Monday, April 7, 2014

Simple Photo Tips for Better Presentation

Aurora Wings Challenge #1 - "Anything Goes"
March 17 ~ April 19, 2014

Click here to go the challenge post!

Hi, everyone!  It's Mitzi here.  Today, I'm writing the mid-challenge post on the topic of

Simple Photo Tips for Better Presentation

If you're a professional photographer or serious hobbyist who is dedicated enough to the art of photography to have bought and own a great equipment like a digital SLR, then this guide is not for you.  I'm writing this for the rest of us who are crafters who would rather color and craft, and not have to worry about taking a photo that actually does our projects justice on our blogs and in challenges ... or DT open calls, ...even submissions to magazines.   I know we would rather spend our money on craft supplies to make more stuff and have fun than a prohibitively expensive equipment. 

This is for those of us who like to take photos with our smartphones and digital point-and-shoot cameras.  What this guide covers is nothing new.  There have been numerous blogs and tutorials written on this matter, but I'm going to present some of the simple yet effective tips that you'll be able to use right away with quick results.

For this guide, two of my designers have kindly agreed to help out by providing photo examples of their fabulous work.  Thank you Lorraine Craig Mackie and Debbie Pamment for playing 'bad photographer' for me.  Lorraine's photos were taken with her iPhone.  Debbie's photos were taken with a digital point-and-shoot camera.

1. Light
If at all possible, it's best to avoid flash or other artificial light. Diffused or indirect mid-day sunlight on a clear day is your best bet.  To make things easy for us (without investing in such things like light box), the minimum you would need is two sheets of watercolor paper (one if you have a white wall), and good INDIRECT mid-day sunlight.  The white of the sheets of paper provides a nice, bright, and uncluttered background for your main subject.  It also makes the most of the natural light.  When I say mid-day, I mean around 11 am to no later than 3 pm.  The early day and late afternoon sunlight tends to have more yellow/orange.  
Not enough light, the photo is too dark...
Flash going off, and washing all the lovely colors out...
Back lit.  Good indirect mid-day sunlight placed BEHIND the subject, producing an image that's too dark.  Position your creation in such a way so you can take full advantage of the good light.

2. Focus
If you're using a camera on your phone, rather than using a built-in zoom feature, physically get close to avoid having the image end up grainy/pixelized. Don't feel like you have to take your photo selfie-style (one handed, arm fully stretched out). It's probably better to use both hands like you would with a traditional camera for a steady shot.  And if you're using a digital camera, you might want to check out the 'macro' setting.  Macro (Don't get too excited about this though.  It's not going to be as good as DSLR's serious 'macro'. But you can get some pretty cool photos still.) is usually indicated with a flower icon (On my camera, it's a tulip.).  This setting will let you get closer to the item you're trying to photograph, with the focus right on the object, and things and surrounding area near by, in different depth of field, will be softly out of focus.  Artsy!
Out of focus
Great close-up!

3. Take Many Pictures
You may be pressing for a deadline, but if possible, take multiple shots. Experimenting with slightly different angles and different distances from your project, take more than you think you need.  Despite our best intentions, cameras often do their own thing.  Another thing to keep in mind is that when you preview a shot in a small thumbnail, you probably won't be able to tell if a photo, when viewed at a larger size, is rather blurry.  Taking more pics than you think you'll need will save time, compared to having to set things up again later for a do-over.
I was in a hurry, and oops, my fingers and thumb are in the frame.   
Overall not too bad, but the flash has selectively picked up the glitter on her eyelids...
Mysterious green glare in one of the shots.
Click to enlarge to see how a thumbnail (or preview) often hides many flaws.
The actual photo is a bit out of focus when viewed at full size.

4. Process
Many different kinds of processing options are available to us whether on your own computer, free software download, or online service.  It is rare that we would get a perfect shot that won't require some kind of adjusting.  The most handy tools are "brightness", "contrast", "color saturation", and "temperature".  There are many more things you can tweak, depending on the complexity of the program you have access to, but for the most part, these tools should be enough.  Oh, I should probably mention "rotate".   Most programs have 90 degrees to the right or left as one of the default choices, and options to set exact degrees of rotation.  This is handy when your photo is just slightly "off".
Use "rotate Left 90 degrees" to get this photo upright.
5. Other Points to Remember

  • If you're using your smart phone, check to make sure your lens is clean.  Phones generally get handled a lot, so finger print, dust, and lint are more likely to get on.
  • Set the resolution (or image quality) setting on high.
  • Consider cropping your photo as a part of processing so that your beautiful creation is the main subject of the photo, if you can't have an uncluttered setup.
  • Find a way to watermark the images you post on your blog if you're not already doing it regularly.  If you're handy with image editing programs, the text adding tool (Often indicated with an alphabet "A") can easily add simple watermark.  There are people out there who would claim someone else's work as their own.  Crazy, I know, but it happens.
  • If you're applying for a DT position, please know that most blog owners and coordinators are looking for good photo skill as well as crafting skill in a candidate.
  • If you're going for the extra effort, try a harmonious, but not distracting setup for your project.  When all the fundamental quality criteria (lighting and focus) are met,  the setup can add greatly to your final presentation.  It tells the world that you are passionate about your crafts and one of your strengths is attention to detail.

Now, I'd like to wrap this up with the 'proper' photos of the beautiful creations featured in less flattering light earlier.  My special thanks to my designers, Debbie Pamment and Lorraine Craig Mackie for the photo examples.  Take lots of pictures and have fun experimenting! :D

Lorraine's beautiful card with "YukiOnna"
Debbie's gorgeous card with "Pansy"
Lorraine's stunning presentation of her card with "Peacock Mask"


Scrapcat 1 said...

Thanks for such an informative lesson and what fabulous creations from the DT.

applejack cards by sue said...

Hi Mitzi, thank you for this, sometimes I resort to just scanning my projects... now maybe I can have more confidence with photos.

DonnaMundinger said...

Great info for anyone, Mitzi! Hate when unfortunate photography detracts from a beautiful project. xxD

Sandy West said...

Hi Mitzi, great info, lets hope that I remember it all! Fantastic DT cards girls and thank you for the effort it must have been to write this up. hugs xx

Cumbrianlass said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial Mitzi, lots of really helpful points, now I just need to remember them when taking my photos.
Janet xxx

KT Fit Kitty said...

Wonderful information - thank you!

Shazza said...

great tips and gorgeous cards x

CaroleAnn said...

Thank you Thank you - this was great - very informative - thanks so much for taking the time for sharing with us! Hugs

JenniferD said...

Fantastic tutorial Thankyou!

~ginny said...

Mitzi - I assume you would not mind if I refer people to this wonderful "tips" post? I think there are many out there who could benefit from your tutorial and I want to send them your way! [If not, let me know and I will take down my post!]

Mitzi Sato-Wiuff said...

Ginny, I don't mind it at all. ^_^ It would be great to reach as many people who can use this information. Thank you!!

Lisa Thompson said...

Gosh! I love your tips. They're very practical and are really easy to follow. They can really help your readers out there, who are managing shops of their own. Kudos to you for sharing! Thanks!

Lisa Thompson @ Controlled Color

Ann said...

Thank you for this amazing post - so helpful.
Ann xxx

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