Shooting Different Types of Crafts
As you might suspect, different types of crafts offer different challenges in terms of creating effective product photos. Let’s take a look a few of the more popular types of crafts and what you need to keep in mind, photographically speaking.
Shooting Clear or Translucent Glass
You want to illuminate glass items from the rear and sides, or from the top, as shown in Figure 4.13. Clear or translucent glass often requires more than one light to look best. You can use either a light or dark background, depending on the characteristics of the glass. Faceted or cut glass usually looks best against a dark background.
Figure 4.13. Illuminate glass items from the rear and sides. (And there’s nothing wrong with filling up a glass with colorful liquid, either.)
Shooting Opaque Glass and Jewelry
Shooting opaque glass, jewelry, and silver items is somewhat difficult because of all the potential reflections. To avoid reflections and harsh highlights, you want a very broad, diffused light. The easiest way to get this is to use a translucent light tent around your subject. You then leave a hole for your camera lens to poke through and illuminate the tent evenly from at least two sides.
Shooting Wood Items
The challenge with shooting any high-gloss wood craft is glare. The first thing to do is to not use your camera’s flash; this will cause the wood to glare back at you from every highlight, and it won’t show the shape of the item well. Better to use diffused light from a photoflood, to get enough light onto the woodgrain. You can also shoot the item in natural light, from a window or by shooting outdoors.
Shooting clothing requires a lot of light. This is where the recommended two-light setup comes in, providing two strong light sources that highlight all the folds of the cloth. If you can, diffuse the lights to soften any shadows—and never use flash!
Fabrics with strong lines or checks present an additional problem, in the form of moiré patterns. This is caused when two interfering patterns overlap—in this case, the pattern of the fabric vs. the pattern of pixels in your digital image. You may be able to lessen or eliminate the moiré effect by shooting at a different distance or with the camera at a slight angle to the subject.
If you’re selling an item with black or dark fabric, the challenge is being able to pull detail out of the darkness. You have to step up the lighting to create shadows and highlights on the fabric.
Then there’s the matter of how to display clothing in your photos. The best approach here is to use a mannequin or clothing form to display items of clothing. As you can see in Figure 4.14, hanging the clothing on a mannequin lets potential buyers see what the item looks like in real life; it’s much better than the “ghost effect” you get by shooting clothing lying flat on the floor.
Figure 4.14. Display clothing on a mannequin or clothing form.(Photo courtesy Etsy shop klassicline.)
Even better is to use a model to display your clothing and accessories, as shown in Figure 4.15. You probably don’t have the funds to hire a professional model, but friends and family members can help you model your clothing for the camera. If you know someone who’s adequately photogenic, get out the makeup and start shooting.
Figure 4.15. Have an attractive model wear your clothing.(Photo courtesy Etsy shop subrosa123)
Scanning Flat and Small Items
If you’re selling relatively flat items (paintings, pins, and other artwork), you might be better off with a scanner than a camera. Just lay the object on a flatbed scanner and scan the item into a file on your computer. It’s actually easier to scan some items than it is to take a good steady picture!
The scanner trick isn’t just for flat items. It can also work, in a pinch, for small items, such as jewelry. In fact, some sellers swear by scanning jewelry, claiming that detail is somewhat sharper with a scanner than with a typical digital camera. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try it.