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DIY Photography Tips

You need some pictures for your website; everybody does. And you have your own camera; everybody does. So you don’t have to hire a professional photographer, you can do it yourself. The price, the convenience…can’t beat it. But…you knew there was a “but” coming, right?….but the technology is only part of photography. Lighting and the subject are just as important. Knowing how to use all three (subject, lighting, camera) is just as important again. For the best imagery, hire a pro. A great brochure or website design can be trashed with mediocre imagery. Professional photography can make the difference. That said, there are lots of times when you can and should do it yourself, and digital cameras make it easy.  Use them. They are your friend. Here are a few tips to improve your shots.

Take Pictures of Light on a Subject

Photography is about light and the subject (the thing you are photographing), not the camera. So look at the light and shadow when you’re photographing. These tips are mostly about getting better exposure in your pictures and avoiding problems with light.

Use a Tripod

A basic tripod costs less than $20. Better ones are less than $75. A top-end tripod can run $1200. You probably don’t need one of those, but you should get a basic model. Any tripod makes lots of photography better. Get one and use it. It will come in handy for years.


Get a camera that automatically “brackets.” That means it can automatically take a series of pictures (often three); one is a little dark, one is about right, and one is a little bright. You’ll have better choices whenever you can bracket. Learn how to use that feature.

Use a Tripod and Bracket

When your subject is stationary, you’re using a tripod and you can take multiple exposures, those exposures can be combined in software to create a better image. Even if you don’t know how to use the software, your graphics person probably does. Multiple exposures give you and your designer more and better options.

Look Around and Behind

Do a quick check around your subject. Make sure there’s nothing distracting in the background. It’s easy to watch your subject, ignore everything else, and later discover something ugly, odd or distracting in the pictures. Try to avoid those distractions when you shoot. As a general rule, a simple background is best.

Look for Soft, Even Lighting

Generally, even lighting is better than sharp lighting. Even lighting comes from big light sources (or multiple light sources spread out). Reflected light is often soft. It creates softer shadows that are not as dark as sharp shadows. Sharp lighting comes from one or a few small light sources. Direct light from a bare bulb is sharp. It creates very sharp, dark shadows. It can also create bright, overexposed areas in the image. This isn’t a firm rule. There are times a small light sources is the best or only option. But as a general rule, look for soft, even lighting.

Don’t Use the On-Camera Flash

The on-camera flash is a small light source that creates sharp shadows. If you must use the flash, check out this tip from December 2012.
DIY Logo Design

Do-it-Yourself Logos – STOP


If you’re designing your own logo, STOP. You are not properly licensed and certified. That’s the topic this month.

Do-It-Yourself Logos

So if you’re designing your own logo, STOP. For the sake of humanity, please STOP.

This is overstating it, of course, but I see the bad results of DIY logos every week…sigh.

Simple Logos, CNN, Microsoft, Nokia, AdobeLogos seem so easy. Look at corporate logos like CNN, Microsoft and Nokia. They’re just SOOOO simple. Even Adobe, the top company in graphic design software, has a simple logo.

Why? Because it has to work in many different media: websites, business cards, brochures, tee shirts, hats, pens and everywhere they can put it. It should be easy to reproduce, even as a very small graphic on a pen.

Why Amateurs Fail

Most DIY logos fail because of one or a combination of reasons.

The designer includes too many concepts.

Simplicity is key, and that means you shouldn’t try to illustrate concepts and ideas.

Chiquita Banana Logo ExampleIt’s possible to capture a concept in the simplicity of a logo, but it’s not easy. Take the Chiquita Banana logo. The company created a version that works as a single color imprint on a small banana label–it’s small and it still illustrates the concept of a woman with a basket on her head.

Now, about that logo somebody whipped up for you? It looks great full-size, full-color, on a bright computer screen, but it won’t work as a small, one-color graphic. Trust me. I see it all the time. (Okay, maybe it will work, but I see this problem all the time.)

Unless you’ve studied printing, vector graphics, design, illustration and other related topics AND spend lots of time working through your ideas AND spend lots of time to make sure your logo works across many media, your logo is likely to have problems.

The designer wants something graphically fancy but doesn’t have the eye or experience for it.

Shadows, bevels, overlapping elements, gradients, lots of colors…these are great design elements and software makes it so easy. But the experienced logo designer knows that if these elements are used in a logo, they could make logo reproduction more complicated and in some cases impossible. If these elements must be included, the experienced designer knows how to use vector graphics properly, or the designer will create two versions…one with the fancy elements and another simple version for one-color printing.

The logo fails technically — it’s not in vector format or doesn’t work in certain media or sizes.

VECTOR…logos should be in vector file format. It’s just the way it is. When you need something fancy, that simple vector design can be embellished, but the original logo should be vector graphics.

Another technical problem is the size of the elements in a logo. A logo might look great when it’s big, but when you shrink it down to put it on a pen for instance, the text and graphic details merge together.

The design is horrible.

Some of the designs are just blah, horrible. Enough said.

How to Create a DIY Logo

You’re going to design your own logo anyway, right? It’s just so easy. Okay. Here’s how.

KEEP IT SIMPLE — Text only. Do not include any graphics.

If you think you must have graphics in your logo, STOP. Consider these logos: Ebay, Google, Nokia, Yahoo. All these logos are text. If it works for these giants, it can work for your DIY project.

  1. Go to https://fonts.google.com/.
    Google fonts are licensed for commercial use for free. Many fonts on your computer and the internet are not licensed for commercial use without buying a commercial license. Some of the Google fonts are not the highest quality or have limited styles, but there are over 600 fonts. It’s a good starting point for DIY logos.
  2. Click in the sample text of any font. (Triple click to select all the text.)
  3. Type your company name or product name.
  5. Use the Google Fonts site to review and select a distinct font for your text logo.
  6. Call Pacesetter Media. We’ll take that font and your text, adjust letter and line spacing for the best look and create a vector file for you. It’ll run about $75-$150. Or do it all yourself. It’s up to you.

Bad-Logo Fun

When this blog post was created, there was a site called Your Logo Makes Me Barf, but it’s not working now. (Too bad. It was fun in a bad kind of way).

But you can always search Google for “bad logos”. You’ll find plenty.

Logo Design Flowchart

Many factors go into good logo design. Computer Arts magazine recruited designer Michael Johnson to create a flowchart for logo design. It illustrates the many factors at play. It’s a great tool for designers, and it shows why good logo design is not so easy.

Download the PDF Here