Are you a blogger, a crafter or just a Pinterest junkie? Here’s a couple quick and cheap tips to take gorgeous photos using only basic supplies from the crayon aisle at Walmart.
Like they say, a great photo is worth a thousand clicks on Pinterest! (They say that, don’t they?) But did you know that taking really good, really pretty photos is something that anyone can do? All you need is natural light, a decent camera and a clean background.
I used a point and shoot camera for this tutorial and kept my hands off Photoshop (except for cropping and adding text). You could probably mimic my setup with a decent camera phone or whatever camera you’re using to take pictures of the kids.
Let’s set the scene. You have a small crafty object you want to put online for your blog or Pinterest. My advice will work with small or medium sized projects–things under 18 inches or so. I’m going to use a seed planter that my kid picked up at Walmart and we’ve used in a post about spring. Here’s my attempt to take a photo of the planter where it normally sits on my kitchen window:
Wow, that’s a horrible photo. It’s so bad I didn’t even watermark it. Ewww! First, the background is hideous. The window is fogged up and dusty, there’s weird clutter on the sink and the backyard is more distracting than a hippo on a unicycle. Second, the lighting is bad–never shoot your subject against a window, the backlighting will make it look too dark. Don’t use a photo like this!
Now lets move the planter to a different counter:
The backlighting issue is solved, and we have some nice morning light eliminating the need for a flash. Natural light is your friend–use it instead of a flash whenever you can! However, the background still stinks. Don’t use this photo either!!
Let’s see if there’s a better spot in the kitchen for this photo:
I’ve moved the planter next to the refrigerator. This shot could work in a pinch, but the refrigerator is shiny–you can see a reflection from the window in it. By taping a piece of blue cardstock to the refrigerator I eliminated the glare and added a bold contrasting color. Natural light does the heavy lifting in this photo–if you start with good light you really don’t need to adjust anything with a photo editor.
I’m going to do ONE MORE tweak, for the best Pinterest photo you can manage on a Walmart budget:
This photo is the best I can do without grabbing studio lights. As if I had any. Now there’s less reflection on the planter and I can put the camera right at eye level without having to lean over my stove. I have a huge clean background for text–something you really want for attention grabbing Pinterest photos. It still uses no flash, only available lighting. Where is my studio?
Ta da! My Pinterest “studio” is a science fair display board sitting on a table in my craft room. This is a basement room, so the lighting is from windows and fluorescent tubes. Thankfully, I have a walkout basement so this room has three windows. I clipped a piece of red poster board to the back of the display and a put a piece of white poster board on the table. I have several primary colors that I can swap around to suit my mood, the holiday or a project. There’s a yardstick on top of the display board for dangling objects like paper leaves or Christmas ornaments. During one photo shoot I crumpled up tissue paper and used that as a backdrop instead.
The sides of the science fair display board reflects light back into the photo. I leave them white to help bounce the available light.
This backdrop cost about $5. The display board was under $3 and the extra sheets of poster board are about 50 cents each. They’re easily replaceable, so if you get them smudged or ripped it’s no big deal to replace them. I’ve taped things to the boards and splattered paint on them. Sometimes I rush to take photos and get wet glue on them. No big deal, I just pick up a couple more next time I’m at the store!
I keep my backdrop sitting out, but you can easily fold the display board up with the poster board inside and stash it in a closet. Or move it from room to room. For example, you could put this backdrop on a kitchen table to photograph a recipe post or move it to the backyard to record stages of a messy project.
This backdrop works best during the day when I have natural light helping out. After I lose the morning light I need to add a little flash or tweak the light levels in my editing software. If you want to get really fancy, here’s a simple way to make a cardboard light box with one lamp from Nineth and Bird.
Bonus tip: If you want to use my technique but have a SINGLE color for the background, just clip your poster board to the table and bend it up to the back of the display.