DIY Product Photography Equipment Holiday Gift Guide  2018

DIY Product Photography Equipment Holiday Gift Guide 2018

The holidays are fast approaching, and you could have some awesome DIY product photography equipment under your tree this year.

If you’re anything like me, you might be stumped when it comes to things you want for Christmas. When my husband asks me what I want for Christmas, it’s usually met with an “uhhhh…” because I have no idea what to say.

I don’t need another scarf. I have way too many books to read already. And jewelry just isn’t my thing.

But something that will further my business? Heck yes. Sign me up.

You can forward this list directly to your spouse for easy holiday shopping. They’ll thank you.

Note: The following gift guide contains affiliate links and when purchases are made from my list, I get a small percentage of the sale. Most are listed on Amazon.com and are in USD with the pricing current at the time of this posting. If you are outside of the US, you can use the examples here to find something local in your area.

 

 

  1. DSLR camera

 

These beauties have become so much more obtainable over the years. They are more affordable than they’ve ever been before, and you can set them to “auto” until you learn more about how they work.

There are two major brands for DSLR cameras, Canon and Nikon. Both are great and you can’t go wrong with either.  Their entry level cameras (ie, the cheapest and most basic) are still exceptional and perfect for anyone who’s not a professional photographer.

Here are two great options for a DSLR camera:

Canon EOS Rebel T6 with 18-55mm lens, $399

Nikon D3500 with 18-55mm lens, $397

 

 

 

  1. “Your DSLR Made Easy” online course

 

Once you have the DSLR camera, you’ll need to learn how to use it. These cameras are extremely powerful tools for your product photography, but they come with a learning curve. Without learning how to properly use it, you may very well find yourself frustrated and wondering why you got the thing in the first place.

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I have a course that I made just for handmade sellers, to help you learn how to use your camera quickly, and with confidence.

You can find all of the details here:

“Your DSLR Made Simple” online course, $79

 

 

 

  1. SDHC/XC Memory Card

 

SDHC stands for Secure Digital High Capacity (4 – 32 GB), whereas SDXC (more than 32GB) stands for Secure Digital eXtended Capacity. It’s the card you put in your camera to store the photos you take. When it comes to product photography, you want to select a card that’s fairly sizable (32 or  64GB) and Class 10. Class 10 refers to the “write speed”, which is how quickly it records an image on the card. Most memory cards will show the class number on the label and it’ll look like a number with an incomplete circle around it.

You always want to go brand name when it comes to memory cards. Generic brand memory cards risk issues like the cards becoming corrupted (and you losing all your photos), the plastic chipping off inside your camera, and so on.

Here are two great options for SDHC/XC memory cards:

Lexar 32 GB SDHC Class 10 Memory Card, $14.19

SanDisk 64 GB SDXC Class 10 Memory Card, $13.95

 

 

 

  1. Tripod with Extendable Arm

 

Tripods are fantastic tools when it comes to product photography, and are loads of them out there. But what about when you want to shoot a flat lay? Most tripods just don’t support that.

But this one does.

This tripod has loads of options, but the one I like the most is that it has an extendable arm and a ball head attachment for your camera so that you can have your camera face the ground. Perfect for flay lays!

Check it out here:

K&H Concept Tripod, $149.99

 

 

 

 

  1. Grey Card

 

Ever wonder how to achieve proper colour in your photos? Grey cards are a great tool for that. They let you set a custom white balance with your camera and/or give you a neutral point to set the white balance when you’re editing your photos.

You can’t just use any old grey card either, it has to be the exact percentage of grey. So that grey piece of cardstock you have probably won’t do. This one is super affordable and comes with white and black options as well.

Anwenk Grey Card, $7.99

 

  1. Smartphone Tripod

 

If you use your smartphone as your camera, this one is for you!

Smartphone cameras are a bit more limited with it comes to product photography, so giving them a little help by using a tripod can make a big difference.

Check out one by Manfrotto (one of the best brands of tripods out there):

Manfrotto Mini Tripod with Smartphone Attachment, $34.99

 

 

  1. Lightbox with Table Top Lighting

 

Using a lightbox with tabletop lighting is great for smaller products, especially if they’re reflective. The white surroundings of a lightbox goes a long way in eliminating those harsh reflections that drive you nuts.

Natural light is awesome, but it’s not always a fit for you. If you don’t have a lot of access to natural light, or you have reflective products, these are for you.

Neewer 36” x 36” Lightbox, $36.99

Fovitec StudioPRO Tabletop Lights, $39.95

 

 

 

  1. Softbox Lighting Kit

 

Maybe your products aren’t really right for a lightbox, but you still need extra lighting because your natural light situation just isn’t that great.

Softbox studio light might be just the thing for you! Softboxes are great for medium-sized products, and for creating a lighting situation that mimics natural lighting. They are more versatile and you can manipulate the lighting more than with other kinds of artificial lighting.

Some softbox studio lighting kits don’t have enough lighting power to be effective, so it’s important to get lights that have a strong enough wattage.

Like this one:

Studio FX 1600W Softbox Studio Lighting Kit, $79.99

 

 

 

  1. External Flash

Also known as dedicated flashes or speedlights, these flashes fit on the hot shoe of your DSLR camera and have a rotating head that allows you to point the flash in different directions.

These are excellent if you need artificial lighting for larger products, like furniture.

When it comes to flashes, you never want to point a flash directly at your product, which is why the built-in flashes on your cameras should never be used. Ever. I’m serious. Don’t do it.

External flashes come in a variety of different price points, but there are decent ones out there that are super affordable.

Like this one:

Neewer External Flash, $34.99

 

There you have it! My 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for DIY product photography. May you find many exciting tools for product photography underneath your tree this year.

 

Got a question? Drop it in the comments!

90+ Prop Ideas For
Your Styled Photos

Master These Three Things For Gorgeous DIY Product Photos >> https://amytakespictures.com/master-these-3-things-for-gorgeous-diy-product-photos/

5 Free Or Cheap Tools For Awesome DIY Product Photos >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-free-or-cheap-tools-for-awesome-diy-product-photos/

The Best Sizing For Etsy Product Photos >> https://amytakespictures.com/the-best-sizing-for-etsy-product-photos/

 

Mastering Your Camera For DIY Product Photos

Mastering Your Camera For DIY Product Photos

Today we’re talking about how to get the most out of the equipment you already have. Including those smartphones!

A lot of people think that in order to learn from me they have to have a big fancy camera and lighting equipment but that is super not true. My students have everything from smartphones to DSLR cameras. I even have an entire module in my Snap, Sell, Succeed course dedicated to smartphone photography.

Why? Because I know for some of you, that’s what you have. And dropping $500 or more on a DSLR camera just isn’t something you can swing right now.

The great news is that you can do A LOT with just a smartphone camera and regular ole daylight.

Regardless of what you’re using for a camera, there are a few tips to help you maximize the abilities of the equipment you already have.

And they are…

1. Read your camera manual and practice using your camera.

I know what you’re thinking. “Cool tip bro”. But it’s a legit thing. Have you read your camera manual? I bet not. If you have a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera, it would have come with camera manual (they’re also really easy to find online) and your smartphone manual should include a section on the camera (or find it online).

Knowing the modes, features, and options that your camera possesses is a big first step in getting the most out of your camera and how to use them will save you loads of time and frustration. Trust.

2. Know how light works.

This is probably the #1 most important thing you need order to get the most of out your equipment:

Lighting is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G when it comes to photography. Literally. Great light can make a smartphone photo look amazing and professional, and bad lighting can make a photo taken with even the best professional equipment look like junk.

Wanna learn a bit more about types of lighting? Click here.

3. Make sure the image size (aka “quality”) on your camera is large enough for high resolution photos.

Photos for your product listings need to be large, in order to still look good when the zoom tool is applied. You should have your image sizes set to highest jpeg option available (and if you’re advanced, you should shoot raw). I recommend you have your image setting on your camera setting to a minimum of 3000 px wide and 2400 pixels tall. (Note: if you use an iPhone you can’t change this setting, but the native file size for iPhones is plenty large enough at 4032 x 3024 px).

4. Make a DIY lightbox.

Don’t have a bunch of lighting equipment or the funds to invest? Make your own lightbox! I have personally made multiple DIY lightboxes during my in-person product photography workshops and they totally work. There are loads of YouTube videos that will guide you on to do this, but I like this one.

Once you make the lightbox (that’ll easily cost you less than $5), you can use regular desk/architect lamps that you may have sitting around your home with daylight light bulbs. If you find that light to not be sufficient enough, you may have to upgrade to tabletop studio lights (studio lights have stronger wattage), or you could try going outside during broad daylight in direct light.

5. Capture your images in raw file format.

If you’re using a smartphone, download the Lightroom app (free) and use the camera within the app. Change the file format of your images to DNG (at the top of your screen in the middle). This is raw file format and it’s like capturing a digital negative. There is so much more data captured with this kind of file and allows you so much more flexibility when editing your photos without losing quality.

If you’re using a DSLR, you can change the file format in the the shooting settings and select raw. These images will need to editing with a program like Lightroom or Photoshop (using Camera Raw). It sounds a bit scary at first, but experiment with raw files a bit and see the huge difference they can make in your editing!

Product Photography Quality Checklist

Looking for cheap or free tools for your DIY product photography? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-free-or-cheap-tools-for-awesome-diy-product-photos/

Does size really matter (when it comes to your Etsy photos!) Read more here >> https://amytakespictures.com/the-best-sizing-for-etsy-product-photos/

 

Types Of DIY Product Photography Lighting

Types Of DIY Product Photography Lighting

This post an important one, because I know how many of you struggle with DIY product photography lighting.  Lighting is the trickiest element of photography, but something that needs to understood and mastered to be successful with your product photos.

Let’s get started! 

Fun fact: All light is not created equal. First, there are different kinds of light. Diffused, artificial, direct, indirect, natural, etc. Artificial and natural refer to the light sources. Diffused, direct, and indirect refer to how the light hits your products and the effect they cause. We’ll discussed these in a moment. But first, light sources. When it comes to light sources, there are pros and cons of each.

Let’s discuss.

Artificial (flashes, studio lights, lamps)

Pros: Easily controllable, always available

Cons: Can create issues with white balance, costs $$, and involves a learning curve

Natural (from the sun)

Pros: Tends to create accurately colour balanced images, is usually softer than artificial light, you don’t have to work as hard to make it look natural because well, it is.

Cons: You’re at the mercy of time and weather, it needs to be properly diffused, can create unbalance lighting across the image (ie, darker on one side than the other), and it takes work to perfect.

What’s Right For You

So what’s best? That depends on your situation. If you find yourself only having time to photograph your products after dark, artificial is probably for you. If not, natural light might be for you.

Spoiler alert: You can grab my free lighting questionnaire that will help you figure out what light source is best for you at the bottom of this post.


Direct Light vs. Indirect Light vs. Diffused Light

Direct light comes directly from the source to hit your product at full strength. It creates strong highlights and harsh shadows on your images. It’s not recommend in almost all situations when it comes to product photography.

Indirect light is light that is bounced of other things and then hits your product. Photographing inside or in the shade is indirect light.

Diffused light is light that is filtered through something translucent and breaks up the light rays. Using a lightbox is an example of diffused light.

The kind of light you’re going for is indirect or diffused.

Direct light = bad

Indirect or diffused light = good

Indirect light can be strengthened in an area by adding white foam boards, pictured below. White foam boards can also bounce light back towards your product, reducing shadowing and evening out the overall lighting in the image.

Above is an example of indirect light.

The light is coming from the sun (natural light), and is being bounced off of the surroundings and more intentionally with the white foam board.

Above is an example of diffused light.

The light (both natural and artificial) is being filtered through the translucent material of the lightbox, breaking down the lightrays and causing them to cascade over the scene with soft, even light.

Now that you know what kinds of light are you can use for your product photos, what lighting is right for you?

Product Photography Quality Checklist

Looking for cheap or free tools for your DIY product photography? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-free-or-cheap-tools-for-awesome-diy-product-photos/

You don’t have to have a fancy-schmancy camera to take great product photos. Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/diy-product-photos-smartphone/

5 Free Or Cheap Background Ideas For Handmade Product Photos

5 Free Or Cheap Background Ideas For Handmade Product Photos

Last week I answered question of “do you really neeeed a white background for handmade product photos?” and the big answer was NOPE. You do not. But, you do need a simple, neutral background.

Those kinds of background don’t have to break the bank either. Here are 5 ideas for cheap or free backgrounds for handmade product photos.

1. A desk or table top

When I bought my desks (I have two), I bought them both with product photography mind. One is a natural wood, and the other is slightly glossy white. Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new desk (that would hardly be cheap or free, amiright?), but take a look around your house. You may very well already have a cool desk or table with a suitable surface for your product photos.

Hardwood floors may also work. Just make sure that the wood you’re using (regardless of its source) isn’t tinted or stained to create colour-affecting undertones. If the wood is reddish, yellowing, greenish, etc that can seriously impact your photo in a negative way.

2. Contact paper affixed to foam board

One of my favourite DIY background hacks! You can buy contact paper (intended to line shelves or drawers) or even wallpaper and stick it to rigid foam board for a great DIY product photography background.

Don’t forget – you’re going for neutral and no busy patterns. Keep it simple! Avoid glossy finishes (they will make glare-free photos virtually impossible), and opt for patterns that could be table tops, like marble, woods, slates, etc.

3. Posterboard for a seamless background

Ever see one of those product photos where it looks like the product is floating in nothingness? Those are seamless backgrounds. You can buy paper roll seamless background for a chunk of change at a camera store, or if your products are smaller, you can grab a piece of posterboard from the dollar store and make your own seamless background.

To do this, take your posterboard and stick one side of it (the short side if it’s rectangular) to a wall and allow it fall straight down the wall, curve toward the floor (or tabletop) to lay flat on the surface. Place your product on it and start shooting!

4. Scrapbook paper

If you have small products like jewelry, scrapbook paper can be a great option. They’re smaller, easy to store, and inexpensive. They come in a wide variety of patterns and are pretty easily replaceable as well.

Same rules apply as with contact paper and wallpaper. Keep it simple, neutral, and avoiding patterns. Seek out marble, woods, slates, and maybe even a linen texture. Experiment! With scrapbook paper you can afford to.

5. Nature backgrounds (slate, moss, a log, etc)

While not suitable for every brand, this may be one of my very favourite  free or cheap backgrounds. I love incorporating nature into product photos. It creates character, interest, and deepens a connection between the product and the shopper.

Seek out things like slabs of slate, bark, logs, stone, and moss for your product backgrounds. This approach is really only suitable for brand that embrace things like eco-friendly lifestyles, rustic vibes, adventure, and wilderness. But for those brands, this can be a super option.

Now that we’ve outlined some great free or cheap backgrounds for handmade product photography, let’s talk about some backgrounds you want to steer clear of.

– Anything cloth. Cloth is extremely wrinkly and nearly impossible to make look smooth, polished, and professional.

– Bright colours. Unless this is a stand-out characteristics of your brand, you’ll want to avoid bright colours. Colourful backgrounds take away from your product, and can distract and  overwhelm shoppers.

– Patterns. As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article thus far, patterns should be avoided. Patterns clutter up your photo, make it look chaotic, and will make shoppers just keep on scrolling. Your product should never have to compete with the background.

And there you have it! Some awesome free or cheap background ideas for your handmade product photos.  Have a question or comment about backgrounds? Drop it in the comments!

Got a question or comment? Drop it below!

90+ Prop Ideas For
Your Styled Photos

Look for cheap or free tools for your DIY product photography? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-free-or-cheap-tools-for-awesome-diy-product-photos/

You don’t have to have a fancy-schmancy camera to take great product photos. Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/diy-product-photos-smartphone/

 

5 Free Or Cheap Tools For Awesome DIY Product Photos

Growing and running a business can be expensive, so finding free or cheap ways to enhance your DIY product photos can be a HUGE savings.

We all need to invest in our business if we want to succeed, it’s inevitable. But it’s also important to invest wisely and save where you can. Product photography can get really expensive, really fast, even if you’re DIYing it. Equipment can come with huge price tags, and often can be complicated to learn.

I’ve put together a shortlist of my favourite free or cheap tools for DIY product photos for handmade sellers. Check ‘em out!

  1. Natural Light

Despite having quite a bit of lighting equipment myself, I always prefer to use natural light whenever possible. Because, if you can get it right, it looks the best.

Natural light tends to render colours quite accurately, and is soft and even (if your setup is right). Set up your shooting space next to a bright window without any direct sunbeams filtering through for that dreamy natural light.

  1. Foam Board

To make the most of that bright window + natural light setup, use white foam boards to contain the light to your shooting area. You can add one or two white foam boards to surround your product (behind it and on the side opposite the window) to majorly brighten up the space and avoid those strong shadows that can occur on the side of your product opposite the window.

You can also use white foam board to block off surroundings to reduce reflections on shiny products, as a background for a flat lay, and to hold a piece of poster board for a seamless background. Hot tip: tape some L brackets (for shelving) to the back of your foam boards so they stand upright and can easily be moved around.

  1. Contact Paper

Yes, that stuff that goes inside of drawers.

Contact paper comes in loads of different colours and patterns, with marble being my favourite. You can affix the contact to a piece of foam board for an attractive background for your products. Make sure you select a pattern that’s neutral and not too busy. It should show off your product, not steal the show. Also be sure to get a matte finish and not glossy. Glossy finishes will create an unsightly glare in your photos.

  1. Stuff Around Your House (Props)

Great news! You don’t have to buy a whole bunch of cute props for your product photos. First of all, you should only be using one or two props for your product listing photos. Any more and you start to draw attention away from your product. Second, I bet your house and/or yard is packed FULL of props you could use for your photos.

Some of my very favourite props are simply plants. I love to grab plant life from outside and bring it inside to add a little colour and life to my photos. A well placed sprig of lavender can go a long way! You may even have some house plants that would be a good fit. Succulents are perfect for product photos!

If plants aren’t your thing or aren’t a good fit for your brand, I’m will to bet there are any number of other things around your home that would be perfect, depending on your products. A cute coffee mug or pen, a piece of ribbon, a nice jewelry dish, and so on can all make great props for your product photos. For more info on where to find props for your product photos, click here.

  1. Smartphone Lux Meter

Quite possibly my favourite free tool – a lux meter app for your smartphone. You can download them for free on your iPhone or Android device and, using the camera sensor, they detect the amount of light in an area (aka lux). For product photography, a reading of 1000 lux or higher is ideal.

My picks for free lux meters are Galactica Lux Meter for iPhone and Lux Meter (Light Meter) for Android. Simply download the free app, open it up, and place the camera of your phone near where your product would be when you’re photographing it. The reading should indicate 1000 lux or higher. If not, add some white foam boards to strengthen the light, take readings in other areas of your home at different times of day, or try moving your lights closer if you’re using studio lighting. Keep experimenting until you get a decent reading.

And that’s it, friends! My top 5 free or cheap tools for DIY product photography. Do you have any to add to the list? If so, drop them in the comments!

Product Photography Quality Checklist

Wondering why you need great product photos for your Etsy store? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/6-reasons-great-product-photos-etsy/

Looking for branding tips for your Instagram? Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-steps-to-a-branded-instagram-account/

Photo Editing Software Options For Handmade Sellers

Photo Editing Software Options For Handmade Sellers

Hey there handmade sellers!

Today’s topic is definitely one of my most FAQ. As we discussed in our previous blog post, it’s not enough to simply snap a photo and upload it to your shop. Editing must be done! But, the idea of editing product photos is super overwhelming to a lot of you, and knowing what program to use is just the first step in figuring it all out. So let’s get started, shall we?

The types of programs we’ll be discussing today are strictly for computers. For photo editing apps for smartphones, check out next week’s blog post.

The Best – Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom

I’m going to just start right off with the bee’s knees. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom (they are two different programs, but you get both when you subscribe to the monthly photography package) are the industry standard when it comes to photo editing. Why? Because they are simply the best.

Photoshop and Lightroom do everything you will need (and more), they are effective, reliable, and there have been a vast amount of tutorials created around them, leaving it pretty easy to find answers to any of your question online. Even better, Photoshop and Lightroom allow you embed a colour profile with your product photo which is a necessity as it ensure your colours are rendered a true to form as possible (to read more about that, check out this post).

Photoshop and Lightroom used to cost a small fortune, leaving them really only accessible to professionals. But these days, Adobe has wised up and found a way to make their programs more accessible for the masses – through a subscription-based service. For $9.99 USD a month, you get both Photoshop and Lightroom, including all updates. For less than it would cost for two grande Starbucks vanilla lattes, that is a downright steal for this high-end, professional program.

Oh, and don’t let the fact that pros use it intimidate you. While these programs have loads of features, as handmade sellers you really only need to know a few. It’s just a matter of knowing what tools those are, and how to use them (just so happens I have a course that covers exactly that – check it out here).

Decent – Affinity

If subscriptions aren’t your thing but you still want a decent program, check out Affinity. Affinity also has a wide array of tools for photo editing, including the ones you need as handmade sellers. And it still allows you embed a colour profile.

Affinity’s design is aesthetically pleasing and looks very similar to Photoshop. The Affinity website has tutorials to get you started, and after that a lot of the Photoshop tutorials will likely translate.

Free – Gimp

I’m going to be straight with you – I don’t love Gimp. But, it’s free and it allows you to embed a colour profile with some complicated trickery.

The reasons I don’t love this program is because of the challenges with embedded a colour profile (you have to find, download, and install the colour profile before it’ll embed it with your images) and because it’s just not user friendly or intuitive. It’s clunky. But again – it’s free. And it does contain the tools you need as a handmade seller to edit your product photos.

There are fewer tutorials available for Gimp, but a lot of the tools do mimic Photoshop’s tools so you might be able to generalize some of the Photoshop tutorials out there.

It’s also imperative to note – there are other programs available out there. Some popular ones are Pixlr and PicMonkey. I don’t recommend these programs. Why? Because they don’t allow you to embed a colour profile. In fact, it strips images of their colour profile.

This is a big deal because, as I discussed in this post, if you don’t have a colour profile embedded in your photo you may find that the colours of your products are wayyy off once you’ve uploaded them to your online shop. Off colours = unhappy customers. Not good.

So, stick to the programs mentioned above and you will be well on your way to beautiful, professional-looking edited photos before you know it!

5 Styles Of Photos For A Dynamic
and Engaging Instgram Profile

Wondering why you need great product photos for your Etsy store? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/6-reasons-great-product-photos-etsy/

Looking for resizing tips for the Photoshop Express app? Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/correct-size-your-etsy-photos-photoshop-app/