Monday, August 27, 2012

Lessons in Product Photography

Lately I feel like I've been climbing a hill, no, a mountain. At the bottom of the mountain are tons of poorly lit, blue-tinted photographs, with fuzzy lines and bad staging. At the top of the mountain is Megan Gonzalez, of Mae Mae Paperie, and all of her impeccably staged & photographed designs.

In reality, I am probably somewhere about 65% up the mountain, but lately I feel as if I am at the very bottom, with the goats. And the goats have diarrhea.

While feeling like your surrounded by ill goats isn't fun, it is certainly very motivating to get the hell out of that place. After re-taking the photos for my iPad covers at least 5 times, I finally said "enough is enough" and started really looking into ways to improve my pictures. I asked my peers in the Minted community, I googled specifics and I asked my photographer friends. And by golly, I have learned a lot.

My biggest complaint with my pictures were the colors. My whites weren't white, the colors themselves weren't always true to the original print, the text was fuzzy. And while all of these things might not have been a huge issue with, say, business cards, they were big issues to me in preparing to launch my wedding line. I simply don't have the budget to hire a photographer, so this girl needed to give the goats some tums, and learn to take good pictures. And by take good pictures, I mean edit, edit, edit in photoshop.

If you like the iPad cover in that picture, you can go get yourself one here

So here are some tips I generally follow:

1- White balance. I always adjusted the white balance on my camera, but now I do it again in Photoshop. I adjust the curves, vibrancy and saturation of every picture. The three together seem to be a good combo for me right now.
2- Add an unsharp mask. My Mintie friends turned me on to this one. I put a sharpening mask over the entire image so that the text looks clear & sharp.
3- Use natural light. I always take my picrures by a window on a cloudy day. I also put white tissue paper over the windows to help diffuse the light even more. The tissue paper helps me to take pictures on sunny days without a glare.
4- Background counts. I had taken hundreds of pictures of my iPad covers on top of a light cream fabric background only to find later that there just wasn't enough contrast. Every product will look different depending on the background.
5- Speaking of backgrounds, I just purchased a bunch of seamless papers from Adorama. I thought it would be easier to use a gray bed sheet from Target to shoot my wedding line on. But after ironing it for hours, and then having to edit out all of the wrinkles, I think the seamless paper is a fabu-freaking-lous idea.
6- The lens matters. A lot. Unfortunately, the lens I used to shoot my initial wedding line photos distorted all of the "head-on" pictures. I was using a standard 18-55mm lens, and a photographer friend suggested I used a macro or 50mm lens. It's an investment I am going to be making in the very near future.

So there you have it, some of my photography tips. I'll try to post more tips as I learn them, since I have a feeling that product photography will always be a new adventure.

If you'd like some more tips, take a trip down memory lane and read this post, which I wrote over a year ago on photography and staging for stationery.


  1. THANK YOU for posting this. I also have an etsy shop and all of my stationery photos are done digitally (aka, they aren't photos at all!) I've been wanting to make the switch.... I appreciate all of your advice!

    1. Hi Molly! Good luck making the switch! You're shop is great :)


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