For the first of our tutorials three of our Creative Team talk you through their lighting and photography set up...
SciFi Scrapper: When photographing your layout lighting is key. While what camera you use or the software you edit your photos with can all have an impact on the finished photo, how you light your layouts is the most important factor and not one that should be overlooked.
Emma: I always try to take photos in natural light. My desk is surrounded by windows, so as long as I’m taking photos in the morning to early afternoon I can usually get pretty good lighting. Relying on natural light can be a little tricky at times, I mean, we are in the UK after all and we all know the winter can be unkind! I do have a daylight bulb in the lamp on my desktop but I try not to use it as it tends to give glare to the photos used on the pages. I could limit this with a soft box but I am yet to buy one of those!
Pol: First of all, you need good light. Although this isn't so important if you're going to be editing your photos, I find it keeps the colours as close to the original as possible. I also make a lot of layouts with white backgrounds, and these can very easily look grey or yellowy without good light. I know many people use a lightbox but I simply don't have room for one, and I literally just lay my page on the floor in front of the biggest living room window for maximum light. In summer this can be any time of day, in winter it tends to be only between 11-2pm ish.
SciFi Scrapper: If taking photos outside isn't practical (this is the UK after all!) try to take photos in an area with as much light as possible. Try to find the best lit room in the house as this will help immensely. If you need additional light, placing table or reading lights of the surface is a good idea, just make sure to spread them evenly around the photo so one area isn't better lit than the rest. If you find the light too ‘spotty’ (the beam too narrow) try diffusing the light. A piece of vellum or slightly opaque plastic taped to the front of the light will work in a pinch! This will spread the light over a larger area and help soften the ‘edges’ of the light. The overall brightness will lesson a little as a result however as you’re spreading it over a larger area. Essentially try to make your layout as well light as possible.
When it comes to lighting, there are several options. I personally use the two softbox lights I use to film my YouTube videos. This allows me to have well lit photos that require very little editing. For those who have a similar set-up this will probably be your go to choice, and you should be able to use them in the same configuration you use when filming.
Before I used my softboxes I had a couple of little LED lights from Ikea (JANSJÖ). They were cheap and very bright for their size. They had a clip on the end so you could attach them to your desk or another object and a bendy neck so you could position them exactly how you wanted them. If you want to buy some lights that don't take up much room (mine live in a drawer when not in use) they may be worth checking out.
One thing I'd strongly recommend if photographing inside is to try to use lights that uses daylight (cool) bulbs, rather than the warmer toned, yellow bulbs. The colours in your photos will be truer to the layout. When photographing with bulbs that give off a warmer colour temperature your photos will also have that warmer tone, with blues and greens not being represented correctly. While this can be corrected to an extent with a photo editor, if it's possible to avoid the issue in the first place it should be.
Emma: Now I’ll be honest, the way I take photos of my pages is about as low-tech as it gets - but, it works for me and that’s all that matters, right? Honestly, I only use my camera phone to take photos. I have an iPhone 6 and absolutely love it! The camera is fab and is literally all I use. When I said I was low-tech I totally meant it! All I do to take photos of my layouts is lay them flat on my desk. When I chose my desk I made sure I had a white worktop, all because I knew I would use it as a backdrop. As I’m using my desk more though, it’s getting a little grubby so I will soon get a big white board to use instead.
The best way I’ve found to take my photos is to make sure I am directly over the top of the layout and to try to keep my phone as flat and steady as possible. It’s taken a little bit of practice but I think I’m about there now. You can use the Square setting on the iPhones camera to get it all lined up, or put the grid lines on the screen. I tend to use the full screen normal photo mode so then I’m able to crop it down…
Pol: I use my iPhone to take my photos, and I simply change the screen to 'square'. Next comes the tricky part! I kneel over my layout, trying to fit it fully into the square screen - I find holding my breath helps! I'll then take around 10-15 photos. If there's no border or anything on the edges of your layout it doesn't matter so much to get it exactly square because you can crop the edges later.
I then go through the photos on my phone, deleting the ones that aren't square or have carpet showing round the edges. Out of the 10-15 photos there will usually be 2 or 3 I'm happy with. I then used to post the best photo directly to Instagram, using one of the built in filters to show the page to its best advantage. However, an app was recommended to me for editing photos - 'PicTapGo'. It's around £1.49 in the Apple App Store and it's worth that many times over!
You simply open PicTapGo, once you've allowed it access to your camera roll the first time, it automatically opens on your photos. Simply chose the photo you want to use, click 'edit' in the top right hand corner, and when you scroll down there is a huge range of filters you can use. You can also use any number of different filters on your photo, and the app has an option to save them as your own 'recipe', if you find you are using the same filters each time. When I first downloaded the app I played around with it for a while and I now find that the filters I use most are 'auto colour' and 'crispity' then using the manual adjustments I lighten it up slightly. 'Sweet tooth' and 'dreamworld' are great for making your colours pop, and 'air' will give them a faded soft look. You can then save your photos directly to your camera roll. At this point you can either post your photos online or you can further edit them in a photo editing software.
Sci Fi Scrapper: Be aware of where you are in relation to your light sources. Make sure to position yourself so you are not between the light source and your layout to avoid shadows on your layout when photographing.
Using a flash is a good way to help when your lighting isn't perfect, however it can only do so much. If you photograph in a dark room, using the flash will not be as effective as it could be, and while your photo will be crisp, it will also be dark. Don't rely on it as a miracle fix and try to light your area as well as possible regardless of if you use it.
Another issue when using a flash is that you often end up with glare on the photo or pockets when using a page protector. If you do need to use a flash, and have a pocket page, I’d recommend always photographing them outside of your page protector to reduce glare. No matter the kind of layout though, if there are photos on it and you’re using a flash, you’ll probably have some kind of glare/reflection on the photo itself. Obviously not using the flash is the instant fix, but if you need to use it, try to position your layout so the photograph itself is not in the central of the area you’re photographing, since that tends to be where the light bounces off. Moving your layout to the side of the area you’re photographing is an easy way to do this. Dead space in the photo can always be cropped out layer.
I’d also suggest taking your photo on a white background where possible. Cropping the photograph of your layout perfectly isn’t always possible, and having a white background shown rather than another colour looks cleaner if you have to leave some of your ‘background’ in and helps it stand out from the surface it's on. If you don’t have a white surface, white foam board is a good alternative.