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The Photography Guide: From Setup to the Final Edit

The Photography Guide: From Setup to the Final Edit
Caroline Hjerpe

When selling products online, your customers can’t feel, try on or interact with your merchandise. That mean the way you present your products is crucial to the success of your shop. Your product photography is your one chance to grab the customer’s attention – and convince them to buy your goods.

Is the last photo you took a selfie? Have no fear, this guide is for amateurs and pros alike! If you consider yourself an experienced product photographers, this page is filled with tips to take your game to the next level. So let’s get to it!

Some materials that will come in handy:

Your camera. Phone cameras can be quite top notch nowadays but you’ll still get the best shot with a proper camera. Chances are you know someone who has a DSLR – a bigger, professional camera – so borrow it for a day or two, it will be worth it!

A roll of white paper.
This will serve as a backdrop for your product, and nine times out of ten, white will be the best call for your background. If you’re selling a white sweater, though, it might make sense to grab a light gray roll to offer some contrast.

A white board.
This one is for reflecting light, more on that later. For now just grab a styrofoam or poster board – it shouldn’t be too small – aim for a size that’s similar to the size of the product you are shooting.

Daylight.
Visit Helios, Titan god of the sun, and request he shine in your direction. But seriously, just find sometime near midday where you can get the most daylight possible.

– Photoshop or some other editing program.
Photoshop can be intimidating, and long story short, it really is worth it but we’ll go over some cheaper and simpler editing tools as well.

Setting up:

You’ll need to set up your photoshoot location and 
two quick and easy places are the floor or a tabletop. If you can, try placing your product against a wall outside or close to a window to maximize the natural light! Here’s where the roll of paper comes into play – to get an evenly colored background place the roll of paper on the table and put it up against the wall, creating a curve between the two. Be careful not to bend it, we are looking for a smooth curve. You can use tape to make sure it stays in the right place too. Unless you are already shooting outside on a sunny day, it’s good to get some extra light on the product, and here you can use a white styrofoam board that helps you reflect the light on to the product. Play around with the angling of the board so that you get the reflection that you need.  Make sure it’s close to the product – but not too close because you do not want it to be seen in the picture.

Alright, now that you have your setup ready to go, it’s time to pick up your camera. If you couldn’t get your hands on a DSLR and have to use your phone, some of these steps might not apply to you but remember that even on mobile phones you can adjust options like exposure and zoom. I always use manual because I think it’s easier to get the exact shot that I am looking for. You can also use the auto setting, but make sure you turn off the flash and remember that the camera will capture what it thinks is the right image, so if you are looking for that perfect picture, switch over to manual! The next part can get a little complex but relax, breathe out and you’ll get it in no time. Plus think of mastering manual photography as something new to slap on your resume too!

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Before you read on, remember that the only way to learn and get the pictures you want is to play with all of the following settings, by no means are they rules – just tips and guidelines! To see how to adjust these settings, consult your camera’s manual or check out their tutorials online.

ISO – This is the measure of how sensitive your camera is to light. If you are outside and it’s sunny keep it low (around 100-200) but if you are inside you may have to push it up (around 400-800). If you have to go above that then the room you are in is too dark! Try to move to where you get more natural light where you can use a lower ISO.

Pro Tip! – While modern DSLR’s can shoot in near pitch dark conditions, the pictures will still be grainer then usual. Don’t assume your higher end camera can compensate for lack of natural light!

Aperture – While similar to shutter speed because it is measured by how much light it lets in, aperture deals with focus and depth in the picture, and is measured in F-stops. Lower aperture (something like f16) means more depth and less focus in the picture and a higher aperture (around f2.8) would get you a crisp focus on your image and blur the background. Which F-stop you choose will depend on what you are shooting and what you prefer style wise so don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Shutter speed – This refers to the time the shutter lets light into the camera. If it’s open a longer time, it will get more light in, which helps if it’s dark in the room. But, this also means that you have to hold completely still. Ideally you should be working with a shutter speed higher than 1/60, which means you can hold the camera on your own without a tripod.

Pro Tip! – While a tripod will give the best results, there are several things you can do to make yourself a more steady hand. Firstly, leaning against a wall or on a table will allow you to not worry about balancing. Secondly, breathe out when taking the shot to avoid any shaking. Lastly, don’t be afraid to put your camera on the table or ground, its basically as effective as a tripod!

So example scenario, let’s say you are outside in the daylight but not in the sunshine, then the settings might look something like this – ISO 100, F 2.8, Shutter speed 1/1000.

Three things to be aware of:

Depth and focus are crucial to achieving the feel you’re going for. As we covered earlier, this is adjusted through aperture.

Light is the most important element. Well lit photos can have a serious impact on how good your product looks. Inside lighting is not good lighting, and while using your kitchen lamp may seem like a good idea, artificial light almost always gives off the wrong tint that you will have to correct for later.

Angle and composition depends on your product and your personal preference. Usually the camera will shoot in low aperture by itself if you shoot on auto, both on your camera and on your smartphone. If you shoot manually, and the subject is something smaller, use a low aperture, but if it’s a model wearing something, use a higher aperture.

This will create depth in the picture that makes it look sharper. Make sure that your camera focuses on the product – if using a smartphone, tap on the product on the screen, and if using a camera, press on the capture button halfway (just before it takes a photo), and you will see that it refocuses. It is very important that you get the best focus possible, since you want your products to look as crisp as they can!

Pro Tip: Manual focus is an option too. It can take some getting used to but its an easy way to ensure that your product is perfectly focused. This is especially helpful with making sure the focus lands on a small product or to focus in on a detail of a much larger product!

Editing

You should try to get a good editing program – Adobe Photoshop is one of the best out there, but it has a lot of advanced features you might not need. Therefore you might be better off with Adobe Lightroom or something similar. However, if really want to keep it simple – Preview – the native application Apple Computers use to open images can do all the edits you need (just go to Tools > Adjust Color)! The Windows 10 Photo app works very similarly and will allow you to get execute basic edits.

product_10242No matter what program you are editing in, there are a few adjustments you should play around with.

Brightness is something you can now adjust until you are satisfied with how much light is in your image.

Contrast will allow you to intensify the differences between color and lighting conditions. Or if there’s already too much contrast, you can always scale back for a more evenly lit image.

Sharpness is the key to showcasing fine details. If you are selling a ring, it will help bring out the surface texture of the metal or gem.

Temperature is how cool or warm your image looks. Make sure the white balance is not too cold or too warm, unless that’s the style you are shooting for!

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In the end, remember that all of these setting are there for you to experiment with so don’t be scared to tinker with it, you can always go back a step!   

In the end, remember that when uploading pictures of your products to your online store dashboard on Tictail, there are some limitations:

1. Images must be in either JPEG, PNG and GIF format.

2. Images must be at least 10 pixels and at most 4,000 pixels in both width and height.

3. Images can’t be too narrow. So if your image is 500 pixels wide, it needs to be at least 100 pixels tall, and vice versa.

4. Images cannot be larger than 15 MB.

Alright that was a lot – but now comes the best part – go out and shoot!

If you are looking for inspiration, just browse through Tictail’s marketplace and see how various shops have chosen to take photos!