Sunday, December 16, 2012

Better Photos Made Easy

If you've created a beautiful card and want to share it online, but you are finding it difficult to take a good photo, you're not alone, but it doesn't have to be hard or expensive you just need to know a few basics. In this tutorial I'll outline the steps for creating a simple light box and set up so that you can photograph your cards any time day or night. If you are trying to come up with a simple formula that will get you good results everytime this will work. 


You will need:

— 1 Piece of 20"x30" Foam Board (I got mine at Michael's for $2.99)
— Ruler (steel is ideal)
— Marker
— Basic Utility Knife
— Desk Lamp & Light Bulb
— Straight Pins and/or White Glue

Here is the board, marked on the back side. Where you see the dashed red lines you will score the board (cutting into the foam but not through the paper board on the other side). The areas you see shaded in yellow will be cut completely out and discarded. When assembled the box will be 12" across the back, approximately 8" deep and open on the top.

Here is a diagram you can save to your computer and print out to help guide you as you go. (Click Save As and then download it to your computer to print it).
Constructing the box is pretty self-explanatory, you just fold the two sides in towards the bottom and attach them. I placed a thin line of white glue along the edge of my base on the left and right and then put a few straight pins in the sides through the base to hold my box together while the glue dries.

Here are some photos showing you the box, from the back side and face down.

Using this simple light box will result in better photos by creating optimal lighting and eliminating anything in the background that might distract from your beautiful card.


Do you need a very fancy expensive camera to take your photos? No, you don't. You will be able to take good photos with just about any camera on the market today. The key is getting to know a few basic things about your camera.

Resolution: Most cameras have a choice of several settings such as Good, Better, Best (on mine it's done in stars, 1, 2 and 3 stars) that represent the resolution of your photo. For posting on the web, where a 72 dpi resolution is the standard, a 'good' setting will likely suffice.

Zoom: You will probably have a zoom option — if you position your camera carefully you probably won't need to use it.

Flash: There is a way to turn the flash on and off — you'll want to set it to OFF when using a light box  so you'll avoid those bright, hot spots in your photos.

Focus: Most cameras have an auto-focus feature that you just need to figure out (mine has guides in the view finder and will ding when it's focused)  — no matter how beautifully lit your shot is, if it's blurry it won't be good.

For the photo shoot set up I have placed my light box on a small folding table and clipped my desk lamp directly above it on shelf. I set up in a room with normal lighting, in this case one table lamp on a side table, but the room is definitely not brightly lit outside of my box and my desk lamp.

You will also notice in this image I have lighlty taped a piece of white tissue paper over the 'open' top of my box to diffuse the light. I have taken photos with and without the tissue to help show you the difference.

This shot was taken with the tissue screen. It creates an even light with a few soft shadows. 

This is a shot taken without the tissue screen. It is lit fairly well but you do notice there are some shadows around the base of the card. The shadow will shift depending on how you place your light.

You'll want to experiment a bit, but if you find you are having an issue with strong shadows, diffusing the lighting in this manner should correct it. Be very careful not to have your light bulb close to, or touching the tissue for safety reasons.


You might be tempted to use a colored background in your photos but keep in mind that when you use use a white box the light from your bulb reflects off of it and creates additional brightness. The photo of this card above is taken in the white box and the result is photo with fairly accurate color.

Here it is with a colored background and base. As you can see the yellow and orange are reflecting onto the card and my white card stock no longers looks very white. Also notice the lighting is not nearly as even. This image can be adjusted in photo editing software but you'll need time and significant skills to get back those whites and restore the true colors in the photo so it looks like the actual card.


The lamp you see in my set up is a basic $10 clip style desk lamp I bought at WalMart. As far as light bulbs are concerned I have used both OTT Light Bulbs and Sylvania Daylight bulbs with equally good results.

The key is that a daylight bulb will give you clean, bright light. If you use a normal incandescent bulb your resulting photos will likely have a warm, yellow color cast and a fluorescent bulb will cast a blue tone on your images. While these color casts can be corrected with photo editing software, it's easiest and makes the most sense to get the very best photo from the start.


Once you have a well lit, in-focus photo you'll want to crop out some of this background to get closer to the card and you might want to 'sign' or 'watermark' your image so everyone will know who it belongs to. Stay tuned for an tutorial on how you can do both cropping and watermarking online with no additional software.

Happy Crafting Everyone!


Velda said...

Thank you, Paula. This will be very helpful info for many of us.

Linda said...

Thanks...I want to make a light box sometime! Thanks for taking the time to share!!!

Cindy O said...

Thanks Paula for sharing your light box how-to and photography tips!

Laurie said... I know what I have been doing wrong all this time.

NJ Stamping Queen said...

Wonderful tutorial! I have been looking for some info about light boxes and you've answered my request with a wonderfully written tutorial complete with great photos! Now, I must make the time to do it. Thanks for the instructions and inspiration!

:) Marie

Desert Rose Stamper said...

Fantastic tutorial. I have always had issues with my pictures of my cards. I am going to give this a try --looking forward to seeing the difference with my cards. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this great tutorial, Paula.

Bev aka sf_crafter

Unknown said...

This is fantastic information!! Thank you so much for sharing in so much detail.

Diana Evensen said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this information. Taking photos of my cards is the most challenging thing about card-making!

Lara said...

I ve learned a lot from various blogs and YouTube videos, but this will be by far, the one I use the most! Thanks for posting this!

Andrea D. La Vigne said...

Thanks so much for this post, Paula. I've been struggling to take good photos of my cards (I just recently started blogging). I'll have to try this.

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