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How To Guides

Master Product Photography in 3 steps.

First impressions. Think about what your habits are for window shopping because online shopping is very similar. When you are walking by a counter or storefront some things catch your eye and make you stop, while others just blend in with everything else.  Online, catchy bright colors and tiny unidentifiable  thumbnails might be enough to pique the curiosity of some, but for all the wrong reasons.

You have about 5 seconds to make that first impression. Looking for the secret to start off on the right foot? Photography.  Your presentation can turn that “want” or “like” into a “NEEEED!!” I understand that not everyone has a super expensive camera, and the truth is you don’t need one! Photographers have been making beautiful pictures for years with primitive pinhole cameras that have that withstood the test of time so don’t blame it on your camera anymore!

You  want to make sure your viewer isn’t distracted by cluttery backgrounds and other non-related objects in the frame. It’s easier to walk the path when you don’t have to cut through jungle along the way, right?  You want them to be able to fully concentrate on what your selling; your art, your passion, your vision.  I’ve been practicing  photography for over 15 years but seldom shoot ‘products.’ However, I have the skills and the know-how to work my camera only with a creative eye to understand how to make a good photograph, no matter what the subject.  Let’s get dirty.

Backdrop. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite companies, and their marketing style. If you guessed Apple you’re right. By dissecting their brochures, commercials,  and website as a whole,  we notice a trend through all of it. .minimalism.

The plain white canvas allows us to focus on the product without any “additives”. It’s clear and to the point and so it exposes all of the beauy in their design and we can feel that they are proud of it. You might be thinking you don’t a studio, any fancy lighting, or a vast knowledge of  photo editing to be abe acheive this but that’s a good thing because you don’t need any of it. In fact, it’s cheap and simple enough that you can probably do it without going to a store.

Remember when you were a kid in art class, that huge spool of white paper that never seemed to end? Well, you can get that cheap at any craft store. You might already have some at home.  All you need to do is tack up one side to the wall and let her rip! Grab a lamp, and stand it next to the paper to illuminate your art and wah-lah magic happens..just like that! If you’re like me, crafty, you probably have all sorts of paper lying around. I prefer to use huge sheets of water color paper because it’s grippy and I do a lot of painting so it’s always never out of arms reach in my studio.  If you are using a compact camera or cell phone, more than likely you can’t set a custom white balance, but don’t worry your camera usually will compensate for any over coloring of one temperature. If not, you can fix it later.  If your piece is small enough, feel free to get to get some  construction paper and if you need larger than one sheet, tape two together.

If you don’t want to worry about getting a lamp near your work space or having to color correct later – take the pictures next to an open window between 9 & 11 AM, or 3 & 4 PM to get the best natural lighting, or move your whole operation outside and shoot there! Between noon and 2 PM is the harshest light of the day so try and avoid those times if possible.

One picture won’t suffice– you will need to take more and they should vary. Let’s say you are selling handmade travel journals. Try laying out some postcards and your passport  or print a fake trip itinerary to put on the table and arrange them pleasingly but not cluttered! Remember this isn’t an eye-spy treasure hunt. Tip: Just brainstorm.  Get out a sheet of paper or open Text Editor (Notepad, on a PC) and for a few minutes just think about what it is you are selling, who your target audience is, the theme of the item or art and run with it. You will be surprised at how mighty your brain power actually is once you start to exercise it.  If you aren’t feeling confident in your findings don’t be afraid to ask someone for their input. Post it on a community forum or dare I say, Yahoo Answers! The people of the latter will put in their snide two cents but just ignore it, usually there is someone there really making an effort to help. Just don’t be shy about it. If all else fails and you are really stumped, stick to the plain color. I know you can do it.

Still here? Awesome.

Get Personal. Get up close! You love your art, make it feel special. Sometimes it’s best to showcase something in a different perspective, to inject ideas into your potential buyers head. Wether you are selling jewelry, clothing, photos, paintings or something else, set the stage for possibilities. Create the desire. Flaunt your stuff off in its natural habitat and exaggerate the details! If it’s clothing, wear it, put it on with your sunday’s best or something funky. Use complimentary colors to set the mood and make it stand out, you will be amazed at how much one color can make something pop. If you aren’t sure, buy a color wheel or just come back and keep looking at this one.

(graphic via www.wetcanvas.com)

Complementary colors are directly across from each other on the wheel. So let’s say your spiffy new mug that you handcrafted from ceramics is a stunning royal purple– try photographing it with  a bright yellow backdrop or maybe painting a spoon yellow and placing it beside, or inside the mug! You’ll love it.  One thing you have to watch out for is being tacky (unless that’s your thing) so stick to the wheel at first, but don’t be afraid to reinvent it either!

Like playing with food? I do, and photographers.. well, we love playing with angles. Yes, even the orangey  ones that taste like cheese.. 🙂 Play with them, take pictures from ALL angles, the sides, top, front, back.. while you’re at it try it from below! You’re selling online; since we can’t hold it in our hands and physically inspect it, so make sure we can see it as we if we were. Whatever you do, make it interesting. When getting up close and personal with your newest beloved treasure  set your camera to Macro mode, this is usually indicated by the words or a flower icon. What you are doing is magnifying the beauty for all to see and it works. If it’s something larger like a painting, get in there and shoot the canvas texture or the tiny details that you worked so hard on.  Again, you don’t need expensive equipment to pull this off. If you have an SLR camera, (one with interchangeable lenses) but don’t own a Macro lens and the Macro mode just isn’t working as you want, you may want to consider doing some Mcguyver ( or ninja! – I prefer Pirates, btw) moves and reversing your lens– creating a Macro lens. You can go end-of-the-world apocolypse style with some duct tape, or you can buy one of these nifty lens reversal rings. I’m pretty hardcore myself & prefer to hold the lens on with my bare hands. RAWR! It’s tricky, but not impossible.

Do it in Post. Okay, so you may not understand what “Post” but you will. It’s short for Post Processing and it’s been around as long as film. It’s the process  of editing the photo after its been taken. Some people call it Photoshopping but I tend to use that term only when manipulation is involved. It’s simple, you don’t need to go out and spend a bunch of money for the brand name, there are perfectly good FREE programs out there like GIMP. You can color correct, add saturation, and contrast, and check your levels (not those in your car). It can be time consuming to learn even the basics but there is plenty of help in the software for you to learn from. I learn best by trial and error, you can’t really mess anything up – gotta love that Undo button. It’s best to take you time, and work each photo as if it is your next masterpiece. You get out what you put in. Your time will pay off, I promise.

To get  you started with your brainstorm, here are some basics in which you should expand on.

Nature Themed — Grass, flowers, tree bark, or wood accents. Use greens & browns.

Elegant Themed –  Direct lighting on faux diamonds, or other gems. Use Gold, black, cream,  dark blues and purples (COOL colors)

Fun/Funky Themed – Polka dots, stripes, any geometric shape.  Use yellow, orange, red, bright or neon colors. (WARM colors)

Beach Themed  – Incorporate  sand, sea shells, starfish, wood,  or preserved seahorses. (You can get them at craft stores.) Use any shade of pastel greens, blues, or cream. You may also want to use bright colors if its more tropical. Google Image Search “Bahama Houses” to see great color pallets.

Dark/Gothic/Punk Themed – Chains, spiked colors, lace, and leather are all great ideas to use as accents to your scene. Use black, reds, silver.

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About PixelGrin

Photography. Punk Rock. Art. Travel.

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Hi Hello I'm Jennifer Jackson. ...and the world is my oyster...

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