You spend hours gathering your supplies, and planning your project. You carefully craft your layout, card, or altered project to perfection. Now you MUST share it with the world. But the photograph you've taken of your project is grey, muddied, and unworthy of the perfection of your project. It's defeating and frustrating when something we've worked on doesn't shine online.
Today I thought I'd share my process for photographing my projects. Now don't run off and check my gallery to make sure I've followed this process every time. I don't. I'll just admit that right now. Sometimes I complete a project in the middle of the night and without a professional photography studio and the gear to properly photograph a project in the dark, I'm left to get creative. But this will give you one option for making your project photographs better.
Step 1: Gather Some Basic Photo Props
At the very least I suggest you invest in a white posterboard. Yep. Really. Look for one that is matte on one side and has a bit of gloss on the other. Not a big deal, but when you photograph your project on the glossy side it gives it a bit of reflection which is lovely.
Want something a bit more spiffy? Then look for natural woods. I shop for cast-off desktops and cabinet pieces at my local hardware store (or I've also found them at Ikea). I also found some beadboard that was already painted white that I cut down to a more manageable size.
And I've even invested in some photography canvases that look like wood. See this photo? It was taken on a photography canvas. I know! It totally looks like real wood. You can find these canvases through Etsy or other online retailers. Make sure you purchase one large enough for your 12x12" layouts.
Look for a room drenched in light. Not the fade the sofa, blind your eyes kind of light; but rather the illuminate the room in soft sunlight kind of light. Place your project near the light source. You can see right now mine is sitting on the floor where the window light brightens the project but doesn't directly shine on it.
Not enough light on your project? Sometimes you'll get dark areas on your project. You'll need something white to "bounce" light back onto your project. Again, those expensive posterboards or foam core boards come in really handy about now. Place the posterboard where it captures the light and bounces it back to your project. No you won't instantly notice a bright pool of light on your project, but you will notice the entire project looks evenly lit (sometimes I can't even see it until I develop the photo).
That is the question isn't it? You can add additional props to your project if you want. I've gathered a few cute things over the years that you've likely seen pop up in my photographs. I often raid my teenager's room for her things or my son's room for toys. I keep a box handy of props. Again, this is completely optional. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. When I use staging, I set the project on a piece of wood and then choose a background such as beadboard or a sheet of patterned paper, or even a cute piece of fabric placed behind my project looks great.
Step 4: Close-Up Photos
Taking a few close-up photos of your projects helps the viewer see the little details on your page. I prefer to place the project down flat on the white posterboard or the wood piece I've selected. Then I shoot in to the project like this:
Repeat this for each section of your project where you have a fun technique, or a unique cluster of products. Imagine you're seeing your project for the first time. What would YOU want to see? Include those detail photos when you share your final project photo.
Step 5: Processing Your Photo
I use Photoshop to clean up my photos. Many designers use Lightroom. And cameras are getting so smart these days that there is a lot you can do with your photo before ever printing it or uploading it online. If you're using your camera phone, try an Instragram setting. If you're using Photoshop be sure to check out Adrienne Looman's actions here in the 2Peas store or her Lightroom Presets here. I REALLY recommend the Clean Exposure one as it makes your photos nice and bright and very true to color.
Processing your photo takes some practice. And everyone has a style they like. I like bright, bold colors that aren't too in your face. Others like a warm, washed out tone on their photographs. As long as you feel it celebrates your project appropriately, go for it!
Here are some examples of projects for which I used the above photography steps: