Oooh, nice pictures.... how do you do that?

Well, I'll tell ya.

(Send me your before and afters, and I will do an update with your shop link when I get a few, I would love to see them!)


First I must say this is just what I have learned for myself over the last year or so. I have not taken classes and don't know if there is a right or wrong way. So, if you disagree, that's cool and I am open to comments if you wish to leave them.

You don't need a brand new top of the line camera unless you are planning on really doing elaborate highly detailed work. My camera is a five year old Olympus Digital with 4 megapixels, and it works fine for what I need to do. Tricyrtis Hirta "Miyazaki" (ToadLily) taken from our garden.

First step, know your camera and its settings.
(I know, boring huh?) If you don't know what you are doing with the camera, most of your shots will be wasted, as well as your time. Get your manual that came with your camera. Don't know where your camera manual is? Google it, the information is bound to be somewhere.

Learn how to navigate the
controls on the camera and mess around with the settings to see what they do. There are some important settings that I use every day, and some that I rarely even bother with. An important one is the MACRO setting. Using the camera in this mode will allow you to place the camera very closely to the subject so that you can get more detail.

Keep in mind that
every little detail will show... even those you cannot see. I try to avoid taking photos of my hand in this setting. Dust, fuzz, lint, everything that is in your photo... will show up. For this reason, I keep a little lint roller around, and a polishing cloth. Even fingerprints on gemstones and beads will show up. But hey, this is what we want right? Details! It's the details that draw me to individual beads, and I love to be able to see them.

Another important setting is
WHITE BALANCE. This setting tells the camera what kind of lighting you are dealing with. Cameras have an auto mode, but look around for your light settings and see what it offers in terms of customizing the settings based on what you are lighting with. If I take a photo on the auto setting, and I am using my daylight bulb, the photos turn out really yellow. If I adjust that to the "lightbulb" setting, they turn out much truer to color, which is what we are going for.

Mine has settings for daylight, indoor light, florescent lighting, overcast and the Auto setting. I use the indoor, and daylight settings most often. Occasionally if I am taking "food" photos I use the florescent one because of our kitchen lighting. (It's hard to make food photos look good!)

Lighting
This is probably the most important one of all to make sure you get the "top of the stack" photo that you are looking for. It definitely sets my photos apart from each other when I use "natural" lighting as opposed to my desk lamp. Natural lighting can be difficult to attain however.

TURN OFF the flash. Don't give your products red eye.


Here are a few examples of lighting:

First is a photo with regular room lighting, camera set on auto. This photo is fuzzy because the camera didn't have enough light for such a close up shot, it is also yellow toned because the camera was set on auto. I make sure and set for my lighting because sometimes it seems the camera needs to know.

This photo was taken using direct sunlight as a light source (with the camera set on sunlight setting). It gives the camera plenty of light but I dislike the harsh shadows and glare that show up. I think they detract from the item itself.

The third photo uses the same sunlight (and setting) behind a white sheer curtain. It cuts the glare and harsh shadows and I think it shows the item best. Another option I would use would to place a white paper behind the subject to catch the light and reflect it... but that is a little more detailed than I want to go into...
This was taken with my "daylight" bulb (camera set to indoor lighting). I think it flattens the subject and really does not express the true color of the subject. It is however the most reliable and controllable way for me to light my photos.

04/05/09 UPDATE: Most recently I splurged on an OttLite bulb and it really helps provide a nice clean white light that other bulbs I have used do not. If you are going to splurge on something, it might as well be something that helps the business grow, right? :)
Editing is something that may be controversial for many when it comes to items for sale. Keep in mind though, most digital cameras edit details while you are taking the photo anyway. I try to represent my items as accurately as possible. I do some minimal editing on a few of the photos if I feel the representation could be more accurate. Ultimately, the goal is to take shots well enough that I don't have to do anything to them.

This is how the last photo would look after editing.


04/04/09 Unedited OttLite photo (my new favorite). I made a new pair of earrings so you could get an idea of the difference. Sometimes I choose to filter the light a bit because of all the reflection. How? Tape a sheet of white velum over the bulb, far enough so ya don't burn the house down.
Focus
It is a great idea to practice with your depth of field when taking product shots. We have all seen those great close ups that fade off... they make me want to know what the rest of the product is... they make me want to click! That is what we are going for here.

When in the macro setting, use the little cross hairs that indicate the center of the photo to focus your camera on a particular spot of a larger object. Get up close and personal with the subject, decide what you want in focus, hold very still, and click. HOLD VERY STILL! Get a tripod if you have to. Use the table, desk, or wall to brace yourself from movement. This is very important when taking detailed shots.

Some cameras will allow you to focus by partially depressing the button. I do this to find where I like the focus to be, then I take the shot.

The first photo (of a fork) focuses near, on the tines (and I like it the best). The further away you focus, the more light the camera needs, the following shots were taken with the same lighting, and no adjustments.


This next photo focuses on the neck of the fork, while the rest is out of focus.


The next one focuses on the handle... this will show the most of your background.


Backgrounds
I take this opportunity in my photos to try to get a cohesive look when they are all viewed at once. It gives me a way to "set the mood" if you will. I chose a gray velvet mat for my items because it shows up both black and white and colors well. I have minimal other "props" because many times it only detracts from the subject that you want people to focus on.

Also keep in mind that having a unique background can make your products more recognizable. This is an important part of branding. The hard part for me is I change my mind quite often about how I want my photo backgrounds to look...

Try to include one shot of you holding, or wearing the item. It really helps if you are trying to sell it. Add measurements, but remember that there is no replacement for seeing something as it is worn, or held.

I also add my shop name to the photos when they are for sale. That way, if someone just sees the photos, they can find my items. I recommend that it be subtle so as not to dissuade possible space in treasuries or the front page of Etsy or other selling sites.

______________________________________

I hope that these things I have learned will come in handy for you. Have fun taking your photos!

76 comments:

dkjewels said...

this was great! thanks!

shannon said...

I enjoyed the tips. I need to get a little cloth because I've noticed the lint thing on mine too.

The Filigree Garden said...

Helpful post!

Anna said...

Really great post, I love how you know the in's and out's of your camera. I have an awful camera, even worse than yours IMHO...and I rely on Picnik to make my photos look decent.

Candi said...

Awesome tips! Thank you for sharing them

Giftbearer said...

I hadn't heard that tip abot cutting harsh shadows by putting a cloth between the sun and the piece. I think I'll try that sometime. So far I have been doing it by photographing around 12:00 noon when the sun is directly overhead, but sometimes I can't do it then and have to do all kinds of things to compensate for not very good lighting.

I especially hate when shadows blend in to the edge of the piece. It's almost impossible to edit that out. I had to delete a bunch of pictures like that today because it was overcast outside all day.

Maureen B said...

Great post- Thanks! I have taken many macro photos of giant mutant lint strands- more than I can count...

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Wonderful job with the tutorial:):) Thanks.

Scarfmonsters said...

Very helpful :)

Dave Robertson said...

Licia, awesome tutorial, you clearly know your stuff! I'm going to recommend this on Twitter.

Cheers,

--Dave
at Rings & Things

Lanyardlady said...

great tips. thanks!

jogjawoodenpin said...

great tips, useful and easy to be followed

Lou said...

Great tips thanks!

germandolls said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading your tips. I will have to google my manual... Thank You!

Sygnet Creations said...

This is a great post. I like how you captured everything in your photo examples!

littlebobleep said...

Great blogpost. I spent a day doing nothing but examining my camera manual and it made a huge difference in my photos. Your hints and technique descriptions and so helpful. Thank you!

Jules said...

Great post! very helpful. I bookmarked it. I'll give you my before and after shots - HUGE difference!

RavenWrenDesigns said...

Very good post. I'm bookmarking this as I can always improve!

Diamondaj said...

Thanks for the tips. I had to dig and find my camera handbook and finally found it. Very helpful post : )

randomcreative said...

What a great tutorial! Thanks!

LucaTedde said...

Wow you wrote such great tips and I like how simple you described all the process that can lead you to take very good pictures!
That is really great that you shared them with everyone! :)

Carol said...

Great tips! I am always struggling with photos myself. Thanks for sharing.

LauraHunterJewelry said...

Thanks for taking the time to post your tips. Photographing jewelry is always a challenge!

lulidesigns said...

Super helpful thank-you for the great tips and the useful photographic references! Great post.

alejandro said...

thank you very much!!!
a great tutorial

Morna said...

Very nice article - and very nice of Etsy to let us all know about you! I like your supplies shop very much.

Posh Adornment said...

Wonderful, informative post. Here's a tip back to share with you. I too have had numerous closeups growing hair and all kinds of things that not even my loupe could see. So...my solution is to shoot the picture from a farther distance, not necessarily on the closeup lense and then crop it. The cropping pulls it in close and enlarges the subject but it's not so close you can see the molecules moving! LOL And my subject is always jewelry. This greatly helps to give a nice clear closeup and yet not include the unwanted details.

Oh! And another tip about backgrounds... Actually two fold...I use a light box with neutral colored background and then have my branding by using a rose in all my photos. But if I want to vary it I will add other things to the setting but always have the rose or the reflection of the rose in the photo somewhere which also helps to make the items identifiable. If you want to see what I mean take a look at my store on Etsy and my photos. It's at www.poshadornment.etsy.com ( I hope that's OK to leave here?)

It's so nice to read such an informative and well written article. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

QuiltTops said...

This was so helpful and so nice of you to share. Thank You
QuiltTops.... and More

J. Mankin Design said...

Thank you so much for this great info. I have been struggling with some of the issues you discussed and had started photographing on my scanner with good results but this only allows you to lay items flat. Your suggestions have helped me a great deal! Thanks!
J. Mankin Design

Dream Lily Designs said...

Great tips. I make jewelry so I definately need to get some up close and personal pics soon to replace my current slightly blurry ones. Thanks!!! www.dreamlilydesigns.com

Anonymous said...

Wonderful information; thank you so much for sharing!

Anna
aka http://www.beatricestudio.com

Jacaranda Designs said...

Very useful advice. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks...hopefully no more hairy photos for me :)

Katie said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing your great photo tips :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the photography how-to's. They are well-written and excellent help.
Michele of CrochetCentral.

niftyknits said...

Thank you, it's always useful to read how other people manage their photos.

JennG said...

Great tips, great jewelry, and wonderful photos! Thank you.

Jennifer said...

I saw your article on etsy, than you for sharing. You give some wonerful tips. This is an area that I have to get better at.

sannachristina said...

Super article. Always can use more information on EVERY subject relating to our art work! Keep sharing.

hedilu said...

This is a great tutorial on a subject that I have spent a lot of time learning about. There's always so much more to learn..thanks so much for this article, Licia!

mbee said...

Very, very nice of you. I will get out my manual now! Thank you.

tonya beck moore said...

Thank you for such a great and helpful post! I have always read every camera manual I've gotten; but the way you wrote about it makes more sense to me than it ever did even after reading it 4-5 times. Thanks a million!!

kim rhodes-thomas said...

Thanks for the tips! I like the way you used your pics to show what went wrong and how to fix them.

Lrc said...

Very generous to share your tips...i like that you show the different photos with the different focus, it was easy to see what you were talking about. Also, the light settings info was cool, that is something i forget about. A well written how to tutorial...

Carol ~ MSW, M.Ed.,LICSW said...

Thank you so much ~ great instructions ~ just what I needed ~ now to do the great shot!

Hugs and namaste,
Carol (artmusedogs)

Jillianmackowiak said...

Awesome post! Thank so much for sharing!!

Jillian :)

Vintage said...

Thanks for taking the time to spell it all and and reinforce my technique too!

Katerina said...

This is so helpful, thanks!
Will keep practicing and testing.

Laura said...

Thank you for all the great information. Lighting seems to be my major problem and you have explained this quite well. I will be using your suggestions and hopefully will improve my photos!
Thanks!
Laura of Vintage Valise

Mary said...

Thank you so much for this post! I only recently began listing my artwork on Etsy. Taking good photos is a real challenge for me. I'm going to take your advice...starting with digging out my camera's manual!

Thanks again!

the 4rs said...

Hi, fascinating, and informative, I wonder how to put your name on your photos, I have seen etsians and bloggers "brand" their photos with their names. I don't have any fancy photo editing software, how can I do this?

Marguerite said...

VERY cool, thank you! I'm always looking for ways to improve my photos!

Gillian said...

Great tips, I really appreciate you sharing ~ Thank you :)

Mdm Za said...

thats great. learnt a lot. i just setup my ETSY store selling jewellery. You tips are great. Thanks a lot.

Enid said...

This is super useful!!! thanks!!!

jthomas said...

Very Cool!

jthomas said...

www.fineamericanwoodworking.com

Brooke said...

Great tips. thanks!

JoOliveWorkshop said...

Pictures really do speak louder than words!, thanks for your great examples re: lighting etc

Mary Ann said...

What a great easy to follow, comprehensive guide. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

laurette said...

great tips, thank u.

Jessica said...

Thanks for the great tips! The info about white balance and macro settings are so helpful.

V---'-@ said...

I bought three lamps and three 6500K bulbs. My 13 watt Ott light was insufficient for the job, but the 6500 K bulbs will allow me to have sunlight indoors (the sun is a G2 star which means its temperature is about 6000 K) and I use the Daylight WB setting. Placement pf the lights is what I am experimenting with at the moment.

As you said, it is essential to know your camera. I forgot that I have a Telephoto function on my last shoot and I really could have used it!

I also want to play with the supermacro setting (for small works and close-ups that are REALLY close).

Peggy. said...

Wow this is the best photo article I've seen! Very easy to follow and understand. Great practicle tips too.
Peggy

Chris Kapono said...

Great tips, thank you so much for sharing!

Susan said...

Finally I get it, thank you so much for sharing. Now I can get much better use out of that expensive camera my husband bought me for Christmas! Thank you many times over, can't wait to see what else you can teach us!

MaisonBeegeoux said...

This is the FIRST time I've pulled out that camera menu, since you addressed ALL my immediate problems! What a great post and thank you from those like me who are printed instructions averse.

That70sShoppe said...

I too need to get out the camera manual and see what settings I could maybe use that I don't currently. Thanks for sharing all this info.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a million for this info, I have been trying to take pictures of jewelry with little success. I to have an Olympus camera with 5 megapixels, have read the manuel and still didn't understand some of the stuff in it. This really helps! Thanks again. designwizard

Elisa said...

thanks! all sooo true! there are many ways to get around the lighting issue (i work all day, so i have created a lightbox for small items, and the rest i do on the weekends, or with the appropriate lamps indoors) but knowing your camera is so important! i can't stand it when sellers have great products, but don't turn on the macro function so i can't see the detail!
<3Elisa

silver leaf said...

Great visuals!!! I needed to see and read it to understand. Thanks.
silverleafbytasha.etsy.com

Lisabest1@verizon.net said...

Thank you so much. I had no idea about working with the camera or the light bulbs! I am going to redo my etsy site this weekend using your information.

Cyber_Hippie said...

These are excellent tips! Even though I am a photographer, product photos of my handmades, art, and jewelry are such a challenge for me, and I'm always working on them.

(Taking pictures of landscapes and flowers and sunsets is a completely different situation. LOL!)

Thank you!
Jen M.
JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

Linda said...

Terrific information! Thanks for making me realize how much time I need to spend on my photos....once I've finished working on my item it seems as though the work has been done.....not so!

Lady Ann said...

Thank you so much for this post!

Karramandi said...

Wow, amazing article. Thanks so much