I whipped up a potholder that sadly didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped, BUT it will serve a purpose for us in this post, modeling some common photo errors we often make when shooting pics of our creations. Now I am no photography expert and most of the shots on Prudent Baby are taken with a fancy camera, but I do have a few tips to offer that will work with basic cameras. I whipped out the old point & shoot to show you a few common photo mistakes that you can easily address to make sure your product photos (and maybe your SEWING MACHINE DOUBLE DOWN CONTEST entries) are as good as can be, whatever camera you are working with.

Find some Simple Photo Tips for Better Product Shots after the jump…

Simple Photo Tips for Better Product Shots

The most important thing in your shots is lighting. Let me show you what I mean…

Mistake #1: Leaving the overhead lights on.
Here’s what my potholder looks like with the overhead kitchen lights on in mid-afternoon. Most overhead lights make a weird color cast and should be avoided.

Mistake #2: Using a flash.
 Here is my potholder with the flash in the kitchen in mid-afternoon. Flash makes everything ugly with harsh glares, shadows, and discoloration. Don’t use it.

Mistake #3: Taking pictures at night.
It is just not possible to get a decent picture at night. You will need artificial lighting (most likely the dreaded flash). Here is a picture of the potholder at night using a flash.

If you absolutely must take a picture at night, there is a little trick that can help: Cover the flash with a piece of translucent white fabric or vellum. For this shot, i covered the little flash of the point and shoot with a bit of Scarlet’s curtain. It’s a slight improvement in reducing the glare, but it will still require photo editing and should be avoided.

Mistake #4: Shadows.
Here is my potholder in the kitchen at mid-afternoon with all of the lights out and no flash. Much better, right? But check out the shadows, not pretty.

The solution? Take it outside. But beware of…

Mistake #5: Direct sunlight.
Direct sunlight casts a harsh glare and creates shadows no matter what camera you have.

So, what you want is a photo outside with indirect sunlight and as little shadow as possible. The best times of day for this are early morning or early evening. Or maybe do it under an awning or umbrella (if there is enough light coming in) or use a piece of translucent white fabric to diffuse the sunlight. The result is a pretty decent shot with your point and shoot.

I also think it’s nice to use a texture or color that contrasts with your object as a background.

Now if you have a fancier camera, like my Canon T1 DSLR (thanks hubs), stick around for a minute. Let me give you a quick cheat for a good set up for close-up product shots, like this one I took of my Lumix point and shoot:

A great way to get that crisp foreground and blurry background is to use a 50mm lens and manually adjust your aperture setting. Leave your ISO automatic and auto-focus on, and set your aperture somewhere between 2.2-3.5. This is harder to demonstrate with something flat like a potholder, so I will show you with the potholder, then with a 3D object.

So here is the potholder shot with the point-and-shoot on automatic settings:

And here is the same shot using the DSLR with an aperture set to 3 and everything else automatic (this was taken during midday so it has the harsh sunlight problem, but you can see the difference aperture makes):

Let me show you with a 3D object (from our Wristlet Key Fob Tute) and a few different aperture settings. These are not great pics by any means, but they illustrate the aperture difference. So here is our 3D object photographed with the point and shoot on automatic settings following all the tips above.  It’s not a bad shot at all:

Now here it is with the DSLR on automatic settings:

This shot is with the DSLR with the aperture set to 2. See the difference?

But that shot is a little too blurry, so here it is with the aperture set to 3.2. Not bad.

This trick also works really well if you place the object on a flat raised surface and face it head on, so you get whatever is in the distance in a nice blur, like so:

So, not a master class, but hopefully these tips help you out. Definitely read our post: 25 Tips for Taking Great Photographs (written by my brother, a pro photographer) for more details on composition and using your camera. Do you have any tips for us? We’d love to hear ‘em in the comments, and you could win this week’s surprise prize!

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