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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top 5 DIY Product Photography Tips

I have had several online shop owners coming to me asking for advice on how to make their DIY product images better... and time after time, I find myself writing the same (or similar) email back... I thought I would simply post a quick Tips post to be able to point people to!

If your images are dark, grainy, have a color cast, blurry or simply "yucky"....

Here are my top tips, for starting to troubleshoot and solve your DIY Dilemma!

1. Lets talk set up. Here is a great post about how to set up next to a window. http://www.tsualist.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-dollar-store-studio.html
You do want to make sure you understand the difference between shooting in the morning, afternoon, night... sunny, partly sunny, or during a rainstorm... each difference changes the type and quality of your light. I have some great posts on this on the blog... There are a ton of posts in March for product photography - and previously about white balance and types of light... like this one http://vertephoto.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-best-time-to-do-product-photography.html

2. Camera settings. Usually the biggest issue isn't the type of camera (tho lens quality will play a role) but focusing on an item close up, and possible reflection off the materials may be the root of the issue. Here is what to look for in order to over come those issues:

  • Keep your flash off.  When your shooting close up and you use your flash... it creates an overexposed image with too much light and the subject looks blurry or "ghostly" because of the reflection of the light back into the camera.
  • Make sure your shooting in a Program mode (not auto which is commonly a green square or green P, or AUTO... but a regular P) this will allow you to control your flash and access additional options.

  • Find a Macro Function: I would suggest using the "flower" or "close up" mode that it lists under your Scene (SCN) mode... these will allow your camera to focus closer and typically allow more light to your sensor. This will help (maybe solve) the complaint you had about the images being so dark - by gathering more light to your sensor your images will be better exposed. Depending on your camera, it may allow you to physically get closer to your subject and still remain in focus as well. (NOTE: Most point and shoot style cameras will only allow you access to find this SCN mode when your camera is in Program. If your in Auto, this menu will not be visible)
  •  If you have an "anti shake" or "DIS" or any sort of Image Stabilization option turned on for your CAMERA - turn it off.  These functions when on the camera are adjusting your ISO setting which is what is causing the images to look really broken down and poor quality.. your seeing the noise created by your pixels. To learn more: http://vertephoto.blogspot.com/2013/05/tuesday-tip-dis-function.html
  • Now, it's hard for me to tell.. you could have adjusted the ISO (which is what controls the noise) by selecting an anti shake type function, or you could have done it manually by adjusting your ISO - If you selected it manually you want to read just and go down to auto or 100 (maybe 200 if you want to shoot on a cloudy day) Typically auto is just fine, and you should never really "need" to adjust this off of auto. If it is set to auto and it is forcing your ISO settings up on its own with no adjustments from a IS function or you... then you have WAAAY to little light going on! You can check your camera settings to see what the auto is shooting at typically on your camera, if you cant find it let me know and I can show you how to find it on your image on your computer by viewing the meta-information.
  • Back off. In most cases you've got high enough resolution - you could back off a little if you need in order to get focus.. then simply edit the images to crop closer :) If you need a photo editor I can give you some to check out - that you can either download free or that would be fairly inexpensive. (you can pick up old versions of Photoshop Elements, a consumer level photoshop program that is easy to use for as low as $10... and they work perfectly for 90% of your photoshop needs!) 

4. Lets talk backgrounds.
  • Black adsorbs light and is great when TOO much light is your issue... but it rarely is.
  • White backdrops (like poster board) help to reflect the light you have creating  an overall more balanced look to your images. In most cases of DIY, the issue is not enough light... so by using white your adding extra light to your area.
  • If you don't want to go white - go Grey. You can find poster board still at the dollar store or any craft store :) super easy and cheap fix.While grey is a neutral, it wont bounce light... it wont absorb it either.
5. Add Light. ADD LIGHT..... ADD LIGHT! 99% of issues, the image posted above included will benefit from MORE LIGHT. Just because you think something is well lit, doesn't mean your camera will see it that way. Your camera sees about a 1/3 of the light you see. (ok this is really "depending" on the settings and type of camera... but its a good rule of thumb)
Use reflectors to bounce light where you have shadows. Use diffusers to soften harsh light. Read up on white balance, to make sure your getting the best quality of light. Again... I talk about light ALL the time because it is the SINGLE most important factor in photography. EVERYTHING is contingent upon light.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to keep your manual for a quick reference to find the different scene modes, or other adjustments and settings that I am talking about! If you don't have it, google your camera and look for the PDF manual, there hasn't been a camera I haven't been able to find one for yet!

Now, after you have put these tips to use... if you still want some additional help.. I am HAPPY to help troubleshoot! Simply leave me a message, or shoot me an email and I will be sure to take a look at what you have going on!

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