The Crafter’s Guide To Taking Great Photos: A Must Read for Handmade Businesses
When I first heard about The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos I thought- finally! There has been a need for a great book aimed at creatives who want to take better photos of their handmade goods. When I saw it was written and curated by Heidi Adnum I was even happier! I met Heidi at an Etsy meet up a few years ago where she was taking photos of work people had brought in. Her style and knowledge is amazing so I’m thrilled to have an interview with her today!
First, a few of my thoughts on the book:
The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos is a necessity for any business owner who wants to take their own professional quality photos of their work. We all know the importance of having great product photos. It is one of the most important aspects of selling online. I’d put The Crafter’s Guide To Taking Great Photos in the same category as Craft Inc another essential book for handmade businesses, it’s that good.
The book flows really well through camera basics like shutter speed, exposure and aperture through to planning, setting up, styling and composition tips. Using great examples from designers like Jenny Gordy from Wiksten, Anna Bond from Rifle Paper and Heather Moore from Skinny La Minx the book is beautiful and inspiring to look at. Heidi does a great job of demystifying product photography and making it seem like a manageable and fun task!
I’m so glad to see that the book covers tips for ALL cameras not just DSLRs but also point and shoot, compact cameras. It shows that you can get great results with what you have, so really there is no excuse for bad photos anymore!
The final section of the book walks us through photo editing, workflow, saving and storing tips and good business practice. It covers everything you need to know about product photography from start to finish.
I was able to interview Heidi to ask her more about the book and her reasons for writing it.
Hi Heidi! Thank you for visiting us today at The Academy. Can you share a bit about your story and how you came to be a photographer?
In 2006, Will (who was then my boyfriend and is now my husband) and I moved from our home in Australia to London to work and travel. Initially, we planned to stay there for one year but that quickly turned into two, then three, four and it wasn’t until the end of the fifth year that we did actually move back home. In our third year (2008) I quit my job returned home to Australia for a family emergency. When I returned to London and started looking for a job in 2009, we were right in the middle of the global economic recession and the role that I was looking for just didn’t come up. I still wasn’t sure if this was going to be our final year in London, either. By this point, I’d figured out that if I was going to spend fairly short periods of time doing one thing – like a year or two in a day-job – it had to be interesting and enjoyable. With encouragement from Will and my closest friends, I looked into the possibility of turning my interest and skills with photography into more of a professional pursuit. Despite the recession, I found that people still wanted photographs taken. The difference seemed to be that they wanted a more modern, relaxed, and affordable service, and I could offer that. Within a few months, I was travelling all over London working as a photographer.
We actually met once a few years ago at a London Etsy meetup and I remember you taking photos of people’s work. What do you love the most about photography?
Photography is a wonderful tool for learning, memory and awareness. These instant observations can tell you a lot about the photographer, the viewer and, of course, the subject matter. A photograph can reveal details that we hadn’t noticed before, and it helps us to remember reality, whether positive or negative.
When did you realise a book like this was necessary and that you were the one to write it?
In early 2010 Amity Roach, Etsy’s UK Community Manager, booked me to photograph the Etsy UK meet-up. It was a pleasure to meet local crafters at the event and also really interesting to chat about their challenges and frustrations with photography. It was clear to me that many crafters would appreciate some tips to help solve their photographic problems. I prepared two articles for the Etsy Blog and the response was really positive. A few months later, I was contacted by Isheeta Mustafi, the Commissioning Editor at RotoVision UK, who asked me to write a book on the topic. For the meet-up and articles I had really enjoyed putting together a snippet of information that was realistic, meaningful and non-threatening, and the idea of expanding on that was exciting.
As a fledgling amateur photographer myself (I now shoot in manual mode hurrah!) I’ve struggled with the stuffy books that make photography sound confusing. How is your book different?
I’m so pleased to hear you’re using manual mode! That’s a photographic milestone. Over the years when I’ve been learning more about photography and improving my skills, I’ve noticed that sometimes the environment made me feel uncomfortable. On these occasions I think I’ve felt a competitive undercurrent. When I haven’t felt this way, that is, when the learning environment has been enjoyable and rewarding, the information being presented was straightforward and I’ve felt like I was being treated as an equal by the teacher and fellow students. When competition existed, it seemed to involve owning the most expensive equipment and using as many showy and technical terms as possible – this just isn’t my style. What works for me is meaningful, down-to-earth communication with my peers, presented to me as an equal who has potential to learn. On top of that, the information has to be applicable to real life. As a photography student, I want to leave a course, whether in-person or in-print, feeling optimistic and not fearful. I wrote the book with this intention.
I’ve discussed how makers can set their brand apart using photography, something that is evermore apparent than in your book. Many of my favourite makers included in the book are easily recognisable because of their photos. How important do you think it is to use photography in this way?
Indeed, many crafters have set themselves apart by taking great product photos. Great product photography is crucial in today’s market. More and more of us are shopping online, and a lot of the time we’re doing so in an international marketplace. When your customer can’t see or touch your product, it all comes down to your photos. They must convey the information the customer needs to make their decision.
Do you have any tips on how we can develop our own style when it comes to taking product photos?
In the book I talk about thinking about the photos you like and also the importance of practicing with your camera. This is the best way to develop your own style.
Many people worry that ‘their camera is not good enough’ to get decent photographs. What would you advise?
This is a common concern and I think it stems from what I mentioned above – the sense competition that sometimes seems to exist – and also a lack of understanding of how to use the camera to its fullest potential. Before anyone decides that their camera isn’t good enough, the best thing they can do is to refer back to the instruction manual. Get to know features that you may have overlooked; add in an accessory like a tripod. Combine this with a better understanding of how a camera uses light to make a photograph, and better photographs are almost guaranteed. Naturally, like electronic equipment in general, some brands and models are better than others and some do of course wear out. If you’ve done everything you can to learn how to best use your camera and you’re still dissatisfied with the results, upgrading to a better model can be an investment in the success of your business.
I love the DIY section that shares how to make a reflector, light box, tripod and also the business section, why did you decide to include these in the book?
Thank you! These sections give readers tools to add to their repertoire. The DIY tutorials help to overcome many of the challenges that we often face in photography, especially problems with lighting. I think it’s important to have these little helpers by your side (or at least to know that they’re easily made, should you need them) as they can be quite reassuring. The business section helps to round-off the role of photography in business and suggests ways in which crafters can make the most of their great photos and build a better business in general.
What was your favourite part of the book writing process?
I loved writing the book but I think researching the images was my favourite part of the whole process. It involved hours spent online browsing beautiful photographs of beautiful things – what’s not to love! It was a pleasure to find so many wonderful crafters from all around the world. I also found it truly inspiring. People are clever!
Which part of the book do you think will help creatives the most?
It’s my hope that the whole book will be the helpful. The book starts at the beginning and takes you through the essential elements of photography and how to apply this to product photos. That is, how to use light and how a camera works to make a photograph. This is the foundation for a better understanding of photography and, ultimately, to taking great photos.
Thank you so much Heidi!
If you are hoping to take your product shots to the next level this year then The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos is an affordable way to do that. I can’t wait to put some of the advice into practice for The Academy shop product photos!