whoops! tutorial stahl there.

omg, kitty is a BAD kitty indeed!
she forgot to update with the next part of her tutorial yesterday!
how rude.

well, i'll just make her do that now, then, shall i?

[part 1] [part 2]

on objects/staging materials:

you don't always need them.

i know that, at least in jewelry, it's nice to photograph necklaces on a bust, earrings on a tree, rings on a stand, etc etc etc, and the temptation is to always do so.

[hint] you don't really need to.

you can give your pictures a signature look even if you don't use any, or if you only use 1 or 2 objects for staging.

personally, i have a white, frosted lucite ring hand and pillar that i like to use for pretty much everything. not only does it give me a set white in each picture (which is great for editing), but it gives all of my photos a cohesive look, and i can use the pieces to block out inconvenient background objects (in case i decide not to use my lightbox).

one downside i've found with jewelry displays is that they can sometimes make it hard for you to get a good focus point on the piece. for instance, using a standard T-display for earrings puts each earring at either end of the picture, instead of in the center where they should be. it causes the focus to be on the display, not the earrings [no good!]. i never really managed to satisfactorily correct this.

i tried everything i could think of to fix it:
photographing on an angle (which did give nice perspectives)
having the T on an angle (which just looked funny, honestly)
just setting the earrings closer together on the T (which was ok, but not quite right)
and many other ridiculous things i just don't remember.

what i found that worked:
just laying them down on colorful paper, or suspending them in front of colorful paper with monofilament.

so if your craft has specialized displays, sure, you can go ahead and get some, especially if you're going to do shows (they're awesome for that), but you don't have to. honestly, i have 8 or 10 different busts, and i only use the lucite ring hand for pictures. the others i save for shows, or use as props in pictures with things that aren't jewelry.

keep in mind that too many objects can distract from the item though:

this is a picture of a plushie i made. he was the media monkey, so i thought i'd photograph him with media devices.
he's kind of crowded out, isn't he? (i still haven't found a picture setup for him that i like enough to list him, so, you can see that it's always a work in progress for product shots)

--what to use as the actual background:

the actual item(s) you use as your background can be anything from a straight piece of corrugated cardboard to colored scrapbooking paper to a piece of fabric.

i've used all three of the above-mentioned items, and i've discovered that i like the scrapbooking paper and fat quarters (quilting fabric, for the uninitiated) the best. between the two of them, i can run the gambit from sexy and sophisticated, to country and kitsch, and everything in between. another thing i like about them is that they're super easy to store and move to wherever i decide to take my pictures that day (i've taken pictures in practically every room in my house. no really. i have.)

what you choose is really up to you, and it may take you a little while to discover what you like the best. if you want some help deciding, try asking a friend or family member. show them a couple different options, and ask which one they like the best and why. (i often do this with my sister. she's been a great help in getting my product shots to the level they are now. as i recall, she was the one who first suggested that i borrow her scrapbooking paper and try that [she's a bookbinder, so she's got lots of colorful papers].)

if you STILL can't decide, or are just getting frustrated, try this:
take 1 picture of 1 piece on each of your choices [as in, the same shot just different backgrounds].
bring them all up side by side by side in your photo-editing software, or even flickr.

stare at them.

stare some more.

if you find your eyes being drawn to one photo over the others go with that style/setup for a while.
if nothing's calling to you, call someone for a second opinion.

if nothing's happening, it's no crime to put it to a vote of strangers on twitter or in a forum.
they'll give an honest opinion, and if you ask for constructive criticisms, they'll help you out.

if you STILL don't have something you're satisfied with, there's no shame in going back to the drawing board. i can't tell you how many item shots i've taken, only to delete them because i just. didn't. like them anymore.

you can even look at what others are doing with their photos and see if any particular part of their setup calls out to you. maybe you like how they use their wooden deck as a backdrop. go ahead and try using a piece of wood or your own deck, and see if it works out for you.
just remember, don't look to copy the setup exactly [that's bad!].

i know there's a lot of people who use paper like i do, i know there's a lot of people who use their deck, it's nothing new.

when i say don't copy exactly, what i mean is this:

try the settING, but use your own setUP.

as in, if the pictures you like use that deck, it's no crime to use yours, but add your own touch. put your item(s) on a piece of glass, or drape it over a prop on that deck of yours. you want your photos to look good, but also to be unique.

--all this being said:

there's nothing wrong with a straight, white background, and no props.
if you can't really afford or find any extras you love, no worries! there's lots that can be done for free, with things you've already got.

do you have white sheets? shirts? jeans? use those as a background! the weave of the cloth will add a nice texture to the photos, and the best part is that it doesn't cost a thing. plus, you can fold, roll, and scrunch that cloth up any which way you want to, so you can fake like you've got some props, when all you've really got is a partially rolled up sheet. plus, sheets and clothes and towels come in lots of colors. i'm fairly certain you've got different colors of sheets, so use them! roll them, scrunch them, layer them, weave them, put them under glass!

also, don't shy away from using whatever table you make your items on as a backdrop! that can work wonderfully (kind of a rustic vibe), and you can use your tools as props.

about 'moody' pix:

setting a mood in a photo can be a difficult thing. for one thing, mood is often set by props, and again, too many of those can drown out the item you're selling.

in the series the above picture is from, we were trying to evoke travelling or a train ride.
the 'story' behind the series is that it's a young woman (in the 20s/30s) on a train coming back from touring the world, and she's looking for something in her purse, so she dumps it onto the table in between the seats.

personally, i think the mood is there, and i think that, since the necklaces are gold, and all the paraphenalia is silver, it's not drowned out. i'm sure there are some who are wondering where the necklace is though. it's impossible to please everyone all the time, so just make sure that, while the mood you want is there, the item is still the main focus of the photo.

stay tuned for the next part! it'll be tomorrow, kitty promises (and i'll make her keep it!)

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