer.
In approaching wholesaling in general, I have tried to think of the process as much from the retailers point of view as from the makers. Hopefully that helped, but I still have a lot to learn!
Eating on the stand was tricky as I was doing the show on my own – hurriedly stuffing the last bite of pizza in your mouth as someone approaches isn’t a good look! There will be periods too during a show when it goes quiet, and it’s easy to lose concentration – those sneaky buyers can suddenly appear when you least expect it!
Some buyers were happy to leave a business card, others less so. Next time I will try harder to collect details to follow up with later (assuming they don’t order promptly). I didn’t do this enough and there were potential buyers who genuinely seemed interested and even said they would order, but I have no record of who they were! Maybe just asking for their details would have indicated more of a commitment on my part? I’ll never know. Waiting two to three weeks before following up was the general consensus. I do now realise that orders generated by attending a show may come before, during or afterwards, so hopefully the makers near me who didn’t get orders at the event will see some success over the coming weeks.”
So where to from here then?
“One thing I hadn’t bargained for, was getting orders before the show… I hadn’t really known what to expect from doing the show; maybe some retailers being nice about my stuff, and possibly a couple of orders after the event. But not during and certainly not before! In the end I had orders from five retailers before the show (some couldn’t attend and some it seems, just couldn’t wait!), another seven at the show, plus a bonus third order from the first of my pre-show buyers. You could have knocked me down with a feather (and still could).
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and especially the people I met and friends I made. And obviously the unexpected sales success gave me a nice glow. It took several days for me to come down from the post-show high I was on. Plans and new ideas poured forth in the days afterward. After the initial euphoria, I calmed down enough to realise how tired I was! The pre-show period, plus a set-up day and the three days of the show itself really took it out of me! But I’m so glad I made the leap, broadened my horizons and finally saw the light.
So it seems I have found my audience – not the general public as I had assumed, but other small business owners who, like me, are passionate about what they do. They just happen to be the ones, unlike me, who are experts at selling to the general public. Who knew?!
Would I do it again? Well, I’ve already booked for next year, AND (impulsive fool that I am) booked to do another trade fair later in the year! Roll on the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in July!”
Bob Bryant, Humblewood.
Bob actually printed all of my business stationery for me, featuring some very lovely paper stock. So if you’d like to avoid using one of the big print companies, we all know who they are! Then check him out at https://humbleprint.uk/.
There’ll be more from Bob in a later blog post about his experiences at Home and Gift 2018.
I was very happy to be asked by Margeret from the British Craft Trade Fair to produce some advertising images for featuring this years exhibitors. All the furniture used in the shoot is furniture I have in the prop store so can be used in any shoot. Margeret hand picked the work to send over to me, and gave me a brief to produce fresh, spring like imagery. As they was quite a lot of products to fit in the various shots, not many props were used.
Margeret says “Magazine editors regularly inform us that the single most important thing a company can do to gain editorial coverage is invest in photography. In such a visual industry – and especially in the age of Instagram – it make sense to put your best face forward and allow your beautiful products to truly shine in 2D as much as they do in their real life glory.
“I would really recommend Richard he has photographed many of our exhibitors BCTF work and they have all been delighted with the results. Always friendly and happy to achieve your goals, he did some great lifestyle photos for us which proved to be invaluable for the advertising we did for BCTF 2019. Thanks Richard.” Margeret, BCTF
It’s been great to work with Margeret and BCTF exhibitors again on this years marketing shoot. This year we decided a little upon a more exclusive, more luxurious look with this wonderful blue backdrop. (Oxford Blue from Colorama, I have a full roll of it now!) Here are a couple of the images produced for the British Craft Trade Fair 2020…
A jewellery photography shoot for a local maker. Designer Kate Wimbush creates handmade jewellery inspired by the sea and the elements. In this shoot, she requested a look that would work for Christmas, but also year round and requested strings of lights in the background. With jewellery photography providing such a limited depth of field, they easily become out of focus in the background, which is great as they don’t detract from the product itself. Getting the shot setup and the distance between product and background however was not quite so simple, and took a little experimentation.
For more examples of jewellery photography, please see the Jewellery Gallery
Last week I had the pleasure of shooting lots of beautifully designed handmade textiles, including these cushions and throws. Camilla’s work is inspired by the light, movement and structures found by the coast. In particularly around Anglesey. For photography of textile design, along with most products, having them shot in the studio is very helpful. It ensures continuity between shots which provides a professional appearance. Each product also had a secondary white background shot, always useful for any brand.
These textiles are by designer, Camilla Thomas.
For more examples of textile photography, please see the Textiles Gallery.