Quick Tip: Fill that Frame!

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a few things on using the macro setting on your camera. We talked about finding the little flower icon and how to test cameras in the store...but just how do you use that macro to enhance your small object photography?

Three words:


What I mean by that is: turn on your macro function and get your camera as close to your object as it will allow you to go and still get you the "green box" indicating sharp focus. If you are brave enough to fill that frame (or alternately, crop it in close in your photo editor), the results could be quite dramatic.

Go from this:

To this:

From this:

To this:

When you are reviewing your photos of your small object products, ask yourself: 

Does this photo help me to see the kind of detail 
I would look for if I were seeing it in person?

Does this photo make me feel like I could 
reach out and touch that object?


Have some great before and after shots to share? 
Email them to me via marlo [at] smallobjectphotography.com!

Beautiful Product Photography: Tortoise Loves Donkey

I love how this Etsy shop really uses the space *around* their air plants and terrariums. The neutral background and courage to show a "horizon" line in the background gives their photos a more personal feeling than they would if they were just on a stark white background, don't you think?

tortoise loves donkey via Etsy

SmallObjectPhotography take-away:

Tell me: 
What is one of YOUR favorite online shops that have wonderful product photography? Name them here so I can feature them in future posts! Thanks for your help!

Before and After: Seattle Chic

As small object phographers, our goal should always be to figure out how to take a great photo within our camera so that post-shoot editing is reduced to a minimum. The overuse of brightening and contrast can wash out your photo and take away all the important details.

Dramatic improvment from SeattleChic!

  • Photo composition is static
  • Overuse of Photoshop ends up with a flat, gray and lifeless photo
  • Props are little distracting

  • Composition shows that the object is 3-dimensional
  • Brightness and contrast are better and colors are more vibrant
  • Just a hint of the prop used to add interest to the photo

Great Job SeattleChic! Thank you for sharing your before and after photos with us and keep up the great work!


Do YOU have some before and after photos to share with us? 
Please send up to 4 photos (they do *not* have to depict the same image - they just need show how you've improved your photos overall) to marlo [at] smallobjectphotography.com for a chance to be featured right here on Before and After day!

Quick Tip: EV +/- for Point-and-Shoot Cameras

If you've done everything you can think of to brighten up your photos but somehow they still end up a little dark / gray, find out if your camera is able to adjust the Exposure Value or EV Compensation. Typically, it's a menu option like this:

Look for EV +/- somewhere in your camera's menu options

On some cameras, there's a little "+/-" button on the back of the camera. Check your owner's manual to find out the details for your camera model.

By adjusting the EV compensation, the camera will either quicken the shutter speed a bit to underexpose the image or slow the shutter speed to overexpose the image:

 underexposed vs. overexposed - ideally, we'd aim for somewhere in the middle.

Bonus tip:
Check to see if your camera has a "burst" setting that automatically takes three photos in a row - one underexposed, one neutral and one overexposed. Afterward, you'll be able to choose the best of the bunch and delete the rest. If your camera doesn't have that setting, you can learn how to change your EV compensation setting on the fly and take 3 successive shots for each photo setup.

Making this a regular practice will save you a lot of time while you're figuring out the optimal exposure settings for taking great photos of your small objects!

What was your experience when using the EV compensation function on your camera? Please leave a comment and let us know!

Shopping: Comparing Point and Shoot Macro Settings

As I mentioned earlier this week, using the macro setting on your point-and-shoot camera is essential to taking clear photos with sharp focus. If the camera you are currently using does not have a macro setting then it is time for you to look into buying a new camera.

Your new camera needn't be expensive. There are a lot of really great point-and-shoot cameras out on the market today that are under $200. Here are a few tips for comparing the macro functions on each camera in the camera section:

  1. Turn on the camera's macro function (usually a dial or button)      
  2. Point the lens at something close, like the camera right next to you
  3. Get as close as possible until one part of the object fully fills the frame
  4. Auto-focus by pressing the shutter button 1/2 way down
  5. If the box in the center of the screen is RED, then let go of the button, back up about 1/2" and then refocus again.
  6. Keep repeating step 5 until the box turns GREEN
  7. Take the photo by pressing the shutter button all the way down
  8. Before you move, take a look at how close the lens is to the object and make a note of it.
  9. Review the photo for clarity by zooming in on the photo (usually done by pressing on the zoom feature when viewing a photo)
In general, the closer the macro function will let you get to an object, the better the camera.
A decent macro function in a point and shoot camera will let you focus on your object anywhere from 10cm all the way down to 1cm. Just remember - closer is better.

Why so close? 
In order to take the most dramatic and detailed photos possible, you must be able to get up-close and personal with your small objects! It's much better (and faster!) to take great photos in-camera than to try to adjust each photo in your photo editing software.

Next time: Time for your close-up: Let's talk about filling that frame!

Before and After: Danger Peach

Product photography can be tricky especially if you have a product that has dimension and texture. Danger Peach is an awesome Seattle artist who creates wonderful artwork and jewelry designs that incorporate hand-embroidered details that she needed to show in her photographs.

Before: Photographs are a bit "home-styled" with the vintage sheet background and natural lighting that cast shadows across the photo. The composition is interesting, but the pieces look too flat and their textures are lost.

After: The extreme angles and even lighting keep the focus on the work and not on the background. Notice the relief of the hand stitching through the jewelry's shrink plastic. Makes you want to run your finger over the stitches to feel them, right?

Great job with your photos, Danger Peach! Thanks so much for sharing them with us and keep up the great work!


Do YOU have some before and after photos to share with us? 
Please send up to 4 photos to marlo [at] smallobjectphotography.com for a chance to be featured right here on Before and After day!

Quick Tip: Using Your Macro Setting

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The only way to achieve sharp, clear photos of your small objects with your point-and-shoot camera is to use the macro setting on your camera. Look for a flower shaped icon on your control buttons or dials like this:

By using this simple one-touch setting you will go from this:

close-up shot without macro

To this:

same set-up with macro setting enabled

To ensure the sharpest focus:
  1. Point the center of your camera screen on the focal point of your photo
  2. Depress the shutter button halfway to engage the auto-focus 
  3. A box should appear and turn green when fully focused (if it's red, then move back slightly and re-focus until the box turns green)
  4. Hold down the shutter button and re-frame the photo's composition by swiveling the camera into position on the same focal plane (Do NOT move the camera closer or farther away from the subject!)
  5. When you are satisfied with the composition, press the shutter button all the way down
 If your photo is still blurry, practice your focusing and re-framing technique
If your photo is still blurry, try using a tripod to hold your camera
Unfortunately, some point-and-shoot cameras don't have a macro function built into the camera. If yours doesn't have a macro function then you will probably want to consider buying a camera that does.

Later this week: How to compare point-and-shoot macro functions at the store

In the meantime, tell us: What brand and model number camera do you use? Does it have a macro function?

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Beautiful Product Photography: gsakowskidesigns

I spend a lot of time browsing around the pages of Etsy and every now and then I find a shop that stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away with an impressive combination of branding and photography. This is one of those shops:

gsakowskidesigns - Whimsical Romantic Wearable Fiber Art

Beautiful products showcased by elegant photography allows the shopper to concentrate on the textures and patterns of the work and not the dress form or background. Just stunning!

So tell us: Do you have a favorite Etsy shop or website that you admire for their photography? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Before and After - Common Object Jewelry

Common Object Jewelry by Julie Charles - Before and After

Cheerio Pendant Necklaces by Common Object Jewelry
  1. Before: composition is nice, but the use of flash and a plain background didn't show off the item well enough to show the size or scale of the necklace.
  2. After: A nice grouping of items illustrates that these are, indeed - pieces of cereal cast from real-life! The use of clever props and the slightly textured yet simple background are what draws your attention right away.

 Goldfish Pendant Necklaces by Common Object Jewelry
  1. Before: Not enough light and shadowy reflections cast on the pendant results in a lifeless photo that doesn't adequately show that the piece is made with sterling silver.
  2. After: Well balanced lighting, good variations in the highlights and low lights in the reflection along with the actual crackers in the photo as a background makes this photo a clear winner!
Great job Julie! Thank you so much for sharing your before and after photos with us!

Please check out the Common Object Jewelry website and Etsy shop to see more of her clever designs in sterling silver and bronze!

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

Quick Tip - Cameras

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First, a quick quiz:

Which photo was taken with a standard point-and-shoot camera and which was taken with a mid-range DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera?

Taking great photos is about much more than just the kind of camera you have. Many point-and-shoot cameras available on the market today are capable of taking wonderful photos. So, be sure you are using your current camera correctly with the proper settings, composition and lighting before you run out and spend hundreds of dollars on a new camera! 

The three most important settings to look for and learn how to use in a point-and-shoot:

Macro capability (tulip icon) 

EV / exposure value compensation (+ / -)

Custom white balance

Oh yes. I bet you're wondering about the answer to my question, right?
The top photo was taken with a Canon Rebel XSi DSLR with a 60mm macro lens and the bottom photo was taken with a Samsung S630 with the macro setting selected.

So tell us: What kind of camera do you have? Leave a comment and let us know!

Resources and Links

There is a lot of great (and honestly, some not so great) advice out there about small object product photography, so on Fridays I'll share some of the great resources that I've come across during my travels around the internet - along with the occasional product / website / book review.

Here are this weeks' recommended reading links:

Have some great informational posts that you'd like to share? Please post them in the comments below! (Just so you know, any comment that looks like you're just trying to sell your book or comes across as too much spam will be deleted without question, so be nice! Thanks!)

Before and After - Marlo M. Jewelry Design

Occasionally I'll feature "before and after" photos from one of my Small Object Photography class participants and blog readers.

If you have some great before and after shots you'd like to share, feel free to email me your photos using this link: for a chance to be featured! (Maximum 4 photos per submission, please. Feel free to include information about your online shop and your before and after story as well!) 

My own Before and After story:
When I wanted to apply for high-end wholesale trade shows with my jewelry line, Marlo M. Jewelry Design (est. 1993) I quickly realized that I needed to learn how to take my own photos of my work. So, I took an entire year to learn how to take photos of my jewelry using a Nikon 35mm SLR (yes, the kind that uses actual *film*!).

In that year, I took classes and workshops, learned how to work with lighting, rented professional equipment and learned quite a bit about taking great photos with 35mm film by shooting many, many rolls of film! Here's one of the results of that effort:

A photo of my Seedling Bracelet using 35mm slide film

Flash forward about 14 years.

I opened up my first Etsy shop I was admittedly pretty lazy and just didn't take the time to take great photos of my work. It was as if all that previous knowledge of taking my own 35mm photos was nowhere to be found!

 Yes. I actually used this photo in one of my early listings in my shop! So embarrassing. :P

Then one day I decided to document one of my necklaces and have a little fun with it. I moved around a light or two and used some textured copper and brass to take this photo:

  Ahh....much better!

It was then that the proverbial "light bulb" went on in my head! I realized that having great photos is really an important part of selling online and I needed to take some time to retrain myself so I could represent my work in the best way possible.

So, I dusted off my memories of the things I learned about product photography all those years ago, did a lot of research, even more experimenting and now my photos are much, much better! 

Even more refined with better lighting and composition :)

Tell us: When did you realize that taking better photos was going to be important for your online shop?

Monday Quick-Tip - Lighting

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Lighting small objects doesn't always mean a complicated setup or light coming in from every direction.

Shadows tell our eyes that an object is 3-dimensional. To preserve the 3D perspective of your pieces, try lighting your object from one direction only - bouncing just a little bit of light back using a bright white piece of paper or foam board like this super-simple set up by 0olong I found on Flickr.com:

tiny studio by 0olong via Flickr

What kind of light / lightbox setup do you use? Leave a comment and let us know!

Like this? Read more Indie Business tips at my other blog: http://CreativeArtsConsulting.com/blog

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2011! SmallObjectPhotography.com is here to give you some great tips, tricks and inspiration to help you improve your small object product photography!

This year there will be posts featuring:

  • Great small object product photography - find inspiration for your online shop
  • Technical tips to help you better understand your camera and your studio setup
  • Before and After photos from Small Object Photography students and readers (Send me your photos for a chance to be featured!)
  • Information about equipment and how to set up a studio including budget options
  • Photography product, tools and website reviews
  • And lots more!
If you have links to sites that fit into the categories above or maybe an idea of what you'd like to see covered in future posts on SmallObjectPhotography.com, please feel free to leave a comment below.

In the meantime...

Here is a beautiful treasury I found on Etsy today featuring some squeaky clean product photography! (Click on the photo to go directly to the treasury on Etsy.com)

Etsy treasury by 88editions