Right off the bat, I am not a good photographer. In fact, I'd just go ahead and say I'm a downright BAD photographer. It's just one of those things that I can't get to click (oh lord, no pun intended) for me. For years I decided it was just my point and shoot, as everything I took came out blurry and dark, and my solution was just to not take pictures. Win! However, on the rare occasion when I could get over my awkwardness about even taking out the camera to begin with, I'd go to download them to the computer, and realize that the Christmas pictures I was saving were the first pictures there since the Christmas before. Now I'm not saying I want to photograph every waking moment of my life, but I'd like to be able to look back on more than one day a year!
So 2 years ago, I decided, well maybe it's not all me! Maybe it's the camera! I mean, what problem can't you improve by throwing money at it?! However my thrifty side said that there was no way I was dropping $4 or 500 at a DSLR for something that realistically probably wasn't going to improve my pictures, so I went to Craigslist. I managed to find a 10 year old Canon Rebel XT. Definitely not a top of the line model, but I figured it was something that I could try to learn on. So I got my camera for about $200 I think, and I proceeded to put it in auto and use it just like my point and shoot! Yeah...that didn't help a ton! I mean, things got less blurry, and I had the courage to actually use it more, but still, there are so many buttons and modes that I just didn't know anything about.
For my birthday last year, I decided to go ahead and learn this darn thing. I tried looking at a lot of tutorials online, and actually reading my manual, but it still just felt like Greek to me. I decided that the best thing would be to take a class, so that's what I asked for as my present - one of those extended learning seminars for beginners through my alma mater. This...kind of worked. I mean, at least I now kind of know what a lot of the modes do, and in certain circumstances I feel ok putting it into manual for low light situations, which seem to be all of my situations inside my house. But I'm still bad. I can't seem to get a grip on white balancing, and I end up doing a lot of adjusting after the fact in Photoshop. I think what I probably need to do, apart from practice, is sign up for an intermediate class. Maybe I'll ask for that for my birthday this year!
In the meantime, I want to try to make sure my Etsy listings don't look like total garbage. #1, I want people to look at them. But #2, I can't say in the description, "hey, this totally looks better in person! Trust me! Just buy it, then you'll see!" So I need to try to make my items look realistic and try to convey the cuteness through the screen on a plain, non-distracting background. I was reading a book that talked about a super simple construction of a light box. Just clip smooth white paper onto cardboard and set it up like a box with 3 sides, aim a lamp into it, and shoot away!
I mean, I guess it's a little better than just putting my little hats on my white desk and shooting from above. But not much. I think maybe my biggest problem was scale. Even for the baby hats I'm mainly working on, an 11x17 sheet of paper wasn't big enough so that I wasn't catching the edges of the cardboard in the shot, which just seemed to throw off the colors even with my feeble attempts at editing the photos after the fact. Also, I even went ahead and started writing up a listing for this cute little pumpkin head hat, and that little leaf just seemed so feeble! It was late, and I decided that it really needed more work before it was ready for sale, so I knew I'd have to retake the pictures anyway, so I might as well try to make them better.
I poked around a bit on Etsy to see what other people were doing. Of course the cutest and most common photo set up was the hat on an adorable baby's head. Duh! And I even have one of those lying around. However, I've taken a stance of not wanting to splash my baby all over the internet. We've not posted a single picture of her on line, even on Facebook. (We do all our family photo sharing via emails and texts.) So....it really didn't seem like a good idea to bend my rules to sell something! Then I saw some pretty attractive shots set up either outside, or in a little vignette somewhere in the house. I opted against an outdoor option because I work for a living and most of my spare time - when I do this stuff - is in the dark. So somewhere in the house it is!
We have espresso colored dining chairs and off-white curtains, so I thought that might be a nice and somewhat consistent background I could use for most of my items.
Except, well, reflection. No matter where I aimed my lamp I just got this hot spot on the not-leather leather-ish fabric of the chair. And then I thought....wait....couldn't I just take that curtain and use it like a photo backdrop?
Yeah, it's still way less good than a professional would do. I think ultimately if I keep this up with any level of success, my best bet would be to swap props for photos and have a pro shoot my knits. But this is not that time, and if we're going to go, we're going to go grass roots.
Does anyone have any other tips for product photography that a total photography neophyte like me could try to pick up?
And also, what do you think of the new hat? I added a second, larger leaf that I think balances it out a little. I can't wait to see my little one sporting it all next month!!