Friday, October 22, 2010

Photography by Lateblossom

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.


  1. Sensational Card. And many thanks for the photo tips.
    I've always admired your version of a "watermark" because so many cards on other blogs (AND vendor sites) are wrecked by the mark that's supposed to stop theft but also stops Comments (and Sales). Your copyright assumes the common decency of Viewers and, at the same time, is a subtle reminder.

  2. Beautiful card!I need to dig out my H20s.

    I assumed that with a photographer hubby, you'd have a fancy lightbox at the least. Your setup is exactly like mine, except I use Photoshop, and am currently tinkering with The Pioneer Woman's actions. I was a cowgirl in my youth, she makes me want to be one again. Alas, the hubby I choose was not a Marlborough Man, or a photographer...

  3. Good morning Susan

    This is a stunning card. I love the image and the way you've coloured it. Brilliant.

    I'm tend to scan my cards onto the PC - it mostly gives reasonable results. However, having seen your tips I may try it out. My hubby is the photographer - he's got the whole kit and does super photos.

    Regards, Deborah

  4. I was sure you had a light tent, your photos are always so consistent in presentation. I really appreciate the tutorial, whilst my husband is a photographer (cyclist etc, much like George) this kind of photography isn't his thing. I will look more into Picasa as well.

  5. Great simple advice. Have always been impressed with your photography.
    Beautiful card!

  6. Thanks for the info. I need to purchase an Ott light and maybe upgrade my camera as I am never satisfied with my photos taken inside.

    That is one beautiful card-I also need to purchase some 'twinklers'.

  7. Exactly how I normally do my photos...except I spent the money on a light tent! And I must say that it sits under my work area, I prefer this way better!!! Fantastic card as well, love the embossing.

  8. The gold embossing powder is very pretty! :)

  9. Hi Susan, Thank you for the great tutorial, good to see where I'm not going too far wrong and helpful where I am.
    Have to admit here I'm having all sorts of trouble with the watermark though, I export my photos into Microsoft Publisher and edit them there but have problems saving the file because when I retrieve it the mark disappears, it's very frustrating. I will get there in the end.
    Your card is superb, just the sort of image I love for Christmas and you've let it speak for itself, beautiful peacock blue shade for the colour which goes beautifully with the gold EP.
    Have a great weekend:0)xx

  10. Thanks for this! I have tried all different combos and still not happy with my results. I'm going to move my OTT light over and try it out!!

    I don't comment hardly at all on your blog, BUT I look forward to your postings EVERYDAY!! Thank you and keep up the great work :)

  11. thanks for taking the time to do is most laugh at my suggestion to get photo shop for I can start with Picasa for free and not feel guilty about the expense
    patti moffett

  12. Thanks, Susan! It was helpful to see that you didn't get too close at first. Wonderful tutorial!

  13. Thanks for the tutorial, Susan. I actually have much the same process, only I use PSE8 to edit my photos. I actually created a brush to use in PSE that I use to watermark my photos. I agree with Bahb...the huge watermarks often mar the photo in my humble opinion.

    Beautiful card...LOVE the stamp!

  14. I am doing about the same thing that you are and it is helpful to read about it. One more thing that I built for myself as I don't have a light tent is an infinity board, on page 4 of this link here. After I began using that, it seems my photos improved tremendously.

  15. I use the same set-up - we probably have the same camera! I do fiddle with Photoshop Elements though - I'd love to have a nice DSLR camera but that would so cut into my crafting budget and then I'd have nothing to take pictures of!

  16. Thank you so much for this informative tutorial.

  17. Wonderful post with a beautiful card. As always, thank you so much for the details.

  18. Great tutorial! I'm going to set my Ott light up as you have. I have a Mac so use iPhoto - but I'm going to see if Picassa makes any difference to the final quality.

    I love your card. I'm a big fan of Twinkling H2Os - the green you've used is perfect with the gold.

  19. What a beautiful card! Thanks for all the photography tips. I'm going to try this method instead of scanning. Thanks for all the inspiration today! Enjoy your day! -Pamela

  20. Very nice tutorial - your photos look great with pretty reasonable supplies (two thumbs up). Also, that card is amazing. I love the texture of the paper and that stamp is fantastic.

  21. Thanks for more great tips, Susan! I love the way you change the backgrounds so they bring out the colors of the card. I use one of those fold-out foam board things kids use for science projects. I cut it down to about 12" high, then I hold the different cardstock backgrounds on it with clothespins at the top (they don't show in the photo). The white panel on the side helps bounce the light off a little, and I can fold it up so it takes up very little room when not in use.

    I have to apologize for the last comment I made. I asked you to post a tutorial describing your technique for Twinkling H20s wash. When I checked your archives I saw that you had already done one! It is terrific!

    This card is so beautiful. The gold and the shimmery green together look so rich and regal. Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  22. A gorgeous card and an extremely helpful tutorial ~ seeing how you laid out everything on your desk top made it even clearer :o)

  23. Thanks for the photography tips! I need to get an Ott light--lighting is my biggest issue.

    Love, love, love your card!

  24. Thanks for the photo tips, Susan. I don't have a tulip or any other flower setting on my camera. I wonder if the portrait setting would be similar? I made a light box with a gift box & tissue paper, but like Ravengirl's infinity board. Love the card! The gold & green are worthy of a king! Thanks for all the tips & tricks you give. They are a big help!

  25. Thanks very much for the tips on photography Susan, they are much appreciated.
    I haven't got an OTT light but bought some daylight bulbs via Ebay and use those in a desk lamp. Gives me the same good lighting as an OTT light without the expense!

    Beautiful card, so elegant. Love my Twinkling H2Os.

  26. Thanks for sharing your tips on taking photos of our cards Susan. Your card is beautiful........the touch of green perfect and I love the card stock you've used too!

  27. That's a great stamp, and in your hands makes a beautiful card! ty for the photography tips, too.

  28. Thanks for the great photography tips, Susan!

  29. What a beautiful card! I am going to try that today (my play day)! Thanks for sharing tips on photographing the cards - I think your photos are wonderful. I LOVE your cards!

  30. Wow! Thanks so much for the great tutorial!! Love it! You have answered so many questions that I have had! Bravo!

  31. Susan: Thanks for sharing the photo program. I recently bought a computer and I didn't have a photo program on the computer. This is great.


  32. Thanks so much for your help! I am having problems with submitting my photos to SCS, they are tooo big. Been fiddling with Picasso, but can't figure out how to resize them. Could you help? Thanks! Willa Jean


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