Beautiful photos can do so much for a maker – helping your work to stand out from the crowd and giving it a long-lived web presence.
Bad photos, on the other hand, can work very hard to make even the best stuff look drab and boring, and are a disaster when it comes to competitions and show submissions.
Janet Broughton gives her advice to help you take photos that won’t let you down. And if you need more help, Janet runs photography workshops for makers in her studio in Bolton – perfect for those of us based in the North West. And there’s a cheeky little discount available too. Read on.....
1. Use the best camera you can afford.
Much as you may love your phone camera and find it quick and convenient to use it’s not ideal for product photography. Unless you always shoot flatlays in perfect light and your products aren’t very three dimensional a DSLR will produce much better images than your phone. If you are serious about your business it’s worthwhile investing in a camera and learning how to use it in Aperture Priority mode.
By all means keep using your phone for those quick behind the scenes or work in progress snaps for sharing on social media but use something better for those images that need to sell your products.
2. Avoid white backgrounds.
Unless you have a compelling reason to shoot on a plain white background, don’t! They can look sterile and bland and they definitely won’t allow you to inject your brand personality into your product images. But even more importantly they are difficult to photograph well, you need very good, even lighting and you need to know how to override your camera’s automatic exposure.
Don’t forget that your customers are highly likely to spend time on Pinterest and Instagram and they have become accustomed to seeing high quality lifestyle images, badly executed white backgrounds will stand out to them, but not in a good way unfortunately.
3. Never use the built in flash on your camera.
There are no circumstances where the little in built flash is going to enhance your images so please, just turn it off and forget it even exists. It casts an ugly, harsh light with horrible shadows and lots of glare. It will never flatter your products!
4. Use natural light wherever possible.
Unless you have the tiniest windows and are surrounded by tall buildings or trees you are likely to have enough natural light to photograph your products, you might need to search for it though!
Start by placing your products close to windows and look at how the light lands on it and what sort of shadows you have, some shadows are good, just make sure they aren’t too dark. If the light seems too bright move away until it looks better. If there isn’t enough light in the window try opening a door and working in the doorway. If you have a garage you could even open the garage door and work in the doorway, you can use fabric or other backdrops to disguise your location.
5. Don’t overdo the editing.
A little editing of your images is usually a good idea, a gentle lightening of shadows and a contrast boost can transform a picture but be careful not to overdo it! You should always aim to get your picture as good as you possibly can “in camera”. A badly taken picture can’t be rescued without the final image looking artificial and the colours becoming a little strange. Avoid gimmicky edits at all costs, they will cheapen your products and your pictures will soon look dated.
Janet Broughton is an award winning photographer based in Bolton and working throughout the North West. In addition to offering commercial photography services to smaller businesses Janet runs regular product photography workshops to help creative business owners improve their own photography skills so that they can showcase their products online.
Janet also has a blog, Definitely Dreaming, where she shares photography inspiration and advice.
Details of upcoming photography workshops can be found at www.definitelydreaming.com/photography-workshops-for-creatives