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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some Card Photographing / Editing Tips

A couple of my friends have asked me how I get such nice looking pictures of my cards.I am by no means a photographer or Photoshop expert, but I have learned some tricks over the years, so I thought I would share my 'secrets' here. Hopefully this will help you if you are currently not satisfied with your card/craft photos.

The Camera

Last year I purchased the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS. I made sure it had a Macro Setting and good Optical Zoom. Although I do own a digital SLR I choose my Canon point-and-shoot over it 99.9% of the time. I feel like the DSLR is just too much camera for me. I think this proves that even a 'regular' camera can get you nice photos.

I think one of the downsides to this camera, and my previous point-and-shoot, is when the flash is used, it always seems to discolor the photo and puts a glare. I always avoid using the flash when taking photos of my cards. This is why the 'stage' must be set just right...

The 'Stage'.
I find that my photos turn out best when I photograph them in front of a window. Normally I try to avoid direct sunlight streaming through, but lately I have found a workaround even for that. Here is a picture of what my 'stage' looks like...
Pretty crude, huh? All I do is pull out a drawer from my 12x12 Sterilite Paper Tower that is about chest-height; about 3/4 of the way open. On top of the drawer sits a wicker place mat; this is mainly for stability of the top mat. A year or so ago at Target I found these bamboo placemats in their $ Spot - I think I paid $2.50 for both. One mat is left flat and the other one I stand upright using the drawer fronts for support. To avoid the top mat tumbling over, I use low-tack scotch tape to help hold it temporarily. When I am not photographing cards, these pieces sit nicely on top of the paper tower.

Since my craft room gets direct sunlight in the afternoons, I always try to take my pictures late morning. This way there is nice light coming in the window, but it isn't blinding sunlight. Last week I did discover a 'workaround' because I was running late on a deadline and had no other choice. What I did is shut the blinds completely when the sun was pouring in the window. Since my blinds are not room darkening, there was still some nice light coming in. You will want to turn the blinds both ways (up and down) to see which gives you more light with the least amount of 'light stripes/spots' on the placemats* (see pictures below)

Direct Sunlight
Blinds Shut
Notice there are still light spots on the bottom placemat in the "Blinds Shut" photo. I find this is still better than all of the shadows and bright/dark areas in the 'Direct Sunlight' shot.

Photo Session
Generally when I photograph a card I take 10+ photos of each card. I will sit the card up and have it face both to the right and left; usually taking a horizontal and vertical shot in each position. Then it is time for the close-ups. This is definitely when you will want your Macro setting turned on, but even for the full shots I have been setting it to Macro a lot lately.

For the detail shots I usually lay the card flat and try to take pictures of anything that shows depth, or features that readers might light to see more detail on. I usually take a few shots from different angles.

Here is a look at all of the pictures I took of the card above...

Once I have all of the shots I think I might need, it is then time for downloading onto my computer. The work is not done yet, next I do a bit of editing in Photoshop...

The Editing Room
Even though the best photos could just be chosen and uploaded to my blog, I choose to do a little editing in Photoshop before the final product is shared. Since I am on a few design teams now, I want to to make sure my samples and photos looks as nice as possible, so the owners of the sites feel choosing me is a benefit to their company/site.

With a few simple editing steps, I turn this photo...

into this...

I think the colors in the 'after' photo are so much more crisp and deep. After editing, the original looks almost washed out.

Because of personal preference I crop all of my photos (besides the blog post header) into a square. This allows me  zoom in a bit on the card and crop out any of the wall or paper drawers that might be showing in the photo.

As far as photo editing, here are the basics of what I do in Photoshop...
- Create two (2) duplicates of the background layer
- One (1) of the duplicate layers I turn to a "Screen" and set the Opacity to "25%"
- The second duplicate layer is made an "Overlay" layer and the Opacity is set to "75%"

Once you have these three basic layers set up, you will have to do some tweaking of the opacity of each of the duplicate layers. For instance, if your original image is on the dark side, you will want to bump up the opacity of the Screen Layer. (The final settings I used for the sample above were: Screen - 40%, Overlay - 75%.)

For the 'detail' versions of the card, I generally use the same percentages as the 'full' version. Sometimes they are tweaked slightly, but keeping them the same is a good rule-of-thumb.

The final layer is created for the watermark. I usually use a white version of the watermark (this sample uses an image created by Melyssa of Whimsie Doodles) and set the opacity of the layer to around 90%. This allows some of the photo to show through the watermark itself.

Well, I hope this was helpful to you. If you do try any of my tips/tricks, link me up so I can come see your wonderful creations!

You can get all of the details on this card by visiting yesterday's post.


  1. just perfect! :) almost the same i do with mine (except the editing part, mine is automatic curves and levels, lol!) and my cam is a canon powershot as well (S5 IS though)... thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I just take a photo and hope for the best LOL

  3. What a great little tutorial!

  4. I've been looking for one of these! Thanks so much!

  5. Thanks sooo much! I always love seeing how people take their awesome pics. Love this easy tut - very wonderful results, and of course the perfect cards always help. heehee!

  6. Wow Alicia what a fantastic tutorial!! The pictures are great, the explantion is easy to follow and understand. And I finally get to see your photo studio! I was wondering how you were taking such perfect pictures!! Such a clever idea TFS!