Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hard Words

When I opened up my soap shop on Etsy last June I was struggling between artist and crafter. I found myself desiring greatly to have an artistic venue and yet realizing that at this point I needed to focus on trying to sell my craft. So I took some shots of my soap using the tips that Etsy so freely gives to us newbies and started my venture. It did not take me long to realize that there were close to a billion more soapers on Etsy with pretty much the same photos and wonderful soap that I had.

So I started brainstorming. What could I do to make my soap stand out against the other barrage of soaps out there? Well, I have always wanted to be a photographer but had such meager amounts of money to put behind the desire that I have had to content myself with my regular Digital Point and Shoot camera. (I do find myself staring off into space dreaming of the day when I will be able to afford an SLR but alas that is not for now...sigh)

As I was musing on what I could possibly do to stand out I was struck with one thing that seems to be emphasized over and over on etsy and that is the wonderful use of models to help bring personality to your product. Well, mostly they are referring to things such as clothing, jewelry, etc. But in what I considered a brilliant move (at the time) I decided to use my lovely sons to hold and smell the soap for my photos. Thus my artistic outlet began. We would have photo shoots, I would spend countless hours editing, cropping, and adjusting and finally with a sigh of contentment post them on my etsy site thinking, "this is going to set me apart. I have found it!"

Well, lately internet sales have gone down a bit (yes, I know that most of us are still reeling from Christmas) and so I decided to open my shop up to some critique from other successful etsy sellers. I think even though it is easy to think that I can manage anything people sling at me (after all I want positive critiques and I want to be better right??) the critiques I received were something I was NOT expecting.

The resounding opinion seemed to be..."Kids are creepy." "What do kids and soap have to do with one another." and "They look like they are going to eat the soap." I am definitely not upset at the critiques by any means but it was all so shocking to me at the time. It is so hard to step out of myself and look at my photos, etc. from other eyes. These comments spurred me on to get even more opinions. People did help by telling me that some of the darker shading I used made the kids look like they were from the depression era, and some people did not like the idea of their soap being handled by other hands (rest assured that I do not sell the bar of soap I use in the pictures but still, point well taken..)

After all this and an intense session of introspection I had to consent that what I am trying to do is sell my soap and if people are grossed out or creeped out by my photos than I am shooting myself in the foot. The artist in me wanted the kids to be a bit morose, not smiling and posing but looking off, feeling abstract, etc. The artist wanted to be edgey and different but the crafter realized that is not going to sell soap and that is my objective after all isn't it??

So, I am still musing over all the comments and wondering where to go from here. How do I avoid taking photos of soap that look like EVERYONE else's photos and still not turn people off? It is a quandary that I am still sorting out. I have also had to die a bit more to the artist who wanted to use my soap site as a photographic venue as well and realize it is not meant to be.

If you out there reading this have any critiques or opinions I would love to hear them. I want to make it a better shop and I also want it to stand out, be different and original.

So I muse and get over myself a little bit more...


Just and Kel said...

I am SO VERY surprised that you got those comments. I have looked at your site several times. EVERY SINGLE time I've been on there, I have thought how artistic you are, how amazing your pics are, how unique your site looks! I am just really surprised, like you are. I cannot believe your pics are a turn off... I'm just so surprised!

Kim Crist said...

Ha, that's funny because I like to check out the new children models with each new soap you produce! Maybe its because I know the kids and think kids in general are adorable! :)But, you're right, there are a lot of "soapers" on Etsy. I think once you build up a following locally your soap will sell merely by word of mouth- in addition to Etsy. Just don't do what Aimee and I did with ours and make it last forever in the tub. We rarely got repeat customers because they were still working on their first bar 3 months later.....ok, so maybe that's an exaggeration. :) Have you tried a spring arts and craft fair there in B-burg? Or how about the big 2 day event in the fall? That always draws huge crowds.
Just some random thoughts!
Missing you guys!

brite said...

Hmmm...well, I guess that's why you get other people's perspectives because I am all about the children in the photos (no bias, of course). I think it sets you apart but you don't want to be so far apart that no one wants your product. Could you take portions of their advice and adapt (e.g., lighten up the photos, no kids eating soap, etc.)? Just a thought...I'm a convert with or without the kid photos, but you do have to go with what sells. I think you can have your cake and eat it too, you just have to find the right combination.

Anonymous said...

it does set you apart, but if it turns say 30% of people off, then that's not good. but your product looks great and you are obviously a very talented photographer. you managed to capture the mood you were going for really well, which is I guess why people are responding so strongly to the images. i think whatever you decide to do it will look good! for me personally, clean, bright, crisp images make me want to buy soap. may not be the MOST unique but it does work/sell. i am also a sucker for unique packaging. good luck!

Kristin said...

Well, I don't know if you asked for suggestions :-) but since I saw another commenter mention what would make HER interested in buying soap... When I'm looking for bath products, I think that giving things a clean "spa" feel adds an element of luxury to them. I'm not sure about exactly how you would interpret that in a photograph: maybe w/ a robe, natural asian elements (bamboo...), next to a cup of tea or on a fancy tub/sink, perhaps with plush towels, loofahs or massage tools, scrub brushes, etc. But as I was looking on Etsy, I didn't see many photographs that gave me that feel... Everybody wants their own personal retreat...why not try tapping into that? Your Rosareum photo was stunning btw, and I do love the kids photos, but can see where people are coming from too. That's my 2 cents for today!