I often get asked how I photograph my scrapbook layouts and papercraft projects. Today, I thought I would share a behind the scenes look at my process. Pardon some of the bad photos in this article. I used my tablet camera for many of these photos so you could get a real look at my set up. My good camera is taking a turn at being photographed in several of the shots.
How I Take Photos of Scrapbook Layouts
All of my photos are taken next to my sliding glass door (and our portable air conditioner) in order to capture the best light possible. I have natural light coming through the doorway and I can open the door if I need to.I experimented to find which times of day produced the best possible lighting. In the spring and summer months, this means around 10 am-11am. In the fall and winter, I take my photos between 2pm and 4 pm. To find the best lighting for your space, take photos throughout the day at about 1-2 hour intervals and look at the results. You want photos that aren’t washed out by harsh light, that don’t have shadows, and that aren’t too dark.
When I am taking a photo straight on, as with a layout or if I am photographing a scrapbook supplies, I place my project on a piece of foam board. I have both white and black foam board. Some design teams, web sites or magazines may have a background preference. The tripod is placed over the project. I attach my camera and move it to a 90 degree angle, so that it takes the photo as though it is looking directly at the project. When photographing Project Life layouts, I remove the cards from the pockets and place them on top of the page protector to reduce glare.
I take multiple photos of each scrapbook layout( at least 6-10 shots). Even a cloud going past the sun will change the lighting just a tad. Once I have my photos, I import them to my PC and use Photoshop to crop the pictures as needed. I then touch the photos up with Totally Rad Labs ( I am an affiliate because I love Rad Labs!). I purchased a tripod accessory bundle at Amazon for around $40. It contained my tall tri-pod, a gorilla pod and a monopod. Both the tripod and gorilla pod are available separately, however, the package deal shaves off a few dollars. Compare the package prices for bundles for your camera before buying the tripods separately.
How I Take Photos of Craft Projects
When photographing craft projects, I use a light box kit. The kit folds up into a bag for easy storage and portability. I researched making my own lightbox,however, when I priced lighting individually, I found it was cheaper to buy the kit. The light box kit comes with the lights and some backdrops. There is a small project size tripod in the kit, however, I have found I prefer using the Gorilla pod. It’s easier to adjust the height and angle of my shots with it.
I don’t always use my lightbox in the manner for which it was intended to be set up. On the left, you can see that I erected it in such as way as to allow the natural light from the window to flow over the top of the project. Here,the light box is being used mainly for the white background it provides. There are a lot of different way to configure a lightbox to capture the photo you need. In some cases( especially when working with reflective/shiny objects) you will need to play around with the way the box is set up and which props,backdrops and lighting you use.
I choose the background for project shots based on which background makes the project pop out more. Think about how your photo subject will look in contrast with each of the background colors. In most cases, I end up using white. It makes the project sort of glow. I set up the light box right next to the sliding glass door to take advantage of the natural light. I rarely use the lights that came with the kit. I wanted the lights for days in which I didn’t have enough sun. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough plugs in my creative space. We live in an older home and it’s a challenge to run cords for all the lights from the two plugs available in the room. I do use the lighting near my desk for recording videos and taking photos during tutorials. My desk is in a closet and I have no natural light so the extra lights come in handy there. Long story short, consider where you will be setting up your light box kit for photos and what lighting options you have available.
I edit the project photos in Photoshop. In some cases, the seams from the pop up light box show in the picture. I try my best to play with angles and keep the seams out of the shot altogether, but sometimes, it just isn’t possible. I use the band aid tool to remove them or I crop them out. You can see an example of a project photographed in the light tent here. It will take practice to learn how to work with your light tent and props. In the beginning, I struggled with keeping wrinkles out of the backdrops (like in this project) and with lighting in regard to how the project was placed. Over time, I began to work better with the props and the natural light in the room. It’s all a matter of practice.
How I Get my Props and Backdrops
I don’t have a large budget. I acquired my props and photography gear over a few months time. I kept my budget to $5-10 a month. Don’t feel as though you need to buy all of the gear and accessories right away. Many of the props were bought on clearance. Keep your eye out for sales, but also, try to keep your branding in mind when you choose props and accessories. Don’t just buy something to be a prop. Have an idea for how you will use it in mind. Try to keep everything coordinated.
I wanted a vintage fresh, science themed set of props to go along with my website. After Christmas, I bought some glittery leaves and plates to use in my project photos. I will caution you that some shiny items may cause lighting issues in your photos. Keep that in mind when choosing props.
Place mats are ideal for additional backgrounds. I picked up a few on sale for a $1-2 each. You can clip them up to form a background( though that may interfere with lighting in the box). Or use them under products for a variation from the plain backgrounds available.
Small containers, plates, and themed items are also useful to collect. I have used plates and containers to hold supplies when taking kit photos. Most of the plates and containers were purchased after New Year’s while they were on sale. The plates came in a collection. I used spray paint to vary the color of the plates.
I also have a collection of vintage items such as bingo cards, old glass bottles and cameras that I can use in product photos.
In some instances, I have stacked bowls and plates to elevate items for a photo shoot. In this picture, I turned one plate over to rest the canon camera, then stacked additional plates and bowls to raise the level of the two instant cameras in the back rows. Notice how I am using one of the place mats pictured above. I took this photo with my tablet to showcase some of my cameras for an Instagram post. I do get better and more clear shots when using my Canon camera.
I am still learning about project photography. I search Pinterest for inspiration. Try searches for mood boards when you need inspiration for kit/supply photos. Pay attention to how they place items and use color. Search for product/packaging photos for inspiration in project photography. Pay attention to how the items in the photo are placed. Look at angles and lighting. I know we aim to photograph paper craft projects. However, even a photo of a bottle can give us clues as to how to arrange our projects to capture good light.
As with anything, project photography is a journey. The only way to improve is to practice photographing scrapbook layouts and craft projects. It’s also a good idea to become more familiar with your camera and your surroundings.
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Note: I included a link to a tripod kit below. You may need to look around amazon to find the kit for your camera. Tripod kits are also available for cell phones.
There is a HUGE myth that you need a DSLR camera to create great project photos for your blog or publication. I have used my Canon Powershot Point and Shoot camera for years and my projects have been published in magazines and for product brochures. I wrote about it in this article.
I have gathered inspiration for product photography into a Pinterest Board. I like to examine how products are placed, how color is used and the types of backdrops used.You can make many backdrops on a budget. I have even used a foam core board as the base for my DIY backdrops.
Follow My Scrapbook Evolution ‘s board Photography-products on Pinterest.