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Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Cardmaking 101, Stars and Stamps, Tutorial | 23 comments

Tutorial: Better Photos

Tutorial: Better Photos

Happy New Year, everyone and welcome to the first tutorial of 2013!

Quite some time ago I found myself laughing while reading an article about how to take better photos of objects for your blog. I found something of myself in nearly every “wrong” photo and it made me both want to die of embarrassment AND learn how to do a better job! I’m no photographer for sure. Not going to lie, I still don’t know what all of the fancy buttons and settings on my digital camera are for. Snapping  pictures with my phone and uploading them just didn’t yield the quality that I wanted.  I’ve often been confused about whether or not I should use a flash or natural light? How do I “pose” my cards in a good angle that doesn’t look like I just threw them on the table and took a picture? Now go ahead and laugh at my experiences… in the past I thought that the answer was to set up my cards meticulously with pretty matching background props or locations!

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Oh look, this card is at a wedding!!

This card can climb trees!

This card can climb trees!

See what I mean? All of these card photos gone wrong could have been avoided, if I had just learned from Paula these very easy steps. Today’s tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about taking simple, professional appearing photos of your cards for use in your blog posts. Just take a look at Paula’s Blog to see what I mean. Her photos are wonderful! I’ll copy most of the tutorial here, but please do stop by her original post for some more fantastic tips. The tutorial by Paula is as follows:

Better Photos Made Easy

If you’ve created a beautiful card and want to share it online, but you are finding it difficult to take a good photo, you’re not alone, but it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive you just need to know a few basics. In this tutorial I’ll outline the steps for creating a simple light box and set up so that you can photograph your cards any time day or night. If you are trying to come up with a simple formula that will get you good results every time, this will work.

BUILD AN INEXPENSIVE LIGHT BOX

You will need:

— 1 Piece of 20″x30″ Foam Board (I got mine at Michael’s for $2.99)
— Ruler (steel is ideal)
— Marker
— Basic Utility Knife
— Desk Lamp & Light Bulb
— Straight Pins and/or White Glue
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Here is the board, marked on the back side. Where you see the dashed red lines you will score the board (cutting into the foam but not through the paper board on the other side). The areas you see shaded in yellow will be cut completely out and discarded. When assembled the box will be 12″ across the back, approximately 8″ deep and open on the top.
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Constructing the box is pretty self-explanatory, you just fold the two sides in towards the bottom and attach them. I placed a thin line of white glue along the edge of my base on the left and right and then put a few straight pins in the sides through the base to hold my box together while the glue dries. (At the original post, there is another diagram for you to print if you would like along with more photos of the assembled box.)
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Using this simple light box will result in better photos by creating optimal lighting and eliminating anything in the background that might distract from your beautiful card.

(Do trees count, Paula?)

CAMERAS

Do you need a very fancy expensive camera to take your photos? No, you don’t. You will be able to take good photos with just about any camera on the market today. The key is getting to know a few basic things about your camera.

Resolution: Most cameras have a choice of several settings such as Good, Better, Best (on mine it’s done in stars, 1, 2 and 3 stars) that represent the resolution of your photo. For posting on the web, where a 72 dpi resolution is the standard, a ‘good’ setting will likely suffice.

Zoom: You will probably have a zoom option — if you position your camera carefully you probably won’t need to use it.

Flash: There is a way to turn the flash on and off — you’ll want to set it to OFF when using a light box so you’ll avoid those bright, hot spots in your photos.

Focus: Most cameras have an auto-focus feature that you just need to figure out (mine has guides in the view finder and will ding when it’s focused) — no matter how beautifully lit your shot is, if it’s blurry it won’t be good.

PHOTO SHOOT SET-UP
For the photo shoot set up I have placed my light box on a small folding table and clipped my desk lamp directly above it on shelf. I set up in a room with normal lighting, in this case one table lamp on a side table, but the room is definitely not brightly lit outside of my box and my desk lamp.

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You will also notice in this image I have lighlty taped a piece of white tissue paper over the ‘open’ top of my box to diffuse the light. (There are more photos in the original post showing the difference between photos taken with and without the tissue paper.) You’ll want to experiment a bit, but if you find you are having an issue with strong shadows, diffusing the lighting in this manner should correct it. Be very careful not to have your light bulb close to, or touching the tissue for safety reasons.

WHITE VS. COLORED BACKGROUNDS

You might be tempted to use a colored background in your photos but keep in mind that when you use use a white box the light from your bulb reflects off of it and creates additional brightness. The photo of this card above is taken in the white box and the result is photo with fairly accurate color.

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Here it is with a colored background and base. As you can see the yellow and orange are reflecting onto the card and my white card stock no longer looks very white. Also notice the lighting is not nearly as even. This image can be adjusted in photo editing software but you’ll need time and significant skills to get back those whites and restore the true colors in the photo so it looks like the actual card.

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CHOOSING A LIGHTBULB

The lamp you see in my set up is a basic $10 clip style desk lamp I bought at WalMart. As far as light bulbs are concerned I have used both OTT Light Bulbs and Sylvania Daylight bulbs with equally good results.

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The key is that a daylight bulb will give you clean, bright light. If you use a normal incandescent bulb your resulting photos will likely have a warm, yellow color cast and a fluorescent bulb will cast a blue tone on your images. While these color casts can be corrected with photo editing software, it’s easiest and makes the most sense to get the very best photo from the start.
PREPARING YOUR IMAGEOnce you have a well lit, in-focus photo you’ll want to crop out some of this background to get closer to the card and you might want to ‘sign’ or ‘watermark’ your image so everyone will know who it belongs to. Stay tuned for an tutorial on how you can do both cropping and watermarking online with no additional software.
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Can’t wait for those cropping and watermarking tutorials! Thank you for joining us this week for this lesson. Please leave some love for Paula for sharing these great tips with us. Now go make more cards and try taking photos of them using these tips but please, no climbing trees. See you next week!

23 Comments

  1. This is a great tutorial for taking better photos! I’m bookmarking for future (and constant) reference, and thanks for writing this Paula! I’m anxiously waiting for the watermarking tutorials next !

  2. This is excellent. I sell on Etsy and this lightbox will be perfect not only for cards but for my jewelry and the small kitschy vintage items I sell. 🙂

  3. Thanks so much Paula! I needed that!

  4. Thanks for this awesome tutorial! I’ve struggled with how to take a better picture of my cards, and this is just what I needed.

  5. Thank you so much. Great tutorial. Would love more informational how to’s like this.

  6. This is so perfectly timed! I decided it is time to start a blog for sharing my cards. I haven’t posted a single thing because I’m not happy with my photos. Thank you!

  7. Thanks very much for the wonderful tutorial, Nancy and Paula.
    I’m especially looking forward to the watermarking tutorial.

  8. Wow, what a great tutorial! Thanks so much Paula. I have learned a lot!! I never knew how to go about this before. Thanks again.

  9. I think the tissue paper was the main thing I was missing. Time to go play with my camera!

  10. Nancy, thank you for taking over the tutorial position and finding such a great one to begin with. I went back to Paula’s original site; you did a great job of putting in the necessaries. But, I also wanted to leave Paula a comment on the original blog and could not because I don’t have a blog and therefore, no blogger account. A tutorial on HOW TO COMMENT in different situations would be great for me. Do I need a blogger acct? A google acct? Help! It’s very frustrating to want to leave “love” for someone and not be able to. Thanks. Oh, and Paula, THANK YOU for the awesome tutorial. It was so easy to follow.

    • Thanks for your kind words Glenda! I think a lot of OWHers would like some more computer/techical tutorials and I know Nancy likes getting suggestions too so thanks for sharing the idea. Oh and rest assured that the comments left in posts here on the S&S blog are seen by the OWH blog team. 🙂

  11. This is great!thanks, Paula. The other lightbox tuts I found were hard to follow. Now I have foam board and I’m ready to make one!!

  12. Thank you for this tutorial! I had stumbled across it in “blog land” about a week ago and could not remember where I had seen it!

  13. Thanks for the easy tutorial, Paula. I was going to Walmart today anyway, and picked up a poster board, then made my light box. So simple! It has definitely helped remove some of the shadows from my card pictures. Thank you again!

  14. Nancy, this is a fantastic topic for a tutorial. Paula, you’ve made creating a light box seem so simple and all your tips are long needed. So far I’ve just been stumbling around trying to find something that works. A trip to Wal-Mart is in my near future. Thank You!

  15. This is a great tutorial! Thanks, Paula and Nancy.

  16. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I’ve struggled with this so often that I don’t even try any more.

  17. Great post! I really needed this. I stopped posting to my blog because I just wasn’t happy with the photos. I’ll be visiting the link you posted!

  18. I have been looking for this ! Thanks so very much!

  19. Thanks, I goggled this last night and came up with nothing. I’m starting a blog and an Etsy account to sell my stuff, so I needed this badly. Thanks

  20. Thansk a lot for sharing this information. .. I’ll for sure try these … thanks for this lovely tutorial once again

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