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?

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays via Underground Crafter | Find a great gift in this roundup featuring crochet patterns for instant download, crochet and knitting kits and supplies to gift a fellow crafter, and handmade hats if you run out of time to make your own gift.One of my favorite things about the holidays is gifting handmade. I get to indulge my creative side while making a unique and special gift. I’ve been gifting handmade for as long as I can remember. Coming from a family of talented needle artists, handmade gifts (usually sewn or crocheted) were always part of the holiday experience.

Now, even when I don’t have the time (or the skills) to make the gift I have in mind, I can support a small business while getting a handmade gift on Etsy! This roundup features great gift ideas from Etsy, including crochet patterns you can use to make a gift yourself and handmade items and kits that are readymade for gifting. (I’ve also listed any Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and/or Cyber Monday sales for 2017 that I’m aware of at the time of this post.)

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. Photos are copyright the respective designer/publisher and are used with permission.

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Roundup by Underground Crafter

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays via Underground Crafter | Find a great gift in this roundup featuring crochet patterns for instant download, crochet and knitting kits and supplies to gift a fellow crafter, and handmade hats if you run out of time to make your own gift.12 Crochet Designers with Instant Download Patterns

If you have the time and inclination to make a gift, here are twelve designers to check out! I’ve highlighted one pattern or ebook from each designer as well as providing a link to her shop.

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays via Underground Crafter | Find a great gift in this roundup featuring crochet patterns for instant download, crochet and knitting kits and supplies to gift a fellow crafter, and handmade hats if you run out of time to make your own gift.

  1. DoraDoes, the crochet designer behind the Snowicorn, sells some of her creative crochet designs in her Etsy shop. All patterns, including the Red Pillow, will be 10% off on Black Friday.
  2. Crafting Friends Designs has over 100 crochet patterns for children, women, and home listed in her Etsy shop. One of my favorite holiday patterns is her Classic Cable Star Christmas Tree Skirt. All individual patterns are 30% off during her Black Friday weekend sale.
  3. Crochet by Jennifer has hundreds of patterns for women and children and has over 27,000 sales on Etsy! The Chain Link Slouch is one of my favorite hat patterns in her collection. All individual patterns are 30% off during her Black Friday weekend sale.
  4. Angela from Little Monkey Shop is a talented crochet designer whose patterns have been featured on Underground Crafter before. Her crochet patterns, including the Asymmetrical Shawl, will be 30% off from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. She also sells Ready to Ship Gifts and Crochet Yarn Kits, which make great gifts for other crocheters.
  5. Psychadelic Doilies, an Etsy shop specializing in pop-culture-inspired crafts, will be selling her The Office Blanket crochet pattern for 50% off during her holiday sale.
  6. Liz from Playin’ Hooky Designs is known for her creative hat patterns, like the Adult Gingham Beanie.
  7. The Friendly Red Fox is known for her adorable amigurumi patterns. Make dolls for every boy and girl on your holiday list with her Ultimate Friendly Doll Bundle. Get 20% off any pattern through Sunday with coupon code THANKYOU2017.
  8. I’ve featured Alessandra from Just Be Happy on Underground Crafter before. She is a talented crochet designer and author with thousands of sales on Etsy. One of my favorite holiday patterns in her collection is the Christmas Sampler Blanket.
  9. Two of Wands is a crochet and knitting designer who specializes in on-trend accessories for women, men, and kids. Her crochet Reindeer Hood would make a great gift for someone on your handmade holiday list.
  10. Amy Gaines is a crochet and knitting designer and author who makes awesome amigurumi patterns. She even has a section with all of her Christmas patterns available for instant download.
  11. Posh Patterns has so many great crochet and knitting patterns for hats and other accessories, but one of my favorites in her collection is this crochet Slouchy Hat.
  12. Deborah O’Leary Patterns features beautiful crochet and knit designs with a specialization in unique blankets and rugs. The Bear Rug makes an adorable gift for any nursery.

3 Crochet and Knitting Kits and Supplies

Give a gift that keeps on giving to a fellow crocheter or knitter! These kits and crafts supplies will give your loved one the joy of making their own project. Shown from top to bottom.

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays via Underground Crafter | Find a great gift in this roundup featuring crochet patterns for instant download, crochet and knitting kits and supplies to gift a fellow crafter, and handmade hats if you run out of time to make your own gift.

And, if you’ve run out of time to make your own handmade gift, these sellers can help you out.

15+ Etsy Crochet and Knitting Gift Ideas for the Holidays via Underground Crafter | Find a great gift in this roundup featuring crochet patterns for instant download, crochet and knitting kits and supplies to gift a fellow crafter, and handmade hats if you run out of time to make your own gift.

  • KnottyNiki makes crochet accessories for kids and women. Everything in her shop, including The Sandy Slouch, will be 25% off for Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
  • Thick Cozy Crochet’s holiday sale includes free shipping to the U.S. and Canada for orders placed Thanksgiving through Small Business Saturday. You can also any buy two handmade items, like the Chunky Handknit Beanie, and get 15% off your order.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup. If you’re looking for more gifts on Etsy, check out this roundup of 15 Unique Granny Square Finds for Your Favorite Crochet Lover!

15 Unique Granny Square Finds via Underground Crafter: These granny square-themed finds include jewelry, art, craft supplies, greeting cards, accessories, and more. These would make great gifts for your favorite crocheter (which might be you!).

15 Unique Granny Square Finds for Your Favorite Crochet Lover

15 Unique Granny Square Finds via Underground Crafter: These granny square-themed finds include jewelry, art, craft supplies, greeting cards, accessories, and more. These would make great gifts for your favorite crocheter (which might be you!).One of the best things about the internet is that you can find unique, handmade and vintage items from near and far! This is a roundup of 15 unique, granny square-themed finds from Etsy. These would make great gifts for your favorite crocheter, or awesome collectibles, accessories, and decorations for displaying your own love of crochet. All photos were used with permission and are copyright the relevant shop owner.

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

All of these items were in stock at the time I wrote this roundup, but since they are handmade or vintage, they might not be available when you visit. To find more awesome granny square gifts on Etsy, use this search and then choose your favorite category.

15 Unique Granny Square Finds via Underground Crafter: These granny square-themed finds include jewelry, art, craft supplies, greeting cards, accessories, and more. These would make great gifts for your favorite crocheter (which might be you!).

Top row, from left to right:

Second row, from left to right:

Third row, from left to right:

Customize It All on Zazzle.com

Fourth row, from left to right:

Bottom row, from left to right:

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of handmade and vintage granny square-themed items. This post is part of my 30-day celebration of granny squares. You can find the links to my other Granny Square Month posts here.

Granny Square Month with Underground Crafter | 30 days of crochet motif patterns, roundups, and giveaways!

If you liked this roundup, follow my Yarn Bowls, Hooks, Needles, & Notions Board on Pinterest!

 

 

Will I see you at HGTV Magazine’s Blogger Block Party?

HGTV Blogger Block PartyThanks to HGTV Magazine for sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

I was super excited to discover HGTV Magazine’s 3rd Annual Blogger Block Party event a few weeks back. This is a free event scheduled for Monday, August 22, 2016 in my hometown of New York City, and I hope to see you there! (You can register right here.)

Each year, HGTV Magazine brings together a group of influential “lifestyle bloggers, designers and style savvy consumers” to share creativity and inspiration. Last year’s event had over 500 attendees and they expect even more this year. The event will be conveniently located at 404 10th Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets in Manhattan.

Let me tell you a bit more about the event. This year,  HGTV Magazine‘s Blogger Block Party is aligned with NY NOW, which is taking place just a few blocks away at the Javits Center from August 20-24, 2016. NY NOW is a huge market for handmade, home, lifestyle, and gift products. HGTV Magazine‘s Blogger Block Party will actually be the exclusive sponsor of NY NOW’s Social Media Lounge.

HGTV Magazine's Blogger Block Party 2016 agenda
Click to enlarge the agenda!

HGTV Magazine‘s Blogger Block Party has a fantastic schedule planned including speakers Emily Henderson from Style By Emily Henderson, Genevieve Gorder, Sherry and John Petersik from Young House Love, and Rachel Faucett from Handmade Charlotte. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Emily Bidwll from Etsy share a Design & DIY Trend Watch! And, of course, there will be opportunities to get to know advertising partners and other DIY and crafty influencers.

So, if you’ll be in the New York City area on Monday, August 22, 2016, register for HGTV Magazine‘s Blogger Block Party now! And, let me know you’re going to be there so we can have the chance to meet in person, too.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I’m going to @hgtvmagpromo #bloggerblockparty in 2016. Underground Crafter, let’s meet up there!” quote=”I’m going to @hgtvmagpromo #bloggerblockparty in 2016. Underground Crafter, let’s meet up there!”]

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

This post contains affiliate links.

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

new tunisian crochet

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books (besides yours, of course) in your collection?

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!