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Backdrops & Backgrounds for handmade photography

I’ve been wondering where to start this series … Then I realised it has to start with backdrops and backgrounds.

Now if you’re a little further along in your handmade photography journey, you might be thinking, oh I know this already, but stay with me … or skip to the end for some tips on backdrops.

Picking the perfect background for your handmade photos

When I first started photographing my handmade items I didn’t really give much thought to backgrounds.

I’m embarrassed to say that some of these photos below (…shame … the one in front of the washing machine) were photos I actually used, in my listings on made it and etsy, when I first started sewing to sell.

Examples of bad photos

The key to a good background for photographing your handmade items, is to chose a neutral or complimentary background.  You want your handmade item to be the star of the show – if people are distracted by toys, pots, pans … mould in the background that’s not going to happen.

What are your photos saying about you?

The sad fact is, especially if you’re sewing to sell, people are going to make assumptions about the quality of your work, from your photos.

What does mess in the background say to a potential customer about your professionalism?

What does mould or dirt in the background say about the quality of your work?

These assumptions mightn’t be fair or accurate and you mightn’t agree with me, but believe it or not, your photos are saying a lot more on a subconscious level than you may realise.

Actionable Step: Take notice of your thoughts as you scroll through your newsfeed.  What photos make you stop and why?  Can you notice any things that you’d like to emulate or change in your photos based on this? 


Where to start?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel a long way to find a good background for your photos.

The easiest place to start looking for a good background, is to have a look around your house and garden.  If you can find somewhere outside it’s even better!  The added bonus of taking your photos outside is you’re more likely to get better lighting (more about that in a future blog post).

… Do you have a plain wall or bushy tree that you could use?

You might find that you have a great spot hidden beside a shed or behind the wheelie bins that you hadn’t considered before (HINT: Perfect locations are not always as glamorous as the photos make them look!)

Could you move some toys or gardening equipment to reveal the perfect spot?  Sometimes looking around your garden with fresh eyes will help you see a better spot for photos.

Look around your home and garden for backdrops

Other places to consider.

If you’re still drawing a blank, think about whether there’s somewhere you visit everyday (such as a local park) where you could stop for a quick photoshoot during your daily routine.

The hall where my stepsons used to have karate had a great wall for photos.  Perhaps there’s a cubby at the park beside where your older kids practice soccer, that you could use for photos?  Could you arrive a little early or stay a little after Mother’s group, to nab some awesome photos in their garden?

You don’t need to stick to the one location either.  Amy from Stitch and Stone has become known for the bright walls that fill her instagram feed! She says it’s become a bit of a game now and her hubby and eldest daughter often find new walls for her to photograph in front of!

Stitch + Stone Bright walls

Actionable Step: Take notice of surroundings.  Where can you easily take photos?  Is there somewhere you haven’t noticed before that would make an even better location?


Things to check BEFORE taking your photos.

The main thing is to really look beyond your model before taking your photos.

Is there something in the background that you could move? eg toys, household or garden appliances, washing?

Is there something in the background that you should clean?  We have an issue with geckos leaving their business on our walls…blerg!  After my sister called, to tell me she could see it in a photo I’d posted on social media, I’ve become a lot more vigilant about checking before taking my photos!

Could you move your model ?  eg We have a door hook that either appears or is removed from a photo depending on where Kt stands.  Sometimes its just a matter of moving her a few centimeters or inches to fix the problem.

Could you move yourself and take the photo from a different angle? Sometimes you mightn’t be able to move your model but you could easily move yourself to fix the problem.

Will you be able to crop the distraction from the photo?  Sometimes I don’t bother moving things if I know I’ll be able to crop them out.  eg If I know I’ll be cropping in on a bodice detail in a photo there’s no need to bother what’s around on the ground.

Will you be able to edit the distraction from the photo?  The cloning tool in Picmonkey is GOLD for doing this!  I’ll talk more about this in a later post.

Actionable Step: Run through this checklist before taking your photos.


Backdrops

Having a portable backdrop makes a huge difference.  You’re no longer stymied by weather, builders working at your favourite photoshoot site, drought and seasons affected your favourite trees etc.  You can maintain a consistent brand and build brand recognition year round.

Here are some suggestions of things you can use as a backdrop:

  • Consider purchasing a vinyl backdrop.   I’m pretty sure I could spot a Twirl Girl Boutique handbag, even without Susie’s logo, because of her recognisable backdrop.  Vinyl backdrops can be rolled up and easily moved.  There’s a huge range of prices and you can even get a custom backdrop made if you want something that’s uniquely yours.

Twirl Girl Boutiques' backdrop

  • Check out garage sales for backdrop gold! Mr Fox picked up this curtain fabric on a roll at a garage sale for me.  I haven’t used it yet, but I think it could be amazing.  The thermal blackout backing on the fabric (I think that’s what it is) makes it thicker so there won’t be any creases to battle with (like there would be if I were using regular quilting cotton or a lighter fabric – been there… done that!).

Curtain fabric for backdrops

Our neighbour picked me up some giant pin boards/room dividers from a garage sale.  They measure 170cm x 180cm!  They’re not terribly portable but if I was doing regular shoots I would leave them set up in a location with great lighting.

  • A stretched canvas makes a great backdrop for flatlays. This is what I use.  Every now and then they get a bit scuffed – I generally let Kt paint them after that, but I could paint my old canvases for alternate solid backdrops.
  • Corflute (available from bunnings) is cheap and easy to use and move around to a good spot with natural light – thanks for the tip Anh from Ana, ma Petit Tresor.

Colour Matters

The colour of your backdrop can affect the end result and make it trickier to edit.  If this is a problem for you perhaps choosing a different background can help.

I take lots of photos in front of our blue house, because it’s easy.  But, much as I love it, that bright blue does not match with everything.  Sometimes I can end up with a colour clash!  Sometimes my blue background can even effect how fabrics look in photos.

If you are photographing your items for a handmade business its important to think about whether the background you are using fits your brand.  eg photos for a very sleek brand would not work well taken in front of my blue house!


I hope you’ve gotten some good tips from this post.  If you’ve got a photo background tip to share I’d love you to comment below or come tell us in the One Thimble Sewing Enthusiasts group on facebook!

Happy Sewing

xJen


For more blog posts in this series start here:

Photo Fortnight - let's start at the beginning

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2 Comments to “Backdrops & Backgrounds for handmade photography”

  1. Katie Gregory 12/10/2016 at 3:52 am

    This blog post is really helpful thank you! I really struggled to get a great picture when I first started taking them and the last place I thought would be the best place to take my photos was the bathroom! Finally I found a nice light place in my house but I was getting super frustrated with using cardboard and fabric for my backdrop….crinkles never mattered so much before in my life! On a whim I grabbed a little kids desk we had yet to put together, it was white, I needed a white crinkle free background and something small for the space I was working in…. It worked like a charm.
    I remembered seeing diy light boxes and wondered if I used the sides of the desk to reflect my light onto the product and take away some shadows that would help me even more.
    It worked a treat and is now the first thing I grab when doing product photos. If the colour matches the look you want anything can be a backdrop 🙂

    Reply
  2. Amy Sio 14/10/2016 at 3:55 am

    Thank you so much! I love this article, and I love your style of writing, so engaging. VERY useful and actionable tips, I am taking away a lot from this. In fact I’m off to investigate PicMonkey now 😉

    Reply

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