Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Tool: Garment Steamer

Part of running an online shop is trying to anticipate what people will feel when they look at it. In a brick and mortar store people can pick up an item, feel the weight and drape. They can turn it around and play with it in the mirror. And they give you direct feedback by telling you why they like an item or don't.

On the web, they can't do any of that. I need to create that feeling with words and pictures and take a guess at how they're being perceived.. Next week I'll be focusing on my copy writing. I'm sure there are improvements to make. This week, though, I'm focusing on the pictures.

I need to provide pictures of how each item looks when seen from far away, up close, hung flat on a rod, draped on a dress form, pinned together, etc. The more I learn about photography and the fine points of incorporating natural light into studio shots, the more critical I am of my previous photos.

I was reviewing the hastily shot photos of the shawls that I listed a few days ago, and realized that the wrinkles were WAY more noticable than I wanted. What more could I do? I had tumbled those shawls in a dryer with a wet towel to steam them and carried them up the hill draped over my arm, wrapped in a blanket to keep them clean. Ironing them flattens the texture I've worked so hard to create.

Today I bit the bullet and spent money I don't have to buy a garment steamer. I've wanted one for a while but never did the research, thinking they'd be expensive or hard to find. A friend of mine said, basically, "Wake up, Rip Van Winkel! They're not rare any more. You can get them cheap at any department store." Really!? I just don't get to that sort of place often enough to know that stuff. But, sure enough! $50 and I've got a "professional grade" steamer. It's no joke, either! That thing pumps out a ton of steam in a steady flow.

I reshot all of the "bamboo pole" shots of the four shawls that haven't sold yet. They were the shots that showed wrinkles most clearly and called for a smooth finish more than the others.

The original point of that shot was to show the gradation from grey/tan in the center to white at the edges, but the wrinkles overshadowed it. Not any more!

As a bonus feature, this steamer has a brush attachment. It's exactly what I need for the fringe. In the wash, the fringe kind of clumps together. I shake it out, but the clumps stay stuck together in some spots. It looks fine in person, but photos are very different.

The steam convinces the fringe threads to let go of each other and the brush helps to straighten them out and separate them. The result is perfect!

Now I feel like my photos are finally the best that I can do. The cloth is crisp and neat. I think these new images finally convey how much care I put into my work. Not only do I work hard to make beautiful cloth, I am willing to go the extra mile to convey that beauty to my potential customers. I think they'll appreciate it, even if only subconsciously.


Peg Cherre said...

Can you share what kind of steamer you bought that works so well for that great price?

Blossom Merz said...

Hi, Peg,

Sure! It's called the Shark Professional Steamer. I got it at WalMart, but I'm sure that you can find a similar one at any big department store.

Have fun!