Surprise! I don't use a crazy fancy camera, I use my phone to take pictures. 99% of the photos I use on my social media pages are photos that I have taken. When I work, I use a tripod with a selfie stick attachment to hold my phone. Photos are then taken one of two ways. 1) Using a timer or 2) Recording myself as I work and taking a still image from the recording. (I will explain more about this in the following sections). The other item that is helpful to have is a lightbox. The one I use was $15 and came with four different colors of velvet background. The white sides allow light to be diffused which significantly aids in lessening the glare and reflection that comes when photographing metal.
These photographs are of the same item, a hand plane I engraved. The photo on the left is a quick snapshot on my desk. If I saw that on social media, I would scroll right past it. The photo isn't interesting, nor does it adequately display the rich color and details of the piece I worked so hard on. Posting that photo would be a complete waste of time and wouldn't show my work to the best of my ability. The photo on the right has not been altered with any filters or adjusting. This was in a lightbox using a piece of tissue paper to diffuse the light overhead was taken on my iphone. Photographing the item without harsh light, against a solid background, shows the richness of the color and details of the fine handwork.
In this photo, I am simply soldering two pieces of metal together. Ask any metal worker and they will tell you they do this all of the time and there's nothing all that interesting about it. Most of them would probably never photograph it. My phone is in a tripod on the workbench, which I used to simply record myself working in the morning light. Using the recording, I took a still photo that I thought looked interesting. It wasn't posed, it wasn't fake. It's me, doing my daily work and showing my audience what my morning is like, as well as another hand crafted element to the pieces I create. If I had simply taken a photo of the two pieces of metal stuck together, it would not be interesting at all. However, showing a bit of the process draws the viewer into your work and personalizes it for them.
Recently, I decided to repaint and restore an old cabinet. Thinking it would be a fun project to share with my fellow DIY friends, I decided to document it. The beginning of my project ended up being a near disaster. I painted the cabinet with a paint that was of poor quality. (The photo of me looking dismayed atop the cabinet was a real moment captured when I was recording some of the process). Instead of using the cabinet for firewood (which I reaaallly wanted to do at this point), I shared my failure and continued to document the subsequent steps. I could have kept it a secret, only showing my final piece. I could have posted only one photo of the finished cabinet in place. By sharing my process and my failure, I received a lot of helpful tips regarding different paints and paint removal options. People became invested in the journey. I absolutely love to follow the work of other craftsman and the various steps they take in their process. It draws me in and makes me feel a part of the project. It inspires me to create, even if what I create is something entirely different.
Photoshop and photo editing is fantastic and can help you make an ok photo look crisper or a bit more pleasing to the eye. However, it can also make you (or your product) look like plastic. Certainly we all want to look our best and put our best foot forward but if you think you are fooling the world with five overlapped filters and airbrushed everything, you're probably not. It's a personal choice, but unless you're a high end fashionista, it's probably best to just be who you are. Filter carefully.
When filtering photos related to my work, it is important to me to stay true to the item I am photographing. If I need to adjust the clarity or contrast, for example, I will. Don't be afraid to use Instagram filters or photo editing software, they are useful tools. However, you should not be altering your products so drastically with filters or photoshop that you are taking away from, or adding to, what they really are. You are representing your product. Make sure your photographs are not going to mislead your customers. Make the photographs accurate representations of you and your work.