I’m going to talk about product photography; partially because I promised a friend I would whip up a quick and dirty guide, and partly because this is something I feel very strongly about. Â This guide will show you Â how to do it with the bare minimum amount of money, equipment, and skills. Anyone can do this.
Why are good photos so important?
Let me put it plainly: If your pictures are ugly, I *will not* buy it.Â Period.Â Now, I may or may not be the “average” consumer, but I can guarantee you that nearly *everyone* will be influenced by your presentation of your product.Â Anyone who has ever said that looks don’t matter is a flat-out liar (at least when it comes to sales).Â When your customer can’t touch, feel, and hold your product, they rely on your visual representation of it.Â Please don’t underestimate the importance of a great photo!!!
For handmade sellers, it is incredibly important that you know the basics of taking an accurate, appealing photograph of your work.
First, because you will most likely not be able to afford a professional photographer; secondly, because an aesthetically pleasing photo is KEY to convincing someone that they *want* it; and thirdly, because an inaccurate portrayal of your product *will* hurt your business.Â In other words, if your photo is gorgeous but it doesn’t look a thing like the product they’re going to receive, it’s likely that customer won’t shop with you again.Â Come on; we’re artisans, not infomercials!
**Disclaimer:Â I am not a photography expert.Â I don’t believe that my photos are the be-all-and-end-all of photography.Â I actually don’t know a thing about “regular” photography (you know, people and places and stuff).Â However, I’ve busted my ass researching this stuff, and I want to share it so that you don’t have to spend as much time looking for this information.Â This is *not* the only way, or the “best” way to take photos- this is merely how I do it, and I am very happy with (most) pictures I take.***
Step 1:Â Your “studio”
This might be the most important part.Â Find a nice, sunny corner of your house to take photos in.Â (For me, this is a literal corner)
If you donâ€™t have a sunny spot, there are ways around it, but trust me: you will be LIGHT YEARS ahead if you just take pictures in natural sunlight.
The next thing you need is a place to set your item.Â This is actually just a TV table – I think it was $12 at WalMart?
Next, you need a â€śbackdropâ€ť of some sort.Â I use white printer paper.Â You can use pretty much anything, really: fabric, paper, reclaimed barn wood (lol).Â I find that white presents the colors most accurately. Â Also, when Iâ€™m photographing makeup and there is colored powder spilled on the surface, I can just trade out for a new piece of paper.
Finally: a tripod.Â If not a tripod, then you need somewhere to set your camera – you arenâ€™t going to want your hands on it when youâ€™re taking macro shots.Â Iâ€™ve heard that setting it on a beanbag or a bag of rice is an awesome substitute for a tripod.
Step 2:Â Your Camera Settings.
As far as I know, newer digital cameras *should* have most of these settings.Â My camera is a Canon PowerShot S2 1S; it isnâ€™t a DSLR, and I can do quite a bit with it.Â Matt has a cheap-ish Kodak point-and-shoot and he can do most of this.
Get comfy with your camera manual, first. Â Chances are, yours has a different way to change the settings than mine does.
If possible, set your cameraâ€™s dial to M for Manual.
First things first:Â Before you shoot.
If your camera has a white balance setting, youâ€™re a lucky duck!Â This is a very useful tool to make sure your colors are accurate.Â You know how something looks different under a regular light bulb than under a fluorescent light, than in candlelight than in sunlight?Â Yeah, your camera knows this and it can fix it for you.
My camera has an â€śautoâ€ť setting (AWB), several different settings for different light sources (Sunshine, cloudy, halogen, fluorescent, flash…) and a custom setting.Â Custom is my favorite and by far the most accurate.Â To custom set the white balance, point your camera at something truly white (like paper, for instance) so that it fills the entire screen.Â Click the button your camera tells you to (in this case, itâ€™s the SET button). Based on what color â€śwhiteâ€ť is registering as on your camera, it will adjust all other colors to be true.Â Itâ€™s awesome!
The next thing you need to do before you take a single picture is change the size of the photo to the largest one possible.
Pro tip: you can always decrease the size and quality of a photo, but you cannot increase it. You have many more pixels to screw around with with in a bigger photo.Â The largest size I can take with my camera is 2592×1944 pixels.
Now itâ€™s time to start thinking about aperture and shutter speed.Â Aperture, or f-stop, is basically the size of the hole light passes through when you click the shutter button.
What this means to you: A lower number (for instance, f2.8) is a larger opening, while a higher number (like f8) is a smaller opening.Â The larger opening lets in more light, but has a shallower depth of field.Â The smaller opening lets in less light but has a greater depth of field. Depth of field is simply the size of the area that is in focus. More on this in a moment.
The next part is shutter speed.Â Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds.Â The faster the shutter speed, the less light reaches the â€śfilmâ€ť, but the sharper your image.Â The slower the shutter speed, the more light is let in, but any movement will result in a blur.
Okay, what does this mean practically?Â Your settings are going to depend on the effect you want.
The photo above was taken with an aperture/f-stop of 2.7, resulting in a shallow depth field.Â See how only the clasp and a few beads are in focus?Â The rest are all blurry.Â Pro Tip: a lower f-stop means more light is let in.Â To prevent the picture from being overexposed, the shutter speed is at 1/40, or 1/40th of a second.
On the next photo, I wanted to increase the depth of field (so that the whole necklace was in focus) so I increased the aperture to f8.Â However, this lets in far less light so the photo is toooooo dark. Â To compensate for the smaller aperture, we can decrease the shutter speed. Â Remember, The longer the shutter is open, the more light gets in.
Hereâ€™s the same photo with a SS of 1/5.Â Notice how almost the entire necklace, including the back, is in focus.
Both photos look nice, so it just depends on what you’re going for. Â The key here is experimentation, and just remember that when you adjust one, youâ€™ll usually have to adjust the other to get the lighting right.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IF YOU HAVE A MACRO SETTING, USE IT!!
The macro setting is awesome!Â It allows you to take super close up photos.Â This is great if you want to show the texture and detail of an item, or if you want to feature a specific point.
If your camera doesn’t have a macro feature, you can just skip this part
Check your manual to find out how to take macros with your camera. Â On my camera, you just press the button that looks like a flower and you’re home free
Here’s the key to great macro photos: Â be very still. Â If you don’t have a remote shutter trigger, use your camera’s timer and take your hands off. Â I have mine set to 2 seconds, so it’s pretty quick.
Pro Tip: Aperture plays a big role here; your depth of field is more obvious when things are very close up. Â Also, every speck of dust will be visible as well… remember that!
Okay, so this wraps it up for actually *shooting* the photo. Â Stay tuned for Part 2, where we discuss editing and preparing the images for the web!