How To

How To: Photograph Guitars

In the 1989 movie Drugstore Cowboy, the protagonist Bob (played by Matt Dillon), is a superstitious man with a bad drug habit.  Bob’s perception about how lucky he is at any given time drives his decision on whether to score drugs.  If Bob feels lucky, he successfully acquires more drugs.  He’s happy.

But, things can change quickly.  When Bob gets a bad sign, he takes a self-imposed hiatus from getting drugs.  No drugs = unhappy Bob.

What constitutes a bad sign?  The first omen occurred when Bob was watching TV – a number of dog food commercials appeared, all in a row.  That was a sign.  He informed his crew that there would be no more attempts to procure drugs for a month.  Not seeing any logic behind that decision, Bob’s crew asks if there are any other bad omens they should be aware of.  “Hats”, Bob replies, “if I ever see a hat on a bed in this house, you’ll never see me again.” Why a hat, they ask?  “Cause that’s just the way it is.”

Well, not long after this warning from Bob – spoiler alert!! – someone places a hat on a bed and things indeed go horribly wrong.

And at this point, you may be asking yourself, why is a blog post titled “How to Photograph Guitars” going on at length about Drugstore Cowboy and hats on beds?  Because, dear reader, if there is only one thing you take away from this post, it is this: NEVER PHOTOGRAPH A GUITAR ON A BED.  Not even if you’re Annie Leibovitz.  No good can ever come from a picture of a guitar on a bed.  It’s not aesthetically pleasing.  (9 times out of 10 you probably haven’t even made the bed.)  It’s lazy.  It will guarantee that no one will rent or purchase your instrument.  Why?  Cause that’s just the way it is.

Now here are some other tips for shooting decent pictures of your guitar:

General Setting

An uncluttered, simple background is best.  Are there any loose papers, food or clothing visible anywhere in the frame of the image?  If the answer is yes, delete the photo, remove all the background “noise” and re-shoot the picture.

Lighting

Type: Natural light, particularly during the “golden hours” of early morning or late afternoon, produces a warm glow that is ideal.  Normally, you don’t want your instrument in direct sunlight.  Using indirect, natural light during the “golden hours” makes just about anything look great.

Origination source: Regardless of the type of light being used, the origination or source of light should be coming from behind the camera, and hitting the surface of the instrument which is being photographed.  So, as a general rule, don’t take a picture of your guitar when it is in front of a window.

Example (bad): Lighting from behind an instrument

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Example (good): Lighting from in front of (or from the side) an instrument

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Distance/Range

Medium range to close up shots are the two best options.

Medium:

A medium distance is approximately 7 to 10 feet from the guitar.  This shot will provide a full view of the guitar from the top of the head stock to the bottom of the instrument.  It sets the context of everything.

Close up:

A close up distance can be anywhere from 2 feet to 2 inches from the guitar.  These shots are designed to zero in on specific parts of the guitar – the body, the head stock, the grain of the fretboard, etc.  Close ups can serve many purposes.  They can highlight details that are unique and aesthetically pleasing.  They can also show known issues with the finish or hardware.  It is always best to capture these imperfections and include them very prominently in your listing because you don’t want to mislead a potential renter or buyer.  You will get a negative reviews if you don’t.  You will get unhappy messages.  You will get requests for refunds.  Just save everyone the hassle – visually capture and share all of the known blemishes up front.

Focus

Is the picture of the guitar you have just taken in focus?

  • If yes, proceed to the next section.
  • If no, are you Annie Leibovitz?
    • If yes, then you probably have a good reason for taking the picture.  Carry on.
    • If no, then delete the photo and re-shoot the picture.

Parts of the instrument to photograph

At minimum, you should take the following shots:

  • Front of guitar – full length, head to toe
  • Back of guitar – full length, head to toe

And give serious consideration to adding these as well:

  • Front of body – close up
  • Back of body – close up
  • Front of neck/fretboard – medium or close up
  • Back of neck – medium or close up
  • Front of head stock – close up
  • Back of head stock – close up

Angles

Shooting straight on is the safest approach.  There is room for experimentation here, but if you review your photographs and notice that all of your “experimental” shots are only pointing down (e.g. the camera is pointing at a 45 degree angle from above the instrument), or only pointing up, then you should probably mix up the approach.

Example – Straight On

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Example – Down

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These are just some of the most obvious suggestions for how to photograph guitars.  For more detailed and expert advice on photographing guitars, here are some additional resources:

Gary’s Classic Guitars – https://www.garysguitars.com/advanced-techniques-photographing-vintage-guitars

Digital Photography Review – https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3860366

Annie Leibovitz’s Masterclass – https://www.masterclass.com/classes/annie-leibovitz-teaches-photography

 

 

 

 

How To

How To: Set Up a Really Good Listing

You’ve heard about Fretish.  You’ve visited the site.  You’ve joined (it is free).  And now you’ve decided to list one of your musical instruments (which is also free).  So far, so good.

But, how do you maximize the quality of your listing to get the most clicks on the Rent button?  Here are some tips:

  1. List one instrument per post.  Highlighting your entire collection, or even just two pieces of gear, in a single listing is a recipe for confusion and dissatisfaction.  It’s also true that consumer response drops dramatically when people are given a choice between multiple items to pick from versus a single item.
  2. Before photographing your instrument, clean it.  Does it have finger prints on the body?  Give it a quick wipe with a cloth.  Are there any broken strings?  Replace them with new strings.  If it looks like you take good care of your gear, then other people will feel compelled to take good care of it.
  3. Post multiple high quality pictures of the instrument being offered.  Show the front of the guitar, the back of the guitar, the body, the neck, the head stock.  A separate blog post will go into greater detail on what constitutes “high quality”, but here’s a quick rule of thumb: If a picture is blurry, dark or shot from 10+ feet from your instrument, then it’s not a high quality picture.  And, as a general rule, don’t use manufacturer or stock images of your instrument.
  4. Write a succinct, accurate title.  This will typically include the year the instrument was made, the brand, the model, the country of origination and any distinctive upgrades or accessories. For example: 2018 Fender American Professional Series Telecaster with Bigsby.  The finish of the instrument (blonde, sunburst, etc.) can, of course, be included.  But, if you have decent pictures, including the finish in the title may be redundant.
  5. Describe the guitar with facts and relevant anecdotes.  What type of wood is the body made from?  What type of wood is the neck?  The fretboard?  What type of pick ups does the instrument have?  How many settings on the pick up selector switch?  Are there any mechanical or aesthetic issues with the instrument?  Be honest.  Potential renters really need to know these things.  Then, there is information that isn’t critical to know, but may draw the reader in, such as: When did you buy the guitar?  Are you the original owner?  Do you take any special care when storing the instrument?
  6. Embed a YouTube video of you playing the instrument.
  7. Don’t be afraid to detail the conditions of who you will or will not rent to.  Don’t want your instrument to be played at a gig?  Say so.  Don’t want your instrument in the home of a smoker?  Say so.  Set clear guidelines of your expectations as an owner about how and where your instrument should be played.
  8. Set a price.  The price you set for your instrument will have an obvious impact on a person’s willingness to rent.  There are many ways to approach this, so let’s tackle this topic in greater detail in a future blog post.
  9. Provide a specific, accurate pick up/drop off location.  When renting out an instrument through Fretish, it is strongly encouraged to fulfill orders through in-person pick up and drop off only.  Shipping instruments for short term rent can be costly and have other unintended consequences.  The pick up/drop off location you choose is entirely up to you.  Most people select a safe, public venue (e.g., Public Library, Police Station, etc.) for their pick up/drop off location.  Sometimes exact locations are not provided as part of a listing.  This approach has downsides.  For example, when people conduct a search by city or town (and you haven’t provided an accurate or specific pick up location), your instrument may not appear in the search results.
  10. Share your fabulous new listing to your social media accounts.  Let your network know you have gear to rent.