Reported by Jessica Ripley
Before writing this article I read many others online that give tips for taking the best photos possible when it comes to capturing our creations. We crafters sure are a bunch that really like to share our work! There is a ton of great information out there on everything from creating your own photo studio, to camera settings, what equipment (like lenses and flashes) will take better photos, and what Photoshop tweaks will improve them. I also spent time browsing some of my favorite blogs studying their photos to find out which appeal to me and why. I mean let’s face it, good writing is great, but when it comes to crafts it is the eye candy that keeps readers interested and brings them back again and again.
Keeping the amount of information out there in mind, I would never presume to know better or more than those that have already written about the subject matter, (the only thing I’ll ever claim to be an expert in is eating chocolate). However, after all that reading, browsing, and the experience I myself have as a craft blogger, I’ve compiled that information into five steps toward success when it comes to taking really great photos of crafts for posting on the Web.
It is important to note that you do not need fancy equipment or an expensive photo editing program to get high quality photos of your projects. You will hear about DSLR cameras, light boxes, and editing with Photoshop that seem to be the key factor to beautiful photos. While it is true that these items definitely can help you get great photographs, they are not the secret. You can do just as much with a point and shoot, good technique, and a bit of free editing help. Keep these five points in mind, and you’ll be one of those that we get to enjoy some wonderful eye candy from too.
1. Go outside and turn off the flash.
Natural light is always better when it comes to photos, whether they are of a craft project or a person. It is just more flattering than a harsh flash. If going outside is not possible, identify a spot in your home that gets great natural light from a window.
Here’s an example of a project near a window in my home that gets the most light vs. the exact same location at night with a flash:
If you have to take a photo indoors at night, bring as much light to your subject as possible with lamps, but that is where it gets tricky and you must do a bit more to get the best photo, such as adjusting white balance on your camera if possible to get rid of that incandescent lamp yellow hue, or setting up a light box, have a fancy flash, etc. I prefer to just follow this number one rule and not worry about all that extra tweaking to a photo, that takes up time when I could be crafting!
2. Setting the stage is important.
How this is done can vary from individual to individual, but it is important to think about. Personally, I find photos that show a project in its intended use (such as an apron around a waist with a few utensils in the pocket, a framed piece on the wall in a home over a dresser, or a pillow on a love seat with a coordinating blanket draped nearby) much more interesting to look at than an object on a monochrome background. For example, this garden stake looks prettier in a garden rather than lying on my craft table.
However, I have done both so know this can depend on a project too. Here’s an example where I preferred to show an iPod Cozy for what it was rather than in a photo where it could have been lost on a person.
When choosing a background or other items to enhance the project itself, it is also important to be sure that the colors are complimentary, and that they do not distract from the main focus of the photo. Great examples of the use of props can be found by perusing the craft ideas section at Martha Stewart’s website. They are truly staging experts. While we all can’t have her prop room, it sure does give way to some inspiring ideas for taking photos!
3. Shoot and shoot and shoot some more.
Once the location is determined and the stage is set, take lots of photos. In the digital age where we are blessed with huge memory cards I can sometimes take 30-40 photos of a project before I consider this step complete.
Be sure to include close ups, further away shots (especially if you are showing the project in use like mentioned above), and shots at angles to keep it interesting to the eye. Here’s an example on a recent project for our review of the Epiphany Button Studio which shows detail as well as the full project:
4. Editing is necessary.
Editing is a bit like the icing on the cake. The slightest tweaks can improve an image just enough to make it great rather than just OK. I use Photoshop Elements, however it is not necessary to have expensive software. Reviewed on Craft Critique, Picnik is an online site that provides wonderful free editing tools which I highly recommend.
When editing photos of crafts, consider these 4 basic steps:
- Adjust the lighting. Even small tweaks to levels, or brightness and contrast, can dramatically improve the appeal of a photo. Just be careful not to take this step too far or your photo will have too much “noise” and not look as natural.
- Consider bumping up the color saturation 5-10%. Especially after adjusting lighting, this can give your project some pop. But again, don’t take this too far, especially if you are selling the item. It should remain true to what it is in real life (but there isn’t anything wrong with adding a little pop to catch the eye).
- Crop. If you didn’t frame the shot exactly as you liked, crop it. Also consider cropping the shot into a square, which often looks better in an online format.
- Re-size before uploading. This step is extremely important when sharing photos online. The larger your photo, the longer it will take it to load on someone else’s computer, and for some readers this can be a frustrating deal breaker. A good rule of thumb is no bigger than 600 pixels wide or tall.
5. There is more to posting than “publish”.
Once you have completed all the above and are left with the best possible photo to show off your creation, there is more you can do in order to enhance your photo behind the scenes.
First, give the photo a more descriptive file name when saving it. For example, rather than naming a photo “detail shot 1”, name it “blue pillow made with Amy Butler fabric detail shot 1”. Also, after uploading a photo to the web it is given a code which includes “ALT” tags. Whatever appears in these ALT tags (which look like alt=”description here”) is what readers see while a photo is loading, and what search engines see while looking for images as well. Change the wording between the two quotation marks to a better description of your project. When doing so, keep in mind what you would search for in Google if you were looking for a similar project.
Taking both of these steps exponentially increases the chance of a search engine finding your post, and as a result drives more traffic to your site.
As mentioned above these are tips and tricks you are sure to have heard before, but that are certainly the basic keys to success and deserve reiterating when you wish to share your work online.
We would love to hear from you any other tips you may have learned, or if you wish to further elaborate on any of those above. Share with us in the comments how you get the best photo possible of your crafts!