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Edit Your Photos to Sell Your Product and Brand

by Stephanie Bradberry about a year ago in editing
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I am my brand. People buy into me.

Source: Stephanie J. Bradberry

Ask any entrepreneur and he or she will say that this profession is not for the faint of heart. A majority of entrepreneurs begin by funding their own business. And this means we are a one person show. For me, this includes everything from making my products by hand and from scratch to taking and posting the product pictures and listings. Branding is important. But you can’t really brand unless you actually know what your mission is and what you and your product stand for. For crafting entrepreneurs like myself, this often is directly or closely tied to our personal lives, journey and history.

Most entrepreneurs do not willing choose this path. We are seduced or forced to it after layoffs, becoming so proficient in our original field that we make ourselves “overqualified” and “to expensive” to be hired, having a side hustle become the main hustle and on and on. I fall into that middle category.

My professional life began as a high school English teacher and ended up with me starting my first business—an educational consulting business—and then my second and current business—an education, business, and health consulting business which includes my handmade, all natural, customizable herbal product line and services.

Let’s go back to the beginning of my journey. I was offered a teaching job before I even graduated. And there were several offers on the table. This was back in 2004. My college was in Pennsylvania (but I lived in NJ), so I went through the additional process of getting dual certification. Before I graduated I was already racking up accolades for education, like being the youngest recipient of the Delaware Valley Education Consortium scholarship, for recognition of future leadership in the field of education. However, three years after dedicated service, numerous awards, speaking engagements, committees, school activities, and more, I was not offered tenure and was forced to resign.

Me in teacher mode

I ended up black balled from secondary education because I was too old (yup at 24), too experienced, too educated, and therefore too expensive. So I picked up all my degrees, certificates, accolades, pride and tears and headed to higher education. I was welcomed with open arms. Fortunately, I always make sure I have multiple sources of income and a Plan A, B and C.

During my last semester of my Master’s program, I leveraged my Independent Study into a paid adjunct position at a community college. So I was high school teacher by day and adjunct professor by night. Before I knew it, I had more than a full load as an adjunct professor. I was teaching 6 courses at two colleges, which quickly morphed into numerous colleges and universities. I literally was traveling up and down highways and across bridges in a triangular pattern between NJ and PA.

By the tender age of 25, I was being offered a full-time tenure track position at a community college. The issue, I was pregnant. Like SUPER pregnant. But since I carried small, one suit size bigger covered my 7-month belly. The college needed me to start in September, but I was due in October. I professionally asked if I could start during the Spring semester which began in January. I think you know how that went. So I had to respectfully decline the position without the administrators ever knowing I was pregnant. And I remained a Senior Adjunct for that institution.

After giving birth, I only remained at colleges and universities that allowed me to teach online. And I was fortunate to land a gig at a completely online university. The catch? I was only paid 4 times a year. And in order to get paid you had to be at least a sole proprietor of your own business. Crickets! So I followed the steps to register as a business entity in NJ and had my first business. It came in handy as it became a lucrative educational consulting business. I set my schedule, found my own clients, and was able to charge what I was worth or at least get competitively paid.

Soon after, I was pregnant again (my kids are 15 months apart). And opportunities were limited for online instruction (this was only 2006-2008). COVID didn’t exist. Therefore, online learning was still considered a bit skeptical for earning a college degree. I was literally the instructor who was developing the online versions of these courses I was teaching.

Then the ball dropped. My marriage went way south, way fast after the birth of our children. I was juggling a business, working from home, raising the kids almost 24/7, and had side hustles like being a Zumba® fitness instructor to boot. All this was happening while I was living a real life version of “Who The Bleep Did I Marry.”

Me wiped out from fibromyalgia, but they all still need me!

My body literally gave out on me. I was reduced to crawling on the floor and had visits to the hospital when my symptoms were too much to bear. I further reduced any in-person teaching because just making it to the campus and back to teach one class took me out. I was labeled a “mystery diagnosis.” But the underlying symptom was fibromyalgia (chronic system and body wide pain). My now ex-husband, then husband, was not supportive. Then two weeks before my 30th birthday I was told I might be down to two weeks to live. I went from being a potential hypochondriac to given the prognosis of death. What???

Already near the end of a doctoral program in education, I put it on hold while I focused on my health. I was an athlete most of my life. And I remained physically fit and active, ate well and took care of myself. But something needed to be healed. And it was spiritual. No western medicine could help. So I sought out alternative methods. I became a Reiki master and enrolled in a second doctoral program for naturopathy. Then I left my kids with my then husband for more than 3 hours for the first time ever.

Me in Colorado for naturopathic and herbal studies

I boarded a plane to Colorado to get my life and health back on track. After 6 days I was back home armed with techniques and knowledge. My business was already shifting from just being education oriented. With Zumba® fitness, Reiki, starting to make products and giving health seminars, my old business wasn’t cutting it anymore. My brand was getting muddled.

Stephanie the Zumba® fitness instructor

So I took the dive and started a new business. I was able to maintain both businesses for a while. But then people were confused: Are you a professor? Or are you like this health and wellness person? Being the Gemini that I am, I said all of the above and some. But the teaching thing was falling more and more to the wayside. I would tutor here and there, pick up a course or substitute once in a while, but my focus became making products, doing vendor events, and giving seminars.

Me at one of my first vendor events. Me giving a health seminar.

Once the divorce was final and I went back to my maiden name, instead of maiden name hyphenated with married name, I dissolved my first business. I made the mistake of using my married name as part of my business name. Now my focus was solely on combining health with education.

Fast forward past a couple product line name changes and one business name change and we have Bradberry®. That’s right, just me. Owning my maiden name and using it for the branding of my products and services.

Headshot after rebranding and focusing on the health and wellness business.

I had to give the whole backdrop so you could understand how I am my brand and my product. People invest and buy into me: my experiences, my expertise, my knowledge, my time, products I made that helped with my illnesses, methods I used, and et cetera. They know when they buy a product or service from me I have done my due diligence to make and provide the best. But my focus is always on simple and natural. So they know I am not only making everything from scratch and by hand, but also I am taking all the amateur photos!

Now I will take you through the editing process for one of my product pictures. I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. But I know how to point and click. I love learning new things, so I pick up ways to edit along the way.

The Before: Original Image

My number 1 selling cream

My original photos are pretty rough, even for an amateur. But I need these photos for comparison to see where the natural light is best for my makeshift photo box.

The Lighting and Angle Is Right

Once I have the angle I want, and the lighting is as best I can get it, I snap away. I use the built in features of my phone for basic editing. Most helpful are the grid lines so I can see if the image is centered. Converting the image to 1:1 helps for posting on social media like Instagram where squares are prized. I lighten the picture enough to eliminate most of the darker spots of background. This makes it easier to make the product look like it's floating if I choose to remove the background with my editing program. I also make sure to not lighten the image so much that it looks bleached out.

Decision Time: Background

Which represents Bradberry® best?

After getting fairly clean shots, I need to decide how I want to start branding my product image. Pictured above are backgrounds I have made by placing the product on tissue paper (the first 3 images) or fabric (last picture). Do I want a floral, nature complement? Color based complement? All out branded complement? A rustic, nature complement? Or should I just keep it plain white?

Decision Time: Additions

How I decide if I want to add other elements like ingredients used in my product

While I list all ingredients in my products on my back product label, no one can see that in the main picture. So sometimes I like to throw in some of the ingredients I used to make the product in the shot. My eye is drawn to the picture on the right. I love flax seeds. And I think it's cool how it came out with them splashed across my fake light box. However, the vote came back that the picture to the left was more pleasing for purchase. Other times, I like to take product pictures with my thank you notes or cards to my customers. I think it helps let them know how much I appreciate them. And as a small business, I get to customize every single aspect from start to finish.

Decision Time: Position of Product(s)

I have to think long and short term

First I have to think about if I only want to feature the one product: Extreme Cream. Second, I need to determine if I will couple it with another item, and which other product is best. In this case, I chose to pair my most popular cream with my most popular soap. Third, I decide if I should offset the products to the left so I can leave room for adding text or if I should just keep them centered.

Setting the Final Stage

What I see versus what the public sees

So I told you I'm an amateur, right? Now you get to see just how much. This is my fake light box. It's literally two white foam boards from Walmart. The base is a single flat board. The other is a cut down tri-fold board. Yes, it is absolutely propped up on my daughter's bed where I get the best natural light. I have one pair of her pants under the flat board to keep my jar from rolling all over the place. And I use another pair of her pants to keep the rose angled just right. Don't judge me! I have to use what's at my disposal and quick and easy to grab before the little bit of natural light I have fades, a cloud comes, or the sun shifts too much.

Editing and Branding

Here's what my editing software looks like

I use Xara to do all final edits on my pictures, especially if they will be used for social media. This is where you might be scratching your head. She's an amateur, if that, photographer, but she uses a paid for editing software with a pretty steep learning curve? Well, I have my ex-husband to thank for this one. Before we got divorced, I helped him with a lot of his graphics. So I learned how to use Xara a little bit along the way. Eventually I bought my own copy to create my own logos and edit my own pictures.

Xara allows me to do all types of cool things with my pictures. But you'll probably never really see me use even 1/1000th of them. I mostly use Xara to add text, reposition, add my logo, and other basics.

The After: Final Edit

All done!

Here's the after to the original, first picture. Like my brand and mission, I decided to keep editing simple. I just put my logo in the top right corner and oriented it vertically to use up some of the white space.

Although I had to use artificial flowers to highlight that I use natural ingredients, I think it serves nicely to show how inviting my products are. The thank you card is included because I am always grateful for every show of support for my business. I'm totally that entrepreneur who does a little happy dance every time someone buys a product or service. And finally, my logo. Sure you can see it on my product container, but it doesn't hurt to have it another place to catch one's eye. Plus, I made my logo using Xara from scratch. So I'm going to put that sucker everywhere it fits!

There you have it. This is my editing process for my product photos.

editing

About the author

Stephanie Bradberry

I have a passion for literature and anime. And I love everything involving academia, health, metaphysics and entrepreneurship. During my free time I enjoy nature, crochet, sew, play the flute, read, write and romp around with my kiddos.

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