See My Work with Patty Lakinsmith for the ISGB/Bead and Button Convergence Exhibit

Sunday, April 15, 2012

FEST Boot Camp - Week 5! Tips on Product Photography

So …..we’re coming down to the big finish, almost done! This is week 5 of our FEST boot camp - how is everyone doing so far? We’ve covered a wide range of tips for improving your shop to get it ready for Mother’s Day. You’ve made some changes that will hopefully help you on your road to a successful holiday.
This week, as I alluded to in my last blog, we’re going to get into more detail about your picture taking. I’m no expert here, and I struggle with it just like you. The key, I have found, is experimenting and practice, practice, practice!

So let’s take a step back and look at your shop as a whole. When you look at your first page, do the photos look cohesive? By that I mean, same background color or props? Generally, are all the products shown in the same size? Think of some of the web stores you go to when shopping…..the pictures of the products are pretty much the same. Same coloring in the background (usually white) – same offering of views, etc. That’s the look you should be going for. For some of us, (yes, myself included) it may mean taking some new photos. I can hear you moaning! Trust me, I’m with you here! But, like you, I’m going to spend this week evaluating which pictures work, and which products need new pictures!

First of all, let me say this….I own a smartphone. I love the convenience of taking a quick snapshot at the drop of a hat. Most pictures come out pretty good. But pretty good isn’t good enough for your shop, so for this exercise, drop the smartphone! You don’t need a fancy, expensive camera. You do need one that will allow you to make some manual adjustments to get a better picture. I’m not going to turn this into an essay on manual settings because every camera is different. Your manual can tell you how to do it and get the affect you want….so lets’ stay simple here:

Let’s start with lighting. The simplest lighting is natural….if you can shoot near a window or better yet, outdoors, I highly recommend it. Direct sunlight is too bright so find a spot that’s bright without the sun shining directly on your product. (It’s called indirect lighting) Because I photograph jewelry, shadows become a problem. I have solved this by using sheets of white construction paper placed strategically around my piece. If you look through your viewfinder, you’ll see your shadows. While looking at them, move the paper around until the shadows disappear. It’s easiest to shoot this way if you’re using a tripod. You can find small, inexpensive ones just about anywhere (Kmart, Walmart, etc.) Tripods will also eliminate “shaky” photos…you know, the ones that are just a little blurry. Good lighting will make your other colors more accurate too. I bought an inexpensive “light box” that is very handy. It works to filter the natural light so that it’s less harsh, and provides a great background. If I’m forced to take pictures indoors because of the weather, it’s great with a couple of lamps strategically placed. One overhead, one on each side usually works for me, but it's not unusual to have to make adjustments to get the affect I want.

Backgrounds. I know its fun to find pretty backgrounds. I say, be creative! However, be careful that the background doesn’t detract from your product. The simplest background is usually the best. Try buying heavy construction paper – it’s available in lots of colors. Or use a piece of material in the color you want. Just be careful that the color doesn’t clash with your product. Light colors usually show off your product and its colors the best.

If your product is small, get as close as you can. If your camera has a macro setting, now is the time to use it. (usually it’s a little flower icon) The closer you get, the more detail your customers will see. If your product is large, step back as far as you need to get the entire product in the picture. Make sure the rest of your studio or room isn’t visible in the shot. Shoot against a wall, or hang a sheet. You can later crop parts of it to show a larger view of the detail. I don’t have much of a zoom lens, but I bought some used, inexpensive close up filters that magnify in different degrees. They work for me, but I’d rather have a zoom lens! Lucky you, if you have one!

Make sure you get lots of angles – close up, the whole thing, front and back, etc. Let the customer see what he/she will be getting.

Use proportion. If you don’t want to model the product, or you don’t make wearables, use a prop to show the size in comparison in one of your shots. I don’t wear my earrings for pictures, so I take a shot holding one in my hand. You can use familiar coins (quarter, dime, etc.). You can also include a ruler in the shot if you want.

Don’t forget to edit! A good photo editing program can fix a lot of things. I confess to depending heavily on mine! You can lighten, darken, highlight, crop, adjust color, etc. with a click of the mouse. Most useful to me is that I can take the same photo and edit in effects a couple of different ways and look at them side by side to see which one works.

So there you go. Very, very basic picture taking tips. I don’t profess to be a pro, so I’m talking from personal experience. There’s always room for improvement, so I’ll let you know if I find more handy ways to do it.

Let’s review:

Step 1: Take a look at your shop as a whole. Do the photos look cohesive?

Step 2: Read your camera manual. I also went to a camera shop and had them review how to use the settings.

Step3: Whenever possible, use natural light.

Step 4: Use a tripod!!!

Step 5: Use simple backgrounds and props.

Step 6: Get close up, use lots of angles.

Step 7: Show size and proportion using simple props.

Step 8: Edit like crazy. Just kidding! But do use the editing program to fine tune your picture.

Remember, practice, practice, practice. Take lots of shots of the same product so you have more to work with. Adjust lighting, angles, etc. many times until you find what works. Compare photos taken with different settings side by side and pick the one that shows off your designs the best.

Here are some links to articles I’ve found helpful:

And most important….be creative and have fun!!!!

FEST artists are preparing for Mother's Day !  Here's a few gift suggestions:

And what about those single dads? Maybe we should surprise them with a gift on Mothers Day since they do double duty as both Mother and Father! How about a nice pair of cuff links?

See Ya!


Recreationalart said...

Great tips! thank you! - have been focusing on takeing new pics this week (yes UGGGH!) but fixing things little by little gives me more assurance in the complete impact the shop will make in the long run

Gari Anne said...

Wonderful write up and lots of great tips!

Magdalena Marszalik said...

oh, beautiful jewelry:)

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