For the last few months I’ve been working on a motorized device with Strandbeest-style legs called the ClearWalker. As seen in the image above, it looks fantastic. I’d like to think this is a function of its clear polycarbonate construction, or the array of LEDs attached across its body. Though I’m not going to be insincerely modest and say that had nothing to do with it, check out the picture I took in my garage below:
From a mechanical standpoint, I’d argue that this is still an interesting photo. You can see the linkages, lots of LEDs, and wiring. All things that are appreciated by Tindie product connoisseurs, but it obviously looks much less pretty here than in the image. In fact, it’s very hard to envision just how beautiful these LEDs and the clear construction is in this drab backdrop, and rather lackluster photography. At least it’s an improvement on this one, taken with my smartphone:
So I think you see what I’m getting at. Though this device isn’t for sale, you can see lots of examples of excellent, as well as poor photography on Tindie. If you’d like to make people think (hopefully accurately) that your product is awesome, don’t forget to take that final step and take great photographs and/or video!
In this case, a better cameraman took video for me, which may or may not be worth it depending on your situation. Even if that’s not practical, a simple white background (e.g. a white sheet) and clamp lights can produce great results. But for spectacular backdrops it is hard to beat nature. Look at your neighborhood with new eyes and you’ll start to notice places that will make epic photo shoot locations like the wet sands shown above.
Additionally, thinking about the issues your particular build will have when photographed will pay off too. If your project uses a lot of LEDs you’ll need to compensate for the unnatural brightness of a small part of the scene. You’ll also need to consider consider how PWM or multiplexing effects are used. In these cases, LEDs are flashing faster than the human eye can see, but not faster than the camera shutter. Here’s a guide to photographing LEDs, which you may find useful.
Think about the angle at which you are taking the photo. Does it show off the hardware in an interesting way? Often this is a camera angle that is not straight-on, but to one side or another and at a higher or lower angle. Take way more images than you need, and review them before you move anything in the scene. This gives you the chance to quickly reshoot if there are focus problems or the lighting needs to be adjusted. And frame the image larger than you need so that you have room to crop it to your desired view later on.
It’s also worth noting that Tindie sellers should consider at least two distinctly different types of photographs: those used to sell the item and those showing how to build/use it. You are marketing a product to pull in potential users; the first set of photos should serve that purpose. Show the item in a way that will immediately drive home its purpose. But don’t stop there. After you’ve sparked some interest, your target user will want to see what’s inside the case, and what’s involved in building a kit or setting up a product.
Look around and find images from other sellers that you find really stunning. Try to figure out how they did it (don’t be afraid to ask, Tindarians are a friendly bunch). And it never hurts to have a friend who’s into photography to show you the ropes, or even take some shots for you. If you’d like to see more of the Accetturo’s excellent images, check out his video edit below, or my longer howto video after that:
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