behind the scenes | online shop

Marian Parsonsbuying & selling antiques, Mustard Seed Studio, Photography, Running a Business

     Since the online shop has been a big focus in the studio for the past couple of weeks, I thought I would share a little bit of the “behind the scenes” for those who are curious about our process.

Our process has been a bit all over the place, since we don’t do this regularly, but we’re getting into a groove and are becoming more efficient.

In fact, Kriste and I spent the majority of the day cleaning, purging, and organizing in order to make better use of the space.  There have also been a lot of things just hanging around the studio that we really didn’t need to keep.  We ended up hauling 5+ contractor garbage bags full of stuff to the dumpster, packed Kriste’s little car with a load of fabric rolls, home accessories, and craft supplies to take to the thrift store, and we have a pretty good amount of stuff to list in the online shop, including fabrics, knobs & pulls, preserved and faux boxwood branches, antique books & flash cards, and a bunch of craft supplies.

I’ll let you know when the next round of items will go live.

Anyway, our first step in the process of listing online is to gather the inventory.  Most of our items are one of a kind, so there is just one, but there were quite a few Lucketts leftovers that we had multiples of, like brushes, t-shirts, look books, scissors, twine, and a few other antique things like the hemp sheets and fabric rolls.

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I had photographs of some items already, but the rest needed to be shot.  While I would love to do a lifestyle shot of each item, I would get completely lost in it and it would take hours and hours to shoot everything.  So, I opt to take the more efficient approach and just capture simple, bright, clear images of each item.

I know many people who have online shops use those little tents/light boxes, but I prefer to use natural lighting.

I was doing all of my shots for the shop on this white marble-topped table that didn’t sell at Lucketts…

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I like how the marble adds some warmth to the all white surroundings in the pictures.

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So, if you can find a piece of white marble, that’s a fantastic surface to shoot on.

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But, guess what happened?  A reader came to shop the leftovers and bought the table!  It was for sale, so it wasn’t a problem at all.  It was just funny and very typical that I would sell something I’m in the middle of using!

I had a plan B, though, which was a metal folding table.

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I position it a few feet in front of a white wall (well, off white wall) near a window (it’s just to the right of the photo above.)  I then use a reflector (that black circular thing that’s clamped to the stand) to bounce some natural light from the window back towards the table.

Let me talk about the reflector for a moment.  I used to use white foam core boards to reflect light, because I figured a legit photo reflector would be expensive.  People, this 5-in-1 reflector is less than $10.  And it really makes a difference.  We use it all the time.  (We can’t get the darn thing folded again, but I think that has more to do with operator error than product failure!)

Here’s a picture taken on the white metal table with the white wall behind and the reflector bouncing the light from the window back onto the subject.

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The star of the photo becomes the product and that’s it.  And the transition from the table to the wall is almost seamless, because I’m shooting at a low aperture.  (If you don’t know what that means and you want to, check out my post on shooting in manual mode.)

In a nutshell, the low aperture makes the background blurry, which is also helped by the fact that I’m a few feet away from the wall, instead of right up against it.

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I’m shooting with a 60mm micro/macro lens, which allows me to get very close to the subject to get nice detail.  Detail shots save me from having to write about every detail of the piece.  A potential buyer can see it for themselves.

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Since the all white background can look a little stark for some items, I added linens or other things to bring a bit of life or context to the picture.

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And, when I had them on hand, I added a few lifestyle shots as well.  These lifestyle shots can give a potential buyer ideas for how they might use the items in the home in creative ways.

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I edited all of the photos and added descriptions for each item.  We share details like measurements, condition, and anything else that makes the item special, like where it was made, the manufacturer, uses, etc.

Writing up the descriptions is the most mind-numbing part of the process, so I’ll make little side comments for my own amusement like, “They just don’t make kitchen utensils with chicken wire anymore.”

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The packing part of the process is pretty ugly.  We put bright green tape on everything (I’m still finding uses for my lifetime supply of Frog Tape), so it is clear which item is which and whoever is packing doesn’t get masher #1 mixed up with masher #2.

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Since we had such a large amount of orders and unique items to pack, we all worked together on it – gathering each item of an order, packing it, and labeling it.

We did have a sad moment when one of the large ironstone pitchers didn’t even make it into a box, but that sometimes happens when your working with breakables.  Of course, I gave the customer a full refund and we had a moment of silence for the broken ironstone.

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Oh, it just pains me to even look at it!

We probably go overboard on wrapping breakables for that reason.  We bubble and shrink wrap and nestle each piece in a generous supply of packing peanuts in the hopes that it could be dropped from a two story building (which I swear happens) and remain intact.

We have to weigh and measure each package, print our labels through PayPal, load up my van, and finally drop them off at the post office.

I live in a teeny, tiny, two-stoplight town, which definitely has its charms, but shipping on a large scale is a bit of a challenge.  We can’t get local pick-ups, because our post office is just a rural outpost, so their are some limitations.  They’ve been working with us on it, though, and we’re going to have to figure out how to make it all more efficient as we grow.

It’s a far cry from the days when all of the photo shoots happened in my living room and boxes were packed in the basement!

Always more to learn, though…

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Speaking of sales, I am going to list the sweatshirts for sale in a few days.  Since this is a special order, I will close all of the other items, so only a sweatshirt can be ordered.  This will make things a little easier for us to manage when it comes time to order and ship them.

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More details to come…

behind the scenes | online shop

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