I stumbled on Zio & Sons on Design*Sponge one afternoon while eating my lunch. I absolutely fell in love with their awesome product styling and, on a whim, reached out. Luckily, Anthony, the owner, has a thing for paper, so it was a great match. We have some really lovely collateral we’re working on for Zio (can’t wait to see the photos of those), and in the meantime they took some fun photos of some of our stationery.

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I love the more lifestyle feel of these photos. Product photography is something we small business people always seem to be struggling with – white backgrounds, colorful backgrounds, in use or just the product itself, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever settle for good on one way or the other. I spent a fair amount of time over the summer re-shooting almost every card we have on a nice white background in order to get our wholesale catalog looking consistent and clean. But, I really love these beautiful lifestyle shots to compliment all the straightforward white background ones. That’s where I am right now with it – but who knows what I’ll decide later on :-)

Don’t they just make you want to sit down, eat a yummy pastry, and write a letter?
xoxo

A simple post today because I have literally been running like a madwoman since 5AM yesterday.  Three crazy complicated invitation orders out yesterday – with Robert, Kelley, and my brother Steven all being forcibly roped in to tying twine, lining envelopes, and the like.  Thank goodness for family and friends.

When it comes to product photography, especially on the internet, it seems like white backgrounds dominate.  If you pay attention to the home page on Etsy, it’s a common theme – clean, crisp, soft neutral backgrounds.

It should be so easy to do right?  If only.

I have used so many different things to try to get a good neutral background.  Here are a few things I’ve tried, with pro’s and con’s for all of them:

  • White poster board.  It’s cheap, flexible and not terrible to store.
  • Canvas.  I have a few blank ones laying around that I use rather often.  What I don’t like is it has no reflective quality to it so I feel like a lot of times it makes it dull.  What I do like is that it has texture to it and is a warm white.
  • Fold-up photo booth.  Great concept, but with the black casing and the semi-translucent white stuff they give you, it’s a very gray white and just ended up needing lots of editing.  But I was also probably doing it wrong!
  • Walls.  This works okay.  I imagine it depends a bit on wall color / sheen too though.  I have never really loved what I’ve come up with in my apartment.
  • Contact paper.  This is probably my current favorite and a side bonus of the coffee table debacle.  It seems to have a nice dull sheen to it that works well (above photo is on the coffee table with a canvas propped up in the background).

Do you have any tips or tricks when you’re trying to create a faux photo studio / white background?

Hello there!  Miss me yesterday?  I was pretty wiped out from Savannah, the PGA tour, and lots of other fun things we did over the weekend.  But I’m back today for part two of adventures in product photography!

So in all my researching about how to get better at taking pictures for Etsy and blogging, there were several concepts that stood out as things I needed to understand better.  The first one of these was iso.

It’s relatively simple: how sensitive is your camera to light?  The lower the number, the less sensitive; the higher the number, the more sensitive.  Here’s a series I did to illustrate this point – none of these images are edited at all:

 

 

 

Wouldn’t you think “Intelligent Auto” would do this better?? I suppose there is still no replacement for the human eye to make those kinds of calls.

From what I’ve read, you should adjust the ISO on your camera based on the ambient light where you’re shooting; i.e. if you’re shooting indoors in low light and don’t want a flash (you almost never want a flash with product photography in my experience), bump the ISO up.

There is a downside to increased ISO, though, in that it increases the noisiness of the photo. That may or may not be a problem for your use. And in most of the examples I’ve seen, it seems like it’s rather minimal.

So that is my very very basic version of one photography concept we need to understand. I also found many more detailed resources for you to check out if you’re interested:

*Please remember, I am not a photographer, and this is definitely an amateur’s version of this photography concept.  If you have anything to add, your tips would be much appreciated!

Oy, product photography. And blog photography. What a love/hate relationship we have.

In my three years (yikes! Has it been that long?) of running an Etsy shop, blogging, and running a graphic/web design company, I have learned quite a bit about product photography while still knowing relatively little in the scheme of things.

Although I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I thought it might be fun to start sort of a layman’s series on the subject — because, if you’re going to blog or have an online business, the quality of your photos will make or break you.

So where to start said series? Where else but the beginning? I think so much can be learned by going back and comparing where you are now to where you started.  A little trip down memory lane is necessary to get our series rolling.

This is the earliest photo I still have, from January of 2010. It isn’t a terrible photo, and did, in fact, make it to the front page of Etsy once or twice. I was pretty proud of it, and for a long time it was literally the only halfway-decent photo I had. I got lucky on this one I think, considering the same day the other ones I was okay with looked like this…

Dark, shadowy, and not super visually appealing.

The above photo was one of my earliest “for real” efforts, in May of 2010, when I was trying to assemble good product photos to have a website online before the first Artist Market. So, we can see that by this time I had figured out that natural light is pretty important.

However, environment is pretty important too.  And while I was right on the natural light, this looks like exactly what it is — somebody took their product outside to their apartment complex picnic table and took a photo.  Maybe not so professional.

I actually still don’t think this one is terrible. I took it around the same time; however, I probably took 200 photos and walked away with only three or four that I would still consider decent photos.

Still May, I realized I wasn’t as into the landscape backgrounds and wanted to figure out how to get nice white backgrounds. Obviously this didn’t work. I was on my screened porch which did not have great light because it was surrounded by trees, and it just really did not work. The camera is out of focus (and it somehow was for almost all of them) and the photos aren’t crisp by any means. Dark and shadowy again.

Still snapping photos outside. Great lesson: WHEN you snap the photos outside matters quite a bit. See how blue these are? The sun was almost completely down. My impatience to get a photo that evening did not matter to nature apparently.

In August, I decide the problem inside is my lighting (lesson: with photos it is always about the lighting), so I go and buy two cheap incandescent bedroom lights (you know what I mean, the kind that clip on the side of the bed) and set up a little studio where I pointed the lights on the product.

Hello, orange photo.

In December, my sweet husband (well he wasn’t husband yet ;-)) gives me a little fold-up photo studio for Christmas. Here’s what the raw image from that looked like.

And then when I Photoshopped the stuffing out of it, I got some decent white background images. But it took forever and it was a little bit overdone – it lost its natural appeal. I really didn’t want my photos to have that digital look – you know, where people create the product image completely digitally instead of actually taking a photo of the product.

This was in no way the photo studio’s fault. User error, as I am slowly discovering!

Here’s a few from 2011…

Not horrible but definitely not great by any means.

There were a few times when I tried going places like the pier to get some natural light shots, like the from March of 2012…

Again, though, my impatience to get photos when it was convenient didn’t help me – it was way too bright and harsh a light when I tried to do these in March of 2012.

The burlap background idea turned out okay, but you can see on the bottom shot the coloring / lighting of the photo isn’t so hot.

I think the most frustrating thing about product photography is that you know exactly what you want – clean, crisp, well lit photos that showcase how much you care about your work – but achieving that look is by no means an easy feat.

I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better in the last few months. I took this photo yesterday on a very cloudy day, inside, and it needed very very minimal editing…

…and I did it by finally venturing away from Auto Mode and attempting to learn about things like ISO, aperture, and other photography concepts.

What have your experiments in blog / product photography yielded? Any tips or stories to share?
If you want to pop in and share a guest post, email me and I’d love to include you in this little mini-series. Next week we’ll start going through some of the concepts and tools we have at our disposal to generate much better photos!