Ready for your Closeup?

Explorer Beastie at the Etsy Offices - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie and I have been quite the social butterflies recently – we started with the Irish Blogger Conference at the end of last month, and then last week found us hanging out at the Etsy offices in Dublin city centre! We were there for a one-night Product Photography Course, organised by the Etsy Ireland team. When I heard they were running this, I jumped at the chance to go – my own Etsy shop has a hard time competing with my market setup, so I was hoping to pick up some tips to make it a more fun place to visit!

That, and Etsy’s HQ is an excellent place for an adventurous Beastie to explore…
Explorer Beastie at Etsy - CrawCrafts BeastiesOnce everyone had arrived, and helped themselves to some cake…
Yumyumyum CAKE! CrawCrafts Beasties…We got started! We all had a chance to introduce ourselves, and talk about what we make, and then we tackled the tricky subject of lighting.

We’re always told that it’s best to take photos in natural light, but in Ireland this poses something of a problem. I’m certainly guilty of holding out for a sunny day to take my pictures, and it seems I’m not the only one! Even in the middle of summer, a rainy day here can mean really limited daylight… and correspondingly dark and unimpressive pictures! Some of the others also pointed out that it’s difficult to get consistency in a set of photos, because natural light changes so much from season to season – or sometimes from one minute to the next! Gaaaah! How do you fix this?

Why, you build a lightbox of course! So we did – well, two of the team members took on the task of transforming a simple cardboard box (free from your local supermarket) into a glamourous miniature photoshoot setting!
The Finished Lightbox! CrawCrafts BeastiesHere it is, being used as a backdrop for a couple of beautiful Brookwood Pottery mugs! If you’d like to have a go at making your own, YouTube is just brimming over with “how-to” videos… We watched this one before we started. And most of the things you’ll need are either free, cheap or something you’ll already have at home! We all had fun testing it out, too…
Testing the Lightbox - CrawCrafts Beasties…And here’s Cheerleader Beastie enjoying her moment in the spotlight, as Explorer Beastie watches admiringly from the sidelines!
Cheerleader Beastie's Photoshoot - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut of course, he couldn’t resist the lure of the limelight…
Explorer Beastie Strikes a Pose - CrawCrafts BeastiesThe light in this lightbox still has a bit of a pinkish hue, but this can be fixed by using daylight bulbs instead of standard lightbulbs. Javier from CartabanCards showed us another way to make a lightbox, this time using LED camping flashlight tubes and pieces of a simple slot-together storage unit. I think the lighting in this one works much better for showing off Beasties in their best light!
Explorer Beastie Portrait - CrawCrafts BeastiesDoesn’t Explorer Beastie look handsome? And look at how well this setup worked for this stunning vintage-style doll’s dress from DinahsDolls
Photographing the Dinah's Dolls Dress - CrawCrafts BeastiesDinahsDolls Dress in the Lightbox - CrawCrafts Beasties… And how it makes the colours pop in Maeve Croly‘s embroidery sample!
Embroidery Sample by Maeve Croly - CrawCrafts BeastiesAll in all, we had a great time and learned loads! It was super to make contact with some other local Etsyans as well, and swap tips and stories. I’m especially interested to try out Snapseed, which allows you to edit photos on your phone or tablet!

Thanks to the Etsy Ireland team for organising the course, and especially to Claire from mIrishDublin and Javier for teaching us! Claire also put together an Etsy treasury afterwards featuring some of the goodies from each of our shops… if you’re in need of a treat for someone (or for yourself), you could well find it there!

We’ll be back on Friday to check up on a Beastie abroad… in the meantime, if you have any top photography tips of your own please share them with us in the comments!

Have a great week!

31 thoughts on “Ready for your Closeup?

  1. Excellent post with great technical advice. Photography is tricky and lightboxes can be very useful. I would also recommend using a reflector on cloudy days which can be a piece of poster board, foam core or cardboard covered with aluminum foil – depending on your desired effect. If you don’t have someone to hold it for you, you could rig it up fairly easily with a tripod or some books, etc.

    1. Great idea – thanks Maggie! Cloudy days certainly are an occupational hazard for anyone trying to take photos here. I might rig one of these up straight away while I’m trying to figure out where to keep my lightbox when I’m not using it! Thanks for stopping by 😀

  2. Super cool tips. I have seen those boxes before and would love to make one one of these days. Don’t know what I would take photos of but it sure seems like a fun idea anyway.

    1. Thanks! It’s so easy – I was surprised at how quickly ours came together – and the components can be rounded up for next to nothing! They’re useful for taking pictures of anything small – I don’t know if you’re a souvenir-buying kinda girl, but it would be a great way to photograph your finds from your travels. Or to show what you pack when you visit certain places! The possibilities are endless… 😀

  3. Explorer Beastie is quite the ham! Personally, I love all your Beastie photos so far, so I can’t wait to see what new things you come up with. Photographing my art is troublesome since you’re supposed to show it in a “setting” so people can imagine it in their homes/offices and all my “setting” areas have terrible light. I have a feeling if I made a lightbox, my cats would just make a bed out of it. And go you with all these learning opportunities! I thought about joining the Portland Etsy group, but they seemed a bit militant in their requirements.

    1. Awww, thanks! I love taking Beastie adventure photos, but I always felt like my Etsy photos were lacking something. It was reassuring when one of the first things they said at the course was “product photography and photography photography are two very different things”! Maybe the reflector idea that Maggie (Travel Magnolia) mentioned in one of the other comments might cast a little extra light on your product shots? Of course, the cats won’t get their new bed, but I’m sure they have plenty already 😺 And look into joining a regional or state Etsy sellers group if your local one isn’t what you hoped… I really landed on my feet with the Etsy Ireland team, but when I applied to Dublin, they left me hanging for about 6 months before sending out a generic refusal email!

  4. What a great idea for a course and it sounds like you gleaned a great deal from it. I too struggle with lighting conditions. It either seems to be grey and murky, which impacts on the colours even when adjusted in Photoshop, or else far too bright, which causes blow out. It is rare that I get the time to take photos of my art work precisely when the lighting is at its best. If I am ever going to set up on Etsy (still trying to build my confidence first) then that is something I will need to get right. So thank you in advance for the tips.

    1. You’re welcome, and thanks for your comment! It’s actually quite comforting to learn that so many other people have the same problems getting their photos right… I sometimes fall into the trap of believing that I’m the last person on earth not living in a perfectly-lit, Instagram-ready home! Good luck with your Etsy shop – I’d definitely recommend getting in touch with your local or regional sellers team, it’s a great way to meet people! And have you considered selling your work at fairs or craft markets?

      1. I’m not at the stage yet where I’m confident enough in my art or my ability to set up selling on any platform. I sold my art ever so often in Scotland and I’ve done the odd commission here in America but I’m just not convinced my stuff is good enough to find its niche. On a practical level, I also need to apply for a business license first and sort all the related admin out. But my husband and friends keep encouraging me to do it so it’s on my To Do list.

        1. Oh, I see a lot of myself in your comment… I can always think of ten million things that I need to do before I can embark on a new project “properly”. But trust me, nothing will give you that confidence boost like actually going out there and doing it! So play to your strengths now, rather than waiting until you’ve mastered every art technique going… I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most accomplished knitter I know, but would the Beasties benefit from me knowing 25 different ways to cast on? Of course not! And putting myself out there has meant that the skills I felt I was lacking have “grown in” as I go – I’m much better at sewing and drafting patterns, and I’ve started experimenting with new techniques like felting too! See what people like about your work (check your blog comments!), make a few small pieces, and try them at a craft fair. You will be terrified (I was!), but it could be the start of something great. As for the tax thing, check out “The Handmade Marketplace” by Kari Chapin, or find yourself a tame accountant to explain things to you. Everyone has a friend of a friend who’s an accountant, and they’re usually happy to go over the basics for free! I really hope you’ll give it a shot, good luck 😀

        2. You deserve it. Taking the plunge and becoming a Maker of Monsters has been awesome for me – it’s not all plain sailing, but it sure beats having a regular job! I’d recommend anyone who has a skill to at least give it a try 😀

        3. I read your comments with utmost interest and I have to say I’m right behind Helen on this …you are a VERY talented lady just take a breath and jump in, I was so nervous at my first craft fair I almost backed out, to this day I’m still overawed whenever anyone buys anything I have crafted, I think that’s our inner critic taking control, follow your dreams 🙂

        4. Well said, Mrs P! And it’s true – the buzz you get when a complete stranger likes your work enough to dip into their pocket and buy something you’ve made is truly awesome! 😀

        5. The first time someone bought something from me I was oh so nearly tempted to ask if she was sure she actually wanted to buy it LOL and to this day I see every tiny flaw in something I’ve crafted until a lady whom’s work I really admire told me there is an imperfection in every single item she makes ~ she tells me her goods are hand crafted with love not precision bulk made by a robot and that remark pushes me forward to this day

        6. I’m the same… I always see the mistakes, no matter how tiny they are! Your inner critic is good for making sure your work is the best it can be, but it can be tricky to stop it taking over completely! It sounds like your friend has just the right attitude, thanks for sharing 😀

  5. What a great course! Lighting is such a tricky one. We have plenty of sun here in Sicily but houses are generally dark so you can hurtle between too much and too little light was alarming speed! I really must build a lightbox….

    1. Yes, apparently too much sunlight can be as bad as too little… I suppose that’s why super-diligent photographers get up at crazy o’clock in the morning to benefit from the “magic hour” before the sun gets too high in the sky! And I know what you mean about the contrast between bright outdoors and dark indoors wreaking havoc with your pictures – when we do get a sunny day here, I really have to pick my moment to avoid glarey colours and dark shadows! I reckon a lightbox would work really well for photographing your embroidery pieces 😀

  6. Looks like a great course! I find natural lighting a tricky issue too, it’s so hard to get the right kind of light and then it never lasts long anyway. The lightbox is a great idea and you got some great pics – especially the last one of Explorer Beastie. I’m off to check out Snapseed now! 🙂

    1. I know… There were more than a few moments last winter when I really wished I had better light for Beastie pictures! Hopefully it won’t be a problem this year! Thanks for your comment, and have fun with Snapseed 😀

  7. Ah the pain of waiting for the ‘right light’ living in a cottage ~low windows, shadows from the trees on the green, no overhead lighting, not that I’m complaining you understand…but the lighting for photography is a mare, your post fell on very welcoming ears, are you now going to be setting up a light box ??

    1. Tell me about it! Beastie Towers faces south-west, so that means zero sunlight in the morning, then the possibility of full-blown glare from mid-afternoon… and that’s assuming the sun even comes out at all. So I’ll definitely be making a lightbox… I just need to figure out where to keep it when it’s not being used 😀

  8. Brilliant blog Helen, really love your Beasties. Great photos thanks for sharing. Amazing what can be learned in just a couple of hours.

    1. Thank you! 😀 And yes, I was impressed how much we managed to cram into that short session! I always find that getting people together and having a bit of fun while you learn is the best way to get things to stick 😀 Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I just love all the information I found in this post. Of course I struggle through ‘picture days’ as well. Fortunately here in Virginia the natural light is usually nice and bright but oftentimes there are way to many shadows … or I cast my own shadow on my product and only realize it afterwards. Maybe a light box would solve all my problems but I’m a bit afraid that a plain white background will take away all the ‘specialness’ of my photos. I guess I’ll need to experiment a bit.

    1. Oh, I could never give up photographing Beastie adventures either! I love getting pictures of them outside, or stealing food off my plate when I go out for dinner. The lightbox is just to get consistency for my “hey, I just finished a new Beastie, look at all the cool stuff they have” blog posts, or to make my Etsy shop look like a chic little boutique rather than a jumble sale! And it’s for those winter days when sunlight is in short supply, of course… you’re lucky, it sounds like that last one isn’t a problem for you!

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