When I founded Hampton Paper in 2007, I had an idea to create a stationery line that offer classic images often in unexpected colors on all the products in our portfolio. It began as an idea when I was trying to find calling cards for my son Jackson. I had no idea what it would lead too.
What I have discovered is that running a small business requires that I wear many hats. Many of the hats I am required to wear are tied to a "job" that I am totally not qualified for. Let me explain...
Through the years, I have hired many consultants to help fill in the gaps, social media, marketing, photography, product placement, branding experts etc. Feedback in one area has always been consistent.. "you need better photos". I do have some professionally taken photos on my site but given the number of products we offer, with potential combinations and the new images we roll out monthly and the new products, keep up with the demand is, well, impossible not to mention expensive.
So I did what any entrepreneur on a small budget would do, I took some photos myself. The were not well received by the above mentioned consultants. They need to be "Styled", "Brighter" "Crisper" etc.
(I was frustrated and crushed - what I had done amounted to hours of work and I really didn't understand what was wrong with them....)
I started doing some research- I watched the Canon Rebel how to video I purchased 5 years ago. Very helpful. I looked at a few web sites and blogs on photography including Etsy. I purchased photography "how to" guides from Etsy vendors. Truth be told it's a lot of information but little content about what to do. (I found it equivalent to trying to lose weight and a recommendation of "eat better". ummm how? please S-P-E-L-L it out?- dumb it down for us amateurs) Mostly, they all say the same thing - "Turn off the Flash". What? I just purchased a $400 new flash for more light. Turn it off? Then what? How do you get photos that are not too dark?
I consulted a few photographer friends. "Turn off the Flash!!" they too exclaimed. They got technical with me.... Take photos in "TV", "AV" or "Manual". HUH? I tried. I took photos. I got better. I started to like the photos. I hired a photographer for a lesson. Priceless money spent. There was only so far I could go on my own. Now, a grey card and two new lenses later I am on my way. Here are a few photos from my lesson. In all honesty, it was a matter of making a few changes to my settings and having the right lenses. The right lenses enabled me to get that "professional" feel including clear crisp close ups and ones that blur the background.
Here is what I purchased:
Canon Normal EF 50mm f/1.8 II Auto focus Lens
Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Auto focus Lens
I noticed great improvement. Now see what was wrong with my flash photos. I am cringing and am so embarrassed.
If I was writing recommendation on taking better photographs, I would say:
1. Turn off Flash
2. Take photos in "M" manual mode
3. Read your instruction manual
4. Once you get a basic understanding, hire someone to come help you for a few hours. I got a great lesson, 3 hours for only $200.00
5. Invest in a few new lenses include a macro that will let you get that close up shot and one that will enable a "blurred" back ground.
Here are a few photos I took with the photographer.