Hey there. Are you a professional photographer? No? Well, neither are we. And neither are most people. While the ideal situation would be to hire a professional photographer to perform that well-calculated magic, for most small shops out there, this just isn’t realistic. But don’t panic, because it doesn’t have to be. With the right know-how and determination, any crafter worth their salt can take professional looking photos of their products – DIY style.
This article will walk you through some of our top tips that will get you snapping away like a handmade rock star.
1. Don’t be afraid – go for it!
This is arguably one of the most important tips we can give you and it’s critical to keep in the back of your mind when planning and taking your photographs. Fear and nervousness blocks your natural creativity – and that’s not good. It’s important that you accept you will make a few mistakes, that things won’t go your way and that frustration is undoubtedly inevitable. Once you can accept these things, the answer is simple. To just have fun with it! Experiment. Allow yourself to come up with new, innovative ideas and try them out, no matter how unlikely they may seem. Your new found enthusiasm and creativity will shine through and your customers will certainly pick up on this.
When your ready to delve deeper, there are some fantastic books to read such as The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum.
2. Camera Equipment
This is where many small shop owners panic. So I’d like to start by saying – DON’T. There really is not need. While it’s no secret that having all the most expensive gear can work great in the right hands, you can achieve incredibly good results without having the latest DSLR or version of Photoshop.
It is important however that you have a nice camera. I think this goes without saying. Yet in 2017, chances are you’ve got a smart phone. Phones like the iPhone 6 & 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 & S8 have incredible cameras which are more than capable of taking professional grade photo’s, if used in the right way. Even the now out-of-date iPhone 5 has an 8-megapixel sensor that can produce professional grade shots. So before you throw money at the problem, why not do some research into your own devices camera functionality and test its capabilities – I think you’ll be surprised.
In the same way that high-end DSLR cameras work wonders in the hands of the right people, you can manipulate your phone to achieve its full potential in the same way – an this can be a much more realistic (and cheaper) option for most people.
Top Tip: try opening up the ‘Pro/Advanced’ settings on your phones camera, rather than relying on the default ‘Auto’ modes. You’ll be able to change things like Exposure, Aperture and a host of other fancy sounding settings otherwise found of DSLRs to achieve that perfect shot. With a little experimentation you’ll soon be going places.
Now this may seem obvious to some of you but I can guarantee that many of you reading this post will be guilty of this.
In the first instance, I can’t stress enough the importance of using as much natural light as possible. It’s just better – make sure you use it! And hey, guess what? It’s also a completely free resource. Setting up near a window in your home or even taking yourself outside will work wonders for your images, so I suggest you give it a try.
For those of you who live in caves or where the sun is a fickle mistress, whatever you do, do not take photo’s under your standard house lights. This just makes everything look orange and grainy. If you’re going to take photo’s indoors under artificial light it’s essential that you use proper lighting. There are some good, cheap options out there. Options like the ESDDI Photography Lighting Umbrella, which really gives you quite a lot for your money. If are less concerned with budget however, another option is the Elinchrom D-Lite 4 Kit, which includes two lights, tripods, and attachable diffuser squares. This is a professional rig though, so be prepared to pay for quality.
Now if you did click that link you’ll probably to shocked at the price. But don’t worry. A simple search on eBay or Amazon will produce a host of assorted rigs which can yield good results at a much low cost – we simply wanted to give you something to aim for!
4. Your Setup
Much like with cameras, your setup doesn’t need to be costly. In fact, you can get a pretty good studio rig together for very little money. Referencing tip #1 of this article, it’s important that you are not afraid to try out new techniques.
We’ve always been fans of plain backgrounds, whether that be pure white or colourful. If you gather the following items you stand a pretty good chance of being able to take great snaps of your products:
- A roll of white (or single colour) paper
- Clothes pegs
- Any small table
- Cheap tripod (for phone or DSLR)
- Piece of pure white or reflective card
Once you have all of these items, you can create something which looks like this that will allow you to take professional grade shots:
Even a set up this simple can yield incredible and professional looking results – so don’t worry that it might look a little strange! It’ll probably cost you less that £50/$70 too, which is a big plus for many small shop owners with smaller revenue streams.
Do your best to copy the diagram below which shows the best way to achieve the most effective results!
If you want to spend a little more money and go for something more compact / official looking, check out the Foldio 2 Mini Photo Studio.
Heed them, and understand how they work. You want to avoid harsh back-light which can cast ugly looking shadows on your products. More importantly, try to keep your camera on the same side as the direction the light is coming from. This helps to minimise the existence of shadowing in your shots. It’s a simple tip, but makes a big difference.
6. Keep it clean
I know this is probably stating the obvious but keeping your products clean, fingerprint or smudge free is essential. Your setup area should be clean too – make sure you remove any excess materials, papers, smarties etc. from your photography station before you try to photograph your items – it makes a noticeable difference.
Remember, less is more. Clean, clutter free photos work best and really help to showcase your products as best as possible, without any distractions.