This has been so much fun. I got involved with this blog swap through a Facebook group that I belong to… Operation Entrepreneur. This month I decided to jump into the swap, as I’ve been thinking I’d like to try this out. You are kind of forced to think outside of your usual blogging (comfortable) box when swapping. My guest blogger is Marie-Pier Frigon, a photographer, and she’s been so kind to share some of her professional knowledge.

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Before I begin this post, let me introduce myself. My name is Marie-Pier, and I’m a photography student at the Academy of Art University. I also have a photography business called Montréal Photography (www.mpfphoto.com). I guess it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about photography.

One of my favorite things to shoot are products. I just get so excited when I buy new props or receive them in the mail, because I start thinking of all of the ways I can use them in my shoot! I’m sure for someone who makes their own products, it’s even MORE exciting: you make something new and can’t wait to photograph it. And we all know how essential great photography is to selling your products – but this can be tough. Trying to get a clear image of what your product looks like, but also making it fun or different to attract clients.. it’s all a lot to take in. So I’ve drawn up a list of 5 tips for DIY photographers who want to photograph their products. Consider this list next time you pull out the camera – it could very well make a difference in how many people buy!

1. Spend some time thinking about your shoot and how you want to portray your products

I never start shooting a product right away without giving it some thought first. Give yourself until the next day if you can before you start shooting to consider your product and where and when and how you’ll be photographing it. You may think you know your product backwards and forwards, but do you know where you’ll be shooting? Do you know at what time of day, and what the lighting will look like? What background will you have? I’ve done it before, so I know that if you immediately jump into the shoot you end up changing places several times, picking a couple of different backgrounds, and doing other things that are frankly a waste of time. As a small business owner, time is money and saving it is crucial, so thinking about your shoot throughout the day (which you can do while doing other things!) can be an immense time saver.

2. Light is everything – consider light and how you can manipulate it

If there’s anything I’ve learned in photography school is that light is everything in photography. Be sure to think about the time of day you’re shooting. If you can, set up a studio in your backyard in the evening, where the light is gorgeous and flattering (starting at around 5 o’clock). If you’re forced to be inside, think about window light, or using bare bulbs with diffusers. Consciously observe how light is hitting your subject. Here’s an example of two very different types of light:

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Now, at first glance this may not seem like much of a difference. But the difference is incredible. Look at the shadows on the top image: very soft, mainly gradient shadows. On the bottom image, the light is harsh with sharp shadows. There’s also more of a yellow color cast on the bottom image. Here’s the difference between the two: I used a diffuser on the top image, in direct sunlight, and I didn’t use it on the bottom. And I think we can agree the top image is much more flattering and more attractive. The point is not to go out and buy expensive equipment (although diffusers are not very expensive and can be a great investment!), but to understand how light is hitting your subject and to manipulate that to your advantage (shade is a great natural diffuser).

3. Keep the attention on your product

I see so many photos of babies and their mothers, or in certain environments, and I can never quite figure out what product is being advertised. Usually, it’s some kind of hat or accessory for the baby and I just wonder why all of the unnecessary things are added to the background. A professor recently told me that if something in your photograph isn’t adding to the purpose or story of the photograph, it’s a distraction and should be removed. I agree completely. Try and keep your products centered, ALWAYS in focus, and make it clear what you’re selling. If you’re selling baby accessories, take close ups of the accessories on the baby, or just the baby, accessory, and a plain background. Don’t add unnecessary elements to your photo  that will distract from the product. If you want to take some more artistic images – great! Make those an addition to your product photos – don’t use them by themselves. Make sure your customer knows exactly what you’re selling.

4. If you have access to editing software, use it!

If you have access to a DSLR camera, Adbobe Lightroom, and Adobe Photoshop, learn to shoot in RAW and learn how to process RAW files. If you don’t even know where to begin with this, check out Adobe’s website! They have fantastic tutorial videos on just about every topic, and online forums for specific questions. You can also take a Photoshop class at most community colleges. Lightroom is a software that I use on all of my images for basic lighting adjustments, and whatever else I need to do to enhance my photos. Now these tools are NOT necessary to produce a great photograph, especially in controlled conditions. But they can make a photograph even better if it didn’t come out exactly the way you wanted it to. Here’s an example:

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The first photo is the original image, and the second is the finished image after all of the adjustments I made. As you can see, I used these softwares to even out the lighting, bring attention to my model and the necklace she’s wearing, among other things. Since I was in a difficult light situation, I was able to salvage the photo through editing. These tools can be great ways to enhance photos if you’re able to use them.

5. Pay attention to the composition of your photographs

I mentioned above how important it is to keep your product centered and in focus. I cannot stress this enough. While you may think it’s artistic to have photos out of focus, or the product off to the side in the background, in the case of product photography this is only confusing and misleading. Think about other things in your photograph that might cause distraction. Our eyes immediately go to the color red, and the brightest spot in the photograph when looking at images. This is a very important thing to consider when taking photos, because a red lamp shade or wall hanging in your background could very well take the attention away from your product. The same goes for a bright spot of light from a window, or reflection. Try to keep these things out of your photos in order to keep the product the center of the image.

Knot By Gran'ma blog: Montreal Photography blog swap

I you are interested, you can read my post on Marie-Pier’s blog here.

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Operation Entrepreneur Blog Swap: Guest Blogger Marie-Pier Frigon – 5 Great DIY Tips on Product Photography