Friday, January 21, 2011

Product Photography 101

Recently I have been asked by a few people about product photography. So I thought it would be a great idea (with some inspiration from my friend Carole Ann) to create a very simple tutorial for everyone to follow. Trust me when I say ANYONE can do this!

First thing is taking the actual image. Rule #1! GET CREATIVE with your surroundings! As nice as something on a white backdrop might look *sometimes, it's important to get creative! Use props, take images of your product on something that has a lot of texture to it, such as wood, or even on a bookshelf with some old books. This creates a little more stimulation for the eye.

Here is an example:
As you can see, the first one is a little boring. Although it may show off the product very well, it doesn't stimulate the eye enough to want to take a closer look. Where as the image on the right creates more of an interest. And there are two reasons for this. (1) texture and (2) color. Now you want to keep in mind that your background SHOULD NOT blend in with your product too much. Here's a bad example:
Although there is still a little bit of texture to the background, it isn't enough to do anything for the eye. Also, the black blends too much with the card, even though a portion of the outside of the card is gold. Now...if we put this card on a bookshelf with some old books that are different colors, watch what happens...
Much more interesting right?!

Now, you took your picture with some sort of interesting backdrop. Well I hate to tell ya folks, but it doesn't end here. It can if you want it to, but to bring it to the next level, you are going to have to do some post-editing in photoshop. No matter what camera you have, your pictures will not be PHENOMENAL unless you add some extra OOMF into it!

But photoshop is where the fun is! Here, I will show you a few simple steps to give your photo a little pop to it. The first step is cropping your images. You need to make sure you follow the rule of thirds. Not sure what this is? Just have a look.
Thank you so much to Ronin Studios Photography for the tutorial on rules of third. You should always try to place your subject somewhere where those lines cross. This can be done simply by cropping your image. The newest version of PhotoShop (CS5), has the rules of third built into their cropping tool.

Now I'm going to show you how to do this to your image:
Before & After

Once your image is cropped in PS, go to image>adjust>auto contrast. I don't suggest doing auto tone or auto color unless you know how to adjust it after doing so. Sometimes auto tone or auto color can really throw your image down the pooper. 

Now as you can see in the first image, the key is slightly blurry. You can fix this! Now I'm not saying you can take a picture of a running child and make him look like his standing still. However, you can certainly fix a situation like this! To do so, go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharpen mask 

Once you click this a window will open up that looks like this:
I set mine to Amount 88, Radius 4.4, and Threshold 0. You can adjust this to what looks best for you, but this usually works for most pictures. If you can't tell the difference, don't worry. It takes a while for your eye to recognize the difference. Especially if you've never done this before.

Now that you're image is slightly sharper, it's time to create what's called a LENS VIGNETTE. As you can see in the after photograph, the edges are darkened slightly. This essentially puts a spotlight onto your subject.

Select your lasso tool from your tool menu.
Select the area around your subject

I filled in the area that needs to be selected so you can see you have to select the SURROUNDING area.

With the area now selected, go to Edit > Copy > Edit > Paste. A new layer will show up in your layers menu. With this new layer, change it to Multiply and lower the opacity slightly (you can lower this again after you blur the layer) (see image)

Once this layer has made made to a multiply layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
I normally do not turn the radius all the way up, because then you might have the darker area "bleed" into your subject. Since this tutorial is for beginners, this isn't good.

Click OK! If you feel that there are dark areas of your subject now, you can just use the erase tool and erase whatever area you think is dark.

Now go to Layers > Flatten Image. And guess what! You're all done! HURRAH! This may take a while to get used to, but once you do, you'll be able to do this with your eyes closed. I do this to ALL of my photographs. And seeing as how I take a ton of photographs, you can imagine that it really doesn't take that long to do.

I hope everyone found this tutorial useful. I'd love to hear some feedback. If this is successful, then I will make some more fun tutorials. Like how to give your photograph a vintage feel to it, or how to create rounded edges (which is big now in the etsy world).

Now go take some gorgeous photographs! And if anyone has ANY questions, don't hesitate to ask. With over 4 years of PS experience under my belt, there's nothing I can't figure out for you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's like falling in love all over again.

Recently I have found myself surrounded by some incredibly talented and creative people. It's a refreshing start to the new year, and has inspired me to create and expand my "talents". Last Wednesday my good friend Carole Ann from Connect the Dots invited me to go to a meeting with her. And I had the honor to experience the Hive Archive  which is a non-profit, feminist arts organization with a mission to promote gender equality by dismantling obstacles that limit women and girls in reaching their full potential. Being a self-proclaimed feminist my whole life, I was thrilled when I heard about this! We were able to discuss issues such as financial topics, media access (building websites etc), and we also discussed what we did in 2010 to move our businesses forward.  I could have made a list a mile long! Not only did I completely build my photography business from the ground up, but I also opened my creative side up. I started experimenting more with different forms of art. Knitting, painting, drawing. And everyday I seem to think of something new that I want to try!

Needless to say the creative juices are flowing now more than ever! And it's quite a freeing feeling. It's like falling in love all over again. I am falling in love with my art work, with the drive to create, and I'm even trying to "Get out" there more with my art. I met a very cool girl Adj Marshall who creates custom jewelry pieces from silverware and scrap metal (along with making some pretty awesome dresses out of ties...yes...ties!). I met up with her yesterday to give her some old skeleton keys that have been sitting around my house for decades, and she told me all about AS220 and their art workshops. I'm not at all new to AS200, having a few "hipster" friends that practically live there. But I've never experienced their workshops before. And after hearing about their photography workshops, I am quite intrigued. Needless to say I will be contacting someone...anyone...this week about these workshops! It would be wonderful if I could volunteer my services there. 

So what have I been doing with all this creative energy?! Well...I've opened an Etsy shop! GASP! Intimidating, but very exciting. As of right now I only have some vintage goodies on there, but I just finished my first knitted project that will be going on there very, very soon! It's a great winter project as well, seeing as how the photography business is slow during this season. Along with opening an Etsy shop, and knitting my fingers to the bone, I have discovered the art of paper cutting! And I have to say I am officially addicted! 

I will be putting these sexy pieces of paper up on Etsy as well! I never knew I had the ability to do this type of art, and was pretty excited when I finished my first piece (top image). We will see what happens with this!

And now as promised, here is an image of the scarf I made my mom for Christmas.
I got the pattern for this scarf from the book "Closely Knit"
She loves this scarf and it's just what she needed to go with her "fancy church coat". 

Now for some UFO'S (unfinished objects)
Here's the start of a pair of socks. I've never knit two-at-a-time before, but its INCREDIBLY easy, and makes knitting socks go by so fast! I would highly suggest the book "2 at a time socks" by Melissa Morgan-Oaks. Her explanation of how to knit two at a time is very easy to understand. Trust me, if I can do it anyone can!

Here's yet another UFO! My first sweater! I'm knitting from the top down, which only seems to make sense to me. I know some people don't knit sweaters this way, but it seems to work for me...Plus I can adjust the length as I go. As of right now I have the upper chest done, and once the torso is finished I will go back and knit the sleeves, and knit a ribbed collar.

As you can tell I've been very busy! I'd love to hear what you have been up to. Make anything recently? Any new years resolutions? Anything you MUST create this year? (Mine is to finish this sweater, and possibly make 2 or 3 more).

Hope everyone is doing well!