Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 6 - Product Photography (Part 1)

One of the first things you might notice when you first browse through Etsy, is that many of the products listed there have amazing photos. Some look very professional, some look artistic and ingenious. And then, there are photos like yours, which do not seem to stand a chance against the really great ones.

Don't get discouraged too quickly though. Most Etsy sellers did not have great photos when they listed their first items!

In fact, they had to spend many hours trying different angles, props, backgrounds, light sources, and everything else they could think of. They may have also watched several tutorials in YouTube and read online guides.

Others may have given up quickly and hired photographers to 'solve' this problem for them. (If this is something you have already considered, please don't do it! Most good/legit product photographers would charge a minimum of $50-$75/hour and this is money that I'm sure you would rather keep in your pockets.)

With some help, I'm sure you'll be able to learn quickly and take good pictures of your products that you'll be very proud of.

Today, we'll look at some of the resources available to us for free. Then, we'll start with the most simple tricks/tips and give photography another chance.

One thing that we will certainly need however, is a camera. If you don't own one, then try to borrow one from a friend, family member, etc. If you are planning on buying one and have a very limited budget, invest on something flexible and do your research. (Reading reviews online before purchasing anything over $100 is always a good idea)

Unfortunately, a cheap camera will always be a cheap camera. (Especially if it is 100% automatic and does not allow for a manual mode). If you do have some money saved, then consider buying an affordable DSLR camera (ranging from $450-$900). The difference between a $200 point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR is huge for just $250 extra!

Free Photo Studio

When it comes to our product photography, I would like to propose that we take on this challenge by thinking of ourselves as professional photographers. I know we are not, but I want you to build up your level of confidence and see yourself as a fully capable individual right from the beginning.

We'll start by building our very own photo studio with materials that can be found around the house.

Since we all sell different types of products, I'll include instructions for both small and large objects. You can very easily build the tools needed to photograph both and just have them available in case you should need them in the future.

For small items, we will use a "light box" or "light tent" and for large objects, we will go with diffuser panels.

If you wish to go online and purchase a tabletop photography studio kit, go for it. They start at about $80 or so. (Just remember that a light tent has its limitations and that if you do buy one and get to the point where it becomes useless fairly quickly, then you might blame yourself for not taking the 'free' option)

Anyhow, here is a link to a tutorial from Strobist that will guide you through the process of building the light tent. As the author of the article says $10 is just a number as you should be able to replace some of the materials with things you already have around your home and cut down your cost to 'zero'.

Link: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html

For medium/large objects that would not fit inside the light tent, we'll go with the diffuser panels.

Here is quick explanation on how to make these. (Please note they recommend using white bed sheets, hah! who would have thought of that?)

Link: http://www.ehow.com/way_6188197_diy-diffuser-panel.html

If you need a visual of the diffuser panels, this is what we are talking about:

Along with the light tent and diffuser panels, you will need at least two desk lamps or any other sort of light that can be adjusted for direction.

Also, you might still need some sort of a base for your products to sit on. If that's the case, simply place a large piece of white board or paper on a desk or even on the floor and put your medium size objects on top.

Large objects such as a mannequin or a person modeling clothes will most likely not need a white base. However, if you do need a white background you can always hang a large white bed sheet behind the subject.

If you still want to spend some money, I suggest your spend it on some good powerful light bulbs. I get mine from here: http://www.alzodigital.com/online_store/light_bulbs_compact_fluorescent_hid.htm

Let's take pictures

Now that you have a good set of tools to take great pictures with, let's go ahead and begin prepping our area for a shooting session.

Some basic rules to keep in mind:

- Make sure your product and work area are clean.

- Give yourself space to move around and get pictures from various angles without getting hurt.

- Place the light tent on a flat surface, your object will go inside of it and the desk lamps will be located on the outside, one for each side.

- In the case of the diffuser panels, your object will go between them and the lights will stand behind.

Here is a great video on how you'll be doing this:

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zARqGgHjNc&feature=related

More Tips:

- Take pictures preferably during the day. (Our biggest enemy is a flash light and most cameras will trigger the flash in order to compensate with the lack of lighting in the room) Yes, you can disable it when using your camera in manual mode but if you are completely new to all this, you might want to use the automatic features at the beginning.

- Plan to spend a minimum of 1 hour taking pictures. (My shooting sessions are usually for 10 products at the time and I end up taking at least 20 - 25 pictures of each item)

- If you don't own a tripod:
  • Get your feet on a good stable position so you can balance your body correctly and avoid taking blurry pictures.
  • Hold your camera using the strength of your arms and not your hands/wrists.
  • Get the camera as close to your body as possible.

- On your first shooting sessions, you won't know what angles or props (if you are using any) will /will not work for your product. Therefore, experiment as much as you can!
(Take pics from each side, from above, from below, tilting the camera a bit)

- Once you do your editing, you will discover which angles worked best.

To Do:

We'll stop here for today and get all of our tools ready as well as spend the rest of the day taking (experimenting) with pictures.

Aim to take at least a total of 300. We'll go over editing tomorrow and some other tips to make those pictures look great.

Note: If you happen to review your pictures today and they don't look great, do not delete them just yet. Remember that editing is almost like doing 'magic'. ;)

Good Luck

1 comment:

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