EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 349 - December 15, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

Zesty Shoes Shares Secrets on Making a Photogenic Store

By Julia Wilkinson

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Stephanie Jeter, the woman behind "Zesty Shoes," says if she had $50,000 to spend on her business, she'd invest in a professional photographer. But she's already got the equipment and technique to take "drool-worthy" photos herself. Here she gives us the details of her photography studio setup and how she manages her workspace. Read on to see if some of her techniques are new to you, and if they could help your own images "pop."

In a sea of eBay Stores, Zesty Shoes stands out, with its big, bold photos, and a unique front screen with banner images that showcase its products very professionally. So who is behind this intriguing store, and how does she make it all look so good?

Getting Great Photographs: Equipment
Stephanie Jeter is 31, and has been selling full-time on eBay for a year now. Jeter says she is not a trained photographer. "I don't know the correct terms or lingo for everything." However, she says she wanted to make her images stand out because the category she sells in is very competitive.

She says she started teaching herself by trial and error a year ago.

"My setup is very simple," she says. "I have a Canon EOS Rebel T1i (purchased from Craigslist for $300), two soft boxes (purchased from eBay, $75), a Canon 430EX II Speedlite (purchased from Amazon, $217), and two poster boards (purchased from the dollar store, $2)." (The Speedlite is a flash which is detachable from the Canon camera).

She said the items were purchased at separate times because of her limited budget. "I personally think all sellers need to invest in a DSLR camera and Speedlite," she added.

Photo-Taking Technique
So how do all those components work together?

"When I'm taking pictures of jewelry, for example," says Jeter, "I have one soft box facing toward me and one soft box behind me." She has a tripod in between the box and herself.

She places the jewelry on a clear piece of tape (Bandit from Wal-Mart, $2.95). "I hold the tape up just using my fingers, and I simply photo the image in front of the soft box light," she says. She uses Photoshop to remove her finger from the photo for those images where she is holding the tape.

"If the jewelry is silver or gold. I will place one poster board on the tripod facing the image to take the glare or reflection away," she says.

If she is taking pictures of shoes or clothing, she will rotate the soft box backward, and place the shoes on top using one poster board.

It all may sound complex, but she says "it's very simple, once you get your technique."

However, understanding how to work with the light can be tricky at times. She says it normally takes about one hour to photograph and edit 50-60 new items.

Sourcing and Storing Inventory
Jeter says she currently has "a lot of products maybe 30,000 - 40,000 individual pieces." To house all that inventory, she rents a 2,000 square-foot warehouse space, for which she uses 1400 sq. ft. for warehousing and 600 for office space.

"I use one office for photos and the other office as my work space," she says. But, she says, she's "completely out of space. Hopefully, within the next two to six months I can have all the items online," she adds.

Her inventory comes from many wholesalers. (She says sellers can find a lot of great wholesalers at wholesalecentral).

The majority of her products come from China, she says. "I also travel every month to a wholesaler in the Atlanta, GA and purchase directly from them." She also has several online sellers from whom she buys directly.

And, sometimes, she says, "I might create some pieces myself."

How She Would Spend $50,000
When EcommerceBytes Blog asked readers a while back, What Would You Do with 50K?, Jeter responded, "I would hire a photographer because I have so much stuff. Maybe 90% of the products I have are not online. Basically, I would hire someone to help me catch up."

But, for those who thinks it sounds ironic that someone who takes such good photos would farm out that task, Jeter just shrugs, "I never thought about the images. I just wanted them to look professional."

You can also find ZestyShoes on Twitter.

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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