Monday, March 15, 2010

Make-It Mondays: DIY Photo Studio

From Buenahelena!

At our last Rochester NY Street Team meeting many of us confessed that photographing items causes the most frustration, in terms of posting new work in our Etsy shops. There are a ton of posts on the Etsy blog and forums with tips on making great photographs. One tip they ALWAYS mention is to use natural light. The only problem is that we're in natural light is not at our beck and call. Here is a solution that I have come up with so I can take photo's whenever I need them and still get great contrast, fine details and that floating quality Etsy likes to see on the front page.

My studio space is in a basement, so I don't get much light, besides the fluorescent stuff hanging from the ceiling.

I use bright white foam core that I have scored down the middle. This way I can fold it flat for storage and open it up for a solid base and backdrop. White also tends to reflect light when you don't have much to start with. If you have large work to photograph you may want to hinge together two separate pieces of foam core.

I also invested in an Ottlite lamp. They can range anywhere from $45-$145 depending on their size. Ottlites give off the closest light to natural light. Not only are they great for photographing items indoors, but they also save your eyes if you make extremely fine crafts like beading or weaving. They also show off an item's true color, unlike other bulbs that give off blue or yellow casts. Joann Fabrics sells them and often has great sales and coupons. Mine was originally $120, but with a 50% off coupon and teacher discount I got it for about $50.

When you photograph an item keep as still as possible. Use a tripod or steady your elbows on a table. I sometimes use an old egg cup with a flat bottom for close ups of small items. On most digital cameras holding down the button halfway will make a focus box appear on screen. Hold that box over the item you want to photograph and shoot. For close ups of small items I always use the Macro function, which looks like a flower. The symbol is the same on nearly all digital cameras.

This alone can greatly improve your photos. If you have Adobe PhotoShop take the extra step to crop you items into 5"x5" squares. Go to Adjust> Contrast and bump it up a couple notches to make the background a crisp, bright white. Adjusting the color, adding filters and other fancy tools will slowly break down the resolution of the photo, so less is more. If you don't have Photoshop, go here for a free trial.

Hope this helps RNESTers!


  1. Thanks so much for these tips Carol! I can't wait to try a few!

  2. great article Carol! Thanks for breaking it down into such easy steps! Karen

  3. Photos stress me out more than anything when I'm creating a listing, I think these tips will definitely help...thanks!