Product photography tips for designer makers and creatives. These will help you achieve the best possible photography with limited budgets and equipment. I regularly write new articles and blog posts, so don’t forget to check back here.
British Craft Trade Fair
Rise Shine and Design, Blog Series
Further articles and Interviews.
Aura Creative Media
Great British Exchange
Howling Moon PR
Make it in Design
A ceramics photographic shoot for maker Febbie Day Ceramics. This shoot shows the various different styles that ceramics can be shot in. Ceramics are very interesting to photograph. The technique and resulting images depend much upon the surface quality of the work, the most important being whether they are glossy or matte. Either way I tend to use additional diffusion to what the standard softbox will provide. For the still life images below I picked wildflowers, which can be a good alternative to bought-in versions as they have a different, more raw appearance.
OVERHEAD / FLATLAY
INTERIOR STYLE / LIFESTYLE
For more handmade ceramics photography, please see the Ceramics Gallery.
Above – Screenshot of the clients own website, showing how she has used the images.
Michelle Thexton creates stunning handmade wedding stationery. The work features amazing typography and beautiful illustrations and is created using various textured paper stocks. After several discussions we decided upon five different shots to represent the collections. Most shoots proceed in this manner, in a collaborative way.
Michelle bases her collections upon people in her life that she has found inspirational. For example, the collection ‘Sarah’ is shown below.
Two alternative settings were used and as Michelle’s overall branding is based upon green and white. The first setting used a white planked surface, while the second introduces a pale rustic wooden plank. Surfaces and backgrounds are something I continually develop, and this particular example had been recently stripped and toned down with wood bleach. Flowers are always a staple for use in photography of wedding stationery.
“Thank you Richard for working your magic on my wedding stationery designs. I am over the moon with the pictures – they are exactly what I wanted. Thanks also for making the process so easy & straightforward … you’ve been such a pleasure to work with.” Michelle Thexton, shells-bells.co.uk
See more examples of stationery photography see the Stationery and Paper Gallery
I was recently approached by Naill from CGB Giftware to shoot one of their ranges; Dapper Chap. CGB design their own products, and are also a wholesaler. This means they had a large number of products and product ranges to consider. They already had white background photographs of their products, but wanted a cost effective way of helping consumers visualise their products in a more suitable context. Wishing to achieve a balance between cost effectiveness and differentiation between images was of importance for this shoot, and the range consisted of different product types.
Most shoots are based upon a repeating setting where the products are swapped out in series. That works very easily for products where the design is changed, but there is only one actual product type.
The initial test shot is shown here…
But what about if you have a large set of products in a collection, and they’re not all the same product type. If your product range contains giftware or homewares this will most likely be the case. Sometimes different settings would be created for different product types, that’s fine but it takes longer to do, and therefore costs more. Alternatively keeping both the setting and lighting simple means the camera angles and viewpoint can be changed more readily. Ensuring that both cost effectiveness and consistency are achieved.
With a shoot like this, many clients wonder if they are going to have to do work themselves on the images. My post production as standard includes all dirt removal, and require no additional enhancement. The only time where an additional charge may be made, would be when the products are damaged, or perhaps mis-printed. I would always speak to you about this before going ahead.
For more examples of giftware and homewares photography, see here.
Pinpointing the Purpose of Social Media for Your Business.
Knowing what tools to invest in to generate growth in your small business can be a challenge. There are so many options, and social media is a very popular choice for many, myself included. However, it is not necessarily going to suit every business.
In the most part, we are all trying to get off our devices, I’m personally putting great effort into being on my phone less. However, social media has handed me a free platform to showcase my business and gain new customers by doing what I love, so any time I spend on the ‘gram helps me to make money. So how can you determine whether it will help you? These are the steps I run through with my coaching clients:
What Do I Want to do More of in My Business?
Firstly, ask yourself, what do I want to do more of in my business? Bear in mind that the most popular answer is usually to make more money. This makes it worthwhile to check your margins and see what earns you the most money for the least effort. As an artist I want to sell paintings, but selling my digital learning tools generates the most profit for the least effort. Therefore, I concentrate on providing value to my social media audience via my digital teaching tools and paint for pleasure. So take stock, and make your decision wisely.
Once you have determined what you want to do more of and explore whether you can make content that showcases that. For example public speaking, selling art, securing more coaching spots etc. If you want to do more public speaking, create an Instagram feed that showcases the public speaking you have done. Share pictures and videos of you doing the thing you want to do more of, or sell more of. Share testimonials where you have been given glowing feedback.
If you can come up with ways to do that, I would go and practice this on Instagram. Showcase your work in a cohesive way, tell people what you offer in 3 seconds and give value.
If you want more help, register your interest for Sticks + Ink’s brand new online programme, ‘Instagram School’. This will be launching this Summer with lots of free tutorials! In the meantime, check out these eBooks to help you on your journey. Come and join me and my wonderful community over on Instagram where I share Instagram tips + tricks with you every week.
Kia, who works under the pseudonym, Sticks + Ink, is an abstract artist who teaches her expert knowledge of Instagram to creative entrepreneurs. Posting work from a weekly art class on Instagram, things started to snowball into a fully fledged business with an audience of 10,000 in just 12 short months.
The space in which I use to photograph work has always been very important. The room next door to the current studio became available and I jumped at the chance of extending the space.
It did mean a lot of work however, as the previously adjoining space had previously been separated and plastered over. Not to mention it had most of the original features stripped out and was in definite need of renovation. So with a trusty sledgehammer in hand, I set about joining the spaces up back up again.
One room within a Victorian building, the other room within an older Georgian building. It’s been a bit of a challenge as you can imagine, with such old spaces nothing quite lines up, nothing is square, and nothing is flat! But after many repairs and the installation of brand new period correct skirting boards and a brand new floor the space is starting to feel like a product photography studio. Finished off by renovating the original cast iron fireplace and fitting picture rails.
Here’s an image I recently produced for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (featuring the work of I Like Birds). This shows an example of how the room can be used to create a home styled setting, a lounge setting in this case.
As you can see the the old bathroom has been turned into a room where all the backgrounds, surfaces and equipment live. A local gallery was closing and I managed to get hold of a large art stand which is great as it stores most of them away in one area.
The original studio has now become a storeroom for all of the props and furniture. You can see more images of the studio, and the facilities here
Small businesses make the world a more interesting place!
There’s lots being said about the decline of the high street with the focus being on the big names that made town centres look much like duplicate copies of each other – and then in some cases moved to bland out of town retail parks – adding further to the problems.
But are things changing? Take a look around the corner and you’ll discover pop-up shops, farmers markets, makers markets, art and craft fairs all showcasing small business and local producers all of whom are passionate about their products.
The supermarkets and large chains have their place and certainly contribute to the economy – but nothing compares to a specialist designer, artist or retailer – someone who not only knows their stuff inside out and is passionate about it but who also has an exciting and unique array of products on offer. It’s far more interesting stepping into a lovely craft gallery, delicatessen or cheese shop or craft gallery and discovering things in there that you’ve never seen before! There’s also something very satisfying about finding something for a gift for someone – or yourself – that you know hasn’t been mass produced.
Design is now much more accessible than it was just a couple of decades ago with the rise of the TV makeover programme bringing aesthetics into everyone’s living room and there seems to be a real demand for ‘experiences’ as people look to fill their leisure time.
The internet has also enabled people to get creative and set up their own business – a hobby or interest can easily be capitalised on with a small beginning and little investment. Growing organically by first selling on line, then progressing to local fairs can allow designers and makers to establish themselves and their brand first whilst still being supported by regular full or part-time employment.
Where do you want to be?
You need to decide what’s right for your brand and how do you see it developing – with increased competition for every centimetre of shelf space the glory of seeing your products stocked by a high-street name can be short-lived.
There’s also the “all your eggs in one basket” syndrome – it may be great to have a mahoosive order from one of the big boys, but should anything go wrong (as in the case of BHS, House of Fraser etc) then where does that leave you?
Not everyone wants to be supplying products on that level – it may not fit with your business plan – and even though expanding the business is one of your goals, you may want to keep your distribution to a smaller scale. If you’re hand-making products, then that may be one of your main USP’s that you want to continue to capitalise upon.
There’s lots of support out there…
One of the biggest problems for small businesses – and it is stating the obvious – but they all need sales to survive and for many that’s an uphill struggle. That’s why awareness initiatives – be they days, weeks or year-round campaigns – are important to highlight the plight of the smaller business.
The Just a Card campaign is an initiative run by volunteers (including a little help from Howling Moon PR!) from the creative community that runs all year and encourages everyone to get involved – designers, artists, galleries, craft shops and independent retailers alike. Then there’s March Meet the Maker, started by Joanne Hawker, a campaign using Instagram to let your followers and the wider community know all about you and what you make.
Designed to get everyone shopping in their local independent stores, there’s also Independents Day – aptly named to coincide with the big American holiday on the 4th July!
There’s been a Small Business Saturday in the UK for a number of years and they are now more active at ‘making a noise’ throughout the year.
Experts in business, The Federation of Small Business offers members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Their mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.
There are also lots of ways to get involved on social media too – worth a look at are the regular chats on Twitter including #handmadehour, #justacard hour (every Thursday evening) and some really interesting Instagram challenges for designers and artists which encourage month-long participation and help to build a real sense of community and support.
It’s vital to support small businesses – they really do make the world go around!
Written by Roy Mouncey, from Howling Moon PR
With over 25 years of experience in PR, Roy has worked with a diverse range of brands and products; from a Royal Milliner to hiking socks, designer fragrance to haemorrhoid cream and everything in between!
Once described by a tutor at college as a “Renaissance man” (being able to turn his hand to most things!), Roy contributes constructively to each project. As well as PR campaigns he has been creatively involved in helping businesses to develop and grow – even going as far as to design and make tea pot and hotbox covers for one client to supply to a major London hotel.
Roy enjoys working with niche brands that have a great story to tell and that have been developed through a passion rather than because of a big budget.
The images shown below are examples from an introductory shoot produced for a greetings card designer. Adriana Lovesy provided a brief which, explained that the products were to be pitched as a sophisticated choice in the greetings card market. To achieve this I created a setting that was simple and elegant, but maintained a contemporary feel.
A subtly textured backdrop was used, alongside a pair of modern geometric vases from the prop store. Using softboxes combined with additional diffusion material produced a very soft light and appearance.
Since the introducing shoot Adriana has had further shoots individually photographing cards for her website product listings.
This is what she said about the shoot “Richard has produced beautiful photographs and interpreted my brief perfectly. Having never paid for a professional product shoot before I was a bit nervous and unsure. So Richard suggested we start with an introductory shoot. I was impressed with the results and he showed me what was possible and it gave me the confidence to hire Richard to shoot my whole product range. I was really happy with the service that was given to me and would highly recommend Forever creative photography to anyone.”
See more in the Greetings Card Gallery.
“I wrote this post to share my experience of doing a trade show as a maker. This is not a ‘how to’ guide, it’s simply my particular experience of attending my first one. In April 2018 I exhibited at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate, UK. BCTF is the biggest trade fair for handmade goods in the UK and has been going for over 40 years.”
“Humblewood started as a rather unfocussed ‘woody’ hobby. Then in 2015 I decided to try a few craft fairs to make some pocket money. Expecting huge demand for what I was making, I attended the first few fairs with the car loaded down with my woody wares and boundless hope in my heart! What I soon found was that craft fairs weren’t what they once had been, and certainly, few visitors were in the mood to buy my particular lovely things…
As an aside, it seems to me that the word ‘craft’ has been largely absorbed into the general hobby, home-craft, industry, so now I prefer to think of myself as a quality, small scale maker, for want of a snappier description! My problem, short of stalking, was finding where they shopped.
Anyway, fast forward to 2017 and the misty-eyed hopes of actually making a modest, pint-of-beer-sized profit from attending fairs had evaporated, and I was on the verge of returning my woodworking to hobby status. But I had had some successes, particularly in a couple of shops and at longer running events, where I did not have to be present (maybe there was a clue to my lack of success?!). These highlights suggested that some folks did like my stuff enough to part with their hard earned cash in exchange for a piece. I had however, come to recognise an obvious truth for anyone trying to sell anything; first, find your audience. My problem, short of stalking, was finding where they shopped.
There had been shops asking if I did wholesale and even an approach to attend a previous BCTF, but hey, this was just a hobby, that sort of grown-up stuff was a bit out of my league. I should say at this point that I have actually had my own design and print business for 35 years, so I knew in principle how to run a business. Looking back, it was this thinking like a hobbyist that was the barrier to me seeing it as a proper business with wider horizons.
I hadn’t done much with Humblewood in the early half of 2017, having decided to stop attending fairs, and the graphics business was busy anyway. But I did have a couple of long-term events booked for the autumn through to Christmas, so I had to get back in the workshop. While these events had previously been among my few successes, the sales in 2017 were amazing! So amazing that they rekindled my enthusiasm and I revisited the idea that maybe Humblewood had a future after all. In the space of a few hours (and I don’t recommend this approach), I had decided the answer was simply to get other people to sell my lovely things – easy! So on one day in November I made the switch from direct selling to wholesale and had booked a stand at BCTF 2018…”
“With the decision made and the stand booked, I set about preparing for the event with renewed boyish enthusiasm – no mean feat for someone of my advancing years! I had visited BCTF before on the pretext of considering a future booking, but really I’d felt a complete fraud, seeing all those seasoned makers with their trade catalogues, wholesale price lists and minimum orders strutting their stuff. Anyway, I’d booked now and got to work planning. Designing the promotional and display stuff was easy – it’s my day job – but to be taken seriously I knew I needed professional photography. That turned out to be the single most effective thing I could have done. Overnight, Humblewood went from hobby to serious small business. I will say now, that having the show organisers use several of my photographs in their publicity material was a big bonus, but the effect decent images had on the overall quality of my presentation has been invaluable. As one very perceptive woman said to me; ‘money spent on quality photos is more effective than the equivalent spent on advertising’.”
Here are some of the images Bob mentions, in and around the show hall.
“Another big talking point among newcomers was the theory that some buyers deliberately avoid newbies, preferring to buy only from more established businesses. Apparently, a few years ago there had been a number of newcomers who had taken orders at the show and had then, for whatever reason, disappeared without fulfilling them. Certainly the exhibitors around me weren’t playing at it, and many were past the first flush of youth, so (I would suggest) more likely to take a responsible approach. That said, there were also plenty of young ‘uns with their heads on straight. As I said, everyone brought their own expectations, and had their own experiences during the show. On the whole, I came away with little to complain about. I suppose it all comes down to how successful the show is for each individual.
Talking to potential buyers wasn’t as daunting as I imagined. Indeed, talking out loud to strangers, while still making sense, isn’t normally one of my strengths! But I found chatting to people who are actually interested in what you make, pretty easy. Especially as I was taking about something I’m passionate and knowledgeable about. Such a different experience from standing behind a 6ft table in a drafty church hall 🙂 Thankfully I had prepared my buyer pack – pricing, terms, catalogue etc. – and it wasn’t like I was making a formal presentation to the board of Harrods!
It was only a last minute decision to take order forms with me. And then it was more about having them to hand to go with my catalogues, than expecting to use them during the show. As it turned out, I’d have looked a right chump if I hadn’t had them! Another 11th hour choice was to display my trade prices clearly on the stand. I had read somewhere not to do it, but as the show loomed I began to wonder about the sense of that. It wasn’t like I didn’t want people to know, or that I might change them during the event. As it turned out several buyers commented how helpful it was to be able to see the prices and decide whether my items at those prices were a viable option for their particular shop or gallery. I only had one comment that my prices were too high, but I’m confident that was just a case of them being too much for their particular location. One thing I did do was to call my order form an ‘order planner’ which seemed to me to be less pushy and more helpful looking to the retailer.
In approaching wholesaling in general, I have tried to think of the process as much from the retailers point of view as from the makers. Hopefully that helped, but I still have a lot to learn!
Eating on the stand was tricky as I was doing the show on my own – hurriedly stuffing the last bite of pizza in your mouth as someone approaches isn’t a good look! There will be periods too during a show when it goes quiet, and it’s easy to lose concentration – those sneaky buyers can suddenly appear when you least expect it!
Some buyers were happy to leave a business card, others less so. Next time I will try harder to collect details to follow up with later (assuming they don’t order promptly). I didn’t do this enough and there were potential buyers who genuinely seemed interested and even said they would order, but I have no record of who they were! Maybe just asking for their details would have indicated more of a commitment on my part? I’ll never know. Waiting two to three weeks before following up was the general consensus. I do now realise that orders generated by attending a show may come before, during or afterwards, so hopefully the makers near me who didn’t get orders at the event will see some success over the coming weeks.”
So where to from here then?
“One thing I hadn’t bargained for, was getting orders before the show… I hadn’t really known what to expect from doing the show; maybe some retailers being nice about my stuff, and possibly a couple of orders after the event. But not during and certainly not before! In the end I had orders from five retailers before the show (some couldn’t attend and some it seems, just couldn’t wait!), another seven at the show, plus a bonus third order from the first of my pre-show buyers. You could have knocked me down with a feather (and still could).
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and especially the people I met and friends I made. And obviously the unexpected sales success gave me a nice glow. It took several days for me to come down from the post-show high I was on. Plans and new ideas poured forth in the days afterward. After the initial euphoria, I calmed down enough to realise how tired I was! The pre-show period, plus a set-up day and the three days of the show itself really took it out of me! But I’m so glad I made the leap, broadened my horizons and finally saw the light.
So it seems I have found my audience – not the general public as I had assumed, but other small business owners who, like me, are passionate about what they do. They just happen to be the ones, unlike me, who are experts at selling to the general public. Who knew?!
Would I do it again? Well, I’ve already booked for next year, AND (impulsive fool that I am) booked to do another trade fair later in the year! Roll on the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in July!”
Bob Bryant, Humblewood.
Bob actually printed all of my business stationery for me, featuring some very lovely paper stock. So if you’d like to avoid using one of the big print companies, we all know who they are! Then check him out at https://humbleprint.uk/.
There’ll be more from Bob in a later blog post about his experiences at Home and Gift 2018.
I was very happy to be asked by Margeret from the British Craft Trade Fair to produce some advertising images for featuring this years exhibitors. All the furniture used in the shoot is furniture I have in the prop store so can be used in any shoot. Margeret hand picked the work to send over to me, and gave me a brief to produce fresh, spring like imagery. As they was quite a lot of products to fit in the various shots, not many props were used.
Margeret says “Magazine editors regularly inform us that the single most important thing a company can do to gain editorial coverage is invest in photography. In such a visual industry – and especially in the age of Instagram – it make sense to put your best face forward and allow your beautiful products to truly shine in 2D as much as they do in their real life glory.
“I would really recommend Richard he has photographed many of our exhibitors BCTF work and they have all been delighted with the results. Always friendly and happy to achieve your goals, he did some great lifestyle photos for us which proved to be invaluable for the advertising we did for BCTF 2019. Thanks Richard.” Margeret, BCTF
A jewellery photography shoot for a local maker. Designer Kate Wimbush creates handmade jewellery inspired by the sea and the elements. In this shoot, she requested a look that would work for Christmas, but also year round and requested strings of lights in the background. With jewellery photography providing such a limited depth of field, they easily become out of focus in the background, which is great as they don’t detract from the product itself. Getting the shot setup and the distance between product and background however was not quite so simple, and took a little experimentation.
For more examples of jewellery photography, please see the Jewellery Gallery
Last week I had the pleasure of shooting lots of beautifully designed handmade textiles, including these cushions and throws. Camilla’s work is inspired by the light, movement and structures found by the coast. In particularly around Anglesey. For photography of textile design, along with most products, having them shot in the studio is very helpful. It ensures continuity between shots which provides a professional appearance. Each product also had a secondary white background shot, always useful for any brand.
These textiles are by designer, Camilla Thomas.
For more examples of textile photography, please see the Textiles Gallery.
This is my second shoot for the lovely people at the Flower Studio in Marlow. For this, I painted up new backgrounds, to be a little more subtle and reminiscent of interiors backgrounds. I’ve been expanding my range of lighting modifiers, including stripboxes and different sized softboxes to provide different qualities of light which allowed me to play with the lighting more and to produce these shots.
“OMG! They are amazing! I’ve just shown them to my husband and he can’t believe they’re our products! Wonderful job and really appreciate your approach”. Trudy, Flower Studio Marlow.
Clients often request the use of fresh flowers in their shoots. I can of course source these locally, but there is quite a limited choice in the local florists. Alternatively Trudy from the Flower Studio is happy to offer any Forever Creative clients 15% off, and they can use the code BLOOM when ordering so that’s generally a better option. https://www.flowerstudioshop.co.uk/
Not having a great deal of time to get to the blog at the moment. But looking back over the past few months one of my favourite shoots to do has been these beautifully crafted ceramics from Graham Hudson Ceramics. Keeping it simple with ceramics can be best due to the nature of them. Lighting them can sometimes be challenging, but equally rewarding. By shading certain elements of them, and highlighting others surface textures can be revealed, and the shape can be accentuated. For more examples of Ceramics Photography, please check out the Ceramics Gallery.
I’ve worked with Bob Byrant from Humblewood now a number of times producing various images, from white background photography to more lifestyle type imagery. The white background photography was ideal for him to use in various ways, he had a number of different sized products to shoot. This wasn’t a problem as I use the main studio lighting to do them so am only really limited by the room, not a photo-cube which alot of people use. This also means different angles can be achieved, although the most challenging part of the shoot was glassware, including small glass test tubes against white.
Bob’s lifestyle images were featured heavily in this years British Craft Trade Fair at Harrogate including the show invitations, and large banners at the show itself, to Bob’s delight as it was his first ever trade show. To see more of these type of images, please check out the gallery, Homewares.