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Tips for Photographing Your Design Work

Tips for Photographing Your Design Work

A few weeks ago, I uploaded a video all about how to photograph your creative work in the best ways for your portfolio and I thought I would do a little recap here for those who prefer to read or as something for you to be able to refer back to when you get your camera out. So, here are my tips for photographing your design work!

1. The Background

Your work is the most important thing that you want to show off, so it’s important to get the right background in order to achieve this. Because you want to highlight your work and focus the user’s attention on it, the best idea is to keep the background clean and clear. Choose a flat colour or texture and try to use a hard surface so the eye isn’t distracted by any wrinkles or marks behind the work. I often use a large sheet of white paper on the floor, or a white desk if there’s enough room.

2. The Context

You want to give the viewer the best understanding of what the piece of work is. Whether you’re presenting an illustration, a painting, some typography or a book, it’s important to show context and tell a story. Before you start photographing, make a plan for what aspects of the work you want to show. It’s good to include one shot of the piece as a whole so the viewer can see the entire piece, and then focus in on some details, and tell the story through the order of the photographs and the parts of the work you choose to shoot.

3. The Content

When you’re choosing which parts of your work to photograph, think also about how to best wow the viewer. Show off the sections that you’re the most proud of, the bits that look the best, or the most informative parts. Having photographs of your favourite bits will help you to talk more passionately about your work and will also show off your skills in the best ways.

4. The Settings

Now you’ve got a plan for what you want to photograph, it’s time to pick up the camera. For a quick summary, you want to have your ISO as low as possible, in order to avoid too much grain in your photographs. Your aperture will depend on how much of your work you want to be in focus or in the background so have a play around with that. The shutter speed will depend on how much light you have, but it’s generally a good idea to keep it quite fast so that your photographs will be sharp and clear. These things are a balancing act so you might have to sacrifice some of one to gain more of the other. Again, have a play with your camera’s settings and see what works for you at the time. You also want to make sure your white balance isn’t either too warm or too cool. There should be some pre-set options that you can choose from, or you can customise your own. You don’t want your work looking too orange or too blue so aim for somewhere in the middle.

5. The Framing

A good guide for framing your work is to use the rule of thirds. This grid will help you to line up your work and guide the viewer’s eye across the photograph. It’s recommended to place the important parts of the work on one of the points where the lines overlap to create a dynamic photo that grabs the attention of the viewer. You can set up your camera to show the rule of thirds on the viewfinder and the screen which will help you keep this in mind as you’re photographing.

6. The Focus

Earlier you identified the best parts of your work to show off, and you want to focus the camera on these points to draw the viewer’s eye to that particular part. If you’re using a wider aperture (smaller number) you’ll be able to easily focus on a small part of the work while the background is out of focus. This is great for detail shots as it really brings the eye in on the tiny details. The narrower the aperture, the more of the frame will be in focus, which can be useful for parts with more information or details that you want to include. For example, the full shot of the whole piece of work would work better with a narrower aperture (bigger number) so that it is all in focus, however if you were just wanting to show the detail of one title or small illustration, you could use a wider aperture to focus only on that one aspect.

7. The Angles

Lastly, an important thing to consider is angles. It’s great to use a variety of different angles to ensure that the viewer isn’t bored by seeing the same angle every single time. You can try some from lower, some from higher and some from directly above and give it a go from the left, the centre and from the right. A combination of these will make your work seem exciting and leave the viewer intrigued as to what is next.


So, those are a few quick tips for getting the most out of your creative work by photographing them well for your portfolio. I hope that they will be helpful when you want to put a new piece of work in your portfolio! Let me know if you've got any other tips, or if these came in handy for you!

You can view some of my photography here, and check out my video on the same topic with some more information below.

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