When I made the decision early this year to be a full-time cardmaker, I knew I needed to make some serious upgrades. The main change had to do with my photos. Now, I could bug hubby to be my photographer since he’s the pro but I really wanted to do it myself. He’s given me a lot of help and tips but the kind of photos he shoots differ from product photography.
I started really educating myself by reading lots of articles on the subject and the main thrust is having good lighting. We live in a small apartment so we don’t have adequate space for a studio. What do you do when you don’t have all the tools? You make do! So we took a portion of our bedroom and split it to have a small area for shooting right next to the window. The only thing wrong with this set up is I’m up late crafting because it’s the only time I can work on cards since I have a day job. So when hubby is in the bedroom, I don’t want to disturb him so I needed a way to shoot, even if it’s 3 AM in the morning, in my office.
I began seriously looking at upgrading my photo equipment and I came across these ring lights that were advertised on Instagram. They come small enough to clip on a desk BUT also they’re available large that comes with a full size tripod. I got two of the table top ones but they weren’t strong enough to give me adequate light. I was struggling against harsh shadows and two-tone lighting, etc. Most of these problems can’t be solved in post production either. Finally, we made the investment to buy the large ring light on the tripod and I’m so glad I have it. It has two color settings for warm and cool tones. The ring is large to cover my entire office and it comes with attachment for connecting my smartphone if I want to do videos.
This was one of the major improvements I made, but it didn’t stop there. So, today I’ll share my 10 tips that I used to improve my photos:
- Lighting. This is key. The main area for us to shoot is near our window so we can get as much natural light as possible. This is the way to get the best photos. However, when the light outside is not favorable or if it’s late at night, studio lights are essential.
- Adding Props. I wanted to add a few extras to my photos but not to compete so I opted mainly for flowers in different colors, but I also use other items like: baby clothes, confetti, felted hearts and even crochet hand towels. As long as they’re strategically placed and not photographed as the primary point of interest, I noticed my cards stood out more.
- Composition: Placement is very important too. I shoot mainly flatlay, but I will rotate my cards and envelopes and position any props on either the left or right side. The angle can make the subject look more interesting rather than just shooting straight on. Also, I try not put my cards absolutely dead center, I like my envelopes to accompany my cards so I try to have the card just off to the left or right.
- Using a good camera or camera phone: Whether you use a professional camera or a phone, it needs to be capable of taking really good, high quality, high resolution photos or else they’ll come out looking either blurry, dull or even underexposed. I use a LG Fiesta 2 LTE Android smartphone, it has a long-lasting battery life, shoots up to 4160 x 3120 pixels. The pictures it takes is incredible and has a 13 MP rear-facing autofocus camera with flash and f/2.2 low-light lens. It also has a zoom feature, but I never use it. I stand pretty close to my subject so zooming in isn’t necessary.
- Shooting with a tripod and/or camera timer. Using a tripod and/or a timer to shoot is great for stabilization to avoid camera shake. I do hand hold but I try to stand very still (feet apart) and wait till after the photo is taken before I move again.
- Creating a design board. This tip isn’t really related to actually clicking the shutter but I think it’s important to mention. I created collections on my phone and saved photos of other crafters’ cards for inspiration. This helped me a lot when I started re-shooting all my cards. Pinterest is my #1 recommendation, I created a board to save photos that I like.
- Less is more. I’m a minimalist person plus I love neutrals so my style is mainly clean, white or feminine colors like rose gold, seafoam or pale neutrals. I don’t like a lot of objects in my photos either but that doesn’t mean you have to follow my lead. I’ve seen many photos of lots of objects with different colors that looked incredible and on the other hand I’ve seen beautiful photos with no objects, just the point of interest. It’s just a matter of finding your own style and capitalizing on that. For me, the less busier my pictures are, the more I like them.
- Post-production effects. I mainly use Photoshop for any post editing, but there are other ways to enhance your photos which I’ll mention in a minute. In Photoshop, I typically work with levels (also called histogram). I adjust this to add more brightness but also I’ll look at my shadows/highlights and adjust those as needed. Now, Instagram has a great editor too and in that I recommend playing with brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows and warmth until you’re satisfied with the end result. Canva.com is another recommended source for photo editing and it’s free.
- Choosing the right backdrop. I invested in a couple of patterns that I really like and that is white marble contact paper and white woodgrain poster board by We R Memory Keepers. The poster board is what sits inside our large 24 x 24 photo tent in our bedroom and it looks so natural and realistic. I covered one of my mats with the marble contact paper and it sits on my desk in my office. I use it to shoot with my studio ring lighting. I recommend choosing a design that compliments what you’re shooting and won’t compete. These two patterns works well with all my cards no matter what colors they are.
- Shooting at the right time and in the right mood. This might sound funny but for me it’s essential. If I’m in a rush, I don’t have the patience necessary and I make mistakes. If my mood isn’t right, same thing. I like to be happy and able to take a couple of hours where I’m not in the middle of something. Because, it’s not just clicking a button… I have to prep my work area, pull out the props I plan to use, set up each card, take the photos, send them to the PC for editing, do the photo editing, convert to PNGs, add to the Shop and post on social media. This takes effort so blocking out enough time for it all really helps me ensure I like them and they look good when published. And, because we’re in business, our customers can’t touch or see our cards in person so the photos must be high quality.
All card examples and available in our Shop!