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Wood decoration using pyrography

Beautiful wood decoration by Anna of West Country Designs

This weekend I was very excited to photograph some beautiful wood decoration designs using a burning technique called pyrography. Anna is a trained Illustrator, and inspired by her runs along the canal where she lives, she creates intricate wood decoration designs of animals she spots along the way. Obviously they are a bit too quick to copy, but she uses photographs as a basis for her wood decoration designs, which she burns with her pyrography tool onto wooden chopping boards, spoons and rolling pins. She also uses her pyrography on coasters for mugs and glasses.

What is Pyrography?

There are various wood decoration techniques for creating designs into wood. You could carve out designs with a chisel, engrave by hand, rout out designs, use a laser machine, or in Anna’s case you can burn your design by hand just like you would draw a with a pen. Anna’s option of wood decoration allows her to add subtle shading which other methods do not allow in the same way. Creating her designs by hand also means that each piece is completely unique.

Pyrography is a very cheap art to get into as it requires minimal equipment, but few have the skill to create something as beautiful as the products I was photographing for Anna. Read more about wood decoration using pyrography wood burning techniques.

How to make Anna’s wood decorations look their best

Anna was with me at the time of the shoot and we spent a lot of time setting up everything for her wood decorations. Anna didn’t have the luxury of a large country kitchen which was the sort of background that was necessary to really show off her country animal inspired pyrography designs.

Generally you need a lot of space to get some great product photography shots that give you a lot of lighting options and changing backgrounds. We acquired a suitable space for the shoot and talked about how the photos should look.

Target audience for Anna’s Pyrography products

Anna told me that although she had been to some local public events and sold a lot of her products already, she wanted to expand, and to do this she needed a presence online.

Instagram, Etsy and Anna’s upcoming own website are all places that she wants to sell her wood decoration designs. She had seen similar products being sold online, and also other country type products that gave her inspiration for the photos she wanted. She sent me a few photos and I made some suggestions myself for ideas, and importantly what props I thought would work.

She wanted the photos to have a strong country feel and to look like the products were taken in a fitting environment, so it was important we planned everything well.

The product shoot

We started early at 8am. As usual I brought what seemed like everything but the kitchen sink, and Anna brought a wide range of props that I had previously suggested could be good for the setting of the scenes. Anna also brought a number of extra things in addition to what I suggested. Although at first it seemed like she had an awful lot, we did actually use most of the props she brought and it made a huge difference to the final result.

It took us quite a while to get to the point of the first photo. There is a certain amount of time just to put up lighting stands etc, but then we had to decide what props should be used and where. It’s very important to use careful placement of the items in the photo’s foreground and background.

I said to Anna that even when you have a few shots in the bag, you should take a moment to analyse and critique them. Doing this ensures that you don’t miss anything that may not be obvious now, but later will seem so obvious and you are kicking yourself that you missed it! One example of that was the white label of a wine bottle in the background. It was very distracting so we moved it. There was also the white face of the scales, but on its own that looked ok.

After some test shots, multiple adjustments to the props, and some adjustment to the lighting, we were finally in a position where we could rattle off a consistent set of shots of each chopping board showing off its wood decoration design.

Setting up extra scenes for the product shoot

Once we had one scene out of the way, we had already done the hard work and Anna and myself could work on the next scene. By this time Anna had realised how much work goes on behind the scenes on a product shoot and how attention to detail is absolutely key to great product photography.

Another scene that Anna had seen and liked was an overhead style (below) where relevant items are placed around the central product. There is actually a name for this style, it is called knolling photography. Here are some great examples of knolling photography.

This style was actually far more simple than the first set of photos we had taken as we didn’t have a background like before to contend with. We also found previously that the chopping boards kept falling over as we tried to prop them up! This overhead product photography style was also much easier to light. We got a lot of photos very quickly as Anna would swap out the chopping board, then I’d adjust the props slightly according to the context of use, or the size of the board. Then I’d take the shot.

Our last setup (now in the afternoon) was quite a simple one, and really was more a bonus shoot as we already had what we needed. I was keen however to get a few extra shots that looked a bit different and added a bit more contrast. The background was simply a lot of planks propped up and set back from the foreground. You can see this in the photo of Anna below, but the image needs to be cropped before she uses it, as we didn’t quite have enough background coverage.

Anna of West Country Designs

If you like Anna’s products, you can contact her here: westcountrydesigns@outlook.com (tell her I sent you) or visit her Etsy page. She hasn’t yet got a website, but I shall post a link to it here when she has.

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