28 January 2012

How to take great photos of your handmade products

When you are selling your handmade crafts on Etsy, Folksy, eBay or wherever, the quality and content of the product photography will make or break a sale. Even before people look at the title or description they have judged the picture and decided if they want to find out more and possibly buy it.

I have always known this to be true but today it was proven to me! The photo I put up last week of my handmade necklaces where taken in a bit of a rush, just to get something up there. They are OK,  but not quite right. I was going for a handmade, improvised, panicky look...

Old rushed photo

Today I set up a light box in my workshop and using my new bust from black dog, I then took all the recycled bead necklace photos again! I then uploaded them to my shop on Folksy and as usual shared it on Facebook and Twitter. An hour later, while still editing more photos... The first necklace SOLD!

New photo

How to take great photos of your handmade products

  • Lights
  • Camera
  • Edit
  • Kiss
I hate flash photography. 
Unless you have a very expensive flash set up you should not use flash - the flash on most compact cameras is coming from the wrong angle, too bright and just plain wrong! Even indoor lighting is not the best, the first photos I took where lit purely by celling lights and they came out very orange and still too dark.

The best light is daylight, get outside if you can, if not get close to a window. My set up involves four white boards I found in the attic - you can easily use a sheet or even paper stuck to a wall. I used a skylight in the attic which reflects nicely off the boards, also I can leave it set up there so it is ready to use next time.

A photographer friend of mine recommends this portable studio I am sure all you crafty people can make one yourself, I know I am going to try now!

Digital cameras are getting cheaper and better all the time. I happen to have access to a rather nice Olympus E-P1, it is kind of a SLR/compact hybrid and is more than enough for these photos.

When I took the photos today I let the camera do the hard work for me and had it mostly set on Auto. To be honest cameras today are pretty clever, if your lighting is good and there is nothing too complicated in the photo the camera will figure it out.

Things to watch out for are:
  • Make sure your ISO is low, this will the reduce noise in the picture, just make sure you have good light and a steady hand.
  • Make sure white is white... if not change your white balance (WB) to match your light conditions.
  •  Focus, man, focus... Focus on the most important part of your product.
Love it or hate it Photoshop is part of life. If you are poor like me Gimp is a great free, open source alternative to Photoshop. Spend some time getting used to these programs and they can transform your photos (just look at any celebrity in a magazine!)

All I did there was:
  • Adjust the Curves to make it a bit lighter
  • Used the Magic Wand to select the white background to stop me messing up the bust and jewellery
  • Used Clone Stamp to remove the lines in the background and even it out
  • I also used the a light grey (almost white) paint at 50% opacity to even the background out a bit more 
Some photos need a bit of cropping or the colour balance changing, but that is about it, especially if your photo is good to start with. If you are clever you will used a background with no joins in it, a sheet or curved cardboard, then you might not even have to do any thing to your photos...

I left the background of the photo with a shadow in it to give it some context, I also feel a pure white background can be too stark a lot of the time. I now avoid pattern in the back as it distracts from your product, which is after all exactly what your photos are about!

Keep It Simple Stupid!

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