How To Photograph Handmade Crafts with Flat Lay | #Crochet #TipsTuesday

How To Photograph Handmade Crafts with Flat Lay by Underground Crafter

Do your beautiful, handmade crafts look boring, ugly, or unrecognizable when you share them online? Are you finding it difficult to cut through the noise and get your Etsy shop or patterns noticed? Today, I’m sharing my 10 tips for how to photograph your handmade crafts with flat lay. These tips will take your pictures from ok to awesome! I’ve even included a video demonstrating some of the tips, so read on for details.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with B&H Photo Video Pro Audio, who generously provided a camera and photography equipment.

Many of us are skilled as makers but less skilled as photographers. Our beautiful projects may come across less than exciting when we share pictures online. Or, maybe your children or spouse won’t cooperate for photography, or you don’t have a budget for paying local models to wear your makes.

What is flat lay?

Flat lay is a style of photography where you literally lay your project flat against a background. It’s easier to master than other types of photography because you don’t have to worry about movement in the background, getting models not to blink, or keeping yourself in the frame for a self-portrait. Here are my 10 tips for taking amazing photographs of your handmade crafts using flat lay photography. (Don’t forget to scroll down for the video it you’d like to see some of the tips in action!)

10 Tips for Photographing Your Handmade Crafts Using Flat Lay

How To Photograph Handmade Crafts with Flat Lay by Underground Crafter

1 – Get to know your camera

Whether you’re using a complex DSLR or the camera on your smartphone, every camera is a little bit different. Use your camera’s manual (or search online for “name of your camera” manual or “name of your smartphone” camera manual) to learn about the features included in your camera. You may be surprised at what you find!

The pictures in this post were taken using a Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera. Until I received this camera in April, I had never used a mirrorless camera before, and I had mostly worked with Nikon cameras. The Sony Alpha a6000 is very straight-forward, but it still helped to read through the manual to find some of my preferred settings, and of course, to practice using it by taking lots of pictures!

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019 with Underground Crafter - Sony Alpha a6000 what's in the box

2 – Use a vinyl backdrop

Vinyl backdrops have matte backgrounds so they reduce shine from natural light or glare from a flash. These are also easy to store on a roll or you can cut them down to specific sizes that you use regularly. Bonus: vinyl is easy to wipe clean if you have any spills.

I use the Savage White Brick Printed Vinyl Backdrop, a white, faux painted brick backdrop. There are many different styles of backdrops available including faux wood, solid colors, and bokeh (blurred, pops of light). White has the added benefit of matching with any handmade project and helping to calibrate your camera’s white balance. I have found that using a white backdrop helps the yarn colors show more accurately than using a colorful backdrop, but you can also pick a backdrop color that contrasts with or coordinates with your favorite colors or your brand colors.

You can see some examples below showing how a backdrop can improve the final look of your photographs. These are pictures I took using various wood surfaces at home. The natural wood often makes the yarn colors look drab or distracts from the project, while the painted white wood reflects and adds a lot of shadows. Continue on to tip 7 to see how I improve the pictures using a vinyl backdrop!

How To Photograph Handmade Crafts with Flat Lay by Underground Crafter - flat lay disasters collage

3 – Use a lightweight camera

I loved all the features of my Nikon D5300 DSLR, but it was a beast. I could not take pictures one handed because it was just too heavy. This made it impossible to put my hands in the picture (to hold a crochet hook, for example) or to take a very quick, spontaneous photograph. It also made bringing my camera with me on trips or outside a pain. Since I started using the Sony Alpha a6000, I have really enjoyed how light and portable it is. Mirrorless cameras are available to fit a variety of budgets and they are generally much lighter than DSLRs (because they use a digital, rather than optical, viewfinder) but with much more control over settings, lenses, and so on than a smartphone or tablet camera.

4 – Use a tripod or monopod if necessary

If your camera is heavy, or if you have the tendency to move slightly while taking pictures, you may see evidence of “camera shake,” or slightly blurred edges in your photos. You may also have the tendency to take a picture including your thumb because you are too focused on holding the camera. Using a tripod or monopod helps to stabilize your camera, and, therefore, your pictures, and to keep your thumb out of the frame. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to keep the background, the lighting, and the project the same while switching out props. You can find many affordable options for tripods or monopods in different sizes and configurations to fit any camera or smartphone.

In the video below, I’m using the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Tripod with the 494 Center Ball Head with 200PL-PRO Quick Release Plate. Though this setup is pricier, it has several added benefits. The horizontal bar on the tripod makes it great for filming video tutorials of your hands as well as focusing downward for flat lay pictures. It’s a very sturdy tripod, so it can also hold a heavier camera and be used outdoors without a problem.

5 – Finish your project

The camera seems to spot every flaw on a handmade crafts project. Look over the project very carefully before taking pictures. Crochet and knit projects usually look better after blocking. Weave in ends (or hide them very well on the back), trim threads, and remove pet hair before positioning it flatly on your background.

6 – Think about your composition

The composition includes everything that will end up in the final picture. Most of us are so excited to share our handmade crafts online that we forget there is a large tuft of cat hair in the background.

Do you want your project to be straight or at an angle? Do you want to include it entirely or just share a peek? Should large projects be folded, rolled, or draped? Do you want to have a close up, where the project fills most or all of the frame, or take it from a distance, with more empty background framing your project? Think about all of these things as you position your project on your backdrop. When using a vinyl backdrop, make sure that if it has directional lines your project and your composition are lined up. Otherwise, you will end up with what looks like a trapezoid instead of a beautiful rectangular or square project. (Ask me how I know this!)

Take a moment to look through your camera’s viewfinder or LCD screen and make sure that there are only pretty things in your composition before you take a picture.

7 – Add props to your pictures

Pictures of the project alone can be boring or too stark. Get creative by adding props to make your pictures “Instagram-worthy.” Some examples of props you can find around the house include supplies you used to make the project (yarn, fabric, crochet hook, and buttons); items that can be used with the project (things to fit inside of a bag, a book you might read while sitting under a lap blanket); seasonal or holiday decorations (a small tree, a birthday hat, flowers); or clothing or accessories that you would wear with the project. Use colors that coordinate or colors with high contrast in your props for different looks. In the collage below, you can see how different props impacted the finished picture.

How To Photograph Handmade Crafts with Flat Lay by Underground Crafter - flat lay beauties collage

8 – Check your lighting

I use indirect natural light whenever possible. Direct natural light tends to cause big (and not very attractive) shadows. If you don’t have access to a well-lit place for photography, or if you usually take your handmade crafts pictures at night, invest in lighting for photography. There are a lot of portable options these days. Personally, I prefer LED lighting since it is available in both portable and natural light options. “Natural light” LED lighting tends to display yarn colors most accurately. There is also a broader range of prices, including many affordable options, and LED lighting is relatively easy to use compared to other types of photography lighting.

When first using artificial lighting, you may need to try different set ups, including placing the lights in different positions or using multiple lights in order to get the results you want.

It’s not a total crisis if you don’t have perfect lighting, but you will need to be more confident with photo editing!

9 – Take a lot of pictures

Most often, the best picture is not the first one! Be sure to take some pictures horizontally and others vertically. If using your phone or tablet, take some square pictures for Instagram. If using a camera, take some rectangular pictures with nothing on the sides that you can crop down to square. Take multiple pictures and then delete the ones you don’t like.

10 – Ask for feedback

When you’re first trying out new setups, it can be overwhelming. Ask some of your creative friends for their opinions on your lighting, composition, or props. Share a few of your many pictures (see tip 9) and get help choosing the best picture. You can also engage your fans by asking them to vote for the main picture on your pattern or Etsy listing.

I hope you’ve found these 10 tips helpful! You can watch a video highlighting my five top tips and sharing my setup below. If you can’t see the video below, watch it out on YouTube.

By the way, do you want the free crochet pattern for the bag featured in the pictures? Get the Caribbean Sunset Bag pattern here.

Have you tried flat lay photography for your handmade crafts before?

Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or Business? by The Yarny Bookkeeper | #Crochet #TipsTuesday

Yarn in primary colors on a flat surface | Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or a Business? Guest Post by The Yarny Bookkeeper for Underground CrafterI’m so excited to introduce Nancy Smyth from The Yarny Bookkeeper. If you’ve ever thought about selling your handmade creations, you’ll want to read her guest post to find out how to figure out if you have a hobby or a business (and more importantly, how to make that distinction clear to the IRS!).

This post includes affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links.

About Nancy Smyth

Nancy Smyth is a yarn addict, a small business owner for 30+ years, a professional bookkeeper with an Associates Degree in Accounting, and a yarnpreneur with her own handmade business. Her goal as The Yarny Bookkeeper is to take her own experience and turn it into a resource for fellow handmade business owners, so that amazingly creative people like you can handle their bookkeeping with confidence!

Show your support by following Nancy on:

The Yarny Bookkeeper| Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube | G+

xx

Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or a Business?

Guest Post by The Yarny Bookkeeper

Yarn in primary colors | Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or a Business? Guest Post by The Yarny Bookkeeper for Underground CrafterQuite often handmade businesses are lovingly nurtured on the side (for years) while we continue to work for someone else and get a steady paycheck. But be aware there IS a point when your “hobby” does become a business – at least as far as the IRS is concerned.

Just because you are currently selling handmade items doesn’t automatically mean you have a business. In reality, it all boils down to one simple thing (from the view of the IRS) — your intention to make a profit from selling your handmade items!

Knitting, crocheting, dying yarn, spinning yarn, quilting, sewing, making jewelry, designing knit or crochet patterns, glass blowing, catering, cupcake baking (and the list goes on and on) are all considered to be a “hobby” by the IRS and isn’t profitable, and with good reason the IRS doesn’t consider a hobby to be profitable because:

  • It’s something you do to relax
  • You make things that YOU like
  • You give most of your finished items as gifts or perhaps donate them to charity
  • You only have an occasional sale
  • Perhaps you sell your finished items for the cost of materials PLUS a couple of bucks for yourself

Now, even though the IRS doesn’t consider a hobby to be profitable, you are still EXPECTED to report any money that you do make from that occasional sale on your personal tax return (Form 1040) at the end of the year.

Calculator and pen with receipts | Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or a Business? Guest Post by The Yarny Bookkeeper for Underground CrafterOn the flip side you can also deduct hobby expenses – BUT only up to the amount that you claim in sales AND you must itemize your deductions on your tax return. As a quick example:

Let’s say you sold $1,000.00 worth of handcrafted items and spent $1,500.00 in materials, supplies and fees. As a hobby – you can ONLY deduct $1,000.00 (because that’s the amount you can claim in sales) and you must itemize your deductions using Schedule A when you file your tax return.

HINT: Talk to your CPA or tax preparer for more information.

BUT, as soon as you open an Etsy, Facebook, Ravelry, etc. shop and expect others to pay a fair market value for your finished objects, the IRS then considers you to be a handmade business – because you then intend to make a profit on the items you sell.

And that’s when EVERYTHING changes, and you need to step up your game.

Craft fair table display with softies | Is Selling Your Handmade Items a Hobby or a Business? Guest Post by The Yarny Bookkeeper for Underground CrafterFor most of us this will mean that in addition to filing our regular Form 1040 at the end of the year, we’ll be adding another form called a Schedule C – Profit or Loss From Business where we can legally deduct other expenses that are involved with running a business like the cost of patterns that we purchase, the cost of hosting a website, fees charged by PayPal, Etsy, Ravelry, etc., the cost of craft fair booths, business licenses, etc. So if we go back to our quick example – it’s quite likely that you can deduct the entire $1,500.00 that you spent. BUT you have to be really good about tracking income & expenses – and that means bookkeeping!

Again, talk to your CPA or tax preparer for more information.

It doesn’t matter (initially) if your sales are slow. The determining factor from the standpoint of the IRS – you are a business if you are selling your finished object for a price that would:

  • cover the cost of the materials you used to make the object
  • cover any overhead involved in running the business, and
  • have some cash left over (the profit)

And that:

  • you conduct yourself in a businesslike manner
  • that the time and effort you put into the business indicate you intend to make it profitable
  • you depend on income from the business for your livelihood

Here is a list (right off the top of my head), based on my own experience of things you need to think about and do BEFORE starting a handmade business:

  • Lay your foundation – what are you going to sell
  • Find your niche
  • Create a business plan
  • Figure out what you need for startup money (businesses cost money)
  • Learn about pricing to make a profit
  • Get everyone on board (especially your family)
  • Figure out where you are going to sell
  • How will you collect money?
  • Business name
  • Business website
  • Business domain name
  • Choose a legal/tax structure
  • Get an FEIN/EIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)
  • Get Federal, State and/or Local business licenses, permits, Sales Tax accounts
  • Will you need business insurance?
  • Do you need Trademarks or Copyrights?
  • Set up business bank accounts
  • Bookkeeping
  • Branding – business cards, hang tags, packaging, etc.
  • Advertising – social media and an elevator pitch

There is a lot of information on the web about starting a handmade business – some make it sound so simple – make sure you are well informed and while it’s too late to have any impact on your 2017 tax return, it’s a good time to start planning for this year.

Visit The Yarn Bookkeeper for relevant tips on bookkeeping for your handmade business.

© 2018 by Nancy Smyth (The Yarny Bookkeeper) and published with permission by Underground Crafter. Do not violate Nancy’s copyright by distributing this post or the photos in any form, including but not limited to scanning, photocopying, emailing, or posting on a website or internet discussion group. If you want to share the post, point your friends to this link: http://undergroundcrafter.com/blog/2018/01/30/is-selling-your-handmade-items-a-hobby-or-business. Thanks for supporting indie designers!

Gift Guide: 45+ Gifts for Crochet, Knitting, Yarn, and Other Creative Business Owners

45+ gift ideas for crochet, knitting, yarn, and other creative business owners on Underground Crafter #giftguide

As we get closer to the winter holidays, I’ll be sharing several crafty gift guides. These are great for finding gifts for your crafty friends and family, or for sharing (not so subtly) with your loved ones who don’t craft!

This post contains affiliate links.

This gift guide includes over 45 gift ideas for creative business owners. If your friend or family member sells handmade items at local craft fairs, designs crochet or knitting patterns, or operates another creative business, help make next year a successful one by buying a gift to improve their craft or business skills!

There are so many items that creative business owners may find helpful, so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites.

General Business Resources

These books will enhance the library of any creative business owner. Most are available in multiple formats (ebook, print book, and/or audiobook), so choose your friend’s favorite.


CreativeLive offers a selection of business classes for creative types, including:

Crochet and Knitting Design

Designers love playing with stitches! Stitch guides and technique classes can be wonderful gifts.

Stitch pattern resources for crocheters:

Stitch pattern resources for knitters:

Pattern writing and grading resources:

Pattern writing and grading (the process of adjusting a pattern to fit different sizes) are important skills for designers to develop. These help to keep the designer organized and to keep the patterns as error free as possible.

Craftsy

Teaching

Many crafty business owners supplement their income with teaching. For others, teaching is their primary source of income.

10 Tips for Teaching Children to Crochet by Underground Crafter

Sign Up at CreativeLive

Photography and Video

Even if you are hiring a photographer for your primary product photography, it never helps to understand the basics of photography for progress and tutorial photos. Videos can be shared online in so many ways today, that a basic knowledge of video production can’t hurt any small business owner! Here are some great gift options.

Gift Cards

If you’re not sure what to get your favorite creative business owner, gift cards always work! I recommend getting gift cards from:

  • Amazon.com (for books, tech and photography tools, and more),
  • Adorama (for photography and tech tools), or
  • Etsy (for handmade yarn, hooks, needles, and more).

If you’re a creative business owner, what’s on your holiday wish list?