Sunday, August 25, 2019

Photographing Your Cards

Something not many of you may know about me is that in a former life I was a professional photographer. I mainly photographed people, so I don't claim to be an expert in product photography, but I figured I had some experience to share with you on the subject anyway.

Taking photos of your cards can be deceptively hard, but makes a huge impact on your engagement and profitability in an online market (and lets face it, most of us are at least trying to have some online involvement in our businesses). Whether you're a demonstrator sharing your creations or you're trying to sell your finished cards, good photography will help you achieve your goals.

Let's start simple. The first thing is equipment, what do you need to take good photos? This is where we are so lucky to be in 2019 not 1919. Almost everyone has a smart phone these days, you're probably reading this on one right now! The cameras on modern smart phones are more than good enough to take photos from online viewing, if you do everything else right too. You don't need anything fancier, and you really don't need anything else. For the record, unless other wise stated, all of the photos in this article were taken on my iPhone 8.

The second thing you need to consider is lighting. Again you don't need a fancy lighting set up, a window or even just being outdoors is good enough. You can use desk lights or similar, but they can be difficult to get good results from, and I'll talk a bit more about that later. Natural light is best in most cases though.

Here's a look at lighting with a simple card I made for the Hand Stamped Sentiments challenge. First I just laid the card on my desk. A few things are at play here that make this photo acceptable but "blah". I'm taking it with the card laying flat on the table, which gives the image no dimension, but we are focused on the lighting here. I used primarily desk lamps to light it, which create harsh shadows that can obscure details.

To improve this photo, I turned the desk lights away to point at the ceiling, this softens the light by bouncing it off the light coloured surfaces in my studio. It does dim the light significantly though, so this may not be possible in a large or dark room or if the lights aren't powerful enough.

Instead of using the desk lights, here I opened the window beside the desk I was working on. There's no direct sunlight coming in as this is on the shady side of the house, but as you can see it's a much nicer light still!

But despite solving some of the lighting issues, this composition is still boring. A quick and simple way to add some depth and dimension to the photo is just to stand the card up!

OK, but I'm not really keen on showing everyone my clutter, so lets cover it up with a background, here I just used some foam board to block out the mess.

Much better! There's not a ton of dimension in this particular photo, but it already looks less 'flat' with the background. From here I can move the card around a bit to get different angles depending on the look I want. Generally it's best to keep the card facing square onto the camera so it's not distorted (see the first photo below), but sometimes it's nice to see it from an edge to really show the layers. You will get less distortion by stepping back and zooming in rather than bringing your camera closer to the card as well. Be careful though if you're using a phone or a camera with digital zoom, because you will lose resolution (and therefore clarity) when you do this too much. Picking it up and taking a photo with your hand in it can be a fun way to create scale and interest as well!

OK, so we have the lighting and composition we like figured out. Now lets look at some different backgrounds! For this I went on a walk around my house. Some of these photos are taken indoors near a window and some are taken outdoors in the shade. You can see I used the hardwood floor, cement patio, siding of the house, and even some greenery as a background. I'll use any and all of these depending on the theme of the card, where the light is good that day, and what I feel like doing! You'll also see that different lighting conditions will affect the color tones and how you see the details of the cards. So if you're finding that one location isn't capturing a detail you'd like to see, move around and try a few different things!

If you can't use natural light, you can always purchase or build a light box to use. These are a mini photo studio you can have on your desk to take photos, and are a great tool in your arsenal. Where you can get them or how you can build them is a whole different post, but they are available all over the internet and in photo supply stores.

While you're taking photos, take some detail shots too! These can be great for blog posts where you want to use multiple images to keep people engaged or for colleges on other social media. They can be used to depict steps in your process too, which is a great way to keep people interested in your posts.

Another consideration is your color balance. This can be a difficult concept for many, and is again easiest to explain with photos. Every type of light has a different color cast, and you may need to adjust for this. Phone cameras tend to do it automatically (they they may get it wrong, especially if you card or composition has a lot of one color in it) but you can adjust it with most other cameras, even cheap point and shoots usually have this functionality, so look it up in your manual or Google your camera model and "color balance" to learn how to do it for your particular model. I used a Canon PowerShot SX240 HS to take these. This first batch is taken out doors on an overcast day with different settings...

These where taken on my bathroom counter with no natural light at different settings...

See how different settings can produce different results in different conditions? It's just something to consider if your photos aren't turning out quite right. Automatic is good, but as you can tell, not always perfect and you may have to tweak a little.

Last but not least lets talk about editing. I try to edit as little as possible, getting everything right in the camera not only makes a better quality picture in the end but saves a lot of work! That being said, I always crop and watermark my photos, which is something you can do in many different programs. I use Photoshop, but that's an expensive program with a very steep learning curve, so unless you're already familiar with it I'd say avoid it. There's plenty of free or cheap apps out there where you can do it all right on your phone even. I'll include some recommendations from friends below, I personally use the iPhone apps Canva and Enhance on occasions to edit or watermark images.

OK, enough from me! I polled some of my crafty friends to see if I could glean some tips and tricks from them about taking photos. Here's some of the best ones I got, click on the images to be taken to that person's website to see more of their work.

That's all I've got for today! I hope you learned something and can improve your card photography moving forward. For more tips and tricks, follow my blog, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube! You can also email me if you have any questions, and members of my team also have access to an exclusive Facebook group and training on this and many more topics!

Anytime you spend $65 or more in my online store and use the host code on the right, you will also get the Stamping Around the World tutorial bundle for free! This is a bundle of 12 projects designed by demonstrators around the world, complete with detailed photos, step by step instructions, and supply lists. Here's a sneak peek at this month's bundle...

You can also join my Facebook group "Creating with The Crafty Medic" to be a part of weekly creative challenges complete with prizes!


  1. Wow, this is a great card, but more than that what an awesome lesson in lighting and photography! Thanks for all the research you did!!! Thanks for playing along with us at Hand Stamped Sentiments!

  2. I love this image and you showcased it so well in these colors! Thank you for all of the great photo tips as well! Thank you for joining us at HSS!

  3. I'm going to come back with a cuppa and go through all the fabulous inspiration on how to take photos - your card for HSS is lovely - thanks for sharing!

  4. Very pretty card! Love how you used our color challenge for this great creation. Thank you for playing with us at Hand Stamped Sentiments and hope you can join us again soon.