5 Tips for Better Photos in Your Art Studio

cate's art studio
My studio, in its (not usually) pristine state.

cate pratoWith one daughter headed back to college later this month and another going into high school, I am about to go into back-to-school organization overdrive.

Not for their stuff. For me.

It has been decided that I should expand the corner of our enclosed porch I use for my studio to the entire room to make it a multi-use, multi-person craft area. With a lack of babysitting jobs available to her, my high-schooler has decided to try to earn some money making crafts, and she'd like to try her hand at fashion design, too.

So far, we've cleared the built-in shelves of books and started storing fabric and supplies there. Next, we need to move the computer out of the room so we can use the counter/desk as a cutting table. Then we'll pull up the nasty carpeting, but not until I get down on my hands and knees to pick up every last bead, button, and pin buried there.

This makeover will also give me the space I need to set up a photography area in one corner. For a long time I've wanted to establish a photo center in my home, and with windows on three sides, our sunroom is perfect for this purpose.

If you're selling your work online, pitching your work to editors or venues, or featuring your work on your blog, good photos are a must.

Digital technology has made it easier to achieve quality images. But whether you use a digital camera or not, there are a few general guidelines that will help your photos look more professional.

1. Whenever possible, use natural light, rather than a flash. Flashes cause harsh shadows, red-eye, and dark halos behind the person or object you're shooting. Natural light, particularly that which comes from a north-facing window, is more diffuse and yields truer colors. It just makes a prettier picture.

art studio light box
Ivy's 'MacGyver-style' light box, one of two described in our new Art Studio eBook.

2. Shoot with your back to the light source. When you point your camera toward the light source, everything in front of it (i.e. the subject of your photo) will be in relative darkness. At the very least, have the light coming in from the side.

3. Use a tripod. It's almost impossible to hold a camera perfectly steady. Especially if you are shooting an object up close, using a tripod (professional or make-shift) can avoid a case of the blurries.

4. Make it macro. If you have "macro" setting on your camera, use it when shooting close-ups. This will help you capture more detail without blurriness.

5. Get or make a light box. A light box is easy to make, and it helps eliminate a lot of the issues caused by using a flash. A light box also makes it easy to provide a clean background against which your art will "pop."

There are many ways to set up a light box, but I'm going to use one of the two methods described by artist and photographer Ivy Demos in 10 Projects to Organize Your Art Studio Beautifully, a new eBook from Interweave.

Ivy 's step-by-step directions make use of basic materials you can find at your average hardware or discount store. Both are easy to set up and store when you're finished.

I can't wait to set mine up in my newly reorganized and expanded studio. I might even spring for a new camera.

P.S. What are your best photo-taking tips? Please share with me and others on the community in the space below.

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