How to take the perfect product photography | All By Mama
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How to take the perfect product photography

Guest Post from Mama Denise, One Happy Day. Over to the incredible talented lady... how_to_photo-hello Hello! I’m Denise from One Happy Day (www.onehappyday.de). I’m thrilled to have been invited to write about two of my biggest passions, photography and crafts. When I’m not being a mum, I’m running around with my camera photographing weddings and families. And when I’m not doing that, I’m sewing my daughter’s next fancy dress costume, making sock creatures or baking silly cakes. Taking good photos of your creations is essential for your online success. Customers rely solely on what they see to fall in love with your products. So it’s worth investing that extra time in taking beautiful pictures of your work. The good news is you don’t need a fancy camera or expensive equipment. Ok, I do love my Nikon, but to prove my point here’s a photo taken with my IPhone to compare. how_to_photo-comparison_iphone All you really need is lots of good natural light, a bit of practice; plenty of creativity (which you definitely have!) and you'll be well on your way. Most of what you need to help your products stand out is already lying around in your home. Here's a peek at what my set up looked like for this blog post.  how_to_photo-setup Nothing fancy, is it? You can do it, too!

  1. Finding light.

Get up and have a wonder around your home. Look for that one lovely big window that oozes light. The one your cat (if you have one) sits at all day, looking at the world go by. If it’s a balcony door, even better. And if you’ve got one of those beautiful kitchens with a skylight and sliding glass doors, I want to come to yours for tea, please! You’re going to need to get really close to that window, so remove anything in the way, and claim it as yours forever more! (You might need a word with your cat.) The ideal window should be north facing or one without direct sunshine at the time you’re shooting. This is why: how_to_photo-direct_sun As you can see, direct sun casts extremely harsh shadows and the contrast between light and dark areas is juts not flattering. We want soft shadows and as little contrast as possible. Luckily we have a lot of overcast days in the UK, so most of time, you won't have to worry. But if the sun does shine in, my next point should solve any issues that may arise.

  1. Basic set up.

First you’ll need a level surface large enough to place your products on and high enough to make sure the subject is at the same height as your window. For this shoot, I used a side table. Create your perfect backdrop When starting out, I would recommend keeping things simple. A clean white background can never go wrong. I used a roll of white wrapping paper. I taped the paper to the wall then let it curve down onto the table. Depending on where your window is, you might have to get a bit creative here. But the important thing is that the background and surface merge seamlessly, giving the illusion that everything flows into infinity. Place your product as far away from your wall as possible, to avoid distorted shadows. Defused light works wonders So, now for that nice soft look I was talking about. On a cloudy day you could pretty much go ahead and shoot. But if the sun is glaring through the window, or if the light is a bit patchy (mixed shade and sun), you need to diffuse it with something translucent. I taped wax paper to the window, but a white shower curtain will also do the trick. Ta-da!! Use reflectors to reduce shadows You might have noticed the white card to the left of my lovely model. how_to_photo-reflector This is your second best friend when photographing your products. It serves as a reflector to bounce the light back at the object, brightening the darker areas and softening the shadows (which is exactly what we want!). You can use anything from a large drawing pad, to a pillow or a sheet, as long as it’s white, has a smooth surface and is movable. You might need to shift it around a bit or tilt it at different angles until you get the results you want. Invest in a tripod On dark, rainy days, you might find that your photos are suddenly looking blurry. That’s because your camera needs to expose the image for longer than your hand can hold. I won’t go into technical details, but this is where a tripod will definitely save the day. There are lots of models out there, for all kinds of budgets. You won’t regret it. Also, if you’re photographing lots of products at the same time and want a consistent angle, a tripod will really speed up the process.

  1. Getting the most out of your camera.

Now is the time to dust off that user manual and really get to know your camera. These modern, digital clicky-thingies are programmed to be super smart and do everything for you. It’s time to regain control! You will notice the difference in your photos instantly. All cameras are different, but there are some general settings that will help your products look their best. Turn off your flash You don’t need that horrible, glaring, “deer in the headlights” flash with all that beautiful soft natural light coming through your window. Turn it off, and never, ever turn it back on again (I mean NEVER!). ISO what? Somewhere within your settings you might have spotted the letters ISO. This is a remnant from the days of traditional film. Have you ever photographed in dark conditions and noticed the resulting image looking all grainy and pixelated? That’s because your camera was shooting at a high ISO to make up for the lack of light. Most modern cameras have the ISO option set to AUTO. This means the camera will choose the ISO for you, according to the light conditions. This is great when you’re out and about, but not so good for shooting crisp clear product photos. If you have the option, set the ISO to 200. If you have a tripod, you won’t have to worry about having too little light to shoot. You should have beautifully sharp pics every time (specially if you use the trick I reveal below). Shooting in low light? Use the self-timer mode When shooting in low light, even on a tripod, just pressing the release button can cause the camera to wobble and blur the image. Well I have a little trick for you. Use the self-timer mode. By the time the camera takes the picture, everything will be perfectly still. CLICK! Done. Portrait and macro modes Most cameras have programmed presets. You can put them to great use here. Dial in the portrait mode (usually the picture of a lady’s head) for your generic shots and the macro mode (usually the picture of a flower) for detail shots. Explaining why is a blog post in itself. You’ll just have to trust me J. Image size Just as a matter of habit, double check that you’re shooting at the best image quality possible. Sometimes cameras default to “standard” so that you can fit more pictures on your memory card.

  1. Upping your game

So, you’ve found the perfect spot in your home and are one with your camera. Now it’s time to have some fun and add some personality to your photos. Add colour and texture From a beautiful old wooden table, to a delicately floral fabric or textured wallpaper, the possibilities are endless. No doubt you will find the right match for your personal style. I have a real soft spot for wrapping paper, as it is cheep and versatile. Just a bit of advice: your background should always complement your creations, never distract from them. how_to_photo-background Put your creations into context Your photos are the perfect (and only) opportunity to inspire potential buyers on how to wear, use or display your products. Lot’s of your buyers won’t be as creative as you, and will appreciate your help. how_to_photo-context To avoid disappointed customers, it's important that you manage their expectations, especially with regards to sizes. You can add relevant props in your photos to create a realistic sense of scale. how_to_photo-props Don't be shy to show off the rest of your creations too. The more reasons to fall in love with your work, the better. how_to_photo-group

  1. Ready, steady, shoot, shoot and shoot some more.

You’ve got everything set up. Your batteries are charged (yours and your camera’s!). Your baby’s asleep… Action! Try every angle (from the side, from above, from behind). Photograph every beautiful detail. Your customers want to see everything there is to see, so that they can get a real feel for your product. Don’t worry if at first you discard lots of the photos (I’m not exaggerating when I say that only 10% of the photos I take at weddings and family shoots make the final cut). Soon you will find what works best for you and you’ll be snapping away like a pro how_to_photo-details

  1. Editing your images

I’m not going to lie. It’s likely that you’ll need to do some sort of editing to your images once you’ve shot them. Even if it’s just small tweaks to colour, contrast or lighting, the results will make all of the difference. And you will most definitely want to have the option to crop or resize your photos the way you need them. There are some user-friendly editing programs out there that are free. It’s worth checking them out. I use Lightroom from Adobe and would recommend it to anyone who wants to take her digital photography to the next level. Last, but not least, make sure the sizes of your files are optimised for web. If they’re too big, they’ll take ages to load. If they’re too small, they will look blurry and pixelated and all your efforts in getting the perfect image will have been in vain. So, that’s all from me. Over to you! I can’t wait to see your fantastic photos here, on All By Mama. I hope this post has inspired you. I’m more than happy to answer any questions. I’m currently base in Munich, Germany, but I visit London on a regular basis. So if you want fun filled photo session with your family, drop me an email and I’ll let you know when I’m next in town. Happy crafting and snapping! You can see more of Denise's work or contact her to book as session here. We can promise you won't regret it! Thank you Denise!

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