Crafts Photography for the DIYer

You’ve done the work! You’ve researched patterns, purchased your materials, stitched and sewn, and because we’re crafters, the odds are that the fabulous project you just finished is a gift for somebody special. You’re going to want to take some photos of your work for your Project Organizer and add it to your project notes, it’s time for Crafts Photography. Today, learn some easy ways to elevate and organize your photography.

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Two Basic Types of Crafting Photography

The two basic types of crafting photography Flat Lay and Product Photography, serve very different purposes.

Flat Lay

If you are an Instagrammer and enjoy scrolling through project ideas and seeing other crafter’s WIP’s, you are likely familiar with the concept of a flat lay. The idea behind the flat lay is taking a photograph from the artist’s perspective. You’ll find all kinds of great backgrounds that crafters have collected to show their work on. We suggest purchasing at least an inexpensive foam core poster board to practice your flat lays on. We’ve added that to our list of basic photography tools below with additional ideas on how to incorporate this type of photography for personal use. 

Flat Lays are also an excellent way to share your WIPs with other crafters and show your personality. I like to add some of my other hobbies into my flat lays by incorporating some of my house plants or favorite book next to the WIP I am sharing.

Product Photography

Often times, when we think of product photography, we think of white backgrounds with the product-centered and the main focus. However, that has evolved a lot over the past few years, and more people are using basic portrait photography techniques to display their crafts. After all, you’ve spent hours creating something incredibly special. It’s worth taking a few extra minutes to get a great picture. Product Photography is meant to show off certain features of the product, and for the crafter, that can mean capturing the time, commitment, and skill of the craft. For the crafter that can look a number of ways, it could be capturing the smile of someone who received your handmade gift, or it could be a model showing off a handmade garment. For this blog post, we are referring to product photography mostly as anything outside of a flat lay. 

Take a look at this picture below. It’s a fun and artistic way to show off the sleeve detail in this sweater.

Basic Photography Tools for Crafters

You don’t need a big expensive set up to get wonderful professional-looking photos. Most of the time, you simply need your cell phone and a few household items.

Cell Phone Photography

Most cell phones are equipped with fantastic cameras, if you have a newer phone, then you might even have a DSLR quality camera ready at your fingertips. If your cell phone is a few years older, it’s still likely to have a pretty good camera, so it’s a great time to get to know it. Find out what your camera likes, and play with the settings. In fact, most phones have square settings which are great for posting your work on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a great setting for our Friday Night Crafting Circle that we start on our Facebook page every Friday at 8:00 pm. You’re likely to find some other features on your phone like a red-eye remover or even a way to type on your photo to make notes. Take a minute and google some of the photography features on your phone if you aren’t comfortable with mobile photography yet.

Aside from your basic cellphone features, here are two settings to keep in mind when experimenting with your camera settings

Aperture or F-stop- This is how much light you are allowing through the camera. The sizes are indicated by “F-Numbers” which is why it’s called an F-stop. The larger the lens diaphragm, the smaller the number. This allows you to create a narrow “depth of field.” Take the image below, the WIP (work in progress) is in focus, and anything outside of that blurred. This is because we only allowed the camera to focus on a small portion of what it sees.

To create this shallow depth of field, we had to adjust our Aperture, although many times, this is done automatically on your cell phone and shoot up close to our subject. You’re not likely to achieve this technique if you are shooting far away using a cell phone. Experiment with your camera by taking photos in portrait mode if that is an option on your phone to achieve this technique before you look for other setting options. 

Vice-Versa if you are shooting something in which you want to show every detail and sharp images, it’s important to have a smaller aperture or larger F-Stop. 

Here is a great article that further explains how to use Aperture specifically on cell phones. 

Exposure- if the Aperture is how much light is allowed by your lense, the Exposure is how long the light is allowed through your lense. This is especially important if you find that your photos are too dark or appear grainy. When we think of adjusting Exposure for photography, we tend to think about capturing light. For instance, a steady camera, the right settings, and fireworks can make some beautiful photos, but small adjustments to the camera’s Exposure setting can bring out the details, color saturation and vibrancy in your work. If you have a newer cell phone, this setting is probably one of the first that you are prompted to adjust in your settings. If your cell phone is a little older, you may have to do some digging, but you should still be able to find it. Take a look at the image below. There are some shadows, and we will talk about how to filter light later, but because of the Exposure everything that is lit shows good detail and is bright without being over or underexposed. 

Craft Photography Must Haves

Foam Core Poster Board

Poster Board is an underrated photography tool. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used for everything, from bouncing light to diffusing light and, most importantly, for a clean background. It’s important to spend the extra few dollars to get the Foam Core Poster Board. Foam Core is lightweight but is sturdy enough to be placed where you want it, and it won’t move. Droopy Poster Board doesn’t work unless you are trying to photograph a slope (where you can’t see a horizon line). By far, I use the Foam Core Poster Board the most to achieve clean backgrounds, especially when filming tutorials. When designing, I use Poster Board backdrops when I want to document a technique. If I want to replicate later, I’ll take a picture or a video of it then write down the pattern instructions on the image for reference later. The clean background allows me to see the details better without visual distractions.

Foam Core Poster Board is also great for reflecting light onto the subject that doesn’t have enough light or if there is too much light you can use it to interrupt the light source. This is called bouncing the light. It reminds me of taking a shiny surface and moving it around so rainbows appear on the walls. In photography, we use it to get the light exactly where we want it to go. It’s great for smoothing out shadows or adding a little extra light in some places.

White Sheet and Tape. 

It’s always better to use natural light to take photographs. Most professional photographers like to take photos on cloudy or overcast days and during what we call “The Magic Hour” or 30 minutes after sunrise and before sunset. During the Magic Hour, there are fewer shadows and the light isn’t as intense as during the day. Does that mean you should only take photos during the magic hour? Of course not! So why the plain white sheet? One of my favorite ways to diffuse the bright light that filters through my windows and casts harsh shadows on whatever I am trying to take pictures of is by taping a plain white sheet on the window and placing whatever I am shooting in the diffused light. It allows the light I need to take stunning photos without harsh shadows and squinty eyes.

How to Take Great Photos of your Craft

So you gathered your supplies, understand your camera and are ready to take a great picture here are three Checks you should do before you snap your pic.

Check your Settings

Before you set up your subject, especially if you are getting help from a model, make sure your camera settings are exactly or close to where you want it. Take a couple of test snaps so you can check your light and your background (see below) before you take the time to set up your subject.

Check Your Subject

Does your subject or, in our case, our project look the way you want it to? If it’s a flat lay, does the shape lay nicely on your surface? Is it straight, and are all the ends tucked in? Does it look exactly the way you want it to look? The details make the difference, so pay attention to those every time you make adjustments to your shot. I can’t tell you how many times potentially wonderful pictures I have regretfully deleted because of small things that I wasn’t paying attention to while shooting. 

Are you shooting a garment or a finished project on a person or a surface like a couch? If so then you’ll want to go through a similar checklist. Is it laying the way you want it to? Are any ends showing? Is there anything curling, or are collars flipped?

Check Your Background

Have you ever seen photos shared on social media with something funny or unusual going on in the background? Usually, they are great for a laugh and all in good fun, but what’s not fun is when that is your only picture. I always ask myself what is my background when I am placing a subject for a shot then check it often. As much as the subject is what we want our picture to be about, a cluttered background can easily distract from your work. When I am shooting, I am usually less looking at my subject and more so looking at the background because I have already checked my subject and know what’s there, whereas the background can be ever-changing. This is also why flat lays are wonderful when working on a project. I will often set up a Flat Lay before I begin a project and leave it out. That way, when I return to it I know the background will basically be the same every time I snap a picture. 

These checks may seem a lot of work at first but they are crucial to great photography. With time and experience, they will become easier and quicker to do.

Stay Tuned

We hope you enjoyed our quick tips for professional looking crafting photography. Make sure to stay tuned we have some More Free Patterns and a very special Yarn Review coming soon. 

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Happy Crafting!