5 Tips for Photographing Your Handmade Projects

Posted by Robyn Berkel on

The first thing I did to start developing WPK was sign up on Instagram. This was the absolute best thing to start with over any other platform because Instagram is all about images! My only goal for the 8 months that I didn’t have a website was write my designs and curate images. It gave me the time I needed to practice taking good pictures of my work without much consequence when I failed. And I failed hard at first! I fought and fought against bad lighting and cheap backdrops. I kept switching up my style instead of sticking to one editing process. I downloaded 8 different free photo editors in attempt to save bad pictures that were irredeemable.

Now I have a structured workflow for taking photos that gives my Instagram a more consistent, curated look! I still discover new tricks every photo session, but here are the lessons I've learned so far.

 

1. Don't Spend a Fortune on Fake Lighting

The first step is lighting. Most likely, this will be the most important and hardest step. If you’ve got furniture next to all of your windows, start rearranging! Daylight is hands down the best lighting you’re gonna find. If you want an Pinterest aesthetic to your photos, make sure you reduce the amount of shadows cast by objects in your photo by waiting for cloudy weather or draping interfacing fabric over your window. Don't rely on photo editing software to dramatically change the amount of light in the photo, as you will probably distort the product.

 

2. Be Intentional About Your Backdrop

There are two categories of backdrops: solid and textured. If you don't have studio lighting, solid backdrops like foam board or scrapbook paper will mostly likely show shadows or gradient lighting. If you are working with daylight, pick something textured like wood or fur. If you choose wood, make sure it doesn't have a shiny or laminate finish like most wood flooring or tabletops, as your light source will reflect in the backdrop.

 Your backdrop should be at least 5x the size of your product. This may seem silly if you plan to do flat lays, but you'll want the opportunity to take photos at various angles without running out of backdrop. If your lighting is playing tricks with you, unique angles may save your photography session!

 

3. Take All of Your Photos in One Session

Save up your material and take all of the pictures at once. All of your angles and camera settings with be the same, as well as any environmental variables, like weather. If your window is blocked off by furniture, you only have to rearrange once! I take photos every 1-2 weeks, depending on how much progress I make on my content. The only exception I make are "work in progress" photos, since I don't want to wait on my next session before I continue working on the project. 

A positive side effect of this is walking away from a photoshoot with something. Eight months ago, I would get out my camera and materials for one shot of a new skein of yarn. When it wouldn’t go well and I didn’t like how certain details showed up on camera, I’d pack it all up and walk away with nothing. If I have lots of stuff to shoot and one thing doesn’t work out, my time isn’t wasted and I’m not so discouraged.

 

4. Editing is a Tool, Not a Hero

If you have a Mac, the editor built into the Photos app that you already have is going to be better than any free software you can find. I can't speak for those with a PC, but no matter the software you have, there are some things that stay the same.

First, a good photo does not need a lot of editing. I've ruined many perfectly good photos because I over analyzed and over corrected. If you are selling your finished product, it's also important not to change the way the product looks. If you're trying to make it look better, your customers will quickly realize the product they receive isn't the same as what they purchased online. The only time I've color corrected photos is when the on-screen version looks different from the actual thing.

Second, clever cropping can do wonders! Don't delete your "bad" photos - they could be repurposed for close ups.

Third, if you take a bunch of photos in the same session, edit them the same way. If I have strong sunlight in one particular session, all of those photos will get the same strength of shadow reducer.

 

5. Increase Consistency by Writing Down Your Process

Write down your process, even if its incredibly simple. Once it's established, don’t veer from it for at least 2 weeks. You need time to test it out and see a lot of those images together! This will help you isolate the things that need to be changed instead of trying out a bunch of styles that don't work out because they don't look good mixed and matched. 

After that 2 weeks (or whatever period of time you've decided on), reevaluate your process, make changes, and repeat. Eventually you will find a style that works for you! Right now I'm really into applying a slight fade to my images. It creates a softer look and eliminates the really dark, contrasting spots.  

 

 

Bonus Tip! Block a Lot of Time

If you are just starting out or trying something new, mentally prepare yourself to spend 3x the amount of time and effort you think you will. Don't plan a session right before a time sensitive event or after a long day of work.

 

I hope some of these tips help you! Taking project photos is hard if you don't have fancy equipment and a photographer's mind. Don't get too stressed out, you'll find a system that works for you and there are so many wonderful resources on the internet to help you.

If you liked some of my photos, you can see many more in the Gallery!

If something here helped you, confused you, or you have additional photography advice, I would love to hear about it! Comment below ;)

*Disclaimer - I'm not a photographer! This post is for people with limited photography experience and equipment who want to have professional looking project photos with a Pinterest-like style.


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