Disclaimer: I am not a photographer. At least not in the sense that my husband is a photographer...he's good and uses a Nikon D-90 SLR and keeps it set on manual and knows what all those knobs and symbols and settings actually mean. I don't use Photoshop, I don't have a light tent, and my camera is a digital point-and-shoot. But I think my photos look good enough for government work, so if you're interested, here's how I do it.
What I Have:
1. Nikon Cool-Pix 10.0 Megapixels, 5X optical zoom
2. Table-top Ott Light, which gives full-spectrum light for (mostly) true colors
3. Two pieces of cardstock in a color to compliment the card being photographed
4. Picasa 3 photo-editing software, downloaded for free HERE
What I Do:
1. Select cardstock to match the card I'm photographing.
2. Set up the cardstock, Ott light, and card as shown in this photograph:
This is what a low-budget set looks like.
3. Make sure the camera is set to Macro (the Tulip icon). This setting allows you to take close-up pictures that are much clearer than if you leave the camera on the default setting. Also, make sure the flash is suppressed (the icon of the slash through the lightning bolt). The flash creates harsh shadows that are hard to edit out, and the Ott light gives plenty of light when aimed at the card as shown.
4. Snap the photo. I rarely zoom all the way into the card. Here's the unedited photo for this card.
5. Download the photo to your computer and open it in Picasa to the Edit function.
6. First, crop your photo so there's a pleasing margin around it. Cropping is the first option under the "Basic Fixes" tab to the left of the photo.
7. Then, click on the "Auto Contrast" function (also under the "Basic Fixes" tab). About half the time, this will give you fine results with no further tinkering. The other half of the time, you'll need to undo the "Auto Contrast" because it will make the card look over-exposed or too dark. If that's the case, click the "Undo Auto Contrast" button and then click the "Tuning" tab.
8. Under "Tuning," you can slide bars for fill light, high lights, shadows, and color temperature. I just dink around with each until the photo looks bright and the colors are as accurate to real life as I can make them.
9. Once everything is as good as it's going to get, I export the photo to a folder I titled Resized Photos. (To Export, just click the Export button under the photo.) When you use the Export function in Picasa, a box called Export to Folder pops up that allows you to choose the folder to export to and gives you the option of resizing. I size mine to 640 pixels, which seems to give good clarity on the blog without being so big that it takes forever to upload. The Export to Folder box also has a watermark option. This is NOT a fancy watermark function. I just add a simple "copyright Susan Raihala" line. (Watermarks are a whole 'nuther kettle of fish!)
10. Click "export" and your photo is ready to upload to your blog or to SCS or to wherever in the World Wide Web you want to upload it. Here's the final result:
This card, which I LOVE!, was embossed with gold EP on cold-press watercolor paper and painted using Douglas Fir Twinkling H2Os. The stamp, by Rubber Stampede (c 2003), is lovely embossed and left alone, but the colors and shimmer of the Twinkling H2Os really make it festive.
I hope this tutorial helps those of you struggling to get decent photos. For those who want outstanding photos (and not just of cards), I encourage you to study Pioneer Woman's photography blog. That woman has the magic touch for Photoshop, plus you get to see her photos of ranch life. It's enough to make this city slicker want to run away from home and become a cowgirl.