My Photography Journey. Tips from a Non-Expert

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So yesterday was spent in a glorious frenzy of taking and retaking photographs. Jack slept an unusually long time which of course helped this process along (and gives me just enough anxiety that he'll wake at any moment!) As of late, some of my photographs have not been so great. Dull. Over exposed. Or dark. Boring.

But they're a heck of lot better than when I first started out. I remember a moment- a month after opening an Etsy shop- after considerable photography research & after building a make-shift light box in which I sat in our bathroom & bawled. WHY! Why did these darned things come up with a pink hue?! Why a blurry mess?!

So then my Etsy photography journey began. Ah, the struggle. But- I must admit, I've come to enjoy the little photography's like a creation of my creation.

Here's the batch of photos I took this past week & some of the tips I've used to improve my photos. Though, everywhere I look people seem to have gorgeous pics, so maybe no one needs these! But just in case! Just in case, there is a discouraged housewife out there crying in her bathroom next to a wobbly lightbox.

TIPS (for reference I use a Canon Power Shot):
  • Read your camera manual! This helped me immensely. I grabbed a coffee & spent an afternoon with Jack napping to figure out *many* of the modes & tricks. Don't know where your manual is? No worries, it's probably available online for free...check here with this website.
  • Find the light. You DO NOT need sunlight, in fact sunlight can make photos look too bright & leave too many shadows. This is probably the biggest thing I've learned. ALL of the photos below were taken on a table near a window sill on very dreary & rainy Oregon afternoons. But since I account for the white balance (see below) it works!
  • Manual Mode. I almost always use this. It can be found on the little dial on top of the camera. It allows you to adjust for white balance (to get rid of that pink hue. Or the blue or gray or whatever it may be) the link above gives great explanation on modes. *This discovery was the second most important thing I did to improve photos. Auto mode doesn't cut it. This blog post at Digital Photography School is extremely informative about modes. (click here)
  • Macro Mode: This lets you get super duper close without your photos turning up blurry. I also use it with almost every photo I take of my products since I'm generally fairly close to them & they are small. It's the little tulip (usually) on your camera. Love it!
  • No Flash! Of course, if you're using manual mode then you probably won't have a flash. But I've found that not using that flash even in auto mode gives nice photos- if you're near light. Flash can give things a kind of red-ish, halo-ish, deep effect- the opposite of lightness & true colors.
  • Angles: Just like I learned from Tyra on America's Next Top Model, there are very few things that can be photographed straight on. Even more importantly, items can be so much more interesting when taken from an angle or different perspective.
  • Nifty Tricks: I also use the "vivid color" setting and the "AWB" or "day light" mode- all found under the ISO setting feature. Look for these in your manual ;) sometimes makes all the difference!
  • Background: I love me a white background. There's a bunch of fuss about this. Some folks think it's boring. Fine. Do something else. But I think it gives a natural effect with some very subtle shading. However, I do use different backgrounds to mix it up (see journal below) or to contrast white fabric (see bib set). I have also started using some context (like cups & blocks & pencils) to add interest & to also discourage folks from stealing my photos. I know, I know it's a nasty little aspect of this online thing isn't it? Well, it did happen to me with a very basic photo with a white background. I was able to prove it was mine but Ithe thief even mentioned "well, anyone can get a white background..." And she was right. Anyone can! Here I've used my son's large artist drawing pad. Though the large card stock pieces from Target, or wherever is my usual preference.
There you have it! My thoughts on photography! Now, no more crying over photo session.

This last photo shows just where I take my photos & just what kind of weather we have when I do it! In the corner is my tall black table & the (sun)light comes in from the left. But notice, it is NOT sunny but gray & dreary & rainy- so while this may cause grief in other aspects of my life, it can certainly make for great photos!

Have some tips of your own? Share them here in this Etsy thread!


amy smart said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. Sometimes I feel like everyone but me takes wonderful pictures and that etsy photos are the bane of my existence. Thank you for the encouragement. And I think your pictures are beautiful. That was one of the first things I noticed when I looked at your etsy site.

Speaking of which, I still need to claim my prize. :) I've been telling my daughter I would make her a new wallet forever, but haven't done it, so when I saw your cute wallets, I told her she could pick one, but she's being indecisive. I will try to pin her down today. :)

Krissy said...

That was so helpful and completely reaffirmed what I had found myself. However there were so many times I heard over and over and over again about using natural sunlight and people swearing up and down that works the best, I was starting to rethink myself!

The photo of your son reminds me of an AT&T COMMERCIAL! lol With the bars going up :D

Patty said...

Thanks for sharing these great tips, Allissa. I found your thread on Etsy and was delighted to discover your blog. Your work, your Etsy shop, your blog and your photos are just beautiful.

I make glass beads and jewelry, and think maybe a little more (rather than a little less) sunlight is better for shooting the transparent beads. For the opaque glass I agree, an overcast day is great. But there's nothing like seeing the colored reflection on the white background that comes from sunlight passing through glass. It's like viewing Notre Dame's Rose Window on a sunny day versus a cloudy one.

live a colorful life said...

Photography is definitely one of the things that keeps me from posting new items in my etsy shop. Here in "sunny" california we rarely have the nice gray days. Last week an LA Times photographer stop by for a bit. He completely changed all the settings on my camera (Canon G9). Yikes! Gave me some tips/pointers. This was a great post, Alissa. Thanks. And your pictures look fabulous!

stef togni said...

just wanted to let you know how much i love your etsy shop and enjoy your blog.
p.s. thanks for the great etsy photo tips!

Heide said...

Ugh, I really do need to read my stupid manual... I am just so lazy. What did you use to make your light box?

StudioCherie said...

Now, if I could just find the manual...I think I will click on that MODES link. Thanks for this great post.

Amanda Smith said...

I think your photo's on a white background are stunning and look like pro studio shots!!!
really nice blog - makes a great read for a newbie like me. thank you!

eurolenscape said...

Love your pics ,they are terrific! I also need to look for my manual, only can find the Spanish version (German or French would be no problem).
Thanks a lot!!!!