I've been taking tons of photos, re-shooting all the pictures for my Etsy shop as a part of a new year shop makeover. And I've learned a thing or two. I'm not by any stretch claiming to be an expert, and I still have things I'm struggling with, but I do have some tips to share. It doesn't matter if your taking pictures of products for your website, or other online sales site, or if your taking pictures to share your creativity with the world through online communities like Ravelry, and Flickr, or to post on your blog - you should make an effort to take good photos.
Tip1 - Always, always, always use natural light. Unless you've got a tungsten balanced professional light kit or box, shoot you photos outside in natural light. It will keep your colors true, and add a certain warmth that you just can't get from an artificial light source. It is best if the light isn't too direct, as that can cause harsh shadows, and/or a washed out look. An overcast day is great, or late afternoon or early morning when the sun isn't directly over head. I sometimes use the covered porch - it's filled with light but protected from glare. If you can't go outside, shoot near a sunny window.
Tip2 - Never, never, never use your flash. It just looks bad. It changes the colors and causes weird glares, reflections, and hot spots. Do yourself a favor and turn the flash off.
Tip 3 - Put your subjects in a context, stage your photos. It adds visual interest plain and simple. Find yourself some props, and a place to shoot and play around with styling your photos. In addition to adding visual interest it can be useful in communicating to your audience - if you're shooting a product show your customers how to use it. Or make allusions to how it was made. Any additional information you can communicate will further the connection with your intended audience. And use your imagination, having more creative photos let's the world know that you're a creative person.
Tip 4 - If your shooting clothing put it on a model. It doesn't have to be a live model, although sometimes that is better, it can also be a mannequin. Bottom line is clothes don't look how they're suppose to spread out on a table. This is one I still have trouble with - I don't always have someone around to be a model, I don't always feel like being my own model, and while I have a vintage wire mannequin she's tiny and the clothes I make for myself don't fit her.
Tip 5 - Use an interesting background. Again, unless you've got a professionally set-up back drop don't use sheets, or bedspreads to try to imitate one. It will look like hell and it's boring. Be creative with your back drop. Try different textures and colors. Light colored items benefit from the contrast of a darker background and vice-versa. Try a wooden tray, or a wicker baskets, or decorative papers, or pages from a book. Be creative, create a visual metaphor, use your background as another opportunity to add interest and express your cleverness or sense of humor.
Tip 6 - Take lots and lots of photos. Once you have something set up take several shots, move in a little closer, move out a little further, shoot from a higher angle, shoot from a lower angle, shoot it in reverse. Now re-arrange your props, change out your props, and shoot it all again. Now move to a different part of the yard where the light will be slightly different and do it all again. Taking tons of photos will give you choices, so you will truly great photos to post.
Tip 7 - Let your style develop. If you're taking lots of photos, and your being creative with the styling and use of props, and your being patient and thinking about what your doing your own style will start to shine through. Just like with writing practice you start to develop a voice, your photo taking will start to develop an eye. And it will be your eye, unique to you, and will give your photos a signature look that helps to communicate who you are and what you're all about creatively.
The old adage "a pictures says a thousand words" isn't just an old adage. It's true. Your photos are an opportunity to communicate in ways language can't. I hope these tips are useful in making your photos speak for you in new ways. Get out the camera and have some fun.