As part of our How to Photograph Craft series, professional photographer Yeshen Venema shares his tips on how to photograph items for your online shop, with each post focusing on a different product. Last time around Yeshen talked us through flat textiles, like purses, washbags and hot water bottles. This time he tackles their fabric cousins: cushions. Over to Yeshen…
Cushions are one of the most common products in my studio. It’s one of the popular products among designer/makers because they’re quite simple to create, affordable to produce and show off your designs well. Plus, it seems people can never have enough cushions in their home!
As in my previous posts, I’ll be breaking it down into three sections (lighting, composition and angle of shot) with some examples for each. If you use Photoshop, there are a few extra tips in there for you. But first, a note on preparation. Cushions (and fabrics in general) are very efficient at attracting dust, bits of thread and other random stuff, so make sure yours are 100% clean, ironed and dust-free before shooting. It’s not fun trying to remove a bit of thread from 50 product shots, I’ve been there!
The shape and material are both important when planning your lighting. If you’re using natural light, avoid direct sunlight and ideally use a north-facing skylight, velux loft window or similar. The larger and softer the light source, the better. Fabrics are incredibly diverse in terms of how they look in camera, cottons and linens will look completely different under same light as compared to velvet or silk, so do some tests before committing to your chosen lighting.
If your cushion is light in colour and lacking contrast on edge, you’ll need to create some shadow using black or dark boards (A1 size foam board is good) otherwise the material will not have enough contrast for you to separate from surface. You can also shoot on a mid-tone grey to allow more contrast. This is especially important for overhead cutout shots (more on that below).
For lifestyle shots, placing the cushion propped up on a chair or sofa is best, rather than on the floor. Move the chair away from the wall to soften shadows. Make sure you have good contrast between the chair or sofa and your cushions, ie. not a red cushion on a red sofa. It’s best not to use too many props, a good piece of furniture is often enough, or maybe a book or magazine for scale. Try not to use the same chair in all your shots – variety is good!
Consider your end crop for the product listing, often a square, but it’s also worth leaving about 2/3 wall space to left or right so you can get a web banner crop out of the image.
If shooting a stack of cushions, try cropping into the stack, as that creates a more intimate shot. Layering up when shooting details is good, but if it’s for a specific product listing, only show a single design so there’s no confusion.
For overhead cut-outs, ensure the cushion is stuffed evenly, if you simply can’t fix this, and have Photoshop, use the ‘Edit>Transform>Distort’ tool to stretch out the corners with squared off guides as a reference.
Angle of shot
I find straight on, or slightly looking down towards the cushion, works best for lifestyle shots. A stack of cushions can also be effective, but it depends on the stability of the cushion itself because it can end up looking squashed. Try turning one cushion on top of the stack for some variety. If you have some period detailing, wood works particularly well to offset the fabric.
Use a tripod and timed shutter release. This not only offers stability, but ensures you shoot a consistent angle for all your designs, resulting in a great-looking shop page when all your product thumbnails are displayed. For cut-outs, make sure the camera is 100% parallel to the floor, if you have a tripod with a reverse mounting option, or horizontal locking mechanism, this is the ideal method. Otherwise, use your camera’s live view screen rather than the viewfinder, if the camera has a live view grid guide (overlay on screen), use it to line up with the edges of your card.
Lastly, a few tips for you Photoshop users on touching up cushions (this also applies to fabrics): use a combination of Healing Brush (for general marks), Clone Stamp (for areas of high contrast or lines across the design) and Patch Tool (for larger marks across a pattern). It’s usually good to add a bit of contrast using the Curves tool at the end and sharpening via Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen. See the ‘plaster’ icon for most of the retouching tools in Photoshop.
That’s it for now – what are you waiting for – get shooting!
Yeshen is offering a special offer for Folksy sellers, 10% off your first studio shoot and a free set of of up to 10 cutouts. Find out more and book at: http://www.yeshen.uk/