Press features are exciting—except when we can't provide the photos they need. When planning your photos, keep these five tips in mind to increase your chance of a feature.
1. Start With a Neutral Background
The importance of a neutral background, such as soft white, can’t be emphasised enough. Having a set of photos that showcase your craft on a neutral background, while being well-lit, in focus and sharp, will mean you’ve always got something to hand should the offer of a press feature come your way.
A soft white background is easy to achieve with a little know-how—see these instructions on creating great backgrounds for craft photography. When you’ve mastered the simple soft white background, you may choose to build on your photo collection, perhaps with a pure white background (also called deep etch, high key or cutout) or a lifestyle/in-situ series.
2. Create a Lifestyle or In-Situ Series
Aside from requesting photos of your craft on a neutral background, the press may be looking for a photo of your craft in action. Think about your customer and the end uses you intend for your craft. You may need to enlist a model or create a homely but polished setting.
If you've tried a lifestyle series without success, you may need to put down the camera for a while and think about what you're trying to achieve. Browse your favourite shops for inspiration. Make notes on what you like to see when shopping for similar products, and what you don't. A list of what you feel works and what doesn't may give you the clarity and burst of energy you need to try again.
3. Keep It Simple
Whether you’re going for a neutral background, a lifestyle shot, or are using other props, it’s important to keep it simple. Too many props can be distracting, as can too many products in one frame.
Styling, like photography in general, is subjective. Keeping it simple broadens the appeal of the image. Yes, what looks simple, fresh and clean to one person may look boring, empty and sparse to another, but when you're starting out, looking to improve your skills, or stuck for ideas, simple leaves less room for error, and it flatters.
In the example above, I wanted to include part of the cushion cover’s packaging as a prop, so I tried ribbon and tissue paper. What seemed like a great idea in theory looked messy on camera. I decided to remove the tissue paper—it was too much—and use just the black ribbon.
4. Select the Right Camera Settings
When you’re done planning, and before you shoot, ensure your camera is set up to take the biggest and best photos it can. Large quality images are preferred for press use because they're the most flexible. The more pixels present in an image—whether in width, height, or detail per inch—the more detail shows up in print. Images that offer press the flexibility of printing at whatever size on the page they desire are ideal and more likely to secure the feature over smaller images of low quality.
With the right camera settings, you should be taking high-quality images with lots of detail, which are perfect for press features. Check the size setting is at its largest (e.g. ‘original’, ‘x-large’ or ‘raw’) and the ISO setting is as low as possible. Some digital cameras also allow you to change the DPI setting, which affects the amount of detail, or dots per inch, in each image. This should be set to the highest possible level (typically 300dpi for print).
It's also good practice to clean the outside of the lens. A lens pen is a cheap and effective tool to have in your kit, and they're available online and at your local camera store.
If you can see dark spots when looking through the lens that don't come off using a lens pen, your lens is probably interchangeable and the spots might be dust specks that have made their way inside the lens when it was removed/changed. An air blower can help remove these, but they should be used with care. If you're not confident with this step, call in to your local camera shop and ask for a demo—they may even clean it for you.
5. Back Up Originals
Sometimes things go wrong, and when they do, we need to have a backup in place. If your originals are lost and you’re asked for high-resolution versions for a press feature, it’s simply not possible to recreate them. (Although of course you can re-shoot them, if possible.)
Important images should be backed up on a device independent from your computer, like an external hard drive or in a cloud account. If you’re concerned about something happening to the backup, use more than one source, like the external drive and the cloud.
Storing originals separately from edited versions ensures you’ll always have an unedited and original copy, and the largest version of each image will be available for press use. It also allows you to re-edit and re-save images at any time, should your editing preferences and skills change.
Shown above are three examples of different types of external backup solutions: firstly an iomega external hard drive, secondly an Epson Multimedia Storage Viewer (with LCD screen and ideal for viewing images when you’re away from your computer), and thirdly a G-Technology G-SAFE, which is another external hard drive that duplicates data onto two physical drives to reduce the chance of losing files if one drive fails.
Now, Start Shooting!
You may have already sorted out some of these steps, like the background or camera settings. Tidy up your workflow by implementing any other steps you don't currently take, and back up your images today. Good luck!
Cushion cover made by Heidi Adnum using Pink Hearts fabric by C'est La Viv (stripe fabric is vintage). Find more information on the external backup solutions at: iomega (exact model no longer available, alternatives available from WD and Seagate), Epson, G-SAFE.