Saturday, July 19, 2008


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f a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a great shot of your item worth? More than you may think, especially if you're depending on your photos to help sell your items.

Good quality product photographs can often mean the difference between an acceptance offer and a rejection notice, sale or no sale, etc...

When you are selling your handcrafted products through websites, auctions and catalogs, you are depending on the photographs of your item to help grab the buyers attention. Your photos need to sizzle.

Professional product photos are the best idea if you can afford it, but they can be expensive if you offer several handcrafted pieces. Don't worry. If you are operating on a shoestring budget, we've got you covered.

We do not want our photos to scream "Amateur". Taking pictures on the kitchen table with our salt & pepper shakers in the background is off limits. Your floor is also out of the question.

There's no need to get upset. We are going to set up a simple inexpensive tabletop studio together. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your product photos.

The first thing we need to discuss is lighting. Make no mistake, the correct lighting is a major player. Without it, you're shooting blanks. Soft lighting will set the stage for your handcrafted creations. How can you tell the difference between soft and harsh lighting? Simple. Hold your hand out. Now look down at the shadow. The softer the shadow, the softer the light. A distinct dark shadow equals harsh light.

I like to keep things simple. I opt to do lighting the easy way. Whenever possible, I use natural lighting, i.e. the sun, vs. artificial light. I have found that the best lighting to take photographs with is provided by an overcast sky.

Now that we've discovered a handy use for the next cloudy day, let's move on to setting up your tabletop studio. You will need a small table, poster board or oversized matte board and something to hang your poster board from that stands a couple of feet higher than your table. I use a very inexpensive rack that you hang clothes on. You can find them at almost any discount store usually near the ironing boards and hangers.

Set up your table. Our next objective is to set up the background. This is where the matte board comes in. You can find matte boards at most hobby stores. They are oversized and come in a variety of colors. In a pinch, you can even use regular poster board.

We do not want to use any color or pattern that is too busy. When someone looks at your photos, their eyes should immediately be drawn to your marvelous item and not to the background.

Stand your matte board straight up on the table. Now let your board slide about halfway down on the top of the table. In comes the clothes rack. Hang the matte board from the clothes rack using small clamps. Adjust the height of the rack so that your matte board is lying partially on the table. Visit for step by step photos of how your tabletop studio should look.

Ta Da! You now have an inexpensive yet effective tabletop studio. Place your product on the matte board and get ready for your own personal photo shoot.

Once your tabletop studio is set up and your lighting is correct, you will need to set up the photo. Disable the flash on your camera and mount the camera to a tripod. Always use a tripod. Even an inexpensive tripod from your local discount store will make a huge difference.

Place your handcrafted product on the tabletop. Look for interesting photography angles. You can shoot from above or maybe angle in from the side or corner.

One additional tip: when shooting with a white or light background, cameras tend to underexpose the photograph. You can compensate for this by adjusting the "Exposure Value" in the manual settings of your camera. The camera is normally set to 0. Start by adjusting to +1.0 and go from there.

Take lots of pictures. Experiment. Fill your photos with the product. Use different angles and play with the lighting. Get your creative juices flowing and you will be on your way to taking photos that make your product pop off the page at your buyers!

These tips are not meant to replace professional product photography. You have spent a lot of time getting your handcrafted items perfect. Whenever you are ready, I would recommend having your products professionally photographed.

In the meantime, these product photo tips should help tide you over.
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