My favorite time of year is here! I love cozying up inside when it’s cold outside, the sparkling decorations on everything, the emphasis on family and friends… and food – oh boy, food! This is ALSO my favorite time of year because it’s the best time to upgrade your photography and crafting supplies!
Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, countdowns to Christmas and more, this is the season for bargain hunting for yourself and for the lovely crafters in your life! (And hey, there’s no harm in asking the special someones in your life for gifts that will help your craft business succeed in the new year :D)
This guide is all about the latest and greatest photography equipment for crafters. While this article (and this site, really) assumes you’re a crafter selling handmade stuff, the advice here holds true for anyone taking photos or making video for the web, be it for recipe blogging, selling on eBay, flipping stuff on Craigslist, showing off your pretty face on YouTube.
If your online biz requires taking great photos, this guide is for you!
Some links in this article are Amazon Affiliate links. Read DIYCraftPhotography’s full disclosure here.
Best Cameras: Holiday 2014
Hands down, the best investment you can make for your online handmade business is a good camera. Every camera on the market nowadays takes great photos – thankfully, we’re past the era of worrying about megapixels and talking more about lens quality, low-light performance, and extra features like WiFi connectivity.
If your budget is microscopic and you don’t have a smartphone camera and don’t anticipate one coming into your life soon, then you want the Samsung ST150F Smart WiFi Digital Camera. The photo quality is great, especially from something this size, but what really separates this camera from its competition are the extra features. The WiFi capability lets you upload photos quickly over your home network. Ironically, this camera also has an awesome companion app for iPhone and Android lets you see what the camera sees on your phone’s screen and operate the camera from your phone. But if you have an iPhone or Android phone you can probably get away with using your phone’s camera instead. ePhotoZine.com has a gallery of sample images from this camera, check it out!
For more control without the complexity of a DSLR and a price tag around $200 or so, you want the Nikon COOLPIX L830 16 MP Digital Camera. This camera is like a point and shoot on steroids. The lens is powerful and high quality, and you don’t have to worry about mastering focusing or aperture settings to take great photos. You can just pick it up, point, and shoot! It’s too bad they called it “Coolpix” because the name makes it sound less sophisticated than it really is.
Unlike point and shoots, you can adjust the focus and get blurred backgrounds and sharp foregrounds, which is perfect for photographing small crafts and food. But it still has auto focus for those times when you don’t want to do fiddle with that stuff! This camera would also be useful outside of your crafting hobby. The Nikon L830 is an ideal camera for travel thanks to its compact size and super zoom. Check out some sample photos from the Nikon L830 camera over on CNet.
If you’ve got a bit more budget and you want something that will walk, talk, and act like a DSLR without the bulk, you want the Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera. This is one of the hottest cameras this season, and it’s the camera I bought myself this year. It is superb. (Read my full NX300 review here!) You get all the power of a DSLR but the body is slimmer and lighter than a similarly powered DSLR, plus awesome features like easy photo transfer over WiFi, auto “preset” modes in addition to manual shooting, and a great flip out touch screen on the back.
Those beautiful shots you see on Etsy and Pinterest where the background is softly blurred, where light sources become soft discs floating in shot, and where people and things look buttery smooth are the result of quality lenses, so use some of that leftover cash (this camera can be found for around $400) and grab a good prime lens.
If you really had your heart set on the best DSLR you can get for around or under $500, then you want the Pentax K-50. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard the name, Pentax tends to get overlooked in favor of the Big Two (Canon and Nikon). But the K-50 is awesome, and it’s got features you have to go up a price bracket for with Canon and Nikon, such as a weatherproof body design, full HD video capture, shooting up to ISO 51200, in-camera shake reduction, 6 frames per second, and Eye-Fi card compatibility for sharing photos over WiFi. Even better, the K-mount has a huge and diverse collection of lenses available.
These features just don’t exist in the similarly priced Canon and Nikon offerings, so unless you’re already invested in those lens families, give the Pentax K-50 a look!
But if you really want a “big name” camera (ie, Canon or Nikon), I think the Nikon D3200 DSLR is the way to go. Even though Canon and Nikon are lagging behind on extras like flip out screens and WiFi transfer, they’re still rated highly on image quality. Chances are, your favorite DIY, food, and craft bloggers are using this camera or a more expensive one from its family, or something from the similar Canon Rebel line.
When it comes to Canon vs. Nikon, I think the Nikon D3200 feels better in my hands (heavier, less plasticky) and I think Nikon’s menus are more intuitive.
Remember, with cameras like this where you can swap the lens you want to spend your budget on lenses moreso than camera bodies, so don’t be put off by the idea of buying an “entry level” DSLR. Even if you’re big into photography, it will take you a few years to outgrow this camera. All you’re missing out vs. cameras four times its price are sensor sizes and improved performance for motion and dark. If you’re photographing crafts (and family vacations) you won’t miss those features. Save the extra cash for a really choice lens instead!
If photography, blogging, and crafting is what puts food on your table, then you probably already know what camera you’re lusting after. If not, the Canon EOS 6D and the NikonD610 are top tier choices right now, depending on which lens family you’re already invested in.
These cameras offer superior noise control, multiple focus points, excellent detail shots, fantastic low light capabilities, and control over everything. They’re “full frame”, too, meaning capture more light and therefore get less electronic noise in the shadows of your photos. Read more about full frame DSLRs here on Digital Camera World.
These cameras are complete and utter overkill for many Etsy sellers. Unless your shop or blog is how you make your living and/or you have a lot of enthusiasm for photography, you don’t need a full-frame camera. But of you’ve been itching to make photography a serious hobby and you feel like you’ve outgrown their current camera, these are the kinds of cameras (and don’t forget lenses) that you see in the hands of event photographers and artists selling photography as art or stock photos. If you’ve got a bit of cash to spend, you’ll probably never outgrow a camera from this category!
Other Photography Accessories
Beyond a great camera, you can also give your craft photography a big upgrade by investing in lighting and staging tools.
If your lighting setup is less than ideal, lighting kit will take the guesswork out of improving it. You’ll also never have to wait for a “good lighting” day again. For large crafts and crafts shown on human models (also: family portraits and YouTube videos), you want the LimoStudio-Photography Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella kit. This is Amazon’s best selling lighting kit and I think it’s great because it’s got everything you need in one box AND it can all collapse down into that tiny bag for storage. You get two umbrellas for nice light scattering, light bulbs ready to go, and adjustable stands for easy positioning. I tried to rig up a similar setup using a mic stand once, and it wasn’t nearly as nice as this well-reviewed kit!
For smaller crafts, a table-top size shooting tent is all you need. There are a lot of these on the market, but I think the Square Perfect 1050 Platinum Photo Studio is the best value and most well-rounded of the bunch. It comes with two tents (a big one and a small one), 4 colored backdrops for both tents, lights stands with light bulbs, front panels with a slit for your camera to poke through, and a fully adjustable tripod to set your camera on. The little tent fills with soft bounced light, creating soft shadows and a smooth white or black backdrop for your product.
For a reflective surfaces under your crafts, check out the LimoStudio Table Top Acrylic Display Table kit. You get two tables, one black and one white, and the reflection effect is beautiful and professional. I tried to get this same effect with cloth and a mirror last summer and it didn’t go so well, so I’m thrilled to see more photography tables coming onto the market!
If you need a completely seamless and scuff-free white background, you want the MyStudio MS20CYC Seamless Cyc background. Pros build gigantic rooms on this same concept for photographing things like cars, and this is just a scaled down version perfect for smaller products and crafts. Use this seamless half-bowl thing to achieve pristine white backgrounds that fade to gray without a wrinkle or fold in sight. Unlike photo tents, you won’t have to worry about wrinkles or seams, and you’ll get a much larger shooting angle.
More Great Photography Accessories
Beyond cameras and photography equipment, here are a few more great accessories to boost your craft biz photos.
Adobe Photoshop is my software of choice for Etsy photos, shop banners, logos, website and blog art, patterns, label design, business card design, and pack-ins (such as thank yous to customers and a “birth certificate” for every plushie I ship). Adobe has moved to a subscription model for almost everything, but considering that a standalone Photoshop license used to cost around $2000 you can buy a lot of Photoshop subscription months before you even come close to the cost of buying the software upfront. Adobe has a combo deal where you get access to Photoshop and Lightroom for one monthly fee (linked). I don’t use Lightroom personally, but my event photographer friends swear by it.
(PS: Some people adore Photoshop Elements, which is quite affordable and not on a subscription model. Being used to Photoshop I couldn’t get the hang of it, but if you’re starting from scratch you probably won’t be as annoyed by the differences.)
Finally, an easy-to-overlook aspect of your crafting business equipment is your computer monitor! I love a nice big widescreen dual monitor setup and it definitely increases my productivity as I edit photos, update websites, and write for this blog… usually simultaneously! 🙂 If you need a bigger and brighter monitor, you should look at the Asus VS278Q-P Ultrafast LED monitor. It’s huge (up to 27″ wide) and and its “IPS” technology offers wider viewing angles than most LEDs. If you’ve ever slouched in your chair and watched your monitor become visibly darker or bluer, you know the importance of having a wide viewing angle. Asus is a reputable brand (I’ve used their parts in my PCs for years and own a couple Asus monitors myself) and this monitor is also one of Amazon’s highest reviewed and most popular monitors!
Where to Find Deals on Photography Equipment
Your local stores will undoubtedly have photography equipment promotions Black Friday and beyond. Personally, I hate the crowds and getting up at 4am isn’t my favorite so I tend to do all my shopping online. 😀 Amazon’s Camera, Photo, & Video deals is my favorite place to browse and shop this time of year. Pretty much everything from cameras to lights to backdrops gets discounted at some point between now and December 25th. I like to check here every few days, since they keep rotating the stock and adding new stuff. Have fun shopping!
Some links in this article are Amazon Affiliate links. Read DIYCraftPhotography’s full disclosure here.
This article/blog is a great resource for crafters. Eye-catching product photography is so important for selling online!
I’m in the process of writing an article on the subject myself ‘Crafts Report Part 5: Product Photography Tips’. I will link to this guide for my readers to learn more about the camera equipment that is available to them.