This is a comprehensive guide on how to best present your crafts and show them in their full glory. It is based on my personal experience, research and of course on my taste, so it is by no means applicable to everything or everyone. I hope this helps you to get more out of displaying your crafts on dA.
This guide has three sections: Photography, Selecting a Category, Description.
Most artisans and crafters have experienced that it is difficult to display three dimensional work on a two dimensional screen. Bringing the full beauty, complexity and all around view and feel of your work to the screen is a big challenge, but there are some easy fixes.
Photographing your crafts is the most important part in showing it off, but it is also the biggest challenge for getting it right. Many crafters think that getting great photographs means having a studio and expensive equipment, but there are many methods of enhancing your images without spending a lot of money. Since many other deviants have written about this, I will not go into detail. Instead, I will link several tutorials and guides throughout this section. Use the resources you can find here to get great images of your wonderful artworks.
I understand that not everyone has the resources to get an expensive camera and set up a little studio, we all started small! I used to work with an extremely crappy camera and had a lot of trouble getting photos that were somewhat acceptable, but nowadays decent cameras are really not that expensive anymore and are definitely worth the investment (you won't just use them for your crafts, after all).
Check out the following tutorials to see that you don't need a superduperexpensive camera to get great photos.
`Myana wrote an awesome Guide for improving your Artisan Crafts photography when she was a Gallery Moderator for Artisan Crafts. Her guide is fantastic and also provides you with further links to examples and tutorials, this is a must-read for all artisans and crafters! I will go over many of the same things that she has written, but she has a lot more detail and examples in her guide.
What is most important when taking photos of three dimensional artwork?
You want to have great lighting for your images so you won't have to use your camera's flash. Close up, flashes often wash out colors and flatten details, making your artisan pieces look flat and dull. The best light is of course daylight, but we don't always have the best lighting conditions. Another great way to get good lighting is building a light box (which of course only works for small to medium sized pieces). Here are a few tutorials on how to set up light boxes without spending much money:
[link] (How to make a light box)
[link] (Setting your studio)
[link] (Studio pictures without studio?)
[link] (Mini Macro Studio)
Other tutorials that show how to take pictures with good lighting:
[link] (How I take plushie photoshoots)
[link] (Pictures of art with a crappy camera)
With these tips and tricks, you should be able to get great lighting to take your photos! I find deviation descriptions containing sentences like I didn't have good light, so it looks weird simply unacceptable. Nobody forces you to upload crappy photos right away, take your time and take better ones. Yes, you want to share the glory of your work as soon as possible, but if you upload photos that make your work look boring, bland or crappy, you are not doing anyone a favor.
The background of your photo is very important! Clean up around your craft, try to get an even, uncluttered background. Sheets of paper make great backgrounds. For smaller pieces, like jewelry, you can use scrapbooking papers in different colors and patterns to enhance your background, but make sure that it doesn't clash with your artwork and isn't too busy or bright. Try to choose something that suits your craft.
Don't just take a quick photo as soon as you are done making your craft, make the effort to set a scene for your artwork or move it into a light box to take fantastically lit photographs.
Make sure that your work is in focus and completely in the frame, you don't want to cut off a corner or have your photo look completely blurry.
How to get the best focus depends on your camera, try out a few different options. Definitely get good lighting, this will help your auto-focus camera tremendously. Some cameras work better if you get close to your artwork, other cameras work better if you step back and use the zoom. Try around and see which gives you the best results.
Though you probably won't want to do too much editing on your photos, there are easy ways to edit your photos to get the best out of them. If you don't have Photoshop, try out [link] (The Gimp), it has great options and functions and is completely free. There are many tutorials all over the internet the help you edit your photos. Here's one that is specifically about crafts:
[link] (Jewelry Photo Editing)
[link] (Editing your photos)
A little side note here: If you are just starting out with photo editing, do NOT over-do it! Take a step back and make sure that your final version still looks natural, enhanced but still representing the craft itself.
Also, make sure to reduce noise if your images end up looking very grainy. Most photo editing programs have built in noise reduction filters, try them out. If you can, try out [link] (Neat Image). While reducing noise, also make sure that the photo stays sharp and crisp, if need be, sharpen it after noise reduction.
Especially with three dimensional artworks, you may want to consider collages. They can hugely add to the understanding of your work, since you can add different angles and detail shots all in one image. This is much easier for people to take in than having to look at several deviations.
If you make a collage, try to follow these simple guidelines:
do not let photos overlap
try not to feather the edges, sharp edges make for a more professional look
line photo edges up and try to make images horizontally equal in size
do not choose a busy background
Remember that minimizing the amount of images you feature will maximize their quality because it challenges you to pick only the very best, so don't throw twenty images into one collage, just pick a few that show the best features of your work.
[link] (Craft Collage Tutorial)
2. Selecting a Category
To make sure you get the best possible exposure for your artwork, make sure you upload it to the correct category. I have compiled a list of [link] (all Artisan Crafts and Sculpture galleries) with their respective descriptions, so if you are unsure where your work belongs, have a browse through the list. [link] (Artisan Crafts vs. Sculpture) is another article I wrote on how to determine where to upload your crafts.
Many people browse galleries according to their interest to see what's out there. So make sure you find the best possible gallery for your work.
Never leave the deviation description empty. Never. Ever.
For some other media it might be ok not to say anything about a piece, but for Artisan Crafts it is important to say something about your piece. If you are not in the mood for writing something, do not upload your deviation yet, simply wait until you feel you can include a description. Writing I will add a description later is bad practice since most people never do edit later and you get a lot of exposure in the first few minutes after uploading your work, so make it look its best right off the bat.
What belongs into a deviation description?
It's of course up to you how much or how little you want to write, but I personally think these points should definitely be included:
What is it?
Explain what you have created. Does it have a certain use? Is it a tool? Is it edible? Describe briefly what it is.
What materials were used?
You may think that it is obvious which materials you used, but for the untrained eye it is often hard to determine. Explain what materials were used to create the piece
What technique(s) were used?
If you like, shortly explain what technique(s) you used to create the piece, this is often very interesting for fellow artisans.
Is it for sale?
If you sell your art online, provide a link to your shop.
Are there related works or WIPs of the artwork available?
If you have other works that are related, maybe even work in progress shots of the same artwork, provide links to the other deviations so people can easily access them.
Another note for alternate views: always include the full description in ALL alternate view deviations. Do not just post just another view or side view of the same piece in your description. You never know how people got to your artwork, they might have seen it in the deviantArt galleries or in someone's favorites or even got a link from another website, so just saying that it's another view doesn't help these people much. Do not assume that people will view your deviations in order, simply copy and paste the full description to all deviations that you upload of the same artwork. It's easy, fast and helps people understand your work.
I hope this guide will help you to bring out the best in your artwork. Keep in mind that waiting a week or two before uploading your images is not the worst thing that can happen. Of course you are excited and want to share your creation, but taking the time to take good images, editing the photos and typing out a good description is well worth waiting a few days as you will be rewarded the satisfaction that you have presented your work to the best of your abilities, and it might also get you more exposure for your artwork.
Before and After
If you have used this article to improve your craft submissions, please let me know so I can display before and after shots here. This is to illustrate how you can have better results with the same materials (same camera, for example).
I'll post one example per deviant
On the left you see the before photo, where the colors are a little distorted, the image is out of focus and the details are not clearly visible. In the second photo she used a matching background (purple patterned paper) and much better lighting, the photo is focused and clearly shows the great colors and fine details of her work.