Wednesday 4 December 2013

How To Write a Craft Tutorial for Your Blog: Photos & Illustrations, part two

Eek, it's been a while since the last post in this series, hasn't it? Top tip: if you're writing a series of blog posts, get them written in advance so this doesn't happen to you :)

So... here's part two of my guide to taking photos (and drawing illustrations) for your tutorials. You've decided what to make, you've taken lots of notes and you've made the project and taken all the step by step photos. What's next?

Taking the Main Project Photos

When you've finished making your project, it's time to take some more photos. These are the photos that will "sell" your tutorial and make people who read your blog think "oooh, I want to make that!" and (if you're sharing a tutorial on your blog to get some extra traffic) these are the photos that will help get your tutorial pinned on Pinterest, liked on Facebook and featured on blogs.

You need at least one clear photo of the item you've made so people can see what the tutorial is for and how the finished item will look. You can keep this simple or spend a bit more time and take a styled photo with some nice props, or show your item being used.

Here are some examples of different photos I've used for my tutorials...

Felt flower headband, ribbon scrap card, felt & fabric coffee cosy, and brooch gift toppers

1. I photographed this flower headband on a clear, white background (a piece of paper).

2. As this card was white, I used a large piece of coloured paper (curved upwards behind the card) as a backdrop.

3. This coffee cosy was tricky to photograph because the cosy wraps around the cafetiere. I took photos from a few different angles and also photographed the cosy on its own, lying on a white piece of paper. I took this picture before I'd bought some large pieces of paper for using as backdrops and had to tape together several smaller pieces of paper, which was rather awkward!

4. I took photos of these parcels all together, and also photographed each one individually. The main photo looks great with them all together (although you can see where the small bits of paper I used as a background are overlapping!) and then the individual photos shows them close up so people can get a clearer view of each one.

Candy cane ornaments

5. The green background for these ornaments (a piece of sugar paper / construction paper) helps the white stand out clearly and also looks very festive with the red and white.

Butterfly napkin rings and other tea party accessories

6. For this tutorial, I set up a faux tea party with vintage china, some flowers, pretty napkins and some yummy cakes (again, can you spot those small pieces of paper overlapping? I should have bought a large piece of paper or card to use as a backdrop years ago!).

I also took separate photos of each paper crafting project - the napkin rings, the butterfly in the vase of flowers and the little food labels.

A jumper decorated with buttons, a pompom hair tie, a flower headband and felt scrap bracelets

7. These four projects all benefited from being modelled! As well as showing your project in use, pictures like this are great for showing the scale of a design. If you don't want to take a self portrait, bribe a friend or relative with some cake :)

A mini felt bumblebee, leaf, ladybird and daisy

8. Photographing these small felt projects in the palm of my hand was an easy way to show how cute and mini they are!

Envelope advent garland and Faux Argyle cushion
9. I was worried about how to photograph this advent garland because it was so long, but luckily a friend had a lovely fireplace in her living room that she let me use for a mini photoshoot.

10. The cushion also looks great "in situ". As with the advent garland, I took a photo showing the scene with the item in it and a close-up photo focusing on the item itself. If you're taking a photo in a room like this, make sure you tidy up / hoover the carpet / etc before you take the photos to make sure there isn't any mess to spoil your nice picture.

I often use more than one photo of the finished project in my tutorials, one or two in the introduction and then one at the end. You want to show off how great your project is but also include clear pictures of the whole projects so people can see exactly what they're making - for example, do you need to take a photo of your project from the back or at another angle to show off a special feature? Is there a detail that you want to showcase with a close-up photo? If you've made a set of something, photograph them all together in a group shot and also include some photos of the individual design so people can see it in more detail.

Editing The Photos & Adding Watermarks


Once you've taken all your photos and uploaded them onto your computer, it's time to edit them. Just like the photo-taking itself, there are a ton of articles online that will give you really detailed info on editing your photos to look their best. I'm just going to talk about the software I use and the steps I go through to prep my tutorial photos.

First I look through all the photos, turn them the right way up and do some simple editing. I used to use some software that came with my old Nikon camera but it isn't compatible with my current laptop, so I've switched to using the basic editing tools in Window Live Photo Gallery which came ready installed on my system. You can of course do much fancier editing in Photoshop or its equivalents (e.g. Pixlr's Editor). 

If I've taken, say, three photos of one project I choose the one I like best and edit that one. I usually brighten the photo a bit - taking care not to brighten it so much that the colours are distorted. This is quite an extreme example that was taken on a dark winter day...

Then I usually crop the image a bit - I don't tend to worry about keeping the aspect ratio the same as I don't mind different sizes and shapes of photos on my blog.

Then I resize the image - I used to upload all my photos to Flickr as a back up and then save the size I wanted from their pre-set range of sizes. Now I just open the images in Irfanview (a great bit of free software) and resize them with that, resizing the smallest side of the image to 650 pixels and saving the smaller version as a new file. Smaller images will take up less space on your blog and be quicker to upload (and I've also learned not to put hi res photos online after having several "borrowed" over the years!). Having all your photos saved to a similar size is also useful for the next step.

Finally, after I've resized each image, I add some text, with my name and my blog address ( © Laura Howard To do this in Irfanview you select the area of the image you want to add the text to, click "Edit", select "Insert text into selection" from the dropdown menu, then add the text you want. It helpfully remembers the last text you added, so you can add it to each photo very quickly - I just sometimes change the text colour depending on whether the text is on a dark or light background.

My tutorial photos end up posted all over the place (often without a live link back to my blog or any credit at all) so this is an important step for me! I know it would still be very easy for a malicious person to nick my image and crop out my blog info if they wanted to, but that sort of thing is going to happen whatever I do. This is just a quick way for me to "tag" my photos in a relatively unobtrusive way so that if, for example, they get Pinned without a link back to my blog, they aren't totally orphaned and people can still find their way back to my blog to find the tutorial.

Drawing Illustrations

Step by step photos are great but (as I discussed briefly in the previous post) there are definitely times when drawing step by step illustrations will work better for you than taking photos. If you're a talented artist and can draw really great, professional looking illustrations lucky you, I am very jealous! Luckily you don't have to be a great artist to draw clear, helpful illustrations. 

These are some quick, simple sketches I drew to illustrate the steps of making a felt ring pillow. I'd made the pillow already and didn't want the fuss of sewing a second one just for the sake of taking some step-by-step pictures. 

Simple illustrations for a felt ring pillow

As you can see, these are not the world's best drawings! But (when combined with the text instructions) they show the steps quite clearly - and the ink lines of stitching are actually clearer than a photograph of small-stitches-of-sewing-thread-on-matching-felt might be.

You can add text to your drawings if you want, but remember to repeat this text in your written instructions for the sake of legibility (and so people who are reading your instructions via Google Translate or other translation software will still be able to follow each step).

Cutting out leaf shapes

Sewing together a lavender sachet

If you don't have a scanner, you can take a photo of your drawings - it doesn't look as good, but it will still get the information across! This is a photo from my very first tutorial :)

How to cut the centre of a felt flower

Draw your illustrations in a soft pencil, draw over them with black ink and erase the pencil lines. Add any text you need, then scan the drawings in. As with the photos, you can crop and resize the images as needed and label them with your blog address, etc, if you want. You can also add colour to your drawings if you want to, but I've found that my scanner picks up colours a little strangely so I tend to stick to simple black and white for my sketches.


ct cucubi said...

awesome.. tq for sharing..

Baban Cat said...

Thank you. Lots of handy hints for everyone :)

Bugs and Fishes said...

No problem! I hope people find the series helpful :)

C said...

I've been wondering about how to re-size photos. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

The large paper sheets as a backdrop are a genius idea! I always struggle with backdrops for my photos and have long admired those like yours, wrongly assuming that you had bright white tables! X

Bugs and Fishes said...

Xenia - no probs! Irfanview also have a bulk editing feature so you can resize a whole bunch of pics all at once, very helpful :)

Halcyon Threads - I did used to have a white kitchen table, actually! If I had anything very large to photograph I used to drag the (quite heavy) table across the room so I could use it as a backdrop!

Using a big bit of card is much easier!! You can see my giant paper/card backdrop in action in the previous post: I use a really sturdy bit of card underneath whatever piece of paper or card I'm using as a backdrop, so I can prop it on a windowsill or anywhere else and have an instant flat surface :)