Taking photos of your handmade goods | Part two

Earlier this week, I posted about some of the issues you may come up against when taking photos of your handmade items on a white background. The list and tips were certainly not exhaustive, but I found I could probably write a book on it, and that would surely be extraordinarily boring.

SO, we’re moving on to taking photos of your goods on a dark background. This article is for people who fall into one of two camps: people with not-so-great cameras, and people with great cameras who do not know how to use them. If you’re an awesome photographer…why are you reading this?

Whatever your reason for reading this, let’s move ahead. Dark backgrounds are a good choice for photos of many handmade goods, but they can be challenging to do if you do not have good knowledge of your camera and how lighting works. Photographing on a dark background presents some similar challenges to using a white or light background, especially exposure issues, but has some other issues as well.

In my experience, the biggest challenge when photographing an item on a black background is  getting a good photo of the item while keeping the background black and not noticeable. This is almost always an exposure problem, and most times can be fixed by adjusting the exposure. To learn how to adjust your exposure with a point-and-shoot camera, click here.

The image on the left is "proper exposure" according to the camera's automatic settings. Underexposing the photo will give you the more desirable appearance on the right.

The image on the left is “proper exposure” according to the camera’s automatic settings. Underexposing the photo will give you the more desirable appearance on the right.

There are, however, other things you should be wary of. I’m feeling kind of point-form today, so here’s a list:

1. Choose the proper backdrop material. Black velvet is very popular as black backdrop material because it is a deep black and will not flatly reflect the light you are using. Many craft stores also sell black velvet necklace, bracelet and ring displays for not too much money. These disappear nicely into photographs with black backdrops, but you need to have something in the background as well. Black velvet works well, but so do other materials – I personally use a poly blend that is not highly reflective and does not easily crease. I do NOT recommend using black paper, as it is probably more reflective than you realize.

2. If you ARE using a display form, move it FAR away from the backdrop. As far as possible! Here’s an illustration of where everything should be.

Shooting on black - where to position subject, camera and backdrop


The background should be twice as far from the subject as the camera is. There are a lot of technical reasons for this that I could take a month explaining, but it’s probably easier to just trust me.

3. Use big, soft light. Drop shadows are not as prominent with dark backgrounds, but should still be avoided. The closer your light is to the subject, the softer it becomes. A lampshade actually creates fairly soft light, or you can do something low-tech like using a piece of paper to diffuse the light.

4. Keep your backdrop clean and lint-free!

5. Shoot at as low an ISO as possible (check your camera manual for instructions on how to shoot at ISO of 100 if possible). You want to show the true colors of your creation, and avoid the grain that appears at higher ISOs.

Anyway, thanks for reading! In part three I will talk about taking photos of dangling items – stay tuned!

Jen McLeod, Concrete Oyster


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One Response to Taking photos of your handmade goods | Part two

  1. Pingback: Taking photos of your handmade goods | part three | Concrete Oyster

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