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The Best Tools for Bomb Visuals

by Rachel Gregg
craft & maker

Learn how to pros create graphics to support their creative business.

 

If you make for a living, chances are, you already have an appreciation for beautiful things.

But being able to make beautiful things and being able to create beautiful visuals to represent and market and sell those things is another matter entirely.

Good images sell products and ideas and is constantly cited as the reason one fails or thrives on Etsy. So it worth learning what works.

We’ve assembled some experts on images and asked them what crafters should know if they want to create bomb visuals.

Meet the designers:

Jared Platt can be found at jaredplatt.com

Michelle Stelling is the founder of The National Association of Digital Scrapbookers and has taught over 5,000 digital scrapbookers and graphic designers via the internet for the past 20 years.

DesignerHeadshot3Arianne Foulk runs Aeolidia, a graphic and web design studio that helps your little business become a “”big little”” business. Aeolidia has been working with creative handmakers and designers since 2004, helping them put their best foot forward online.

Tiffany Tillman-Emanuel teaches scrapbookers how to craft digitally. Her art and images can be found at scrapaneers.com and simplytiffanystudios.com.

It is well established that you have some serious skills, how do you put your photo and editing magic to work for your business?

Jared:
I use the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite to accomplish almost everything I do. But, it is important to know when you are done! Finishing a project or an image means getting it out to the world to see. I want to get as much out there as possible, so I work very hard to stay focused and efficient.

Michelle:
I have been teaching Photoshop and Photoshop Elements for 20 years and love to help digital scrapbookers organize and create beautiful layouts in which they can hand down to may generations.

Arianne:
I’m glad to be at a point with my business where I can hire the help of my own team (the same talented folks that create such beautiful work for our clients!) to create design templates for our blog, as well as graphics for our portfolio. These can all be adjusted for various social media platforms. I have a background in graphic design, but everyone on my design team has far exceeded my skills!

Tiffany:
Every aspect of my business requires beautiful images. My class samples have to inspire their intended audience and persuade. Our promotional materials are equally important as they have to communicate the kinds of classes we sell, the offer’s timeframe, and include a call to action plus inspire and persuade as well. I use a combination of graphic software to produce images including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom.

What are some image editing (or evaluating) basics every handmaker should know?

Jared:
When evaluating your images, don’t reject the bad images. Instead, let the great images point themselves out to you. Just look for those gems and forget about the rest. They only drag and slow you down. Select less! In selecting images, less is more.

Michelle:
I feel that every image editor should know how to use Photoshop Elements. Photoshop Elements is geared towards the digital scrapbooker and has many awesome features that will help them create gorgeous pages.

Arianne:
It’s always a good idea to research the optimal size for images on different platforms, to make sure you aren’t creating images that are too small (and turn out blurry) or too large (and take too long to load). I design at the largest size (to fit our blog), then size down and adjust text for other uses. A quick google can answer questions about image sizes and best practices.

Tiffany:
Every hand maker should know how to adjust a photo’s exposure and white balance. A properly balanced, well-exposed photo looks professional and showcases your product at its very best.

Should creative entrepreneurs spend the time to learn Photoshop or are there other options?

Jared
Lightroom is the place to start. I do 95% of what I do in Lightroom. Photoshop is a necessity, only when it is needed, but most of the time it is not.

Michelle
I feel that professional photographers should take time to learn Photoshop. However, if you are a hobbyist or a digital scrapbooker, Photoshop Elements is my program of choice. Photoshop Elements has many of the features that Photoshop give you, however, it also has many features that are geared towards the digital scrapbooker.

Arianne
There are other options (which get better all the time). I use Photoshop, because it’s what I’m familiar with, and I can control all the details. If I was just getting started, I’d try a couple of programs out before deciding.

Tiffany
Yes and no. Yes, if you’re the kind of creative entrepreneur who enjoys graphic design and knows how to pull in customers with your visuals then learning Photoshop is your best resource. If you feel uncomfortable or graphic design doesn’t interest you, don’t fret! Hire or contract a capable, experienced designer whose portfolio already includes the kinds of imagery and looks that matches your style and brand.

Speaking of other options, what mobile apps do you use for image editing?

Jared
I use Lightroom Mobile for all of my image editing and then I share it out from there to my various apps and services on the phone.

Michelle
I love Snapseed and Photoshop Express for my phone.

Arianne
I like Aviary for editing photos on my iPad.

Tiffany
I stick with desktop programs.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to every crafter about creating visuals, what would it be?

Jared
Simplify! Simplify your workflow, simplify your tool box and simplify your images themselves.

Michelle
I would say “just do it” seriously, get started today and don’t be afraid of the technology. I have a lot of free step by step training videos on my site to get you started. Just visit www.naods.com or check use out at www.facebook.com/LearnPhotoEditing/

Arianne
You usually have to do a bit of everything when your business is new. Once you get to a point where you can budget for professional design work, this can be just the thing to help your business stand out and appeal to your dream customers. Go for it!

Tiffany
Define your brand and style BEFORE you create visuals. Imagine that each visual you share is a representative of your company — what you value, what you stand for. Thus the colors, the type, and the copy you add communicate for you. Make sure they visually represent the kind of business presence you want to project that compliment your brand.

Favorite source for stock images?

Jared:
Adobe Stock

Michelle:
Gosh, I really don’t use stock images. I usually just take my own.

Arianne:
I avoid stock images. Whenever I try to use them, I have high hopes, but ultimately end up disappointed.

Tiffany:
creativemarket.com

Pro tip for mobile photography?

Jared:
That flash on your camera is awful! Use it only when you absolutely must. Instead, try using an off camera light, or even a blue tooth flash for your phone.

Arianee:
I have been enjoying my tiny, portable Foldio lightbox for taking clean, bright photos on grey Seattle days. http://orangemonkie.com/foldio2/

Any bonus tips on creating beautiful visuals?

Jared:
If your photos are not interesting, get closer!

Arianne:
Find the voice and personality of your business. Focus on what makes your craft truly unique. Know who is interested and why. Then, keep all these things in mind as you decide how to portray your business online (and off). If you stay true to what you know about what you do, it will shine through and keep people interested and coming back for more.

Tiffany:
Take notice of visuals that outperform others you produce. If you find that a certain color scheme, photo angle, layout, etc. seems stronger and produces more sales or attracts more attention, use it as a blueprint for future visuals. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel for every image — go with what works!

Anything you’d like to add?

Jared: Henri Cartier-Bresson said it best: “Photography is nothing, it’s life that interests me.” So go out and capture life!

Learn how to pros create graphics to support their creative business.

credit: Jared Platt

Michelle: If you have been struggling with the idea of starting digital scrapbooking and need a push, join us at www.naods.com and soak in all the free videos. We also have free live webinars!

Arianne: We have a blog where we share practical advice and inspiration from and for businesses like yours. Our creative business newsletter (sent weekly) is timely, helpful, and includes information you may not have thought of. Our tips on making improvements yourself are simple to take action on, and can improve sales and create interest in your business. Get free help from industry experts: aeolidia.com/blog/

Want more great insights on selling your handmade items? Download the the Make a Profit Guidebook. It covers everything from how to use social media for business to advanced Etsy selling techniques.

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Rachel Gregg

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.