Quality Product Photography Really Isn't That Hard

Do you think you have to buy styled stock photos to make your products look good? I'm here to tell you, you don't.

For a very long time I was intimidated by product photography and was convinced I couldn't get good results with my old camera and the random doodads around the house. This post is proof that it CAN be done!

Months ago I bought a set of napkins from Minted's home decor line of table linens of my pattern Dotty Chevron in the color "gulf coast." I was curious about the quality and I wanted a set. I even had a product shoot all planned out in my head to promote them.

By "all planned out" I mean I knew I wanted to use the mismatched English china that I collected while we lived in the UK and some gold cutlery that I got on super clearance from Sur la Table. Well, summer came and went and I still hadn't done anything. Last week, I finally decided it was time. After an hour of gathering my supplies and arranging everything just so, I went to turn on my camera and the batteries were dead.

#$%^&@!

After a minor tantrum, I decided to see what I could achieve using my little old iPhone 5. With a little editing in Instagram ... the photos turned out so much better than I ever thought they would!



Pretty, right?

I am a big fan of "behind the scenes" pictures, especially styled product photos so let me give you a little breakdown of the steps I took to get this final image and show you how not intimidating taking these photos really is.

See? My rather unremarkable set-up of the dresser top on on a window seat, counter cleaner and paper towel to remove dust, a desk chair to stand on, cold coffee posing as tea, extra cups and plates, ugly dead grass outside window, and pile of bed pillows on old chair. Normally, my camera and tripod would be here too but I didn't use them for this one.



































PLEASE NOTE: I am not a photographer. I am not trained in any of this stuff. I just know what I think looks good, what works for me and went with that.

1. Light: Decide what kind of light you want. It was an overcast but not dark day outside which is good for diffused natural light. I didn't use any other light sources. I probably should have propped up some white poster board on my chair to bounce light back into the scene from the bottom. It may have avoided that dark shadowing at the bottom of everything -- oh well!

2. Location: Set up near a North facing window. A photographer I talked to at the Maker's Summit last year told me Northern windows have the best and most consistent indirect light. Using that trick has worked for me so far.

If you have a camera, use a tripod! The tripod is going to be your best friend and keep you from constantly having to adjust your focus and position and give you a consistent frame to work within. I'd also recommend a remote trigger because if you drink too much coffee like me, it can be hard to push the shutter button without moving the camera. You can also try the technique of "push and hold," where you hold down the shutter button for a half second after pushing it to help eliminate any jerking motion that can move the camera.

3. Background: Use a backdrop that gives you the "feel" you want your photo to convey. I used a marble top from an antique dresser of ours (so heavy!) and moved it to the window where I wanted to shoot. Marble makes me think of high-end, clean, kitchens, which is a good backdrop for napkins and tea, no? Plus it reminded me of this humorous post.


4. Product: Think about the product you're photographing. How is it used? What are the characteristics a person using it would be looking for? In the case of these napkins, the pattern is most important with the function and feel second. I made sure to arrange them in a way that shows their potential use and the "feel" the fabric. Having three folded with some cutlery on them gives a sense of how they'll look at a set table while the unfolded one draped across the serving tray gives a sense of the fabric's texture and unfolded size.

5. Accessories: Set the scene with your accessories. Where would you find this product in real life? Gather items that have a variety of textures. A mix of matte, shiny*, metal, wood, stone, and fabric feel visually interesting and realistic. Since I had this lovely gold cutlery, I wanted to tie in more gold so I grabbed china pieces with metallic gold rims, floral elements and in soft, spring colors. I also pulled out two flower shaped brass candlesticks that I'd nabbed from a thrift store last year. In hindsight the candlesticks are not practical with this scene and could be eliminated altogether or replaced with something else more fitting, like a pretty tea tin, tea bags or sugar and cream servers.

*If you use shiny and reflective props, check that your reflection isn't distracting or obvious and for the love of Pete, wear clothes!

I realized, after posting this first photo on Instagram, that it was missing a key component. If you are photographing food related items, for heaven's sake, use food or drink in the photo. How stupid does it look to have tea cups with no tea? Also,  I didn't love this composition so I switched to a horizontal instead of the square and incorporated more items and a buttered English muffin for good measure.

6. Composition: First arrange your main product in an interesting way and NOT dead-center (unless that's the look you want). Then sprinkle in your accessory items. I stood on a chair and looked down on the layout so see how items were overlapping and where the visual weight was. Rearrange your items until you get a composition that you like. Use your camera (or in my case, phone) and take some test photos. Look at them in the frame, is your arrangement too centered? Is there a visual path for your eye to travel through the entire image with an emphasis on the main product you are trying to showcase? Are there any weird empty spots or edges where an object is not partially out of the frame or just barely touching? (See how there is an object going off each edge of this photo?) Move stuff around until you get a composition that is visually balanced but not too symmetric.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the adding of things and clutter up your composition so once you've got everything the way you like it, take the Coco Chanel approach to accessories, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” and remove one accessory item before settling on a final composition.

7. Take Lots of Shots: More than you think you'll need. I always take a ton of photos, rearrange stuff and take a ton more. Make sure you zoom in on your photos now and then to check your camera's focus is on target. There is nothing worse that taking a gazillion photos and when you go to process them you realize they're out of focus or focused on the wrong thing.

When using a real camera (not a phone) play with the F-Stop and white balance and how much light you are allowing in for each photo. If you can get your lighting spot on while you take the photos you'll eliminate a lot of post-processing time. Keep in mind that your camera settings will need to change as the natural light in your space changes.

When using your phone, tap different areas of the image to see how that affects the overall lighting until you get a look that you want.

8. Edit: Get those photos off your camera and onto your computer and look at them at the size you want them to be viewed. Is your image framed the way you want? Are there any weird little blemishes you can edit out? How's the overall color of the photo? I felt my image was a little dark and cold so I lightened it using Instagram's brightness and warmth filters. A light touch is best when editing your photos this way because it's easy to change the colors of your product and then it's no longer representational of the real thing, which is obviously super bad for product photography.

While this may still seem super overwhelming, it's really a trial and error process and once you get past the "I can't possibly do this" phase into the "wow, I actually made this look good" phase you'll start to see how easy it is to take your own high-quality product photos without a lot of fancy gear and equipment.

Now get out there and give it a shot! If I can do it, I promise you can too.

That's One Cool Kid - birth announcements round-up

It's finally beginning to feel like spring! I don't know about you, but I have a TON of pregnant friends, most of whom are due with Spring babies. You know what that means? Announcing the big news to friends and families once the tiny bundles of joy arrive.

Here's a little round-up of my favorite baby announcements for new moms and dads to-be:

Pretty gold hearts and delicate calligraphy make this Welcome Bliss announcement elegant and sweet.


 I LOVE this print by Vera Bradley and now it's available on the Blooming Baby announcement!


For the type lover this Cutely Curved announcement helps your little one shine.


Check out this super cute, nursery rhyme inspired announcement From the Nursery -- I cannot get over that sweet little cow!


A delicate and classic mix of modern fonts and sweet bow perfect for a Little Lady.


Cool Kid has an infographic vibe for a modern and colorful take on the birth announcement.

Your photo is the focus with this simple and modern text based announcement.

Delicate blossoms and elegant type make your photo the center of attention of this Charming Floral design.

Bring a little nature to your message with a Cute Red Fox alongside your cute new baby.

Now at Zazzle: Folded Holiday Photo Cards

For you early birds out there, use the discount code CARDSNPOST13 before midnight October 30th to get 50% off your holiday cards and 10% off custom postage stamps.

I've been in the Christmas spirit for at least a third of the year so far which, while awkward for my spouse, is great news for you! Not only do I have a holiday card collection available at Minted I also have a brand new collection available in the 2birdstone Zazzle shop.


























I love animals and old school sneakers.

I have always loved animals. Over my lifetime I've lived with and loved 5 cats, 8 dogs, 1 pony, 8 horses and one little brother. To say I am an animal person is an understatement. If I'm at another person's home for a social event and there is a pet running around, I'll spend more time talking to it than the people. So a few years ago, when I discovered the work of Sharon Montrose, I was beyond excited.

She is a brilliant photographer. Her studio shots are so clean and airy feeling with a fantastic use of white space that offsets the intimate portrait of her subjects. While the execution could feel cold and scientific she chooses the shots that give a sense individual life to every animal. Not to mention the sheer detail of their textures; the rough bristles of a coat, the shiny wetness of an eye, the strength and hardness of a shell, it's like feeling with your eyes. Check out The Animal Print Shop for yourself and I dare you not to fall in love.




I also love old school sneakers. (Now, just bear with me here.) The first pair of new "school shoes" that I can remember picking out were black, low top Vans with the white side stripe. Imagine my surprise when I get an email for The Everygirl's weekly feature and the first photo is Sharon Montrose wearing a pair of slip-on Vans in black and grey check. I mean, come on! Awesome animal photos AND old school sneakers?! She is now my photography hero.


Vans Old Skool™ Core Classics

Castle Howard, England

We visited Castle Howard this summer with my in-laws. It's an absolutely amazing Baroque mansion in Yorkshire. Here are a few iPhone (thus the quality) pics of the details I found most beautiful there.

(Look at the light coming through that bust!)


This house is worth an entire day's visit and I am in love with the Yorkshire countryside.

A little about me

This is me, post hair and make-up but pre-wedding in the required "bride" paraphernalia. (I wrapped the veil around my waist for easy transport)

Since this blog is a new thing for me and my clients I thought I'd introduce myself as a person and not just an orange bird. What better way than to show a few of my favorite pictures from my wedding day?

Last but not least, a funny one with hillbilly teeth.