Hi, sweet friends! I realize that a photography post is a little different than what I typically share here on Just a Girl and Her Blog, so bear with me today. 🙂
I posted a photo of my process for photographing printables both in the Building a Framework Facebook group and on Instagram last week and received a lot of questions, so I thought I would take the time to explain the process I use to photograph printables in case it would be helpful for other bloggers, Etsy shop owners, or just anyone who is frustrated with photography!
(And if you’re not a blogger or photographer, I think it’s fun to see “behind the scenes” a little bit sometimes, so I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek too!)
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
If you are in that last “frustrated with photography” group, I totally hear you! I am not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination.
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I had never even picked up a DSLR camera before I started blogging. It certainly has been a learning process over the past few years, and though I still have many improvements that I’d like to make, I’ve come a long way from some of my first printable photos, which looked like this:
Yikes. While photography in general can be a challenge, I’ve found that photographing printables is especially tough. It’s hard to get the words to look clear, the colors vibrant, and the photo bright without being blown out. But after lots and lots of trial and error, I’ve come up with a system that works for me, and my printable photos now look like this:
To explain my process, it would probably be helpful to show you the photo that started all of the questions in the first place. This is the setup I use to photograph printables:
Kind of crazy that it takes all of that to photograph a simple piece of paper, right?! Eeek! So here’s what you’re seeing…
1. Find the spot in the house that gets the best light.
This might take some trial and error. After trying to photograph in just about every place in our house, I’ve found that I get the best light in my office at desk height. The only window in this room is to the left of the photograph, and I don’t use artificial lights at all.
For me, the best days to photograph printables seem to be ones where there is sun, but there are also clouds so the sun is less harsh. I have lightweight white curtains in my office on purpose so that if the light is too harsh, I can close the curtains to diffuse the harshness a bit while still letting in enough light.
2. Gather your equipment.
You will need:
- Camera with the cable- I currently use a Canon 6D and love it. The cable I use is the one that comes with the camera and is the same one I use to transfer photos from the camera to my computer.
- Lens- My favorite lens at the moment is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.
- Tripod- I have this tripod by Manfrotto.
- Computer- Mine is a MacBook Pro.
- Desk and/or cart if necessary- I have this desktop with these legs and this cart, all from IKEA.
- Backgrounds and accessories- I typically use wrapping paper as the background when I’m photographing printables because it comes in all different colors and patterns, is inexpensive, and it’s easy to store. I also have this faux wood photo backdrop and love it. As far as accessories go, I use mostly office supplies, and Target is my go-to source for finding cute supplies!
3. Set up your shot.
I arrange my printable and accessories on the desk, then put my camera on the tripod and position it over top of the subject so that the lens is pointing straight down. I then tether the camera to my computer so that I can change the settings and take the actual photograph from the computer. This saves me from trying to climb up and down to adjust things from the camera itself, and it also ensures that I don’t move the camera at all while I’m pressing the button (because I press the button on the computer), which would result in a blurry shot.
Tethering sounds complicated, but it is actually really simple. I just use the cord that came with the camera (the same one you would use to transfer photos), and plug it in to the camera and to my computer. Then I turn on the camera and open up the Canon EOS Utility, the software that came with my camera. (I have never used a Nikon, but I assume they have something similar.)
On my computer I go to Applications > Canon Utilities > EOS Utility > EU3 > EOS Utility 3.
From there, this screen opens and I select “Remote shooting.”
That will open up the settings pane, which looks like this:
Here I can change the f-stop, ISO, shutter speed, and other settings on my camera. I can also take the actual photograph by clicking the round button at the top of the pane. If I want to see what all is in the shot without having to look through the camera’s viewfinder, I can click the “Live View shoot” button near the bottom of the panel.
Another advantage of tethering and taking the photograph from the computer is that I can see a nice, big preview of my shot, rather than just the small one on the back of the camera. This allows me to catch details that I may have missed otherwise. To do this, I click the “Other Functions…” button at the bottom of the pane and choose “Quick Preview.”
Then after I take my shot, the preview pops up on my screen:
Before I was tethering my camera to the computer, I would take a round of photos, then have to upload them to the computer to look at them clearly. If I realized that something was out of place or they weren’t crisp enough, I would have to go re-shoot the whole thing. Now that I can see the large photo right away, I can make my tweaks after each shot, and I know I’m getting the exact photos I want.
4. Adjust your camera settings.
In the past year or so I’ve started taking almost all of my interior photos at a low ISO + long shutter speed using a tripod. This combination ensures that the photos will be really crisp and clear while still being nice and bright.
For photos of printables, I keep my ISO at 100, put my f-stop around 9 or 10 so the whole printable is in focus, and then adjust the shutter speed to get the brightness I want. On the day I took the screenshots above, it was pretty bright out, so I only needed a shutter speed of 0″5 to make the photo bright enough.
On darker days, my shutter speed can be much longer. I’ve even gone up to 10 to 15 second shutter speeds to get bright photos in certain areas of my house! The tripod and tethering makes this possible because you don’t have to worry about bumping or moving the camera and getting a blurry shot.
5. Make your edits.
I edit almost all of my photos in Photoshop, and I thought a quick video might be the easiest way to demonstrate my editing process rather than trying to take screenshots of everything, so you can watch below.
Easy enough, right?! Learning the basics of Photoshop really has helped improve my photos a lot, and you can get access to Photoshop and Lightroom through Adobe Creative Cloud for only $10 a month, so it’s not very expensive.
As I mentioned in the video, I use the actions that Rachel talks about in this post over at Maison de Pax. It really is worth going through her whole photography series. She is AWESOME!
So that’s my process! Kind of hard to believe it takes all of that to photograph one little printable, but now that I have my system down, it really doesn’t take much time at all. This process has saved me tons of time and frustration, and I’m more inclined to make printables because I know I’ll be able to get great shots of them!
I hope this post was somewhat helpful. I know that photography is hard, and it is more of an “art” than a “science,” so practicing and trying different things has helped me learn a ton and get better a little bit at a time.
Do you have any tips to add for photographing printables? Leave them in the comments so that we can all help each other! Have a wonderful day, friends!
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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.