Thursday, November 1, 2007

Photography Workshop

article and photos by, Jessica Burko of Reclaimed To You

After much discussion on what makes a good product photo, and requests for some help in achieving item photo greatness for our Etsy shops, Liz of Lush Beads stepped up and led a photography workshop for Boston Handmade members this past Sunday.

The workshop was held in Jessica’s studio in Boston’s South End and workshop participants were Mimi K, Zesty Betsy, Ann of Buddy System Productions, Angela of Paper Menagerie, Jessica of Reclaimed To You, and we had a special visitor from the Mother Ship = Etsy Labs in Brooklyn, NY, via her own studio in Philadelphia, PA… WonderAmy!

Amy came for a visit to Boston to see participate in the South End Open Market, and she also wanted to see what Boston Handmade was all about. Amy very kindly gave us tons of Etsy swag that we will hand out at upcoming shows and mail out to customers, and she also discussed with us all some of our questions, concerns, and joys of being sellers.

The photo workshop was very helpful and we all came away having learned more about ways to get good photos of small objects and ways to get enough light onto our items of all sizes. Liz distributed a handout with some basic tips:

Creating a Light Box

Photographing small objects in a box glowing with light is a great way to get enough exposure for your images and to make sure that the light is distributed evenly. There are several setups you can use for your photography “box”. There are a couple of resources on the web to consult… Rubbermaid container with clip-on lights, and Cardboard box with tracing paper and standing lights.

Background for Your Items
A smooth and simple background (example: white posterboard) makes for a nice setting that does not take away from the piece, but if a colored background enhances your piece, by all means use it! Whatever you choose, make sure it does not detract from the object you are trying to photograph. People want to see and buy your item, not just your cool artsy photograph.

Lighting your Items

You need a lot of light! More than you think! The light should be indirect, or filtered, for best effect. You need it to be the right color or hue – light has a color temperature, so make yourself aware of the variables. Also, make sure you have enough lighting and that it is evenly distributed to avoid shadows.

Your Camera
White Balance – Set this properly to get the true colors of your objects. Consult your camera manual to find out how to adjust this setting, or look on line for information about your specific camera’s settings. Exposure – Most times, you want to OVERexpose your photos so that they will be bright enough. But, be careful not to overexpose too much, how to figure out the happy medium? Experiment, experiment, experiment. Take several shots, and see what works!

When taking your photos
Use a tripod to avoid blurry pictures. Include a swatch of black/white/grey in your photo, so that you can adjust the levels and contrast in photo editing software more easily. Do not use your flash! This will add shadow where you have worked so hard to eliminate it.
Take several photos at different exposures to make sure you have the best shot.

When editing your photos

Adjust “Levels” using the black/white/grey swatch in the photo as a guide. Making sure the black and white are true should fix any problems with the color of your item. Also, adjust “Brightness/Contrast” as necessary, crop your photo to get rid of unnecessary background, and if the photos are blurry, retake them!

Here’s Liz’s photo of her spider broach that she shot and edited at the workshop:

Thank you for the workshop Liz!!


  1. A big thank you to Liz for instructing and Jessica for hosting and blogging! And it was such a pleasure to meet Wonderamy from Etsy!


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