Saturday, May 15, 2010

More photography helps -- Taking Great Product Photographs

I woke up this morning still bubbling over the photography workshop with Jason Coleman last night.

Here's a list that he gave during the workshop to improve your product photos:

1. Make sure the item to be photographed is clean, use a clean back drop.

2.  Make sure the camera lens is clean and free of dust and dirt.  Use an optical cleaning cloth, such as a spectacles/glasses cloth or a camera lens cloth.

3.  Get a good lighting setup -- either outside using daylight or using bright indoor lights, preferably through a light box or bounce the light of ceiling and walls.  Avoid shining bright lights directly at the object, as this will cause burnt out images or extremely bright high lights.  Avoid using the cameras built in flash, as this will also cause overexposed highlights.

Use a digital camera with a custom white balance or manual white balance.  Set it before every batch of photos.  This should stop images looking yellow in artificial lighting.   If your camera doesn't have a manual or custom white balance setting try the built in white balance settings, such as "Tungsten Light" (light bulb symbol) or "florescent light" (tube light symbol) -- if these still don't produce good results then use natural outdoor light.

4.  Use the "Rule of Thirds"/ grid lines if your digital camera has them, as this should help line up the product, and make vertical/horizontal lines stay straight, if so desired.

5.  Set the digital camera to macro mode if the object is small or close up, if the auto-focus struggles, see if your camera has a manual focus, and if it does, use manual focus to focus correctly.

6.   Use the optical zoom if possible to avoid barrel distortion, and darkened corners.  Using optical zoom can also help remove unwanted background objects.

7.  Use a tripod to help take blur free photos.  You may need to increase your ISO setting to achieve optimum depth of field, but be aware that this will increase noise and may need to be edited out of the final picture.

8.  Be prepared to do some work in Adobe Photoshop (or similar paint package) to adjust the levels, curves, etc. to produce a white background -- be prepared to edit out any small blotches/marks in the background, or scratches or other defects in the product.  (Not if you intend to list the product on Ebay.)  Using a white background seems to help produce better results both in the camera and in Adobe Photoshop.  Once the image is resized apply sharpening.

In order to take professional looking product photographs, often the set up will involve at least 2 and often 3 light sources.  One will usually be the main light, while the others serve as a fill light to prevent dark shadows.  The main light may be in the form of overhead or frontal light.  However, if a shadowless white background is desired, backlighting has to be used.  This is often in the form of a background table or light box.  Artificial lighting conditions produce colour casting effect over photos.   For instance florescent lamps will produce a green cast.  Because the product is often shot under these artificial light conditions, the white balance factor must be considered and be compensated for accordingly.  If a digital camera is used, the simplest way to address this issue to to set White Balance setting to auto.

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