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Jun 26, 2012

Photo Tips from the MFT Design Team

I'm participating in today's Creative Chat with the My Favorite Things Designers. We've been asked to share any photography tips or tricks that we have for you.

*In case you didn't notice, I'm running Blog Candy here*

To begin with, here's the camera I've been using for the last six years.  I've been really happy with the results, and its just a point and shoot.  I've recently started working with a fancy DSLR - which I adore, but I'm still getting used to working with...

Lighting & Camera Settings:

My first recommendation is to walk you house to get familiar with the best natural light.  Look for a nice sunny area, without shadows.  I always know that the best time of day to get photographs at my house is at about 10 am in my front foyer, you'll have to see what's the best for your house...   As the day progresses, I can still *get* a photograph in this room, but the lighting isn't optimal.  

If you can't find a place in your house that has enough natural light for a crisp image, you can supplement with OTT Lights. They are a natural light that will not adversely affect your photography.  You can get them at your local craft store, or on Amazon.

On my camera, I use this panel of buttons to adjust the settings, the flash, and to be sure I have my MACRO on for fine details.

By looking at this on screen image, I can see that I've shut the flash off  (Do you see the little arrow down with the big circle no over the top of it? That means I have my flash off....)  The flash causes some really funky color issues, so don't use it. Check your camera manual to see how to disable yours.

I also highly recommend finding your MACRO button on your camera. This will get crisper photos for you, with all the little details shining through. The little flower icon on the bottom left hand corner shows that the "MACRO" settings are on.


My sweet sister gave me a lightbox for Christmas a few years ago, and I use it every single day.  It folds up quite nicely and tucks behind the couch --- so that I can pull it out and set up shop in the front hall!

I have two pieces of 12x12 white card stock that I set up inside the box (for a while there I had two beige-ish pieces of Bo Bunny Double Dot...) as my background.  Having bright white cardstock as my background helps me to color correct in Photoshop.

I actually, literally lie on the floor to take my photos so I can get nice and close to the card.  I also like the way that it props my elbows in place to hold the camera still.  Helps with focusing.


I take a zillion photos of each of my cards.  It takes a whole bunch to find one that the focus is just right, that I haven't accidentally cropped off the edge of my bow etc.

Now when you're editing your photos, be your own worst critic. When you have the card up on screen to edit the photo, if you notice a mistake, go fix it and re-shoot.  Crooked panels, smudge lines, uneven inking on your sentiment, coloring that bled outside the edge. Go fix it!  Setting up a shoot again is a pain for sure, but this is a great chance to see all the fine details up close.  If you don't like what you see, go fix it. Trust me, it's worth it....

Personally, I edit in Photoshop Elements, I use it to crop my photos, make color adjustments and to apply my watermark to each of my photos.  There are a few standard things I *always* do to fidget with the images I pull from my camera. I highly recommend taking a course to help you expand your understanding of Photoshop. Jessica Sprague has a whole series of photo editing courses here.

The most basic thing you'll do is crop your photo....

Select this little tool from the sidebar....

Click and drag to highlight the area you want to keep.... click the green check mark to approve the changes or the red circle to reject the changes....

Then, here's a few things I do to "adjust" the colors to make it accurately reflect the colors of the project, and to brighten up the white space behind the card.  Any grey shadows behind your card will make the photo drab, brightening up that white will help your card pop off the page....

Adjust White Balance.

  • Select the "Enhance" "Adjust Lighting" and then select the little white eye dropper.  
  • Click on an area of your photo that is white, and the program will automatically adjust your photo to make anything that is supposed to be white, a "true white"  

This isn't a science, so you might need to cancel and try another place on the photo if you aren't pleased with the results.

Add a Photo Filter.

On the right hand side, you can add what is called an adjustment layer.    To get to this menu, you'll need to click on the circle that looks half white, and half dark.....

Roll over and select "photo filter"

I like to play around adding different photo filters to improve the quality of the photos.

Depending on if your original photo is "too warm" or "too cool" you'll find an improvement with different filters.  I use either the top three "warming" filters or one of the next three "cooling filters"

If you find one you like, you can also adjust with the slider how much of an adjustment you'll need.

Increase Midtones.

I often like an improvement of soft brightness that I find I can achieve with the following  
  • "Enhance"  
  • "Adjust Color" 
  • "Adjust Color Curves"  
Which will pull up a dialog box that looks like this.

There are a series of adjustments you can make here, but I like the box that reads "Increase Midtones." Select that and then click "OK."

Apply watermark.

If you have a watermark file, you can easily apply it in watermark.  Here's how I do it.

Open the file.  "Select All" then select "Edit" and then "Copy."

Click back over to the photo you want to add the watermark to and then 

"Edit" and "Paste"

Your watermark may come over huge in size, you can then resize the watermark and move it to your desired position over your photo.  Click the little green check mark to approve the change in size and location....

If it is too bold for your liking, you can adjust the weight of it, to make it more transparent by selecting the opacity.

Finishing your files.

Do you see in the photo above how it lists "layer 1" and then "background?" To save your files as a JPEG, you'll red to flatten your layers. To be able to use these files, you'll need to do the following:

"Layer" and then "Flatten Image"

Then you'll be able to save your image as a JPG file which will be useable in online galleries, on your blog etc.

Phew! Sorry for the longest post ever, but hopefully you found a few tips and tricks for card photography.  If I can help you at all, be sure to drop me an email. You can find the email me widget at the very top of my blog....see, it looks like a tiny piece of mail?   Be sure to visit the MFT Blog today for a full list of designers with photography tips to share with you!

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