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How to photograph scrapbook layouts for a clean white look and edit them

  • Elif Sahin
  • Jul 23, 2019

You’ve started hybrid scrapbooking and loving it but there is this problem of how to photograph your layout to share in the galleries and social media. The colors doesn’t show up properly, your layout looks weird in the photo, it’s dark, there are some weird shadows and colors all over the place and so on. It just doesn’t look as good as you see it with your own eyes!⁠

If this is you at this point in life, this article will help you improve not only how you photograph your scrapbook layouts but also how to edit it for a white, clean look so that all your beautiful layout skills shine through. Let’s get started!

What you’ll need;

  • DSLR camera / or point & shoot camera / or a smart phone with good quality camera
  • White cardboard as reflector
  • Cardboard for background (or your choosing of background such as fabric, wood etc.)
  • Photoshop or Lightroom for editing

Find a bright spot

Find a space in your house that has a large window. This place should be getting bright daylight but not direct sunlight. If you have white plain curtains like I do, you can leave it close to diffuse the light coming from the window. But if you have colored or patterned curtains, open them up. Otherwise you’ll have either color cast on your layout or you’ll have shadows falling down on your photograph scene that you cannot edit out later.

The time you photograph is important as well. Take some time to figure out what time of the day your window gets the even, bright light. For me, from 10 AM to about 3-4 PM my window in the studio gets bright daylight.

Also, take a look at your surroundings. Is there anything around that reflects color to your scene like a furniture or even a close-by house with colored walls that might affect the tone of the light your scene gets? If so, move these items away from your scene or find another window space in your house. These items will leave uneven color cast in your photographs like one part of your layout will have blue undertones while the other half will have yellow undertones. And if you’re not experienced in editing photos, you’ll have hard time figuring out how to remove that color cast. Once you’ve found your space, look at your clock and take a note of this hour for your future photographs.

Prepare the scene

It’s time to set up the scene! Layout your background onto the floor or onto a table – which ever feels more comfortable for you. The window should be on the left or right of your scene so that your layout gets sidelight. I don’t recommend turning your scene against window because using back-light or having the light source right behind you will make it harder for you to photograph.

Now, let’s set up the reflector. This is just a piece of white cardboard that is thick enough to stand vertically. Find an object to lean the reflector cardboard. The reflector should be parallel to the window and at 90 degree angle to your background. So, together with the background they’ll form an “L” shape. This will help us reflect the light coming from the window and brighten the shadows on the layout.

Prepare your layout

Bring your layout into your scene. Position it on the background. Add any accessory you want in your scene. But make sure that nothing tall gets in front of the window. Position the tall items away from window, closer to the reflector so that no shadow falls down onto your layout.

If you use pocket sleeves like I do, I recommend taking your pocket cards and photos out of the sleeve and position them onto the designated places on the plastic pocket protector because the shiny plastic will make the colors of the cards and photos dull. Sometimes you just see the reflection of the plastic rather than your page. So, let’s make sure you get the beautiful colors of your page and not the white reflections.

Ready? It’s time to click!

Take your photo

Once everything’s ready in your scene, grab your preferred camera and adjust your settings.

I’m using a DSLR for this purpose. Here are my camera settings for this scene. Don’t be afraid to play with the settings according to your scene because you’ll have different light at your space than mine and you might have to bump up some values here.

ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/160

If you have less light in your space, try a higher f stop such as 2.0 or 1.8. Or increase your ISO value up to 400 if your lens doesn’t allow you to go higher in aperture. But I don’t recommend lowering your shutter speed below 1/125 because we’re holding the camera by hand. Otherwise you may not have a sharp photo because of shaky hands.

If your camera allows, from your camera settings choose RAW for “Image Quality”. This will allow us to better edit the photo. And while at it, set your white balance to auto. There are several choices for white balance and a custom one. But for me auto setting always gives the best result. And later once we’re editing the layout we’ll have the chance to correct the white balance in Photoshop/Lightroom.

Take a position right above your layout. So your camera should be parallel to your layout for the flatlay look. Hold the camera steady and take a photo.

If you’re shooting with a smart phone, hold your phone parallel to your layout like we did with the camera. Hold your finger down on your screen to focus on your layout. Some phones lets you increase or decrease the exposure when you slide up or down your finder once you focus on the subject. According to your scene, adjust your exposure and take the photo.

I prefer shooting a few closeup images as well. So without changing the scene, I’d get close to the layout and take a few more photos from different angles.

Editing for clean/white look

I don’t know about you, but this is the most fun part for me; editing! I’ll be using Camera Raw feature in Photoshop to edit my photo but you may do this process with Lightroom as well. The settings will be the same. To edit several photos at once in Photoshop Camera Raw, click on File > Browse in Bridge. Find your photos in Bridge, select them all and right click to edit with Camera Raw.

There are some basic settings I do for all of my layout images. These are some edits I’ve learned from Joanie Simon of Bite Shot at Youtube. She’s a food photographer but a lot of her photography tips applies to any photography niche as well. So if you’re into learning more about photography and editing I suggest you to follow her. These are two of my favorite editing tutorials from her if you want to check out;

Editing Light and Airy Food Photography

Using Presets with Food Photography

Basic editing

So, here’s what we’ll be adjusting;

  • From basics tab in Camera Raw decreasing highlights, increase whites, shadows and clarity slider.
  • Under tone curve, “Point”, I lift up the far left point (represents blacks), add an anchor point on the first grid line and pull it down just a little bit (shadows), add another anchor to the second grid line and pull it up (lights).
  • From “Parametric”, I increase lights and darks while decreasing the shadows quite a bit.
  • From details tab, increase sharpness (without adding much of radius or detail but increase the masking a lot). If you hold down Alt key while changing the masking value, you’ll see how much detail will be sharpened.
  • From lens correction tab, I check “Remove chromatic abbreviation” and “Enable profile corrections”. These options will be available only if you shoot with DSLR camera in RAW quality.

Synchronize these settings to all of your images at once. To apply these settings all at once, choose all the images in the thumbnail view in Camera Raw, once you’ve made your base edit, right click on the thumbnail image and sync settings.

Or in Lightroom, once you choose all the images you want to edit in the thumbnail view area, make sure auto sync is on and start adjusting the settings.

Individual edits

Now all you need to do is to set the white balance, straighten your lines, and crop your image if needed. These settings must be made individually to each photo rather than syncing to all of them at once because these settings will be unique to each image.

  • Set up your white balance manually by either choosing Auto white balance
  • Or, click on the eye drop tool and click on a white area to manually select what should be white.
  • If there is any further light adjustments you want to make, like increasing the exposure or whites, you can do those settings at this stage.
  • From Transform tool, located at the top menu bar in Camera Raw, I click on Auto correction button. This will correct the lines in your photo if you shoot it with slight angle. It won’t do good for angled photos or photos with no horizontal/vertical objects in them.
  • Or you can also use straighten tool to straighten your image. Once again, this tool is located at the top menu bar in Camera Raw. Click on the ruler icon and draw a line on the side of the object you think must be straight. Press enter to apply the setting.

Crop to the size

Once everything looks good, crop your image to your desired size by choosing crop tool from the menu, click right on the image to bring up crop sizes.

In Lightroom this is pretty much same as well. You can click on Crop Overlay and choose a size from the options.

If you’re using Lightroom and want to do some editing in Photoshop, right click on image to open in Photoshop. Once done with your edits, press Ctrl+S in Photoshop to save the settings for Lightroom.

For example, in my photo I’d like to remove the floor from my image and make it all white.

  • In Camera Raw, choose the images you’d like to open in Photoshop and click on Open Images to make your edits in Photoshop.
  • To remove the floor and make it all white, I choose brush tool and select a soft brush. My opacity is around 70%.
  • I press I on my keyboard, set my sampling to 3px or 5px and click on white area to sample the color. And on a new layer, I start painting the areas where there is wood.
  • Then I lower the opacity of my brush further to blend the two colors together. I simply paint in between my “fake” white area and the original white cardboard to cover up any discoloring.

If you want to crop in Photoshop rather than Camera Raw or Lightroom, press “C” on keyboard to select crop tool, select a crop ratio, move the crop area to select the frame you want and press Enter to crop.

That’s all I do to have a clean and white photographs of my scrapbook layouts!

Did you like this tutorial? If so, comment below to let me know your takeaways from this article.

As always, keep documenting because life’s worth recording.

Products used in this article

Escape pocket cards, Escape elements

Elif Sahin

Hi there! I’m a graphic designer, memory keeper, and fond of simplicity. I love producing quality supplies that’ll make scrapbooking process easy and fun for you.

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  1. Reply

    Lourdes Gonzalez

    July 25, 2019

    Thank you for the detailed tutorials -fantastic!

  2. Reply

    Esther

    July 24, 2019

    Fantastic tutorial! Read a lot of good tips. I still have a problem with printing. I don’t get the colors as they are on the print. The colors are pale. Do you have tips on how to print the colors well and which printer is good for getting the color of the photos as realistic as possible?

  3. Reply

    Jessica Cole

    July 23, 2019

    This is such an amazing article! I love how you show your process from taking the photo all the way to editing! Well done! Xoxo!

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