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!

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