02/18/14
56 comments Behind the Scenes: A New Column! by   |   56 comments

before and after // styling tips for DIY projects

Hope you had a nice, long weekend! I’m back today with a new column!

Over the years, I’ve created a lot of DIY projects. And I do mean A LOT (over 100 DIYs last year alone). While creating those projects, I am always mindful of what the end product is going to look like – paying close attention to the styling and photography for the finished DIY, as well as the step by step instructions. And there is a good reason for this.

Projects that have thoughtful styling, purposeful placement, and strong photography do better on social media and in the blogosphere (in general) than ones that don’t. Of course the project idea itself is important. But let’s face it, sites like Pinterest aren’t just for sharing clever ideas, they’re for sharing beautiful imagery.

So…with that in mind, I am starting a new column today dedicated to tips and tricks to make your DIYs look even more awesome. Every so often, I’ll be showing you some behind the scenes photos of a recent project, and then I’ll break it down into helpful tips for making your DIY projects look as great as they can be.

The first behind the scenes look is of this cupcake topper project I created for Momtastic. Ready to jump in?

setup near a window to make the most of the light in a room

Here are today’s tips…

1. Explore different setups: When I’m shooting something indoors, I like to set up next to the double windows in my office. I have a long table that I can use as a prep surface and switch out backdrops super easily. As you can see in the photo above, my table is setup perpendicular to the window. This particular setup works great for me, but I can also shoot with my back to the windows onto the opposite wall when I need something further away, like the photos from this post (and this one, which was shot by Sarah Eddy).

You’ll also see in this photo, that I’m using a canvas as the standing backdrop and it is being held up by vases filled with flowers (from a previous shoot). How very professional of me. Hehe.

behind the scenes setup

2. Invest in backdrops and backgrounds: If I lived in New York and had a prop house like this at my disposal, I could literal rent a different (and totally awesome) backdrop/ background every day of the week. BUT I don’t live in a city that has prop houses, so I make do with what I can get my hands on.

Mat boards in different colors (like light grey and cream) work pretty well. Here are a couple of examples of projects I’ve used the grey for, so you can see what it looks like in photos: one // two.

I also use a marble slab / cutting board for a lot of food related shoots. Works great, but man, is it heavy!

3. Work with what you have: Don’t forget about the supplies and materials that you used to create your DIY project. In this case, that would be Fruit Loops and pipe cleaners. They make great props in the finished shots and help tell the story without having to explain it in words.

styling tips and tricks

4. More is more: Whether it’s a cupcake or a couch, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to styling, more is more. That doesn’t mean that you have to stuff each frame from floor to ceiling with objects/ materials. But it does mean having more than one option, in case things aren’t working out, can be a very good thing.

So if you’re working with cupcakes and only need to photograph one, have three or four on hand in case you drop one or the icing is messed up on one, etc. Or if you’re shooting DIY plaster votives, for example, make 15 and then choose the best 5 or 10 from the bunch to photograph.

I realize that’s not always convenient to do, but if you have the time it’s worth it to create those kinds of options for yourself. I promise it will result in better looking projects and styled photographs in the end.

messy behind the scenes

5. It’s going to get messy: The above photo is real life. It’s a total mess and it’s how that table looks at the end of nearly every day. It’s not perfectly styled. It’s not even remotely organized, but it works for me.

At the time this was shot, I had piled up pipe cleaners, flowers, an empty bowl, sheets of paper (from a failed project), an iron, some of the bags from that mylar hearts project I did a couple of weeks ago. There is even an empty Coke Zero bottle in there. It’s not glamorous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of glamorous, but you’d never know from the finished photos. And that’s really all that matters.

6. Vary your angles: I keep a ladder in my workspace so that I can get multiple angles (especially for the above shots) without having to balance on my tip toes on top of a chair. Not that I haven’t done that a zillion times, but having a ladder gives me more flexibility in how far up I can go and saves me the trouble of having to pull a chair in.

what it looks like behind the scenes

Still have questions? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

And if you’re looking for more ways to create beautifully styled, share-worthy tutorials, check out my Skillshare class, The How To on How Tos: Creating Compelling Tutorials for your Blog.

56 comments to Behind the Scenes: A New Column! Click here to reply

I love that even your behind the scenes shots are still totally styled and lovely–like the pretty vase and flowers to do the dirty work holding up your backdrop! :)

Great column to help us remember all the great tips you’ve taught us in the Skillshare course ;)
Lauren recently posted..Atrium Canvas Review

Lauren commented on February 18th, 2014 at 9:18 am

Great idea for a column! Even your disorganized behind the scenes photos look great. I use a vase or bowl to hold up my background too- and it always falls at some point without fail ruining my perfect shot. DIY photography can be challenging- but it’s great when you get that beautiful shot!
Margo recently posted..Blog Prompt: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Margo commented on February 18th, 2014 at 9:47 am

Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks!! Lovely to see how you make your photo’s :-)
Denise Beckand recently posted..Zonder licht geen kleur

Denise Beckand commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:14 am

Thanks for sharing these tips, they´re really useful. Can´t wait to see the next behind the scenes post :)
Domi recently posted..Valentínske darčeky

Domi commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:38 am

Hi! I actually just started your skill share course yesterday! I wanted to ask, because I do live in New York, what prop houses do you recommend? I’m new here and still learning what’s available. Thanks!

Arielle casa commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:43 am

Glad you’re in the Skillshare class, Arielle. And I’m happy to recommend a prop house. My favorite is this one: http://propworkshopnyc.com/164_West_25th_St.html . You can browse some of their items online, but I’d recommend going in so you can see the full selection. They have a pretty descent size space that is packed with goodies (lots of tableware and accessories, artwork scattered throughout, tons of cutting boards, and an entire room dedicated to surfaces/backdrops). It’s great.

papernstitch commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:45 am

Wow, this is a great series! Thanks for showing us the magic behind the magic :-)
Mo recently posted..SIGHT & SOUND // HOLOCENE — BON IVER

Mo commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:45 am

This is such a fantastic tutorial! I often wondered what materials people used for their white backdrops (are their houses just perfect for photography???) — and since I always have canvases lying around, this was perfect!
Diana recently posted..MANGO LASSI // easy fruit & yogurt smoothie

Diana commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:19 am

I absolutely love this series idea and can’t wait to see more posts. I have a food blog, which is slightly different than DIY projects but I think most, if not all, of your tips will still apply. Thank you!

Katie @ 24 Carrot Life commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:28 am

Thank you so much for this! I struggle sometimes with how to set up to take pictures of my projects…this makes it a little easier! ~Lisa
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Lisa @ Practically Perfect Home commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:31 am

I loved this!
If it’s ok, I’ll share a linkt to your new column on my Sunday morning post (it’s a round up of interesting thing I find around).
Thank you!

Ana commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:31 am

This series is going to be so RAD.
Chelsea Foy recently posted..DIY Gold Leaf Art

Chelsea Foy commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:36 am

Love this post! I am always looking for tips and tricks! Hope this series becomes/stays regular!

Kimberly commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:39 am

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your photography process! I am trying to learn better ways to shoot my DIY’s, and this helps a lot. I need to get my hands on some colored matte backgrounds…!

Allison Katelyn @ http://simplesilverlinings.blogspot.com
Allison Katelyn recently posted..Inspiring Image #4

Allison Katelyn commented on February 18th, 2014 at 11:47 am

I love these types of posts! It’s so fun to see behind the scenes!
Kevin | Thou Swell recently posted..White and Green Simplicity

Kevin | Thou Swell commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Thank you for sharing your tidbits of photography advice/ideas on “Behind the Scenes”! I hope to see more of these :)

Annie @ http://littlestsparrow.blogspot.com
Annie recently posted..Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Potluck

Annie commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I loved this post! Keep them coming :)
dylcia recently posted..Black and white office spaces

dylcia commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Thanks so much for these great tips!

danielle commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

omg omg i was looking for information like this. so glad you decided to start this new series. thank you! i’ll be reading intently!
xfallenmoon recently posted..mosaiculture at the montreal botanical gardens

xfallenmoon commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Great post! I don’t do diy’s much but I can def use these tips in my online shop
Alisha @ The Alisha Nicole recently posted..I’m Bout This LIFE

Alisha @ The Alisha Nicole commented on February 18th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I am new to blogging and all the tips are helpful!
Carling recently posted..…family day pancakes

Carling commented on February 18th, 2014 at 1:05 pm

LOVE this!! Thanks for sharing your secrets:) xoxo Katie
Katie Cook recently posted..How to Pay for Travel, Part 5: Accommodations

Katie Cook commented on February 18th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

seriously LOVE THIS…thank-you for doing a behind the scenes!!
rox recently posted..boot camp: week two

rox commented on February 18th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

This is so helpful, Brittni! I can’t wait to see what else comes up in this series. Thanks!!

Hannah commented on February 18th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I love to see your process! Great that you’re using a canvas as your background, I will keep that one in mind, thanks so much!

Gwen commented on February 18th, 2014 at 5:37 pm

LOVE the behind the scenes look! I remember when I came over to your apartment and saw your GENIUS setup, so I’m glad you’re sharing more about your process with us readers! Can’t wait to see more!
Caroline recently posted..Design Trend: Copper Accents

Caroline commented on February 18th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

love this and am so happy it’s going to be a new column. SO helpful!
Gina_AcuteDesigns recently posted..banoffee custard pie

Gina_AcuteDesigns commented on February 18th, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Great Post! Loved how you shared pictures of your process and the idea to use everyday items like fruit loops! :-) I’m considering taking your tutorial class, but was wondering, do you think it would be good for someone who primarily does tech tutorials, i.e. not tutorials with physical products? I’d like to offer more step-by-step tutorials related to software, websites, apps, etc… particularly for teachers and creative business owners, and was wondering if this course could help with that. Thank you!
Monica recently posted..A Handmade Valentine’s Day

Monica commented on February 18th, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Thank you so much for letting us glimpse into the secret of what makes your photos so beautiful!

Bethany commented on February 18th, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Amazing!!! I am so excited you started this column. You are a styling and photography MASTER and we can all learn so much from you! Like using a canvas as a backdrop. Never even occurred to me, but it would certainly solve my problem of always accidentally bending/creasing my poster board I often use and throwing it out! Can’t wait to see more posts like this!
Kelly @ Studio DIY recently posted..What Do You Want to Learn at Studio DIY HQ? (Win Donuts!)

Kelly @ Studio DIY commented on February 19th, 2014 at 1:50 am

Thank you very much for the new column. Just coming on the right time for me!

Reem commented on February 19th, 2014 at 5:06 am

Great post, B! Love this idea for a column. Miss you! xo
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Melanie Biehle commented on February 19th, 2014 at 8:36 am

wow so beautiful… what camera do u use

tasniah commented on February 19th, 2014 at 10:20 am

I absolutely loved this post! It always makes me laugh thinking if people could see behind the scenes of my pictures. (the mess surrounding!!). Love the marble board, such a nice touch!

La commented on February 19th, 2014 at 10:45 am

Ah! This is awesome and sure to become my new favorite column on your blog. Your project styling and photos are always gorgeous so I’m excited to hear more tips. I’ve been learning as I go, so this will be so helpful!

XOXO
Becca | Ladyface Blog
Becca recently posted..Homemade Granola

Becca commented on February 19th, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Oh man, I’m so happy I’m not the only one using random things to hold backdrops! Love that marble slab you have there!
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gabriel commented on February 20th, 2014 at 4:17 am

[…] love seeing behind the scenes of other bloggers – brittni shows her photo setup and tricks which is a million times more profesh than mine (via paper & […]

i link you | almost makes perfect commented on February 20th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

LOVE THIS. love that you took the time to share this and I seriously can’t wait for the rest of them! Thank you so much, using a blank canvas as a backdrop is completely genius!
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Meghan commented on February 21st, 2014 at 12:36 am

Thank you for the tips! I love this post! I kind of do the same for my backdrops, but mostly use large sheets of drawing paper of coloured paper for my backdrops :) I’ll be following this column for sure, it looks like I can learn a lot from you!

Birgit commented on February 21st, 2014 at 6:29 am

Loved this post and really helpful tips. I use a wooden chopping board and a white tray for my background, tee hee, when photographing products, whether its cloudy or not the pictures come out great :)
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Shireen commented on February 21st, 2014 at 8:24 am

Huzzah! I adore behind-the-scenes photos. When I style shoots crap ends up everywhere—tables pushed askew, lens caps buried under piles of scrapbook paper, etc. Glad to see I’m not alone. :)
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Marlene commented on February 21st, 2014 at 2:13 pm

So cute! Love the heart made of fruit loops.

http://www.thelipstickchannel.com

Esther commented on February 21st, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Love love love this post – thanks so much! Photographing my work is something I really need to get better at, so thanks for such a useful piece – I look forward to your next posts!

Emma Webb commented on February 22nd, 2014 at 5:38 am

Great photography-set-up!
gonna try that … hmm first find some marble ..
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Josie commented on February 23rd, 2014 at 2:12 pm

[…]  1. I am excited for Paper N Stitch’s new column featuring tips and tricks for styling DIY projects. […]

Weekly Roundup: Chocolate Bread and Hanging Vases | wedo. commented on February 28th, 2014 at 6:51 pm

[…] Un cake topper en froot loops chez Paper & Stitch […]

Vous prendrez bien une tasse de thé #2 ‹ Leblogdefiancee commented on March 5th, 2014 at 3:18 am

[…] morning! Today, I’m sharing the second installment of Behind the Scenes (a styling tips and tricks series). And I have to say, I am so glad that you are along for the ride […]

Behind the Scenes: It’s Good to Have Options | Paper & Stitch commented on March 18th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Hello! Thank you so much for writing this up, it’s always useful to get new perspectives on photo shoots. I was just wondering, how large is your marble chopping board? I have a chopping board that’s about 15x20cm, which never seems large enough to use as a backdrop, is yours much larger or am I just not getting in close enough?

Joy commented on April 16th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Hi Joy. My marble slab is 24″ wide by 16″ deep.

Brittni commented on April 17th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

A bit bigger then! Thanks a lot xx

Joy commented on April 17th, 2014 at 4:19 pm

[…] learned a tremendous amount from this behind the scenes look at how Brittni of Paper & Stitch styles and shoots beautiful photos for her […]

Blogging Tips Round-Up commented on May 30th, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Hi Brittni, absolutely love this tutorial. Bit of a random question – what lens do you use to shoot these close ups with such shallow depth of field? Love that final shot. x
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Fiona - Craft Hunter commented on June 5th, 2014 at 2:20 am

Fiona – Not random at all. I used my Canon 50mm 1.4 – This is the exact one I have http://www.amazon.com/Canon-Standard-Medium-Telephoto-Cameras/dp/B00009XVCZ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401977625&sr=8-2&keywords=ef+50mm+1%3A1.4 It was about $400.

If that is a little too pricey, and I understand that it might be, there are cheaper 50mm lens out there for $100-150 that would be a less expensive lens to start with.

Hope that helps.

Brittni commented on June 5th, 2014 at 10:23 am

Amazing, thanks so much for the super helpful info Brittni! x

Fiona - Craft Hunter commented on June 5th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

[…] you may have witnessed from my Behind the Scenes column, my workspace in the office is pretty much covered in supplies at all times. So I really needed a […]

Modern Furniture Makeover: An Ugly TV Stand Transforms into an Awesome Ombre Bar Cart | Paper and Stitch commented on June 18th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Thank you for this, great info!
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Krystal commented on June 18th, 2014 at 5:32 pm

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