Learning how to take decent photographs.

I have not done any crafting for 5 days now (as I write this at least a week ago now!) and my fingers are itching. To be honest I am getting very jumpy. However, I am busy on something else. It is to do with crafting but not creative (yet). I am more than aware that my photographs vary greatly. Some are ok and others have much to be desired. I do not mention the bad ones as I believe it is obvious but I do intend to improve!

I knew enough to know about light boxes and so created this little ‘studio’ in my house:

My Light sheet!!!

My Light sheet!!!

As you can see it is simply a chair covered with a white cot sheet placed in front of the patio doors. It worked ok for some photos but I still need a lot more practice. For Christmas I asked for and got this book:

It comes highly recommended from other crafters and I can certainly see why. Here begins my learning journey:

Step 1: Try to read the first few chapters mindfully. (My instinct being to skim it as fast as possible to move onto the next thing.)

Step 2: Umm (I am a bit embarrassed about this) read the manual to the camera. Not the most interesting material ever but thanks to the book some of it actually made sense to me and I even made some notes!! (Yep I read almost all of the 160 pages!!)

Step 3: Familiarise yourself with how the settings and functions are accessed on the actual camera. What does each button do?

Step 4: Do a bit of research. I spent a whole evening having a look at photographs of jewellery on etsy, Ravelry and Craftsy to see the kind of style I like. The book talks about the story you are telling by the photographs. Will you dress it up with props? What about the background colour?

Simonida necklace

On a bust to show the scale?

English: handmade beaded necklace http://www.e...

On a simple background?

The SpringTime Walk
With a prop?

This all needs to be considered apparently. Having spent some time looking at examples I think that I prefer simple, clutter free photographs on a pretty white cloth as a back drop. I also like close up views.

Step 5: After returning to the book again for a quick refresh (I really do not find all the technical terms that easy to retain!) I then had a play – I took loads of photographs with different settings so that I can compare them to find the optimum setting for my purpose.

I took 116 photographs in total! No wonder I got a bit tired! In case you are wondering, I did write down the settings I used on each one so that I will be able to replicate it again. (How organised am I?) 🙂

Step 6 :Look at all the photographs, deleting the ones that REALLY do not work (and there are some of those I can assure you.) So what am I looking for? Basically the photographs that show the best clarity and the best colour match.

As I liked the photographs taken on a pretty white cloth this is what I did the majority of the photographs on. At the end I tried a few different backgrounds. For each variable I took a photograph of three contrasting items I had made (the same three each time.)

A wire choker

A wire choker

A chunky beaded cuff

A chunky beaded cuff

A delicate beaded and wire necklace.

A delicate beaded and wire necklace.

(The above photographs are the ones taken before this process started!) I thought that these three items are a good representation across the styles I produce.

The worst are the ones I did under manual setting:

Would you believe this is one of the better ones of my bad ones?

Would you believe this is one of the better ones of my bad ones? Some were just black!!

Apparently I got the ISO level wrong in these – lesson learnt: keep to the automatic setting for this 🙂

To be honest the amount of the other photographs were quite overwhelming with only small differences between them. The other thing that I did find easy was the surface to use. I did not like the white cloth that I used as it is far too fussy:

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

The plain white background was good for this:

Christmas 2012 and expt 152But not so great for this:

Christmas 2012 and expt 154Especially when compared to this:

Christmas 2012 and expt 148The one sure decision that I have regarding the photographs that I took was that for the front photo of each item the grey tile is the background I shall be using as it shows the stitching detail off really well.

Do you agree? What experiences have you had with photographing your work? What works for you?

32 thoughts on “Learning how to take decent photographs.

  1. Alison Willcocks

    Well done for your perseverance! I have tried working this out on more than one occasion without a huge amount of success. It’s all about light, background and a tripod – apparently! I think jewellery is one of the most difficult subjects to get right. Sorry I can’t be of much help. Good luck 🙂

  2. Hannah

    You know I have been blogging since ’08 and I am still not happy with my photos, I have this book as well it looks like you have managed to pick up the tips very quickly! I envy that hee 😉 xx

  3. healthyfrenchie

    Well, you’ve seen my blog so you know I am not the best photographer! The only thing I seem to be able to get right are pictures of Freddie, but that’s because he is so cute 😉
    So well done you for persevering and going through the process! Good luck!

  4. Alison

    This is a really interesting post. I couldn’t believe the difference in the photo done with the white background and the grey tile. Thanks so much for taking the time to pass on your info. The chunky beaded cuff is gorgeous.
    Ali x

  5. little red monkey

    I am really interested in the book as I too could do with a bit of help with the photography side of things. I love the third photo up from the bottom, it is really really good! Perfect focus and reflection, and shows off the intricate crochet and beading really well 🙂

  6. feelgoodknitting

    I’ve been playing with photos for a while yet and I’m still not really any further along than you. I am really in love with my white balance button though, for getting more accurate colors.

  7. lululoves

    One of my new years resolutions was to learn to use my camera settings – I am embarrassed to say I shoot everything on automatic – which is fine if you have lots of natural light or a studio, but not so great this time of year! I do like the idea of telling a story with your photos though, and I love playing with props! Good luck with your new journey – you’ve inspired me to hunt out my manual. Em xx

  8. handbagsbyhelen

    I know what you mean about reading the manual for the camera. It’s so easy just to point and click and let the camera do all the work, but i’m sure if i knew how to use it properly i’d get much better photos.

  9. claireabellemakes

    A great post – you have definitely inspired others (including me) to revisit photography techniques. I am ashamed to say I have this book and a camera with a manual and have read neither. I MUST do both this year.

    I shoot most of my product photos with a 50mm lens with natural light on a white background, but I think this all depends on your products and the textures and colours. Taking photos for blog posts and shop listings is a nightmare in the winter months I feel.

    Good luck!

  10. Pingback: Cylinder Necklaces « knitnrun4sanity

  11. Red Hen

    Very interested in this topic. But very lazy about improving my photography too.Can an ordinary digital camera be used for these pics or does it have to be an SLR fancy/expensive thing?

    1. knitnrun4sanity Post author

      Mine is an ordinary digital camera – I believe that the words I used when buying it was I want something that is easy to use!! I am beginning to think that automatic settings with a few options is best (for me anyway) – too much messing around is dangerous for me.

  12. Pingback: Learning How To Take Decent Photographs (Part 2) « knitnrun4sanity

  13. Pingback: Making Your Photographs Great Through Editing! | knitnrun4sanity

  14. Pingback: Making Your Photographs GREAT with Editing | knitnrun4sanity

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