Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photography Through an Amateur Lens

If you have an account on Artfire, Ecrater, Etsy, Zibbet or any other website for selling handcrafted products, then you probably already know that the most important part of setting up a shop is good quality photos. There are any number of posts in forums on these websites that stress the importance of good quality photos, some going so far as to recommend having a professional photographer create your product photos. If you depend on your shop as your sole source of income, then this is probably not a bad idea. However, many of us are simply doing this to generate some extra spending money doing something that we enjoy. Fortunately there is a plethora of resources out there to help us amateurs create quality photos – not professional – but at least good quality.

I would like to share with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past year setting up Caty Ann’s Creations on Artfire, Zibbet, Ecrater and most recently, Etsy. Actually, in the beginning, I thought I was uploading pretty decent product photos. They weren’t bad, but I think you’ll agree I’ve come a long way!

So....how did I get from this....


to this...

Well, it really wasn't all that difficult.

Let's start with the camera. All of my photos are taken with a Nikon, Coolpix L12, 7.1 Mega-Pixel, digital camera. This is a reasonably priced "point and shoot" type camera. Mine was purchased at WalMart about 4 years ago for under $100.00 and takes good pictures.
The more mega-pixels, the better the pictures. Many of the digital cameras on the market today are 12-15 mega-pixels or more. If you are buying a new camera I do recommend you purchase one that has a "Macro" setting for taking "close-up" pictures of your products. I'm not one to read manuals, but it's a good idea to at least flip through your camera manual and get an idea what functions/features are available. Then experiment with the camera settings until you are familiar with your camera's capabilities.

Now let's talk about "props". Props are limitless and everywhere!

  • wine glasses

  • plates

  • cups

  • vases

  • candy dishes

  • cannisters

  • scarves

  • blankets

  • rocks

  • tree stumps

  • fence posts

  • porch railings

  • trees

  • bushes

  • flowers

  • dolls

  • figurines

  • lamp shades

  • musical instruments

  • wire mesh inbox on my desk
You get the general idea. Use your imagination! For example - in the picture of the black and white bracelet above on the red background....what do you suppose was used for the background?? I frequently take at least a couple of shots on either a white or black background. Due to the colors in the bracelet, neither of these colors worked well and I decided red would be perfect. So, with neccessity being the mother of invention, I found a jersey knit dress top that was the perfect shade of red. A large shoe box was placed inside the shirt and the back of the shirt pulled taut across the box for a smooth surface. Worked pretty well, huh??

Location, location, location! My favorite place to do photo shoots is outdoors on a slighty overcast day early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is softer and not so harsh. This works well in the warmer months.
When the weather doesn't permit outdoor shoots I will clean off a table, countertop or spot on the floor. Many people use a light box for indoor photography, but I haven't progressed to that level yet - LOL. You can Google "homemade light box" for more infomation on this option. I just turn on several lights placed around the area where I will be taking the pictures and adjust the white balance on my camera. Here are a couple of recent "indoor" shots:

Locations I've used:

  • My Studio

  • Dining Room

  • Kitchen Counter

  • My Office

  • Front Deck

  • Yard

  • Flower Garden
In a future post I'll discuss ways to enhance your photos to bring out color and clarity without spending $$$$ on expensive photo editing software.


This is currently my favorite photo. The violin is a family heirloom that belonged to my husband's grandfather. It seemed the perfect 'prop' for the classic necklace designed with black onyx and fresh water pearls.

What tips and tricks have you learned/used in your photo shoots? I'm always looking for new ideas.
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