Picture Perfect-Part #1-Lighting


MP9004387551Oh, snap!  Yet another lousy picture!

I don’t know about you, but I post a lot of pictures between here and on social media.  Pictures that, more often than not, have been just so-so; a little blurry perhaps or a little washed out from too much flash, the object is crooked in the frame, or I have too much or insufficient border, etc.  Wanting to take better pictures or at least make the pictures I’ve taken look better, I embarked on a search for hints and tips on picture-taking and editing.  Since many of you are avid picture takers, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you in the event there’s something you’ll find helpful.

The first thing on my list of things I wanted to figure out was lighting,  I read a number of tutorials about this and the primary suggestion was to invest in a lightbox.  Well, I got one but I honestly can’t say my photos looked any better because of it.  Plus it was cumbersome to set up and store.  It now sits with several other “must haves” that turned into “why bother”.

So on to Plan B; figuring out how to create the proper light without a lightbox.  Much like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location:

  • Look for an area with good indirect lighting.  Indirect lighting, just in case you were wondering, is light that comes from all sides and illuminates the object totally.  If you have a room with windows on two sides, that works perfectly.
  • Or go outdoors, but again look for indirect lighting NOT full sun or your picture will look washed out and have unwanted shadows.  Morning or evening light is much preferred to midday sun.  Of course, the wind is a factor as well…you don’t want to be chasing your cards down the street.
  • But let’s focus on indoors, which is where I take all my (card) pictures; you should bring your project to the level of the window.  Here are several pictures I found online to show you what I mean.  As you can see, you really don’t need a fancy setup.  The back of the chair in each case holds the backdrop (card stock) for you.   The photo on the right shows the added option of accessorizing to match the theme of the card…I’ll talk more about that later.

HTDT setup 1


I’m not blessed with a good light source as I do most of my photographing in the basement with just a small window at ceiling level, so I have to take additional steps to create “natural” light.

  • A foam core display board works really well to add light.  Here you can see the reflective quality of the white color and the angled sides.  If working with something like this, you just adjust the side panels until you see the light reflected on your project.  It’s subtle, but it works in most cases.

HTDT setup 2

  • If the foam core isn’t quite sufficient, you can help it out by adding artificial light. I use an Ott light as it’s about as close to natural light as you can get.  I got one of these because I work in an area with fluorescent lighting and there are times when I just need natural light…more so as my eyes are getting older.  Using it for photographing my cards is just an added bonus.  Here’s a comparison of a “daylight” light versus traditional artificial lighting.

ott light

Here are a few pictures I found showing how people use added lighting.  Notice how the light is directed down from the top as opposed to the sides, which would create unwanted shadows.  If you find you absolutely have to light from the side, do so from both sides to provide even lighting.



Still need more light?

  • One final tip I found online at DIY Craft Photography was referred to as “bounce” lighting.  Basically, it’s a cheap and easy way of recreating the effect of a photography umbrella.  Look at the difference in these two pictures.  And then look at the magic of the bounce tool they created from cardboard, aluminum foil, and duct tape.

bounce 1bounce 2

Now I know not all of you are interested in photographing cards, but the same theory holds true no matter what images you’re capturing.  If you try any of these tips, please let me know how you made out and if you saw any improvement.

Stay tuned for Picture Perfect #2-Camera & Settings when I share what I learned and found helpful.



4 Responses to “Picture Perfect-Part #1-Lighting”

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  1. Carol says:

    Thanks for the hints. They are not just for photographing cards…I think they can be used for anything we want to photograph indoors. Good, helpful hints. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kim&Katy says:

      I’m glad you liked them. I found them very helpful, but it took a long time and a lot of searching, so I thought I’d put it all in one spot!

  2. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the information I will have to try a few of your tips

I'd love to hear from you. I so appreciate your comments!