If you are not a professional photographer, product shots are often a struggle. But the fact remains that product photography is the single most important thing to get right when you are selling your work online (aside from the product itself of course). So when I received an email from Interweave to tell me about a book that covered all the basics of taking great photos, I was pretty excited to share it with you.
It's called The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos. The author is Heidi Adnum, who happens to have an Etsy shop (in fact that's where the book started - in the Etsy forums) and the book caters specifically to artists and artisans who sell their work online. There are mini-tutorials, interviews with successful Etsy shop owners, and plenty of pages of the basics - from lighting all the way to post-production editing.
I took some photos to share a few things you'll find inside this bad boy. And I asked the author, Heidi, a few questions about product photography as well. So let's dive in...
1. Product photography can be intimidating for shop owners that have little experience behind the camera. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share with creatives when it comes to photographing work for the web?
You're right, and It isn't only the practicalities of using the camera and setting up the shot, either, sometimes the technical explanations themselves can be terribly confusing. I think the most valuable piece of advice I can share is to prioritise time to develop more of an understanding of the basics of photography, such as, learning how a camera uses light to make a photograph (p.10). When you feel more confident that you know how your camera works, and what you need to do to make it work, you'll be more likely to practice with it. Practicing with your camera's settings will build your confidence even more. Then, you'll begin to approach product photograph with less fear and apprehension. You'll eventually take less time working out what to do and photography will become much more enjoyable. Think of it as an essential tool of your craft that requires a reasonable amount of time and effort to learn, and, later on, reap the rewards of your confidence.
2. The interviews with artists and artisans sprinkled throughout the book are as fun to read as they are helpful. I love them. So I am curious to know which interview was your favorite from the book and why?
Thank you, the Spotlight series is great. It was a pleasure to learn more about all of the featured practitioners. I simply can't name one favourite! Though, there is one tip that I especially liked, and that was shared by Heather Moore, the creator of Skinny laMinx; "If you have a cup in your composition, make sure there's tea in it, but if you're planning to sell the cup, don't put tea in it." (p.74) This is great advice for anyone considering the use of props in their photographs. The aim is to make your product look as desirable as possible. A great way to achieve this is by styling your product in its most new, beautiful and perfect form.
3. I am kind of crazy for DIYs, so of course one of my favorites sections in your book is the DIY accessories tutorials where you show how to make things to improve photos even more (like a light box, tripod, and flash diffuser to name a few). If you could choose only one, what would you recommend as the #1 most helpful accessory to make in order to improve product photos?
That's another tough one to narrow down, so I'll name two: Reflector (p. 58) and Seamless Background (p.62). Like the others in the DIY series, both are very easy to make at home and are budget-friendly. These are simple tools that can help to solve common problems, such as lack of natural light and poor composition. Crafters struggling with light availability may see great results quickly with the reflector. And those struggling to find the best background for their product will love the simplicity and impact of a neutral seamless background.
Congratulations Heidi on this incredible resource for makers. I've known Heidi for a while now and I am so thrilled to see her success. Much deserved! You can pick up Heidi'd book on the Interweave website right here: The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos and over on Amazon as well.
*As part of the book blog tour for the US, Mark Lipinski will be interviewing Heidi live on the Creative Mojo Podcast tomorrow. So check that out, along with the rest of the tour (making stops at Rena Tom, Rifle Paper Co., Canadian Living Crafts’ Blog, and more).