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Tips for Photographing Projects

March 16, 2016

You’ve created a beautiful layout or pocket page and you want to take a picture to share with your family and friends but every time you do, it’s dark or there’s a glare. Do you quit? No! You use these tips to take photos you’ll love as much as the page you created.

OMFL-Photography-Tips

The following four tips have helped me over the years to take photos of projects and other objects that look great. To get us started, here’s what my setup looked like for the photos I took for this post. It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done.

OMFL-Photo-setup

Use natural light

Resist the urge to use the flash on your camera or phone. Using a flash creates a reflection or white spots on your photo, especially when using page protectors. Instead, use indirect light from a window or an open door or go outside under a patio or deck cover. Indirect light means the light source is not shining directly on your project and provides a softer light than the sun or a light shining directly on the project.

Here’s what happens when taking the photo using overhead lights, which is the same thing that happens when you use a flash.

OMFL-Spring-Day-with-Zoe-with-glare

Notice the glare created by the pocket page protector reflecting the overhead lights. It makes it impossible to see what is in all of the pockets.

If you look at the photo of my setup, you’ll see that the first window had the screen down and the second window had the shade down. I tried using just the screen on both windows, but the screen was not thick enough so the sunlight created lines across my photo. If you look on the top, left of this photo, you’ll see strips of grey across the page and onto the background, which creates uneven lighting on the project.

OMFL-Spring-Day-with-Zoe-lighting-stripes

With the shade down and the overhead lights turned off, I was able to take a photo with even lighting and no glare spots.

OMFL-Spring-Day-Pocket-Page

The photos I’ve shown so far are pocket pages, so they have a clear surface that reflects light. The next photos I show are traditional layouts, but you’ll see some of the same problems can occur.

Seamless white background

White backgrounds serve two purposes. One, it creates a solid background that makes it easy to crop your photo to just include the layout or project, plus there are no distractions in the background. The second thing it does is help bounce the indirect light to create a brighter environment to take your photo in. Your background does not need to be fancy – a piece of paper or poster board, foam core board, flat box painted white, artist canvas, piece of painted wood, etc. all work great. I used to use a sheet, but found it was hard to keep it smooth and the wrinkles made it so my project didn’t lay perfectly flat.

This photo shows how even traditional layouts can still have glare when direct lights are used. The photos on this layout have a glossy finish, which creates a reflection. Also, notice that you can’t really tell there’s a background because the white makes the project look like it is floating. Also, because of the glare on this photo, I didn’t spend time adjusting the brightness or contrast on this image. I’ll show you the final version at the end of the post.

OMFL-Hello-Little-Darling-with-Glare

I wanted to mention that these same techniques work for non-project photos as well. For example, say you wanted to take a picture of your child’s first outfit or toy or your grandma’s crystal bowl to include in a layout. Using these tips will create beautiful photos of objects too. This photo shows another way to create a seamless, white background using a large piece of paper.

OMFL-Ceramic-Egg-setup

Because I need to photograph these ceramic eggs from the front instead of looking down on them, I wanted white behind them as well as under them. So I found a piece of 11×17 white paper and taped one edge to the windowsill and then laid the paper on the desk. Once the eggs were where I wanted them positioned, I took the photo and then used photo editing software to crop the image to just include the ceramic eggs.

OMFL-Ceramic-Eggs

Shoot straight down

When taking photos of flat objects you want to be directly above it so that the project does not appear warped. If you have any kind of angle, your square project will appear as a trapezoid instead of a square. The easiest way to be above your project is to place it on the floor and stand directly over it. In the case of my set up, I needed a step stool to elevate me above the desk.

Another key to a square flat object is to hold your camera flat so it is parallel to the floor or surface you are shooting on. It is so easy to tip your camera or phone, so check the viewfinder to make sure your project is square, then you’ll know your camera is flat.

Sorry, I forgot to take a not straight picture so you could see what I meant.

Edit image

Not all photos need editing and most people don’t have photo editing software. But typically, whatever you are using to print your photos will have a few basic tools that allow you to rotate an image, lighten or darken the photo, and crop the photo. I use Lightroom to upload my photos from my camera to my computer and it has tons of tools in it, most of which I don’t use. But I love it for adjusting brightness, contrast, cropping, and changing from color to black & white.

Lightroom

As you can see on the sliding bars down the right side, I adjusted the Exposure and Contrast to brighten the original photo. The main portion of the screen shows how I am cropping this image to eliminate the items to the side of my project (one of which is my shoe – I had one foot on the desk to get the best angle).

Putting these few simple tips together, you too can take photos of your projects and other things you want to photograph to include in your layouts. Here’s the traditional layout with the right lighting (so there’s no glare) and cropped to the edge of the layout.

OMFL-Hello-Little-Darling

What will be the first thing you photograph using these tips? We’d love to see, so share with us on Facebook!

Have fun creating and taking photos!

– StacyC