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?

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019 with Underground Crafter

Did you know that May is National Photography Month (and has been since 1987)? That’s ok, I didn’t know it either until just a few days ago! I’m going to take advantage of the timing of getting a new camera a few weeks ago and focus (pun intended) on building my craft photography skills during May. I’d love it if you’d join in with me!

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 and Pro Audio, but all opinions and thoughts are my own. Materials in this post were provided by Baby Lock, B&H Photo Video and Pro Audio, Fully Spun, and Pastiche Accessories.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen several Stories about a collaboration I’m doing with B&H Photo Video and Pro Audio. B&H is a business just about a mile and half away from my apartment, and they also happen to be one of the largest retailers of photography and video (and audio) equipment in the United States. Though they ship around the world, to me B&H is a local business that I’ve known about for all of my life.

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019 with Underground Crafter - Marie with shipment from B&H Photo Video and Pro Audio

I’m super excited to be collaborating with them because I’m always trying to improve my photography so I can show even better pictures of my projects and make video tutorials that people can hear and enjoy. One of the highlights of this amazing pile of equipment B&H sent me is the Sony Alpha a6000, a mirrorless camera.

If you’ve never used a mirrorless camera before, don’t worry! None of the 99 people who responded to my Instagram Story quiz had ever used one before, either.

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019 with Underground Crafter - Instagram Story Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera question collage

This video by Sony is pretty helpful in explaining the difference between mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, if you’d like to nerd out on photography stuff along with me.

Since I have a new camera and I’ll need to take actual photos to test out all of its features and settings, I thought it might be a good time for another Instagram Challenge.

Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge 2019 with Underground Crafter - Sony Alpha a6000 and pretty yarn stuff

What is the Maker Photo Month Instagram Challenge?

Every day in May, 2019, celebrate your love of making along with National Photography Month by following a photo prompt for Instagram. All crafts are welcome! You can see all 31 prompts in the image at the top of this post if you want to get a head start.

How Can I Join In?

To join in, share a picture on Instagram that was inspired by the prompt for that day using the hashtag #MakerPhotoMonth. So, for example, share an “About me” picture on May 1 and a “Close up” picture on May 4. This is a fun challenge where we can (virtually) meet other makers, get comfortable with our cameras (including phone and tablet cameras), and show off our crafty creations, so please don’t stress too much about getting everything “perfect” — I know my pictures won’t be perfect, either. Also, remember that you can always write in your note on Instagram to share how your picture relates to the prompt. You can participate for one day, a few days, or every day in the month.

It would be awesome if you could follow meon Instagram, too. You can also follow the #MakerPhotoMonth hashtag here to keep up with all the pictures everyone is posting.

What If I’m Not on Instagram?

I got a late start on Instagram, too. It’s fun and I’d love to see you there! But if Instagram’s not for you for whatever reason, you can still join along on your blog or social media platform of choice.

3KCBWDAY2 – Photography challenge

 

 

The backstory: I usually schedule my posts during the week, but I thought it would be more fun if I posted during each day for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.  Photography is something that I’ve been working on since I started this blog, and today’s challenge definitely had me stumped.  (I’ve already seen some great, elaborately staged pictures like Faith‘s, and wonderful collections like this one of awesome crochet fashion photography from Crochet Concupiscencethis morning.)

After following yesterday’s theme around the blogosphere, I started to notice that quite a few people were reluctant to use (or even fearful) of orange yarn.  Naturally, my stash hoarding self wanted to run out and buy some orange yarn to rectify that, and that’s where the orange monster (formerly of Weight Watchers fame) came in.  You see, I actually had my very own orange yarn that I’ve never even used sitting in my stash.  Yep, that’s a skein of Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrot that I bought at Knitty City last year.  So there’s no need to buy any more – yarn diet preserved.

Stashbusting and shooting (pictures, that is)

I’ve recently been hit by an attack of the granny square.  Perhaps (finally!) finishing the granny square blanket for my sister has reminded me of my tremendous love for grannies and of blanket-making.  In any event, since last week I’ve dug through my stash to work on several granny square projects for charity.

I revived this long-term charity blanket project on Saturday afternoon by adding some length to one strip and joining the two rows together.

(You can find a list of patterns I used for these squares in this post.)

I’ve also finished seven individual grannies, but I’ll save those details for Friday :).

A sneak peak of some of my finished grannies.

Besides the grannies, I’m working on some other scrappy projects which will eventually turn into pet blankets to donate to Bideawee.  I’m glad to finally be spending time working on my charity and stashbusting goals.  I dream of the day when another plastic tub of yarn will be used up, but there are a lot of granny squares and pet blankets between today and that day.

I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in the nick of time last Wednesday, by staying up reading until about 1 a.m.  The book was removed from my Kindle by the library before I woke up for work that morning.  You can check out my review on Goodreads.

As for what I’m reading now, I took some photo advice from Stacey at FreshStitches and decided to read my camera manual!  I got a new camera over the weekend, and I’ve been taking pictures pretty much non-stop.  Since I only know how to use the macro and normal modes, now is the time to get acquainted with all of the funky features.

On a related note, I’ve been thinking about doing a 365 project (taking and posting pictures every day).  This is to encourage me to use my camera more frequently and to, of course, improve my photography skills.  Has anyone done one of these before?  If you have, I’d love to hear your suggestions about where you posted your photos.  Did you use a blog, Flickr, 365 Project, or another site?  I should mention that I’m sort of cheap, which is why I haven’t just plunked down the twenty-five bucks for a Flickr Pro account, and am instead asking you all for free advice :).

 

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Bullion stitch blocks, week 4, and more

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

After weeks of ignoring my bullion stitch blocks, I finished one up on Friday.

My six inch bullion block.

Originally, my plan was to donate several bullion stitch blocks to Heartmade Blessings for the Crochetlist March 2012 charity challenge.  But after the unraveling fiasco when I learned that I couldn’t use black yarn, I wasn’t very motivated to restart my blocks.  This month’s Crochetlist charity is the Binky Patrol in Arizona, and the blocks are only supposed to be six inches.  So I actually had to pull out a few rows of this block to get it to the right size.  The pattern, Hybrid Peas by Margaret MacInnis, is way more exciting than this square would suggest, but a lot of the fun happens in the next few rows.

I also got a new camera yesterday!

I couldn’t capture the camera itself in the picture, so I hope the box will do.

Since I’ve been blogging, sharing one camera at home has become a challenge.  I take most of my photos outdoors on the way to and from work or during the day, and that means that either I can’t take pictures when I need to or that MC can never have access to the camera during the day time.  After a bit of research, I bought the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS on sale at Best Buy yesterday.  It is super tiny, which is great for my little hands.

Now how does this all relate to Year of Projects?  Well, one of my long standing WIPs is the camera case I started during the freeform class I took with Margaret Hubert.

This flower was intended to be the focal point for the case.

I never got too excited by the project because I have been thinking about buying a new camera for a while.

Here is an intermeshing swatch that will potentially be part of a camera case.

So hopefully by next week, I will have finished my new camera case (which will go over the store bought camera case I got so the camera could have some extra cushioning).  I still haven’t completely decided what to do about the rainbow trivet I started last week, but I’d like to have two finished projects to share.