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Voetsy is an online marketplace and creative community that brings together talented sellers and buyers looking for something unique

HOW TO GET THE PERFECT PRODUCT PIC – AN AMATEUR’S GUIDE

So…. You’ve just spent the better part of your weekend crafting up a storm, putting in sweat, sometimes tears but definitely tons of elbow grease and your product has come out looking like it belongs wrapped around an A-listers arm or in the centre of a fine arts museum encased in glass. You call your better half over and gleaming with pride say, “babe, checkit!”

It’s beautiful. You both admire the flawlessness knowing full well it’s unique, in that you can never make the exact same item again. A stitch knot here and a raised grain there. It’s magnificent. Always imitated, never duplicated. Perfection.

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Now you need to share it with the world. You may picture a scene not unlike Cinderella with droves of people from all walks, lined up outside, down the road and all around the block, all coming to behold your craft with wonderment. Bask in its Awesomeness. Compliments and praise raining down like a Delhi monsoon. “Oh stop it you,” with the flap of a hand all blushful like.

Reality sets in and you realise it’s both improbable and definitely not practical to line the world up outside your door. You grab the old screamer off the desk, flip a finger up and take a snap of your ware. You send it to everyone interested in what you do and the responses are … less than impressive. “What is it? I can’t make out the lines. You take that pic under a duvet?”

GET YOUR SHOT TOGETHER – The equipment

Your brand and its quality are going to be judged visually before anyone touches your products. Having high quality product photos will go a long way toward securing a sale and getting yourself known out there. Voetsy will also be using these photo’s to drive traffic to your store.

It’s an intimidating prospect for a new store owner to now have to meet the world photographically. You may even think you need to outlay for new equipment and cameras and all that nonsense. If you have the budget for it, it will pay off but for starters it’s not necessary. A professional photographer would also be beneficial, but again, not necessary.

Let me break down some of the very basic things you’ll need to get a half decent shot:

  1. Camera (your phone will do, or something substantial like a DSLR)
  2. A flat surface
  3. White project board or Cardboard (basically anything white and reflective)
  4. Some masking tape or sellotape. (any tape really)
  5. A tripod (not necessary but it really does help)
  6. Space (room to swing a cat helps)
  7. The well-lit area (rooms with lots of natural light are the best)
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Photographing products is not hard to do, and believe me I’m no Ansel Adams behind a camera. I don’t even own anything that a professional photographer would consider “a camera.” I have a phone and like the rest of the Instagram world it seems to serve its purpose better than most of the digital camera’s I used to own circa 1995-2010.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m well aware that any DSLR camera these days with lenses to boot will make mincemeat of your iPhone or android device in the right hands. The options are almost limitless and it is a tool best used by those who actually know what the hell they’re doing (see also: DSLR ninjas). I played with one once and took a macro photo of a fly’s eyes. I could see rainbows and hexagons. Incredible. Also lucky. Do you think I could snap a photo without some red-eye or blur of a scene? No ways. I’m not skilled enough for the nuances of fine photography. I point and click. Snap 20 delete 18.

BACKGROUND BASICS – The infinitely amazing infinity curve

“So why am I reading this?” you may ask. You’re in the same boat I’m in, the SS Amateur Photographer. If you have mad shot skills then you’re THAT guy, probably on the floor laughing your backside off. For the rest of us, I’m here writing and you’re here reading so it’s not all bad. Just ignore the other guy. We need the least cost route to maximum output. You’re also here because you want to take amazing photos of your products. I want you to take amazing photos of your products. People who want to buy your products want to see amazing photos of your products. Amazing photos of your products for EVERYONE!!!!

Here are the basic steps to creating a good backdrop:

  1. Setup your work surface, near a window that has lots of light coming in. 90 degrees to the window and little offset so as not to get any shadows from the window handle for instance. Ideally this would be against another wall but if not you can always move a chair or something behind the table to help with the rest.
  2. Set a piece of white board up against the wall or chair so it creates a curve. Flat on the bottom, flat at the back and a curve where the desk and chair or wall would meet. This is known as an infinity curve. It creates the illusion of there being no background.
  3. Place your product and any props you may want to include, on the white board.
  4. Once done, pay attention to where the shadow is on the paper, cast by the product, and place another piece of white board on the left or right side of the one taped to the wall or chair. This will help bounce the natural light back in toward the shadowed area helping reveal the product. You can use tape to keep this in place by sticking it to a wall or table surface…or both.
  5. You’ll notice now that the product on the board is lit from the window, and the boards behind and to the side of the product cast light back in to the darker side of the product, lighting it up.

Having done all that you can now snap away at the product trying new angles, moving the board or adding more board to the other side.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

There are some PROS and CONS to creating a backdrop in a room this way.

THE GOOD:

  1. It’s cheap. Cardboard in A2 sheets is not that expensive or hard to get a hold of and most of us have some sort of tape around the house, even if its insulation tape.
  2. You don’t need to buy lights and diffusers and expensive equipment to do this.
  3. It’s quick to setup and get an angle that works for what you want to photograph.
  4. It scales. You could use a white linen sheet and do the same for a piece of furniture.

THE BAD:

  1. There’s a limited window of opportunity before the light fades from the window and the colours go all strange.
  2. Duplicating results for different products on different days needs to be timed.
  3. You’re dependent on only one light source (while this may be a pro as well, windows are only so big so there can only ever be so much light)

THE UGLY:

Always pay close attention to what’s going on in the background of your pics. We’ve seen people land up on the internet for all the wrong reasons because of the uglies lurking in the background. The idea is to get your products sold, not memed.

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LIGHTBOXES – The illuminating alternative

There are alternatives to the above that will give you repeatable results, with little effort, any time of the day or night. Lightboxes! Not to be confused with SAD boxes.

It’ll also help you sell. We’ve all trawled the web looking for a specific image of a product. Like the rear of a sound bar. Or side connections on a TV. Frustratingly these are rarely forthcoming, but when it comes to something you’ve made with your hands, spent hours on and put together with the singular purpose and goal  of putting it in someone else’s care, you’re not doing yourself or your buyers any favours with half lit phone snaps on your workbench or kitchen table.

We’ll have a follow up article on lightboxes, there’s a lot more information to cover so it warrants a dedicated article. If you’re interested to find out more now, there’s always a bunch of stuff on the internet. Also Pinterest 🙂

THE SECRET – You can’t positive vibe this one

Oh this one’s a doozy and the key to everything. Light. Natural life giving light. I’ve heard it said that overcast days are the best days for photos to be taken because there is an abundance of natural light bounced off the clouds above with very little in the way of shadows to be cast. Mother Nature is the perfect lightbox.

Mother nature also has hours in a day and a light source that keeps moving across the sky, making timing an issue, not to mention days where its dark and rainy making it near impossible to use her for your pictures. You’ll really want to time your photo shoots so you’re maximising the best natural light possible.

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GET SNAP HAPPY – A lot

So there you have it. A few tips and tricks from an ultimate amateur. There’s a bit of science and art involved, but as with all things, practice makes perfect… and we have filters, photoshop and delete for when it’s not so perfect. So relax, you’ve got this, and have fun taking awesome pics that will help sell your awesome stuffs.

Happy snapping

The Voetsy DIY Blog Team

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