|This example, from The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos, uses texture, color,
and in situ techniques to create a
background for this 'think' sign.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But the right picture can be worth money in your pocket, too. The way you photograph your work to sell your art online (or to promote it for a show, gallery, or publication) can make the difference between success and failure.
I know this to be true, and with so much technology readily available to help with the mechanics of taking, editing, and distributing photos, it should be easy. So, why do some mixed-media artists have professional looking photos that not only show the artwork clearly, but give it a context that helps it sell, and others seems to be sabotaging their efforts with dark, blurry, or uninteresting images?
There are several tricks to achieving the former, and The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos: The Best Techniques for Showcasing Your Handmade Creations by Heidi Adnum is the first book I’ve seen to offer this kind of practical advice to the artist who is not a photography expert.
Heidi is a crafter and professional photographer. She also runs a photography and inspiration blog and has authored a popular how-to photography tips series on Etsy. So she knows whereof she speaks. Not only does she go over basics like choosing cameras and other equipment and lighting and sizing photos, but gives suggestions for styling, post-production, and photographing different kinds of art.
|Text can be a good choice for a patterned background.|
One of the simplest things you can do to make your artwork stand out and look more eye-catching is to choose an appropriate background. The right background can make your artwork stand out, give it a context, even say something about you as an artist.
“Backgrounds can be wonderfully simple and easy to work with and the right background has the potential to ensure your product is the first thing people notice when they look at your photograph,” writes Heidi, adding, “Once you’ve found the right background, stick with it. This creates cohesion and encourages people to browse your product range.”
Most backgrounds fall into at least one of the following five categories: neutral, colored, textured, patterned, or in situ.
|Sachet with a lavender 'background'
featured in The Vintage Thread
Neutral backgrounds look refined and professional and work for almost any product. Neutral backgrounds range from a pure white backdrop to charcoal or dark gray. Try handmade paper, linen or muslin fabric, or even a chalkboard.
Textured backgrounds, such as wood, bricks, fabric, and paper, are a real treat to work with and can complement your product nicely. Like other backgrounds, though, textures must not be the ﬁrst thing your customers see, so only use textures if you’re conﬁdent your product can compete with.
An in situ background is a superb choice when you want to inspire customers and suggest ways in which to use your product. Choose locations in and around your home and garden that show scale and size accurately. In situ backgrounds can provide the perfect contrast to your product and show all of the elements of a story as well.
Colored backgrounds can infuse your product with energy, set a mood, connote a season, and make a neutral colored product pop. Use leftover wall paint or paint samples on a piece of poster board, wrapping paper, or a piece of fabric to make a solid-colored background.
|Barb's vintage find shown in situ.|
Patterned backgrounds can establish a mood, give your product a vintage vibe, and reflect your personality. Like textured backgrounds, you have to be careful patterns don’t overwhelm your artwork. Wallpaper, vintage tablecloths, fencing, and dictionary pages can make great patterned backgrounds.
Barb Pezza Brown, who repurposes vintage textiles and also sells vintage finds online in her Etsy store, The Vintage Thread, does a great job of using backgrounds to tell a story. For example, she places her handmade lavender-filled sachets on a bowl of lavender blossoms, using color and texture to convey information about her product that the sachets alone can't.
With so many artists competingto sell art online, you need to do what you can to help your work stand out. Using the information in The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos is a great way to get your art noticed.
P.S. What's your favorite background for taking photos of your art? Share your tips below.