How-To: Choose Great Tutorial Photographs

Craft & Design Photography & Video

Every week it’s my job to create a tutorial for How-To Tuesdays. The projects themselves are fun, crafty and creative, but making a tutorial while crafting presents a unique challenge. I try to write careful and thoughtful instructions for each project, but my goal is for any reader to be able to follow a project from start to finish, relying on the photographs alone. It’s a tough job to choose images for tutorials, so today, I’m going to share my process for weeding out the good from the bad. The Gumdrop Garland is a great example a tutorial that was much harder than the project itself. I’m going to walk you though my process in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes!

Materials Shots:
multiple materials.jpg
I consider the materials shot to be the anchor my tutorials. I want readers to see everything I use to get the project right. Herein lies the difficulty, I have to know what I’m doing first! With the gumdrop garland, I woke up with a great idea: instead of stringing popcorn and cranberries, I’ll string gumdrops! You can see my first concept in the upper right hand image- the materials include candy, thin floral wire, wire cutters, ribbon and scissors. The idea was to just thread the gumdrops onto the wire. But, in reality, the wire wasn’t strong enough to pierce the gumdrops.
So we switched to the second materials shot, in the upper left hand corner. This time, I thought I would stick the sewing needle into the cork to use the cork as a handle on the needle. I would then pierce a hole in each gumdrop and string it on the wire. FAIL. What was I thinking? The third materials shot replaces the flimsy sewing needle with a nail. I thought for sure that poking a hole in the gumdrop with a nail would work great. But alas, the squishy gumdrops just closed back up and made it impossible to push onto the thin wire.
Which brings us to the final materials shot. The key was 14 gauge wire. It was wide enough and stiff enough to poke its own hole in the gumdrop.
Process Shots:
Sometimes the difference between a good process shot and a bad one is obvious- one is blurry and one is in focus.
But what makes the difference when both are in focus? I chose the photo on the right over the photo on the left because while the shot on the left is closer, I liked the interest that the gumdrops added in the shot on the right. I also think that the angle of the wire in the photo on the right shows more action than in the rejected picture on the left.
Final Shots:
Choosing the perfect final image is a major challenge for me. I always want to pick the prettiest picture, but I love artistic shots, and they don’t always convey the final project very well. This shot of my outdoor fireplace with the garland is so beautiful, I love the colors, but because it doesn’t show the whole garland, it didn’t make the cut for the front page.
This is a great shot of the whole garland. It’s got both bows, and you can clearly see the hooks. But I think that the big tree trunk in the dead center is less than perfect.
This is the perfect final shot. It incorporates just the right amount of depth of field. It’s got intense colors, beautiful bokeh, and it clearly shows the entire garland.

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