By Cynthia Colosimo Robbins
All Photos by Cynthia
There are lots of places on the internet to find good information about taking photographs. The Etsy Blog is a great place to start. I am not a photographer, so the things I’m suggesting here are not technical, and they’re easy to do.
Two important things to consider when taking pictures of crafts are background and lighting. The other important thing is to experiment a bit and take lots of photos to find out what works for you.
I like to find a background that shows off the craft item, but stays in the background. If I am taking photos of small items, I want to be careful that nothing distracts from them. If I am taking photos of larger items, I try to make sure that there is nothing accidentally in the background that distracts viewers (e.g. the cat’s tail, my own shadow, or seaweed on the beach).
Neutral backgrounds – white, black, grey, beige can be useful. You can make a background by draping a piece of cloth – a tablecloth, sheet, or a piece of cotton duck – over a chair to create a backdrop for the item you are taking a photo of.
You can use contrasting backgrounds to help show off your crafts – a dark background for a light object or light for a dark object. We’ve all seen how jewellery is displayed on black or dark blue velvet in a shop. A piece of black paper can work, but sometimes it isn’t dark enough. You can try using a dark piece of clothing tied, or pinned to a chair to make a darker background. Make sure you check for lint and other imperfections before you set up your photograph.
You can also create contrast by using pattern and texture. You could try using a patterned paper, or a quilt behind a solid coloured object. You could also use a texture like wood or sand behind a smooth object. Placemats can make a good background for small objects. Be careful that the background isn’t so noticeable that people miss the object you are taking a photo of. Try a few different things until you find what works.
You can make a smooth white background very easily with a piece of bristol board. Curve the bristol board gently and tape it in place, using a chair, or table and wall. If you use a chair for photographing small things, you can move it around and try it out near a window or near a lamp to change the light. You can also try it with black or coloured bristol board or paper.
Some items look better photographed from the top, others look better photographed from the side. The colour of the tablecloth cloth or table top creates a surface for your object. The wall colour behind your object can be a contrasting colour.
Natural backgrounds can be really beautiful. A piece of driftwood, weathered boards, or a sandy beach can really set off your craft item. Make sure there is nothing distracting in your background. A small piece of seaweed might attract the viewer’s eye more than your beautiful necklace draped over the driftwood. Wherever you chose to set up your work, the craft item should be the most noticeable thing in the picture.
Daylight can be the easiest light to use. If you are set up near a window, even the light on a cloudy day is enough to take a good photo without a flash. If the light from the window is too strong and you are getting really shiny reflections and dark shadows, you might want to draw the curtains, or put a light coloured cloth or paper over the window. This diffuses the light.
When you’re buying lightbulbs you can chose bright or warm bulbs. Warm light is yellowish and if you are photographing indoors using a lamp, your photos might have a yellowish look to them. Daylight is brighter and usually colours look more natural.
A camera flash is often very harsh and can make the picture too bright to see the textures and details of your craft item. Try taking pictures without the flash in different types of lighting.
This is a whitebox. It uses the same idea as a curved piece of bristol board, but it adds white sides to the box. This helps to create a setting with softer shadows. The light reflects a bit from the sides, lighting your craft evenly. You can easily move it around – near a window or other light source to experiment with different types of lighting. And even in a messy studio, you can always have a clean background ready to use.
Shadows and Reflections
Watch out for distracting shadows and reflections in your photographs. Often you don’t see them while you are taking the picture but find them when you are looking at the pictures later. If you are between the light and the object you are photographing, you can end up with your own shadow in the picture.
Sometimes you can reflect the light to soften shadows and light an object more evenly. In the same way that the white sides of a whitebox help to reflect the light evenly, you can use a white piece of board or cover a piece of cardboard with tinfoil to reflect and even out the light around the object you are photographing.
You can take a really good photo with your phone or tablet, but make sure you have lots of light. Photos taken with low light can be grainy. Try setting up your display near a window and using daylight. Experiment with different types of light and see what works for you. Try not to use zoom with a smartphone or tablet, just move in closer. You want the clearest picture possible.
You don’t always need a fancy camera to take good pictures, but it can help, especially in situations where the lighting isn’t great. You also have more options with a camera. For example, most digital cameras have a Macro setting. The setting shows a picture of a flower. It is used for extreme close-ups and can be very useful for taking pictures of small objects or close-ups, for example a close-up of needlework or beading.
Be careful what you focus on when you are taking close-up photos. When you are very close, the objects you don’t focus on will be blurry. Sometimes that creates a lovely effect. Learning about Focus, and Depth of Field is a whole other chapter in learning about photography, and something I’ll leave to the experts!
Etsy.com / Etsy.ca
Etsy has resources for people who plan to set up an online shop. The Etsy Sellers Handbook and the Etsy Blog are good resources.
Etsy Video: Great Product Photography for Beginners
Etsy Worksheet: Etsy Success Photography Workshop: Make it Work (PDF file)
Resources from the Etsy Blog: