Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pictures ARE worth 1000 words...and money to boot if you do it right! by StudioDTQ

Hideeho Neighbors and Neighborettes!

Taking pictures of your work and either setting up a shop (say on Artfire) or putting them in an online gallery other selling venue.

First, I’d like to say I’m in NO WAY an expert but that I do ask a lot of questions and would like to put out there my musing on taking pictures of my own work.  Maybe this can help someone who’s struggling with this issue and not know where to ask....

I'd love to recommend a book or two on photography to those of you who have asked.  Trouble is, I’ve not read any yet.  All my experience (yes, I do snap my own pics) is trial and error. I’ve spent many hours playing and I’ve asked countless questions of folks whose camera work I admire.  Read:  I nag anyone whose picture taking skills on their own jewelry are better than mine.  Every forum I belong to has been assaulted one time or another by me for info and intel on snapping pics- I am an equal opportunity offender. ;o)  I’ll bug anybody if I think I can get an answer out of them.  Shrinking wallflower I am NOT!  But you KNEW that, right?

Ok, a few questions (if I get squirrelly on you...smack this page and hopefully it will right itself) and answers to start you off...

Do you want to take pics in sunlight or indoors?  If outdoors, then I’m of very little help to you.  I NEVER got the hang of it.  In all honesty, most pics of outdoor work (on jewelry) I’ve never cared much I concentrated on inside work.  Maybe someone else who has better experience/luck with the outdoors can post here as well and we can all benefit from THEIR experiences...

Do you have a light box set up?  I’ve seen kits for as little as 50 bucks and up.  I’ve even heard them at everyone’s favorite WallyWorld store.  Check all the usual suspects for auction sites and if they don’t kill you on shipping (be really careful and READ everything in the listing before you even think of bidding) and once you’ve read the listing three times and are satisfied, purchase CAREFULLY still, or if that’s not feasible, maybe you can make your own.

I have the fortune of an adoring husband who loves my jewelry, wants me to succeed and who built me a lightbox in my garage because he can “build things cheaper and better than most people can bargain hunt for” (another dubious occupation of mine he comments on).  The space is approximately 2 feet by 2 feet by 6 feet) framed in 2x4’s and a slab of melamine for a table, complete with three 75 watt incandescent bulbs (one attached to the top of the framework, and the other two attached opposite each other), a timer from 10 to 60 minutes (so I don’t burn the house down with my poor memory and this even  a word?) and a dimmer switch so I can control the amount of light/brightness.  A complicated (my opinion)/simple (his opinion) set up for me but may not be possible for others. 

If this isn’t feasible space-wise and/or the logistics doesn’t work for you, a quiet table with two gooseneck desk lamps opposite each other will suffice for plenty of background lighting and one lamp basically kills the shadow created by the other.  A light hanging directly overhead is best to softly frame your piece and since the shadow will be UNDER your jewelry, reduces the need for additional light sources. (Dining room chandeliers are great for this)

PVC pipe to drape the fabric over in white cotton sheeting, different colors of fabric, such as navy, gray or black (bought at my favorite discount store for a buck a yard and each about 3 yards long) diffuses the harshness of your light sources, softens your shadows and creates atmosphere for your photos.  The pipe is ½ inch in diameter glued together like an open cube and should be large enough to set around your jewelry as well as the props with room enough on the table where the lights can fit on either side of the unit.  And FYI, any color you drape can work for you if you think about it for a minute.  Even prints...but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Primarily stick to solids until you’re comfortable with this or you WILL drive yourself crazy.  Prints can fight with your jewelry so unless you feel absolutely wonderful mixing crystals and paisley, keep it simple silly.’ll LOVE this.  I go to my FAV home center/hardware store and buy ceramic, marble, linoleum glue down- ANY kind of tiles I can find that I like the color of and think it would be a good background.  Organics on organics to me works best.  If the store carries them in 16x16, they’re the best for size; if not, 12x12.  Some of them I’ve paid all of 99 cents for.  Others, I’ve paid 5.00, but I only need one tile so again, I feel the cost is affordable.  You don’t have to use tiles.  You can use wrapping paper, fabric, lace, crepe paper, scrapbook sheets, heck faux finish a grocery bag- YOU decide how you want things to look.

Another trick is using props.  Again from my fav discount store, I have an orange juice jar I put necklaces on.  You can use shells, purses, bowls, goblets, books- ANYTHING you think will enhance your photos.  I also use a vase I got for Christmas filled with chocolate truffles.  Clear, tall and great for necklaces.  Earrings can go on glasses, brandy snifters, ashtrays, and flowerpots.  Bracelets work well, IMHO, in candleholders, shallow bowels, and crystal candy dishes.  Some people use rice but I never understood the practice or practicality of it. If the piece has a romantic flavor, try draping lace on the corner of your shot- a faded photo or even an old typewriter. Looking for a southwest feel, try a potted cactus or even a handmade tumbleweed.   In this line of thinking, gimmicks work!  Think of it as scrapbooking for your jewelry.  Just don’t make the mistake of EVEYRTHING being the same color.  Too many times have I seen BEAUTIFUL jewelry overpowered by the background and/or props.  Sometimes less IS more.

Does your camera have imaging software?  Most do, even the cheaper digital models.  I have a Canon PowerShot G2- a gift from a brother-in-law who loves gadgets as much as my hubby does (expensive TOYS I say).  The software is great for close-ups (macro) and lighting options (tungsten, incandescent, flash, etc.) and aperture options (how long an exposure your photo gets which is equal to brightness and saturation).  I have a feature I love with being able to plug my camera into my computer and use the monitor to edit as I go along.  Saves me MUCH aggravation!  Your software takes ALOT of the guesswork out of how well you photograph your jewelry.  Experimentation is the key.  Patience helps, too.  (Too bad I have trouble taking my own advice)

If I’m not sure of how a setting (tungsten e.g.) works with my piece, I take the same shot 4-6 times and use ALL the different settings I can and see which one I like best.  In the beginning, you’ll find you work A LOT on pics and delete most, but once things start falling in line for you (AND they WILL) you’ll start seeing what colors work best with what fabrics, backgrounds, themes, and so on.  Keep a notebook handy and WRITE everything down.  Time of day, fabric color/print, settings on your camera- EVERYTHING.  This way you can reproduce the set up if you find the perfect mix of variables.   My software keeps track of the settings and that helps be a lot- especially since I am a LAZY photographer.

Find all of this a bit confusing?  How about using a friend who is GOOD at photography!  Barter for time.  They get a stunning piece of your jewelry-You get stunning results from their expertise and headaches are averted all the way around.  Have a local college or high school photography program available nearby?  Talk to the director/head of the program.  See if there is a way to help the students with their labs and volunteer your jewelry for their classes as subjects.  It can’t hurt to ask!  Plus, you may find more customers, too!

I hope at least this information is a start for you and I’ve been at least a little helpful. Understand that the original posting this article came from was for jewelry BUT there is no reason you cannot take what you see here and modify it to your own particular medium. :o)

Any more questions...and I’m sure you’ll have more; you know how to find me.  :o)

Warmest Regards,

Heather aka StudioDTQ

1 comment:

  1. A great piece of information, especially for all you wonderful jewelry makers, but hey, I learned somethin' too! Thanks for taking the time to jot down all of your hints - looking forward to hearing more helpful advice from you!