Heartwood Rocking Horses

My attempt to take my own photos

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Wouldn’t everyone love to have professional photos taken of every piece you create? A professional makes something seem real, valuable, beautiful, and draws your eye to the best things about a piece. But, this would obviously be expensive, and I can’t be running over to the photographer with every 50lb rocking horse or every tiny carved wooden spoon that I create.

Taking your own photos certainly makes sense. It makes a huge difference when trying to apply for things or sell stuff to have semi-decent photos. I’ve been doing some research on how to increase my Etsy sales, and having good photos is a must. I watched a very basic but incredibly helpful video from an artist Jenni at Fuzzy and Birch   about taking photos with your smart phone. Basically I’ve heard the stuff before but never paid attention long enough or tried doing any of the tips myself. And I’m sure there are literally thousands of posts on how to take AMAZING Instagram photos out there. So, what’s one more? Here’s my experience.

Here’s what I started with:

hand carved horse head photographed on porch with peeling white paint. Side view of left side

I thought this image was kind of artsy, but maybe it just looks dark and dingy, and I’m sure the lines of the siding are distracting. So I’m going to try to get some better ones.

One big tip is to photograph your stuff on a plain background, like white paper. You can tape one piece to the wall and put one under it on the floor. I had some issues with this the first few tries. The trick is to turn up the brightness on the camera settings (I won’t go into everything because it’s all in Jenni’s post) to basically blur out the white background of the paper, which is supposed to hide the seam. It takes a few tries, and might work better on a sunnier day. Here’s a few examples where the seam is still visible, plus the walnut doesn’t look very rich or realistic due to the brightness setting:


Another issue I ran into was not having enough white paper in the background. I figured I could just crop the image and poof! You would just see bright white! But, as I discovered, if your camera angle is off, you may end up with little corners that you can’t crop out without cutting off your object. Or, you end up with a really long skinny image where you really wanted big white square space. Some basic photo editing programs could fix this in a flash, but who has time for that?! It took me 2 hrs just to take these basic photos and crop them in my phone!

See there? You will not be able to crop out that last little bit of porch wall on the left side of these images, or you would be cutting it really close to that wine glass.

But I did get a few images I like, which shows that this trick can be helpful with a little practice. The one with the wine glass is a little dark, so still need more practice:


So, back to improving my Etsy site…I wanted to get some good images of a small horse head carving that I have. I tried with the paper a few times, but couldn’t get it to fit. So, my next idea was to use one large piece of poster board. This eliminated the seam, was large enough to make cropping easier, and also is not see-thru, so I could move it out more into the sunlight. It worked great! At least for doing it myself.


This is the set-up I did. As you can see, really easy to throw something like this together. Poster board, one piece of tape, any old grungy space with some natural light, you’re done!

So, I’ve updated the images in Etsy, and supposedly I’m supposed to get more traffic for having better images, and also for posting a recent update. Just like google, Etsy search likes to see activity in your shop. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Final thoughts on taking my own photos: It is handy to be able to do this at any time, even a day like today when it’s cloudy and kind of rainy. But I’m still going to have kind of washed-out looking, blurry-ish images compared to any professional photographer. Maybe the next step would be to get a decent camera, or a tripod at the very least.

I feel like my time just vanishes instantly when I do things like this, which is why we pay photographers I guess. But really, I need to remember I would spend at least this much time if I had to bring my work to someone else to photograph.

Also, I haven’t  found a way to photograph my really large rocking horses. I guess it will just involve getting a really big white sheet and ironing it really good. Or investing in a photographer’s backdrop cloth. Probably not that hard to do, maybe I’ll get on that this year sometime! For now, check out the horse on my Etsy site, and maybe you’ll see some of those other small items show up there soon as well!




Author: Alicia

I live and work in Asheville, NC. I've been learning to carve since 2012, and started my own rocking horse business in 2013. I've always loved drawing horses, and find those skills practiced as a teenager now come in handy as I carve each horse to life from chunks of wood. I love creating things that children can enjoy, move with, and learn from. I also love hiking through the hills of the Asheville area, swimming in the icy waterfalls, and hanging out with my husband and my dog.

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