Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Layouts...

Wait, what?

Maybe a thousand pictures is worth a layout?
Well, taking a number of photos can eventually produce a good image of one's layout.

My dear scrappy friend, Dawn, recently asked me how I photograph my projects and I sent her some photos and tips. She seemed to find it helpful, so I thought I might share it here, with all of you!

Come to think of it, Dawn is always giving me great ideas for posts. An email with her even prompted the series on My Creative Journey. Thanks Dawn!

Alrighty... so, this photographing my work thing took a while to figure out. I even went to school for photography back in the day. But, taking a picture of an inanimate and usually 2 dimensional object is totally different!

I got so frustrated one day, that I actually pea-mailed (over on Two Peas In A Bucket) some complete strangers, who seemed to be able to produce a decent image of their work, and asked their advice.

I got some great tips. Combine that with trial and error and I found a system that works for me. 

But first, some things to keep in mind:

White reflects light, black absorbs it. 
MOST project will photograph better on a white background.
Use natural light. ALWAYS.

OK, so...
Here you can see a glimpse of my set up:
I have a large window in my studio and I use a chair that faces the window. I have a piece of foam board that I affix my layouts to with washi and then a piece of white poster board that is there simply to reflect light.

Then, I sit on the aforementioned window seat and try to center and zoom in on my layout as much as possible. I have found that its super important to not have the foam board at a noticeable angle. Or your camera. If you do, when you go to try and crop your image and square things up, the top and bottom of your layout won't match up well and it will be hard to get a nice square crop. Make sense? I hope so :)
 I always take several images, at least 3 or 5. And then I end up with something like this:
As you can I am not too worried about mucky stuff on the background because I know I can crop that out. 

Then, to get the detail shots, I lay the foam board down, likey so:
I then crouch down and just play with different angles. 

Now, there are always exceptions to all of this. Sometimes if I have a ton of glossy things on my layout, the window can be too reflective. In that case I keep the foam board laying down and stand on my tippy toes to try and get an overhead shot. It helps that I am 5 feet 7 inches!

I NEVER use a flash. At my house, morning sun is the best, but afternoon will do.

I have a digital DSLR (a really old one) that I use and then I edit my picts in iPhoto.
If you don't have iPhoto, I am sure there are some very doable and cost effective alternatives out there. Photoshop Elements is fabulous and I do all of my advanced editing there, if need be. You can download a free trial of that from Adobe. The free trial, or at least the last time I played with it, even lets you save what you are working on. So... you could try your hand at it and save the results. Fun!

Once I have my picts imported into iPhoto, I crop them square and do a significant amount of brightening and sharpening. My goal is to always get the "white" areas to be truly white. If I can't achieve that, then I know I need to retake the pict. Oh yes, that does happen. It can be a pain, but I figure that once an image is out in cyberland, it is there forever. I want it to be the best it can be.

After all that editing, I end up with a final picture such as this:

And the detail shot:

Now what about photographing things that aren't mostly 2 dimensional? Like card, tags, etc?

I use the same set-up and have a little wooden easel that I picked up at the craft store and use it to prop up my project. I take that poster board that usually just lays on the chair, and I curl it so that it is half on the foam board and half on the chair. Not only does it cover up all that crazy washi tape I have stuck to my foam board, but it also makes it so there is no background seam. Like this:
See my fancy brass doxie bookends? They hold down that poster board. They were my grandfather's. I love them. I am sure he would be thrilled to know how they are being used now. HA!

For a card, I simply remove the easel.

For a banner, I have a long sheet of melamine that I got at Home Depot for just a few dollars. That allows me to hang something that won't fit on my foam board. A white wall is great too. But, we don't have any of those around here.

Now, I am sure there are many, many other ways to do this. Some that are probably even more efficient and effective. Trial and error will help you find out what works best in your situation. A lot of it depends on your space. If you don't have a large window - try near a door... or even outside, but make sure you are out of direct sunlight - that can have the same effect of a flash - which is just ookey. 

The priority for me is making sure I have an image that is properly in focus and that I can brighten enough to make the whites a true white, without loosing detail in the project itself. I also prefer a plain background. Meaning... no props. That is really just personal preference, though. Do what you like. After all, we are photographing our layouts, that we love. The photos of them should be to our liking too!

So, I hope this has provided a fun peak into my crazy, homemade, little photo studio, and perhaps even given you some ideas. Or, a good laugh at the least :)

Have a great weekend!


  1. We have very similar processes! I use a big piece of white foam board to photograph mine too. And I try to do it in the afternoon when I have the best sunlight coming in the windows. Great tips for those still trying to get it right. :)

  2. Great tips. My tile is white and I used to lay them on the floor to get the shot. But light became an issue.

  3. I mostly make cards so I use a big calender page which is all white at back and use it as bg,placing it in front of window..just as you do..I agree with you adjusting shadows n highlights helps a lot and makes project look better.Thanks a lot for sharing your process !

  4. Ahhhh thanks for the love Ashli!! Sometimes I think you must get quite the hoot out of my questions =) I have really enjoyed putting your suggestions into practice. I went right out and bought the foam and poster board and that is what I use now. I feel like my pics are definitely getting better. The lighting in our home is a bit tricky, but I am learning. Thank you for all of your suggestions. You make me a better scrapbooker and just a better girl in general =)

    Love and hugs ~~ dawn

  5. Thanks for these tips Ashli. It's always the part of the process that takes so long and causes so much frustration! Will try it your way now. Hugs, Jenny x

  6. GORGEOUS Layout!!

    Great tips, thanks for sharing :) and I'm very jealous of your art studio!

  7. Love your set up for photographing, Ashli! I have wanted to pull my hair out, getting good photos of my layouts!! :) I started using the foam boards too, and love the result that I've been getting since then!

  8. Firstly, I want to say that your layout is beautiful, I love this layering and these colors, I really need to use this cute sheet of Basic Grey paper as I have it !
    Then, I am not sure what you meant about having your white really white, but as for me, I use a filter called "White balance filter" to make my white really white. It comes with my photo editing software and I just need to pick with my mouse a spot in my photo that it's really white in real life and then the program adjust the colors, it's a wonderful tool !
    Hope that helps.

  9. I do something similar, but shoot from above (while kneeling on a chair). I square my layout with one edge of the foam core board so I know I'm working with at least one straight edge. :)

  10. Beautiful layout! Love all the layers and darling photo!

  11. I do something similar but I don't stand my page up- I tend to shoot down into it- especially now that I'm using my iPod. What I'm doing doesn't work as well so off to the craft store to get a second white board I go. Pinning this! Great tips.


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