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!

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 1

My niece recently graduated esthetics school and I wanted to help her build a photographic portfolio while also demonstrating how she could create her own visual content for her online portfolio and social media pages. If you’re an esthetician, cosmetologist, artisan or entrepreneur, visual documentation of your work is an important asset and key to staying relevant and drawing in new clients. In this series, “DIY Photography for Your Small Business,” I am going to share the same photography tips and tricks I taught Sienna, so you can apply them to your work too. I will discuss gear essentials and techniques, how to create a catalog of beautiful images you can use to build a visually dynamic website, stock images you can use to create your own unique social media engagements and down-and-dirty tricks to capturing solid, beautiful portraits of your clients.
Let’s talk gear for a moment. I know youÕve probably been snapping pics using your smart phone, but frankly a smart phoneÕs camera capabilities are limited and the quality is just okay. If you want to do killer portraits and product shots, youÕll have to invest in a proper camera and lens(s) kit. If youÕre anything like Sienna, and every other entrepreneur just striking out, you donÕt have much pocket money. ThatÕs perfectly understandable. You donÕt have to break the bank to get your hands on a starter kit. A Nikon D3500 with two lenses is less than $500, a Nikon D750 with one lens is less than $1,800 and a Nikon Z 6 with FTZ Adapter and one lens is less than $2,750.
You should get familiar with the three elements of photographic exposure – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. I like to refer to it as your “What I.F.S.” This method is a great way to remember the three critical elements of creating a picture: ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. What if the room is dark? Answer: increase your ISO. What if I have a distracting background? Answer: use a wide-open aperture. What if I want to capture motion? Answer: slow down your shutter speed. If you don’t know what ISO, F/Stop or Shutter Speed mean, don’t worry – I’ll explain.
ISO was a numeric rating created in film days to denote film’s light sensitivity. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light the film was. The lower the ISO the less sensitive. Today’s “digital film” or sensor, aka charged coupled device, is the light sensitive part of your digital camera. Unlike film days, you don’t have to change a roll of film to change your camera’s light sensitivity. All you do is press the ISO button and rotate a dial.
The Aperture controls depth-of-field, which means it determines how much will be in focus in front of and behind the subject you’re focusing on. If you set your Aperture to F/2.8, whatever is in front of and behind your subject will be out of focus. If you switch to F/22, you will have nearly infinite sharpness in front and behind your subject. Again, the lens you have plays a factor too. Remember, some lenses may not be able to “open up” to F/2.8, which means you may not be able to achieve that blur, aka bokeh, you’re looking for. Also, the focal length of the lens impacts depth-of-field. I don’t want to get too technical, but you should know wider lenses like the NIKKOR 14-24mm natively has more depth-of-field no matter the F/Stop you choose. On the other hand, longer lenses like the NIKKOR 70-200mm have inherently less depth-of-field.
Shutter speed refers to the length of time the cameraÕs shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light will be let in. Shutter speeds are durations of time indicated in seconds or fractions of a second. They are displayed on the camera’s menu, or within the viewfinder, as a denominator of the fraction. For example, the display may show 500, which means 1/500th second. If you see what looks like ” you’ve set your Shutter Speed to full second increments. For example, 1″ is one second and 2″ is two second. Unless you’re doing long nighttime exposures or fancy wave pictures, you DO NOT want that. Beware of the camera shake. A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images.
A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images. Tip: Beware of the camera shake by ensuring your shutter speed is 1/60th of a second or faster. Also, you can help reduce camera shake by using your lenses focal length as a shutter speed guide. Simply make sure your shutter speed is set to be the same or faster than your lens’ focal length. What do I mean. Here’s an example. If you have a lens that 200mm, be sure your shutter speed is 1/200th of a second or faster. If the lens is 400mm, set your shutter speed to 1/400th of a second or faster.
All three elements of the ÒWhat IFSÓ directly impact each other. If the F/Stop changes, the Shutter Speed must be adjusted. There are many combinations of ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed that will create the same exposure – this is referred to as equivalent exposures. For instance, if you change your ISO, you’ll have to adjust your F/Stop or Shutter Speed to keep your exposure on-point. Using a full-auto exposure more like Program or semi-automatic exposure mode like Aperture Priority can help reduce exposure slip-ups. Keep it simple. I suggest using Aperture Priority where all you have to do is set the ISO based on available like, choose your F/Stop and let the camera determine the Shutter Speed.