Small Object Photography
Photos are one of the main reasons that help a customer decide if they're going to buy your product or pass, and it can be a challenge. It's hard to be a business person and do all the things you need to do to run your business and maker to make something to sell, and now you need to be a photographer so it's skill after skill and challenge after challenge when you want to own your business, but that's a part of it, because this is work, owning your business is a job, and so there are lots of things to learn, but I really wanted us to learn from whom I consider to be the best, and that wasn't me, because if you look at any of my photos, you'll just see a bunch of pictures of my dogs, but I really wanted marlowe, who is amazing at number one, being a teacher, have taken many workshops and classes from her before various conferences throughout my time in the handed community, and I really wanted marlowe to be able to share with us her approach to small object photography, and I wanted us...
to be able to talk about building a light box at home. What do you already have that you can repurpose to help you take better pictures? I know that when you start a business, you have tio make a lot of investments in things like just off the top of my head, this course, but, you know, so often times there's not a lot of extra money for you, too get new brand new equipment, but I don't want that to stop you. I don't want this to be one of the points where you say, well, I can't afford a great camera or a fancy light box or really great lights, so I'm just going toe hold off until I can do this. You don't need to do that with marlo's light box, you could make a light box for under ten dollars, I believe, she said. With items from the dollar store that you have at home, you can buy some nice light bulbs and put them in desk lamps or table lamps that you already have, and she's going to show you how to do that. And if you purchase the course, I think part of the part of what you get when you buy is the shopping list for the light box, the instructions on how to set it up, and tips directly for marlo about how to take better pictures. So I asked her to come onto the course, not only as a student, but as a teacher to work with us and the people in the studio audience to take really great photos and she's going to talk more about why photos are important but he's also going to have time for what she's going to have time for questions so if there's anything that you really want to know about small object photography's start thinking of them now and sending them in and keep in mind that marlow it is not just a photographer so she's learned how to do this particular skill really well enough to share it with us but she is an arts consultant and if you want to learn more about what she does or if you have questions for later you can go to her website creative arts consulting dot com and check out more of what she does so this is just one aspect of her business that she is really, really good at and that's why I've asked her to come and share with us so marlo would you please come on board welcome welcome it's great to have you thanks for doing this I know it was a lot of work not only did you I have to come and be a great student but now you're here teaching with us so thank you so much I appreciate it thank you for having me I'm seriously I'm really loving your costs I'm learning a lot myself I mean I've been in the business a long time but there's always more to learn and more demand proved so where were all teachers and we're all students so it's part of building our community is really learning where weaken learn new things from other people and where we can get other resource is definitely good s o you we were talking earlier about photography and how important it is for an online chop especially and I kind of wanted to know just from you guys here what are some of your biggest hurdles about improving your photography controlling your camera or something like that? It's getting good light good night that's was a real challenge for me I learned to take the pictures outside on overcast day because inside I just can't seem to get rid of the shadows matter what yeah back ready to be my best solution but I'm very excited about all these options you have yeah kristin doesn't this look like things that you probably have been really I wanted to get across the stage and like take it from here and so much more does anybody else have kind of a yeah um I have a really hard time giving true colors colors for instance I have a bracelet has neon pink beads on it and every time I get a picture they're like pale peach things even though the right turquoise color with the rest of you think that will come out yeah definitely yeah the digital cameras you know a cz good as they are even from brand to brand, the color overall color tone can change, so we'll talk a little bit about that to anybody else with any kind of challenge is just too I introduced myself a little bit more marla via shiro and my line marlon jewelry design. I started it in nineteen ninety three as a full time postal business, and I have been represented in over two hundred stores and galleries all over the country, and the way that I got into those stores was mostly doing hostal trade shows and, um, in order to get into those trade shows, I needed a really good set of jury photos and harder to be accepted. Um, of course, being an emerging artists, they didn't have a lot of money, so I needed to teach myself how to take better photos. And that was back in the day before digital cameras were, you know, ancient times when dinosaurs roamed here, um, but slide film was the kind of medium de jour, and I needed tio learn to take better photos because professional photographers up the time we're charging about three or four hundred dollars a roll of film, which was very normal, and you would get maybe five or six photos out of those roles, and so I decide instead of spending money, I would spend time, and I used my light slr camera not slr camera single lens reflex and I taught myself how to take better photos and it took me about a year so but after that year I came up with photos like this so these photos got me into the shows that I wanted to get teo um these were some of the products that I had at the time and this is one of my favorite ones to show when it comes to photos because highly reflective surfaces is one of the most challenging things all you jewelers out there know what I'm talking about um and this was a slide so I had to have everything kind of perfect on there in this little dark area here is the dark room behind me ok so but today digital cameras and a photo editing software definitely makes that a lot easier to deal with and so a lot of the things that were hindering me at the time kind of expanded so fast forward a few years and I started my empty shop I wanted to sell my my personalized rings and I put um my appear great one of my first photos so yeah, you know, I didn't really give my photos a lot of thought and when I put this up on my etc shop a really good friend of mine very nicely said so I think you should work on your photos and I was like wife I mean they're fine it shows the peace it's not out of focus that you know she's like what it doesn't show your personality oh good point okay, so I had to go go back to the drawing board and I took up my a digital camera what kind of a little hundred dollars point and shoot and I had to teach myself all over again how to deal with the camera but luckily didn't take me a year and only took me a month and that was another photo that I put up better definitely better and over the years I practiced and practice and keep practicing and I was able tio bring up just more consistent photos understanding how light works understanding how shadows work and how shadows tell us that things are three dimensional so I say if I can do this so can you because I am you I am an artist I am not a professional photographer and uh the thing that really I think helped me along the way is that I was interested like kerry says I was interested in learning how to improve this so I spend a lot of time thinking about photography and how to improve it and how to help other people do that, so hopefully I'm going to help you with that so the components of a great photo versus clarity focus it's a technical component it's something that you control with your camera the next is lighting is technical again. You control it with the physical surroundings that you have. The next is color so there's part technical because there's part controlling the camera and also it's, a creative site of of your photo taking because it's part of your branding it's part of how you present your pieces to the world backgrounds very important, uh, backgrounds definitely created part it's all about kind of figuring out how you want your customers to perceive your photos in a collection and how those backgrounds all work together on one page and composition really important, and we're probably going to spend some time on the demonstrations are hot on the composition part of it. S o um when you take all of those things together, you know, a lot of times people ask me, okay, my photos really kind of suck um, what kind of camera should I buy? What kind of camera is going to make my photos better? And honestly, it kind of almost doesn't matter a whole lot, especially when you're first starting. Um, I took these three pictures with one with a dslr one with a when what they are camera phones and one with a like your regular appoint shoot kind of a four year old point she camera and you tell me which one is which, okay so it's really more about how you control your camera and the things that you know about your camera and I encourage you if you are thinking about buying a brand new camera and spending a couple thousand dollars challenge yourself oh to push the camera that you have as far as you can go and once you hit the wall and you were still interested in moving beyond that, then you can upgrade it to the next thing. But you can really take great photos using the cameras that you have. Okay, so the camera settings this is what took me a year to figure out because when it comes to members and things like that, I kind of resisted all along the way. S o I am going to teach you how I as a creative visual person remember how tio put these settings together. So the first one aperture stop. Okay, so aperture it refers to be opening in your lands when you click the shutter and the f stop refers to the size and I'm definitely not going to get into the math of that because that is the whole thing. But the thing for us to remember is the lower number is a larger opening so in this example, f two point eight has a very large opening and go all the way to the bottom of the scale and f twenty two it is a very small opening, and what this does is it controls the amount of light that comes into your camera and it also controls your depth of field. Have you heard about depth of field it's kind of that wrong but it's the that the photos where one little piece is nice and focus and the parts in front of it and the parts in back of it are kind of fuzzy and soft that's step the field and your f stop controls that it's a great visual example of depth of field in the top example it's at one point four. So that's a small member and a large opening and the depth of field range is very shallow, so to me I translate that as the lower number it is me, a smaller link, a depth of field range and to the opposite of twenty two higher number gives me a longer depth of range. Okay, this is particularly good if you are taking photos of large objects or a collection of objects or a chain that you want to have all in focus, you can try using a higher f stop for that, and if you want the more moody sort of intimate photos, bring that up, stop down, tio, create that narrow depth of field. Okay, play with that I took these photos when it was beautiful here in seattle, so can you tell me, which has the low depth of field flow f stop and the high end stuff? Yeah, right. Looks like it has a lower number. Absolutely. Okay, so it makes all the difference in the world, especially when you're taking photos of small objects because we want to bring our customers into our photos, almost giving them the feeling that they can reach out into the photo, pick it up and turn it around and take a really good look at it and help them to decide to buy it. Cheddar speed. Ah, this is another component. The things that go together to make a photo, the shutter speed. It refers to the speed in which the opening opens and closes after you press your button and you some cameras will go slower than one second. Um, and you can go all the way up to one one thousands of a second. Okay, and the faster your shutter speed, the less, uh, kind of shaking your capture. So when you are taking your product photos, try to get your camera to have the higher shutter speed, if you can. And the way you do that is to include as much light as you can, and the camera will interpret that. So this is a photo of a pinwheel just to show an example one one thousandth of a second just takes that sliver of a second, and it freezes and emotion and it's as if it was standing still, so and the slower, of course, just takes it all in. Okay, so you're letting more light, more information in at a slower shutter speed, which means some blurring. And lastly, I s o okay film feed uh, filmed way we're talking about the sensor in your camera and the film speed refers to the sensitivity of that sensor to light so the s o it, it changes the sensitivity of that sensor and your camera and the higher numbers for your film speed. You'll notice if you go into your camera menu and you check the esso options, there will be anything from two hundred usually up to a thousand or something like that. For most point, she cameras the higher than member, the faster the faster the film speed and the more the more information. So this is the same lighting the same stopped the same cheddar speed, and all they did was change the so so what enables you to take photos in less light, but at higher film speed, it will take in so much information that if you wanted to say, blow up your photos to make a poster for your craft show booth, it might have some the graininess in it, some kind of noise in the background. So you kind of want to go in the middle. Um, and I'll tell you how I set my camera. These are my favorites. Camera adjustments. Okay, I set my camera. Um, I have a low end canon rebel access. I think it's called on dh. I keep it on aperture priority. If you have a dial on your camera, it will say a gravy and what that does it allows me to set the f stop and control the depth of field on the fly. Everything else I leave on auto. Let the camera figure out the shutter speed because I am putting in as much light as I can. And theis, so it will also kind of use a mid range I s o if I have enough light in the in the field so when you're first starting out and you're just kind of trying out photography for yourself, put it on aperture priority. Just remember the shell, a dip, the field and the long dip the field and play with that first. And if you really enjoy it, you can go to full manual and kind of play with all the three pieces. In order to get your your pieces in focus, you really need to be able to get up really nice and close to get all of that detail into your photos and the way to do that is to have your macro setting set uh for a dslr you actually have to have a separate lens there is a little macro setting on the dial normally I honestly have no idea what that does I've looked it up and and it really doesn't do a lot in order to really see a difference getting a separate macro lens is important, but with it you can get some really dramatic photos and these are the kind of photos that you would use in your lion sheet or in your catalog to sort of show the drama of your pieces oh white balance okay, so color this is all about color um in your cameramen, you you have the different the different settings and what they do is they add either warm tones or cool tones depending on the kind of light that you're under because all light has a different temperature and a different color we can't necessarily see it, but the camera definitely does and that's why sometimes you'll take photos under a fluorescent light and everything looks really blue and you don't know why that's because the fluorescent light has a very blue cast to it, so if you point it you were to have a camera on a tungsten tungsten being the regular incandescent light bulbs. If you were to have that setting on and you were taking under fluorescent light, you would get something very, very blue, right? A natural looking on dh one thing I recommend is to learn how to set a custom white balance in your camera it's in your camera manual because it's different for every single camera out there, and if you don't have a camera manual, then you can look it up on google. It'll help the available for free download, but the custom white balance what you're doing is you're telling your camera that this is what I want you to consider absolutely white, and by using that custom, my balance, your camera will kind of be set on that normal, and that will help you to get true or colors, because you're starting from zero exposure compensation. Ok, this is like the magic thing what it does, is it it, uh, it extends or shortens the timing that just by fractions of fractions of a second of your of your camera opening and closing? But what it does is it allows you, teo capture more light or less light in that photo, and there are different settings for every kind of cameras, so you're going to look for that little plus minus thing and if it's if you don't have buttons on the back your camera then it's in your menus somewhere and you see this little scale guy right there on the right side that's what you're looking for is the little scale with the place plus and minus you go toward the plus side it gets brighter go toward the minus side it gets darker so here's an example uh zero just kind of this is what we get a lot when it comes to our photography and we're like how it is all my things gray or yellow I don't really understand but I went ahead and all I did was bump up the exposure value okay? So it's kind of like instant white s o with everything else even if you're sometimes on you're even if you're on auto setting your camera will allow you to adjust your exposure value so that's where you're at give this a shot because it could instantly right in your photos and really the thing that we're doing is we are trying to get as great a photos as we can within our camera so we don't have to rely on photo editing software you know pretty much all you do is upload it to your side or maybe a little cropping and that's about it that's kind of the ultimate goal composition okay, so the rule of thirds there's there's a rule of third and then there's the fibonacci spiral. Have you heard of that it's? Kind of this other way of looking at a photo, but the rule of thirds is really mohr accessible. I think especially when you're first starting out and a lot of cameras will actually have a grid. That's what this grid is, it divides the plane into basically tic tac toe. And what you want to do is you want to place your areas of interest within the intersecting sections of your grid. Uh, there's that picture again. Eso it's dead center and it is not very interesting because you look at the photo, you get the information you need, you don't have to engage your brain anywhere else. You're done move on. Uh, but if we were to just place the subject just a little off center, just a little cheating kind of diagonal lines were really, really wonderful for photography. Um, so placing your focal point within that intersecting section just creates this tension, this visual attention and it kind of, uh, make sure I kind of travel around the photo to look for more information to the frame. Okay, this is one of the biggest things that I see when I'm just kind of tone around on natsir online looking at people's photos, and I see a lot of this I kind of said this is my photo um it's great you know it's fine it's on a diagonal it's kind of interesting but what if okay lamb low impact just filling the frame bringing your small tiny piece up close and personal to your customer you don't want to leave them guessing you know is not really a point on the end of that I don't really understand just bring it up close at least for one of your photos on da honestly your first photo if you're doing an fc shopper, another online shop the first photo the thumbnail photo should be the one that creates the most impact ok, so you have lots of other photos to explain the other details making impact with that first one backgrounds okay, I'm just gonna leave this here you know we want texture we we kind of crave it you know? We don't necessarily want everything on a white background and they understand that but we also need to be very aware of the details of those backgrounds and so if you're going to place interest, place it in the background make sure that anything that you're not actually selling in the photo is a little in the back falling off the edge of the of the photo you're de emphasizing those things but you're also showing this is a really three dimensional piece ok, so pay attention to those backgrounds camera angle bracelets right way we're talking about this earlier the, uh, bracelet is around small thing we all know that right if you have your your title says chicken bracelet I'm going to know that it's short that it's round it that's around my wrist what I challenge you to do is to get creative about the way that you take your photos in this photo I really wanted to show the translucency of the bees these handmade beads and so I literally got down to eye level with the peace and took these really sort of detail oriented photos you know, since I have in my title turquoise bead bracelet uh they know so give it a shot definitely that experimenting is such an important thing aunt alighting naturally first official like yeah, I really do want to see that class too because I love because, you know, here in the pacific northwest uh we help get a lot of sunshine andi even on an overcast ease its like super dark sometimes especially those few months of the year. But in my opinion, if you know how to control your light one doesn't have to be better than the other. So this is my window at home foam core next to the window and I have a translucent kind of plastic cutting board that I bought specifically to put in a window repurpose uh and I take this phone go hey, I love natural I mean I have nothing against it I think it's awesome but really artificial light so this is very similar to the box that we're going to be using for demonstrations uh one light you know that ok, so yes side by side I was so happy to angle the light so I could get that little glint of that was like this is really the right out of the camera so if you can control your light and if you really pay attention to what is within your view frame um you can emulate being next to a window and you can take this shot at night. Okay? That's that's my goal is to be able to take all of my photos at night because I'm a night out. Okay? So different light box set ups this is kind of your you know, high end professional kind of deal this's a typical set up with your those light box sets um you don't necessarily have to go in that direction right away. I have a set of similar to this with the constant light soft box just one light creating nice white pool of light on my table and uh this is I got mine for like fifty bucks or something like that so it's accessible for the most part but we can definitely go the other tower who has one of these anybody you have one of those it's difficult to take photos in it because you notice the tellis in their product photos that you're supposed to put the light through the sides. You know how dark it is in the middle that's because there's way too much fabric for the strength of the lights that they give you. If you want to keep using this set up, then try bringing the lights to the front and reflect them not on your piece but opposing corners to create sort of this cross light my cube, who has this? Anybody pop up tents, they're everywhere and they're really affordable. But again, the lights that they that they give you often times create this gray sort of area within your your shooting field, so bring them a little a little to the front, angle them up to the corners and to create those cross lights and these pools of intersecting lights, and you'll probably have a much better time putting that together. Oh, I just found this online in my search for affordable light boxes, and this was a kick starter that was successful and it's a led they have led strips in it and you can get it with either one or two lite strips in it, and this is an actual this is I took that photo it's super small, we'll see it in a little bit it's fifty nine dollars for the one that has the two lates in it so I bought it like that but it's a really great if you have really tiny things or if you sure if you're shooting jewelry things like that then it's a really great option and it's super portable dry white light boxes so somebody said that you've made one of these was that yeah did you yeah it's they're everywhere online and I've seen classes like taking hostages where you know, people this guy's like sitting there with a saw like signing the side anything so these light boxes air great as long as you bring in enough light so you know, bringing in the lights from the side but also trying to bring something in from the top if you if you have one of these and you're getting gray photos still bring in just a little bit more like because it really does filter out a lot of the light from your light bulbs uh reflected light is my kind of lighting a choice unless you have very reflective items like glass glassware or things like that that it's a very specific different kind of set up but reflected light is another way to sort of decrease the energy of the light so when you're going through like a piece of tissue paper it slows down the light and it and it takes away some of that energy so it's dimmer right same thing happens when you reflect the lighter bounce it off of the sides of the walls so reflected light for me I can take photos like you saw with just one light um and if I need more light I can bring another the light box that is in the instructions has one area that's translucent that you can experiment with and the reason I did that is to give you a chance to see what works best with your products because everybody's product is different okay and what I love this part right it's kind of like hanging out on pinterest so again clarity beautiful in focus wonderful shop lighting the scale is wonderful and I was asking her if I could use her photos she said yeah but I don't really know what I'm doing ugo color color of your product color of your background color of your branding it makes you want to just reach out and grab some of those macron's and the background show your pieces in their natural setting and you know if you're doing no cars on a desk perfect and lastly composition you know this most of her things were kind of on an angle in sets of three things like that composition is everything in it and it definitely helps us to relate a lot more to the photos so hopefully all of this information will help you be less afraid of the settings on your camera and I encourage you to experiment a lot more with the things that you already have because again you don't have to break the bank in order to take a really great photo all it takes is a little bit of bravery and experimentation to just kind of press those buttons and yeah yukio ok, so let's let's try some of this experimenting and things just you know, we move on I just wanted to say to everybody, you know, talking about experimenting sha're sign said sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm using a digital camera and I could take more pictures since I I'm from the old film days so it's funny to think about you know, with a digital camera you can practice for hours and hours and hours and it doesn't matter it's true I mean really black in the days of regular film you know, hundreds of dollars on these rolls and rolls of film but digital is great I mean the only thing that it cost you is some space on your hard drive really right? Um so yeah, do I have any questions about the things that we went over in the presentation before we get to the cia demonstration part of it but we can start in our studio audience and then go online? Yes gabby how would you incorporate different backgrounds within a light box? It seems like it's always white yeah, yeah, in fact, the things that I'm going to be shooting, you know, a lot of it is on white backgrounds, but with there you can use different kinds of things. Those stacks of papers like the papers you can get with us scrapbooking stores like that they have those little books of paper. I love these things because they have just a slight texture to them, but they're not distracting. So if you wanted to bring in a lot of color into your into your shop, you can say, choose three different colors and kind of alternate them and make sure that your shop is arranged in that way. Um, I also use different kinds of props I've got uh, this is the bull that I took that one photo on which is great. Um there's a dollar store all star fifty star called day so on they have these little sushi platter things. I love this kind of natural wood texture for a lot of things and you can even use this site to hang things or prop things that, um oh, this is one of my favorite finds that at the dollar store it's a little tiny, lazy susan s so if you have something that is very three dimensional piece of pottery, for example, you can put it on here and then you can just kind of turn it just a little bit at a time to get all of the different angles. That's a lot of fun. And when my other favorite things to do besides the dollar store is going to places like idea and looking in there as a section and finding anything that's smooth and reflective. So this is just kind of entertainment, potter and the reflection on this thiss white background is really very cool, and if you do a lot of jewelry, you definitely want to try something like this. Ceramic tiles too. What we do have quite a few questions from this online audience. We go and take some questions, please. Great. Well, we did touch a little bit on reflective objects, so maybe we can just dive in just a little bit deeper to that. So jodi had a question and she says I make buttons and the mylar makes them very shiny. This makes photographing them difficult because there's always a glare. I tend to make one object without the mylar, but that seems so wasteful and it's not useful to the consumer without the mylar. So how can I reduce glare? And we had quite a few people talking about silver and yes, yes, definitely ok, so I know all about glare. I am a metal smith and I love highly polished surfaces s o the way that I found to really work with chinese surfaces is, uh, I'm just going to grab my piece of paper, I have this white card stock, um, and I have my ceramic tile, and if you'll if you'll notice that kind of captures the light, there you are, my kind of captures the light if you take your card stock and you fold it over, you're actually getting the reflection of the paper onto your piece. Ok, so when youre getting that reflection and you're bringing in light, uh oh, I'm going to turn on lights here, okay? If you bring in the light and reflected off of the page, you'll notice that it actually I don't know where you are, a reflection of the of the paper onto your piece is going to cut out that glare. And so those the first pieces of my necklace is that the kaboom necklaces, the white that you saw is actually a reflection of white paper, okay makes all the teams in the world try it out. I thought it works. Um, the other thing to keep in mind is that you don't want tio direct any light directly onto your piece, because that is what causes all the hot spots in the flares definitely never, ever, ever, ever use your flash. Especially with small objects. It's. Just going to wash everything out. You can't control it. Better to bring in light from other sources and control that light.