Saturday, July 31, 2010

A quick & dirty photo tutorial...

I have been promising to write a "Photo for Dummies" type tutorial for ages now and here is a paired down version, FINALLY...

These tips are mostly for shooting jewelry or small objects.

1. Props; something that will enhance and not detract from the item you're shooting. Simple is best, in terms of color, texture and pattern. The item is the star of the photo, not the prop or the background.

Items I have found make good props/backgrounds:

Books, you can use the cover, or the inside pages

Large shells

Candle holders (like glass votive holders)

Small bowls

Decorative papers, but be careful that the pattern isn't too bold or busy.

2. Styling; creating a beautiful, interesting scene.

This is an important part of the photo shoot. Play around with different props and different background papers to find out which best suits the item. The more you do this the easier this will become. You will become familiar with which props lend themselves to which types of items, but it's all trial and error...

3. Lighting; NATURAL DAYLIGHT is best! Don't fight it. If you have access to natural daylight, use it. Set up a "table top" studio next to a window that gets lots of natural light. Because jewelry is small a large, simple window sill may also work. Direct sunlight is too harsh, I use a pre-cut section of facing (not the iron on kind!) and some strategically placed self adhesive hook and loop tape to hang this 'diffuser' in the window and soften the bright sunlight. You will also want to use a reflector of some sort to reflect light back onto your item. I use a white plastic storage box top. You can experiment with the reflector by looking through your camera viewfinder while holding the reflector in various positions. It's truly amazing the depth this extra step can add to a photo and this step should not be neglected.

4. Camera; You don't need to invest in a high-end, expensive camera! I use a very inexpensive point and shoot digital camera, a Canon SD1000, but most importantly it has a macro feature.

A tripod is also imperative if you want nice, focused shots. It's impossible to take a focused, macro shot without a tripod (at least I've never been successful!) I purchased a tripod for under $20.

Setting up your camera angle is just as important as styling your photos, so experiment with as many different angles as possible. Again, the more you shoot, finding the right angle gets easier, but it's always trial and error.

There are also ways to play with the focus of your photo. If you want the foreground in focus and the background blurry then you can use the little square in the center of your camera's screen to find the focus point (the focus point is at the center of this square, i.e. the center of the photo) to manipulate this you can move the camera so the square is centered on your chosen focus point, hold the shutter down half way, the camera will focus on that point, then, while still holding the shutter 1/2 way move the camera back to centering the item then take the photo. This also is a lot of experimentation and I didn't figure this out until about 6 months after I attempted taking photos of my jewelry.

A more detailed explanation of the above technique:

Your camera is on the tripod. You have your item centered in the photo where you like it. But, instead of focusing on the 'center' of the image you tilt the camera down (or up depending on where you want the focus) to center that little square icon (in the center of your screen) on the foreground portion of your item, THEN you hold the shutter 1/2 way down, once focused on that section you keep the shutter held 1/2 way down and you tilt the camera back to the original position then press the shutter fully to snap the photo. You can also focus on the background and have the foreground blurry....

If you have a white balance feature on your camera use it. This will save you some time in Photoshop or whichever photo editing program you use.

I can honestly say that if I can take good product photos ANYONE can! I have never taken a photography class (as I'm certain is evidenced by my tutorial) It took me approximately 6 months of experimenting with all of the above to get the quality of photos I'm capable of today, and I'm still learning and improving with each photo shoot.

P.S.-Don't expect stellar photos the first time around. You need to find your groove and that takes time and experience. Believe me, my first photos were dull to be kind.

A sad first attempt. Not bad, but not great either.

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Brittany Duckett said...

Thanks for the tips! I hope to try some of your suggestions with my products... I do glass etching and it is SO difficult to get a picture that does the glass justice!

Tricia Dunstan said...

Thank you! You listed a lot of great tips, I'm going to go get a tripod and try them all! Your pictures are breathtaking!

Unknown said...

I love the tip about the facing and box top...really helpful tut! Even though my items are clothing, most of the info works for me. Thanks!