DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 5

As a small business owner, your goal is to sell your product. With the tips I’ve provided over this 5-part series, you should be able to create amazing images to do just that! In Part 5, I’ll share images I’ve created for clients and reveal techniques I applied to help best capture each item.
I got a sheet of translucent white Plexi and placed the violin on top. The Plexi reflected the violin, which added a nice touch, but more importantly reflected light into the shadows. My light source was diffused white light place overhead between the violin and me. 
The lamp was pulled 6 feet from the white background. I used a light on the background so it was brighter than my subject. I metered and exposed for the white lamp shade ensuring there would be detail in the white of the shade and no detail in the white of the background.
The black wood absorbed the light while the lightwood reflected it. In order to have both equally exposed, I metered for the knob and used Adobe Lightroom to bring detail out of the blacks.
I have a NIKKOR 105mm F/2.8 lens that allows me to get super-close to my subjects. This micro lens captures amazing detail shots and works well to capture small objects are tiny details on items you’re photographing.
I used a cluster of three Nikon SB speed lights in a softbox for the subject’s face and one unmodified Nikon SB speed light behind the model to create a rim light on her hat, hair and shoulder. My camera was set to Aperture Priority and I used TTL (Through The Lens) technology to simplify my shoot. 
I shot this bent from a variety of angles until I found one that showed the top details and the legs. By moving around the subject and getting high and low, I was able to find the optimal position that best showcased the item. 
I do not use on-camera or pop-up flash. It creates terrible, unpleasant shadows. If you can use a flash off-camera, go for it! If you can’t, then just go with natural light. Be sure to remember your exposure fundamentals – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. 
Flat, front light is not that way to go if you’re trying to show an item’s shape. This silver goblet has fine detail that could only be showcased with angled light. I situated the goblet in front of a piece of black foam board and put a Nikon SB speed light on either side. The shadows from the angled light revealed all the delicate details in the etchings. 
I treat all my animal subjects like I do people. I’ll bring light, perhaps pop a little color, dress the set, choose a nice background and I always focus on the eyes! I photographed this chick with a NIKKOR 85mm portrait lens and a Nikon SB speed light.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 3

Nikon Z 7 Photo by Stacy Pearsall
Having a lens that allows you to open your Aperture to F/1.4 or F/2.8 is great because it will give your portraits that “dreamy” look. Remember from Part 1, Aperture impacts depth of field and the more open your Aperture is, the blurrier the background appears. I mainly use the NIKKOR 105mm F/1.4 for my portraits. Don’t worry, you can achieve lovely portraits with your 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses too. Just as I explained in Part 2, manipulating light helps improve your pictures too. There is a tool you can use to improve the quality of light for your portraits. Investing $20 in a diffuser/reflector combo will make a big difference. 
Most cameras allow you to have a Manual Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Group Auto Focus or Single Point Auto Focus. I recommend the Single Point Auto Focus feature because you can move the focus point over your subject’s eye and ensure critical focus is where you need it most. When taking portraits, ALWAYS FOCUS ON THE EYE(S). When your subject is angled to the camera, focus on the eye nearest the camera. 
A window is a ready-made light source that’s perfect for run-and-gun portraits. Get your subject as close to the window as possible. Rotate their face until the shadow falls pleasingly on their face. You can also face your subject directly toward the window so there’s no shadow at all.
Find open-shade under an awning or porch. Make sure there’s no direct light or dappled light falling on your subject. The light in open shade is often soft and wraps your subject’s face without creating harsh shadows. You can “kick” more light into the shadows by using a piece of white foam core. I realize your hands will be full of camera, but it can be done with practice. If you’re having trouble, ask your subject to hold the white foam board at chest level and tip it back toward their face. Make sure the board is just out of frame. A dedicated reflector and diffuser is ergonomically friendly and designed for you to be able to hold, manipulate and shoot at the same time. It’s definitely worth the $20!
If you have to shoot in the sun, try rotating your subject so their back is to the sun and their face is in shade. The sun will rim their hair and the shade will be soft, pleasant light. Since the face is most important, expose for the lightest part of the face. As I mentioned in Part 1, Aperture Priority Exposure Mode allows you to set your ISO for the available light, pick an Aperture for desired depth of field, meter for your desired area and the camera chooses the Shutter Speed accordingly. It also lets you use Exposure Compensation to make your picture lighter or darker if you don’t like the outcome.
Posing is the fun part. You can shoot tight with just eyes, nose and mouth, which is a great pose for make-up artists who want to showcase their masterpiece. You can capture a headshot that includes the neck and a portion of the shoulders, which is perfect for jewelry designers who want to show their pieces. Try angling your subject’s face away for a profile. If you’re a hairstyle and want to show the color and style of your subject’s hair, this would be an ideal pose. 
Mid-length and full-length poses are great for those who want to show off clothes, shoes and hats. With both you want to make sure you give your subject head space – don’t crop too tightly above their head. Mid-length means you crop your subject between the hip and knee – don’t crop at the knee, crop above it. Full-length is the entire body – don’t crop off or into the feet. 
I’ll talk more about editing your photos in Part 4 but it’s important to mention in this segment. There are computer software suites like Adobe Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX and One1 that give you the ability to touch up acne, brighten/darken, crop and add a cool toning. If you’re not ready for the computer suites, send your pictures from your camera to your phone and use the apps you’re familiar with like Snapseed and Edit.Lab.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 2

Light makes the exposure possible and shadow creates dimension. Light has quality, intensity, color and direction – all of which can be manipulated and used to enhance photography. In Part 2, I’ll cover the topic of light and how to use it. 
You can take pro-worthy pictures of your products to post on Etsy, EBay, your website and social media from the comfort of your home. You can use basic baking wax paper as a backdrop and diffuser, or get a pop-up shooting tent you can set up on your dining table. Simply light it with an LED panel or flashlight from your hardware store or camera store. 
You could take pictures in ambient light and they’d be good, but you shouldn’t settle for good enough. Let’s go for great! If you add one, two and even three lights to create drama and dimension in your photo. 
Use colored gels over your light to draw the viewer’s attention to certain areas of your picture. Just remember, colors such as red, orange, yellow and even white suggest warmth and seem to move toward the viewer and appear closer. Colors such as blue, purple and green suggest coolness and seem to recede from a viewer and fall back. 
All light has direction and can be redirected and diffused. In doing so, you can change the quality of the light. LED light can be very intense, so put something translucent between the light source and your subject like white tissue paper or wax paper. The easiest way is the tape it on over the light. (Note: if the light emits heat, don’t cover it or you’ll have a fire. That’s why LED is great because it doesn’t get hot.) If you can’t cover your light, simply bounce the light off a piece of white foam board and use the indirect light.
Light can pick up color by passing through or bouncing off of colored material. This is key in all photography. If you’re in a room that’s painted vibrant orange, your images may have an orange hue. If you’re photographing a church with stained glass windows, your pictures will capture varied colors of light. Use that in your pictures to add pops of color. Cover your light source with colored gels or bounce the light off foam core of various colors. 
When setting up your light, you’re natural instinct would be to put the light directly in front of your subject so it’s fully lit. Get that shot for sure, but then move the light to the side or toward the back so the shadows are on the camera side of your subject. This will give your image the appearance of depth and will showcase the shape of your product. 
Arrange your items thoughtfully and place your light(s) to best enhance the item’s shape then shoot. Don’t forget to set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode, Spot Metering, Single Point of Focus, set the ISO based on available light, choose an F/Stop for desired depth of field, move your focus point over the area of desired focus, meter for the highlight and let the camera choose the Shutter Speed. If the Shutter Speed is too slow, either increase your ISO or open up your Aperture or both. If the image is too bright or dark, use Exposure Compensation to +/- the exposure. Shoot the products from overtop then get at its level and shoot. If something doesn’t look right, change it and start again. 
When you stage a still life, it’s best to start simple. Put one item in at a time and arranging it. Add one light at a time too. It’s like painting, where you start with the background as the foundation and build layers over it. Don’t get stuck at one angle while shooting either. Be sure to try various angles – up, down, side to side. Don’t delete anything in camera; perhaps a happy mistake turns out to be the best image!