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 Crafters 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 Crafters 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).
13 comments | Click here to reply
I ordered this book last night! My photos can always use some improvement. Though, my camera could be improved, too… First things, first, though. 🙂Casey
Thank you so much for the link and the interview! It is already really helpful, and I see a new item to add to my birthday list for the year. (Boyfriend, take note!)
Seriously! Thank you!Brittani
That’s great Val. Let me know how you like it. I totally agree with you – never too many tools in our back pockets. I have several photo books for my new camera, but I love this one just as much because the topics are so different. Anyway, enjoy the book.papernstitch
And thanks Nicole for coming by!
This book is interesting, it might be just the one I need to take my product shots to the next level. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for this informative post, Brittni. I just ordered the book! Better product photography is also one of my goals for this year, especially since I got an amazing new camera over the holidays. In my opinion, we can never have enough tools in our back pocket to take our business to the next level.Val Hebert
Hey Leslie. Great question! The book discusses all camera types (point and shoot included). Many of the tips are things that you can do with ANY camera. The shop owners that were interviewed all have different cameras for the most part too (the book tells you what type of camera each person used for the photos shown, which is really cool). There are a lot of DSLRs, but there are also lots of Powershots mentioned, etc. And the editing section towards the very end works for any camera as well. Hope that helps.papernstitch
Does Heidi address all camera types or just dlsr? Photography is one of my blog developing goals this year and a point in shoot is what I have to work with.
Thanks for the post. I definitely want to get this book.
oh I definitely need this book! i see some of my fave etsy shops featured. looks like a beautiful book!Cathy
I have that same issue here in Seattle Rebecca. And I have to say, this book really have some great ways to trouble shoot lighting. I also picked up this fun tip at a class I took last week for poor natural light – use a big piece of white form board as a reflector. Works wonders! You should try it.papernstitch
Thanks for stopping by Georgia. Glad I could share Heidi’s book with you.
This book looks amazing. Thanks for sharing!georgia
This is great! I can usually style the shot but here in the uk at this time of year natural light is pretty sparse and makes all my shots look dull or odd colours, this book looks like it has lots of top tips!xrebecca
thanks abby for the kind words about my photos. i couldn’t take pictures of a book about photography without having some good photographs of it, right? 🙂papernstitch
What a great resource. Thank you for sharing. Your photos are great!abby