Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Photographing projects - the inside scoop

Have you ever wondered how fellow crafters post beautiful photos of their projects and think to yourself "gosh I wish I could do that"? There are so many tips and tricks to taking the perfect photo of your project and to put them all into one single post is near impossible. So we decided to ask one of our design team members, Tracey Taylor,  to share a little bit about how she comes up with her fabulous photos time and time again. So please give a warm welcome to Tracey...

Hello everyone, it's Tracey here and today I want to share just a little bit about how I take my project photos. Taking great photos of crafty projects is difficult.  It really is. In fact, I believe it is an art of sorts too .  I so admire the people who photograph for magazines and make projects look so spectacular.  While I won't profess to have all the answers I have spent a fair bit of time working on my technique, reading about what others do, and finding a method that works for me.  Today, I have been asked to share some tips on how I get that "perfect" shot of my projects. 

Location, Location, LOCATION:

While shooting outside is ideal, that is very seldom possible for me.  It's either raining, snowing, too windy or too bright when I want to take my photo.  So when I can't go outside, this is what I do.  I find the brightest place in my house, my sunroom.  Patio doors are a perfect place to take photos of projects.  This is where I take 95% of mine.


I place my layout on the floor in front of my patio doors. I use the floor tiles to line it up square. Standing directly over the page and looking down, I take the photo. I use the automatic setting with no flash. I usually take a couple, checking the display each time to see if I need to make any adjustments.  Is the photo straight?  Are there any shadows?  Is the focus OK?

Cards, Mini Albums:
I do this one a little differently.  I place two sheets of patterned paper on a chair, one up the back and the second on the seat. This gives me a place to position a card while also giving a nice back drop. I position the chair so that is is fully light by natural light and take the photo. 

Sometimes, I will set my piano bench in front of the patio door and use it to place "hard to photograph" projects.  As long as my stage is well lit with natural light, I am good.


I shoot with a Canon 60D but you don't need a fancy camera to get a great photo.  Don't get me wrong.  It helps for sure but if you don't own a dSLR,  you can still get great shots.  To prove just that, I dug out my old point and shoot Fugi S5000 bought in 2004 for the photos in this blog post.

So if the camera isn't the secret, what is the secret?


It took me awhile to figure out that even with a great camera, photos can still use some editing to tweak the sharpness, colours, contrast and lighting.  I use Photoshop Elements 6.0 to edit my photos.  There are newer versions available but this is the one I own so that is what I use.  There are some great auto functions under the ENHANCE tab.  Something as simple as the "auto contrast" function will sometimes go a long way to brightening up a layout.  I use either "AUTO LEVELS" or "AUTO CONTRAST" on almost every photo.  Try each one individually and see which one works best for your individual photo. 

Take a look at these examples:

This is a cropped version of the layout I staged above.  I have not done a single other thing to this shot.

(For full design details on this page, visit my blog.)

Adjusted Coloring:  On this photo, both the auto contrast and auto colors functions didn't really do a whole lot to change the photo (wouldn't you know it!) so I dug a little deeper in the menu and adjusted the colours for skin tones.  Notice how grey my daughter's skin tone is above.  By adjusting the skin tone, the entire page warms up and looks more natural.

Once you have chosen the "adjust color for skin tone" feature, simply click anywhere on the photo where there is skin and watch the colours change.  Because my daughter is so fair, this function works really well for me.  There is a menu that comes up where you can use the sliders for different skin tones but I have never used it.

The last thing I do to my photos before saving is sharpen them.

Now I will admit that those are some of the most basic photo editing functions that I use.  If you want to delve deeper into this topic, I would recommend taking a course.  I chose an online course by Jessica Sprague called "How to Edit Photos Like a Rockstar".  This is the single moment where my photo editing changed dramatically and to a point where I was really starting to be happy with my end result.  I edit all my photos now in RAW and have developed a work flow that works for me.  This is what you will need to do as well - find a work flow that works best for you.  Start by trying a few of the things I've mentioned here.  I use that skin tone trick alot.  I also use the auto functions often.  Experiment a little bit and try not to tackle too much at once.  All of the little things I've learned have been over time.  I'm still learning.

Additional Tips:

Photographing Shaped Layouts:  Place the layout on a piece of white poster board.  I place the poster board in front of my patio doors like I do with any other project and take the photo.  Crop the photo like you would any other layout and adjust colours and contrast as needed.  Then, in Photoshop Elements, use the Paint Bucket tool on the white colour setting to make the white background "disappear".  Click on the photo where the poster board is and everything around the shape of the layout "should" turn perfectly white.  You may need to click on more than one area if it all doesn't turn white at once.  If you have shadows on your photograph, you may have difficulty.  Just play around with it and don't give up. 

Note:  If your shaped paper is white or very light in colour use black poster board and black on the paint bucket tool.

So there it is, in the smallest nutshell I could, some of my tips for making your projects shine when photographing them.  I hope you are able to take at least one thing away from today's post and apply it to your arsenol of photography tips.


Ujjwal said...

Thanks for sharing!! These tips are for sure real helpful!

Marielle said...

this is terrific Tracey !!!

Sophia said...

Great tips Tracey...♥

Manhattan Mandie said...

Great tips! I love PS too!

Lori said...

Thank you so much, it's always great to get tips and tricks in photo shooting.

Rhonda V. said...

What a great article full of tips and tricks!!! Great job Tracey!

Khin Hnin said...

Thanks for sharing! I googled so many times for tips on photographing projects and I found absolutely no useful articles/blogpost at all! So glad theres finally some useful tips that I can follow! Thanks heaps!

Angel said...

Thank you that is a big help to me.

gram cheryl said...

Outstanding article...thanks for sharing. All who use the tips will see improvement (which is great for us "lookers" too).

Moondust47 said...

Wonderful article!!! This may help some of us "dabblers" come out of our shells and start posting and joining in on the fun!

Anonymous said...

Awesome tips. I regularly use the auto adjust feature in Canon's Zoombrowser program but will have to try Photoshop again. I've been intimidated by it even though I've tried a couple basic classes. Thanks for your help.

Liz said...

Bravo Tracey That was totally awesome and helpful!

Nati Tristan said...

Those are some great projects! Thank you for sharing!

Connie said...

great tips~ and amazing work!!

st_mccall said...

Wow, thank you so much for the awsome tips!

Steff said...

Thank you for these tips! I feel I already do a pretty good job, but these will definitely improve my technique!


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