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How to take photo like these?
kpop




msg:3025447
 7:58 am on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi,
I have some products to sell. I tried many different ways to produce the best images, but the results were not as expected.

I would like a complete (or almost) 100% pure white background for my photos. I found some samples:
<snip>

do you happen to know what techniques he/she might use? Those pix have a perfect white background.

Any suggestion? Please help a newbie taking some photos.

Thanks.

[edited by: engine at 8:43 am (utc) on July 28, 2006]
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Marcia




msg:3025449
 8:01 am on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Those photos are not all that impressive, to be perfectly honest. You can do a "select" in Photoshop or a similar program and make the background all white, or just take the photos with good lighting on a pure white background.

They're too big and too fuzzy, IMHO.

kpop




msg:3025491
 8:37 am on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

good lighting on a pure white background.

this is my problem. How do you get a pure white background? Normal light bulbs produce yellowise color. Any suggestion?

And can you say a little more on the Photoshop part? I don't think those images go through any pst tech though.

Thanks.

PS: yes, those are huge but they're great for my purpose. ^^

jessejump




msg:3025637
 12:10 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>>>> Normal light bulbs produce yellowise color.

A yellow color cast can be removed easily in Photoshop - all photograpghs require some clor correction because no lighting is perfect- or the camera.

travelin cat




msg:3025901
 3:08 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Professional lighting or "prosumer" lighting should be used when taking product shots.

If you can not afford to buy them, you can rent them. Product shots are WAY to important to do poorly.

That being said, make sure you have a good clean white sheet as a back drop, also make sure that anything you use to prop up the product is white. This way you can easily remove them in PS and replace them with a pure white.

Remember, if your using a white background and the shots you see are showing a color cast in the background, that same color cast is affecting the entire image including the product.

Poor product shots are the quickest way to lose a potential buyer.

kpop




msg:3026016
 4:18 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

oh boy,
I just did a quick search on "professional lighting" and they ARE expensive. I also read some tutorial about light tent. Anyone has experienced with light tents? Some were selling on eBay and seller claim alot about their items, but others suggest not to buy those new designs (box, circular shapes...)

My question for those pix above is, "did those go through photoshop?"

a good clean white sheet as a back drop

where can I get this kind of white sheet? (US) can you tell me a more specific search term?

Thanks.

jessejump




msg:3026074
 4:51 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>>>>> My question for those pix above is, "did those go through photoshop?"

Every -I'll repeat myself - photo should go through Photoshop. No lighting is perfect, only a few cameras take flawless images when it comes to color especially low-end digital cameras.

A photo that has an overall green - really green haze or blue or pink colorcast - can be corrected in PS in 10 - 30 seconds. Even a photo that looks "black - no detail" can be saved and look great.

You use "Levels" or Curves.

Look for a tutorial on _photoshop color correction levels_

What levels does is - if you know something in the photo "is white" ( T-shirt, backdrop, wall, teeth...) but is not "white" in your photo, you make it white with Levels and Photoshop pulls all the other pixels along to correct your photo. You can also add extra pop and effect if you want - whitening whites and darkening shadows (just like your laundry) - photos can be improved and can look great- it is very easy. This is really cool to do.

You can do this, I know it.

Ardfry




msg:3026133
 5:16 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

See this tutorial on how to set this up on a budget.

[theswitchboards.com...]

monkeythumpa




msg:3026136
 5:18 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

You want to light the white paper or sheet behind your product. Make sure it is three or more stops above the light on the product. That should "blow out" the background and give you pure white background.

You can't use a desk lamp to light your products. Get some flashes from a photo store. You will need at least three.

Depending on the size of the product, you want to use a long focal length lens to give you a shallow depth of field. That will also blur out any imperfections or wrinkles in your background. Make sure the depth of field is not so shallow to blur parts of the product.

Always use a tripod, and close all the blinds on your windows so the sun does not get in.

rocknbil




msg:3026158
 5:28 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

As someone who worked has as a scanner operator in the pre-digital days I can tell you - reliance on Photoshop to manage crappy photography is a crutch that perpetuates incompetence. If every photo has to go through Photoshop just to get an acceptable image, you are doing something wrong.

"Back in the day" we didn't have this advantage. It had to be done right before it was scanned, and adjustments were made in the digitizing process but they were limited and only to compensate for limitations in the process, NOT inept photography (see "color correction," below.) Today's tools allow more and more incompetence to creep into the industry, and what really suffers is the end product.

Yes you can remove casts. But if you have to remove a cast, that means you don't have the appropriate color or tonal levels to begin with, and even though you think you've "fixed" it, it's not as good as it could be. When you begin compromising right off the bat, it snowballs, and what you get is "good enough" but a fraction of its potential.

If you have a good photographer - one who won't make excuses - equipment, and production methods, the only use for Photoshop is special knockouts, compositing, and cropping. If it needs color "correction" because of color casts or poor lighting, it needs to be reshot. Period.

In fact, "color correction" is a GROSSLY abused term. It's commonly used to describe the compensation for crappy photography, poor lighting, and other image deficiencies. Color Correction is the adjustments in output curves to compensate for limitations of color gamuts and impurities of pigments in printing inks. Not lousy photography, limitations of materials and technology.

To get good images, you need to photograph with quality photofloods or halogen photofloods. You need a balanced environment and sufficient tools for diffused or hard lighting, such as umbrellas, hoods, and other reflectors. Photofloods are getting very cheap, you can get a set of stands and hoods for about $120. The more you spend, the better your lighting and the better your photography.

IMO things are so cheap these days there really is no excuse for creating crappy images and doctoring them up in Photoshop. You can get GOOD images on a $1000 budget for equipment, camera included.

Knockouts are best done by photographing on a white background, meter the white point on the camera to the objects and not the BG, then complete the process in your graphics program, i.e. Photoshop. If done correctly, the background should **already** be at 255/255/255 and the white point of the objects barely under that, and you should only have to verify this in Photoshop, not tweak it to the moon.

jimbeetle




msg:3026163
 5:30 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I picked up a light tent for a project last year and I wouldn't do without it for similar projects. You can pick up a medium-sized one for well under $100. That, a basic digital camera with flash and a small tripod are all you really need, though a secondary light source sometimes comes in handy. The tent is simple to set up and folds down very compactly for storage.

Alex_Miles




msg:3026176
 5:39 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I can't see the original shots, which is a nuisance, but I often take pictures on a pure white background. Its easy, and for lighting I use flourescent bulbs. The ones that fit into standard light sockets. There is no need for professional lighting setups unless you are photographing large things, like people or cars.

If I'm doing closeups of jewelry I'll use an on camera flash as well as the other lights to make the stones come to life.

The way you get the plain white background is a huge sheet of white paper. Have the object resting on it and curve the rest of the paper up the wall behind. Preferably do this in a white room. If you can't, hang something white either side of the object. The idea is to get the light to bounce around in all directions off the white to create very soft shadows.

Alternatively you can get cheap white softboxes off ebay, for small things.

When you get to the photoshopping stage, there are various techniques, but first correct for any color cast then use an eq cutoff to remove anything above a certain brightness threshold.

I wish I knew what you are trying to photograph!

Don't forget to rest the camera on something if you don't have a tripod, and take very great care over focussing.

Don't press the shutter - squeeze it gently.

If you want to take a good look at some studio and lighting setups, I suggest you go find a jewelry site and take a close look at pearl earrings. They reflect every aspect of the set and the lighting used.

rocknbil




msg:3026295
 6:58 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Alex- try some photofloods and a couple cheap reflectors to start, the cheap "worklight" reflectors you find at hardware stores. We're talking an investment of $30. It will MAKE you want to get light stands and umbrellas. Flourescent light is in the cool end of the light spectrum, you are fighting green. Incandescents are warm, you'll be fighting reds and yellows. Photofloods **look** blue but are closer to balanced light than anything, you will see a tenfold improvement in anything you do. Whites will be whites, neutrals neutral, everything else falls into place.

kpop




msg:3027351
 6:21 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thank you so much for all the thoughtful responses. I try to sell some pendants, earrings like those in the pictures.
And I want to show every little detail in the pendant even if its blurry.. ..after taking your advice, most of the pix look better but not all. Some dark color pendants still really hard to show.

rocknbil




msg:3027472
 8:45 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

kpop a large portion of my wife's business relies exactly on that.

What you need for good jewelry photography is diffused lighting and lower level balanced floodlights. A tent is about $79 but I saw one site use a semi-clear tupperware tub for a tent, this will work equally well.

Next is cheap stands and hoods, you can find these for about $120 or less. Use 250 watt photofloods, not 500's. This will cause your camera to require a LONGER exposure to pick up shadows, and for sparkly objects this is what you want. See Ansel Adams: expose for shadows, develop for highlights, this still applies in digital photography but in a different way.

Don't worry about making the jewelry sparkle. It will. :-) The problem most photographers have is they send it too much light trying to make it sparkle and this blasts out any highlight details and plugs up shadows. You only want sparkles in the tiniest points. It will be there, believe me, the problem is always in holding highlight tones, hence the lower wattage floods.

Now position the lights without hoods or umbrellas AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to the object, but THROUGH the diffusing device - you do not want the lights shining directly on the object, this will blast out the highlights and the camera will compensate with a higher exposure, flooding any shadows with black. This is why a tent works well. You don't have as much room to play with with a tupperware tub. You want to generally start with the lights 45 degrees from the side and slightly above the object, experiment, experiment.

FLASH OFF. This is important. For studio photography I very rarely use a flash.

Now take one object, shoot it, move the lights. Shoot again. Move, shoot, move shoot, get 10 or 20 of the same shot, take notes as to what's what, go load it on the comp and see what works best.

If you find you are having trouble getting light under the object, or in a certain area - don't buy another light, BOUNCE IT! I often find I need to put a white card directly under an object at 45 degrees to the resting surface but out of frame to bounce light up under it.

Also your photography will get good enough that you find you can see yourself, the photographer, and camera in the photographed objects, such as pitchers or glasses (oops.) Have a 4' X 4' white matte board handy with a hole in the center of it slightly larger than the size of your camera lens. Just before making the shot, hold the board up so just the lens peeks through, now the only photoshop'ing you need to do is paint out that round spot where the lense is reflecting on the oject. :-)

Another seldom-used trick, one that is a STAPLE of photography: USE A GRAY CARD. Most cameras try to balance the neutrals by reading in all available levels and mathematically balancing your frame. If you are getting a cast, it is most likely due to there being no true neutrals in the shot. Before you do your shot, put the gray card under the lights and zoom in on it, allow it to set the meter, then lock it there. The way you lock exposure/balance varies from camera to camera and will vary from shot to shot; consult your manual. For my Olympus it's hold the shutter half-down, them press AE (automatic exposure) lock.

Now with no other change adjust the zoom and take your shot. Your cast should be gone.

Over the last year I've shot thousands of product shots, I am no expert but I **did** study photography intensly in college and am picking up a trick or two, I hope this helps you. :-)

akmac




msg:3034841
 10:20 pm on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Rocknbil,

Exceptional post.

Another invaluable item for photographing small items is prop wax. If I'm shooting something that's small and reflective and want it to "float" in white-I put a small ball of prop wax on a transparent stand (plexi or glass) and use it to position the subject inside the light tent.

oodlum




msg:3036756
 1:58 am on Aug 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'll third rocknbil's post. Also don't forget to white balance your camera (or choose the appropriate light setting - tungsten, flash etc.). This should eliminate the need to colour-correct altogether. A gray card is great for fine-tuning, especially if you can't eliminate stray light sources.

The hardest part, though, is getting even lighting without light drop-off. IMO a light tent is absolutely invaluable for product shots. Anyone can get great shots with one of these and (if you're shooting digital) your camera's histogram.

I've stickied you some of the results I was able to achieve with a simple set-up of a light tent and two lights. The tent I use is called an EZcube. Do a search for it - their site has some great tutrials as well.

Wlauzon




msg:3045125
 12:46 am on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

As someone who worked has as a scanner operator in the pre-digital days I can tell you - reliance on Photoshop to manage crappy photography is a crutch that perpetuates incompetence. If every photo has to go through Photoshop just to get an acceptable image, you are doing something wrong.

I would have to agree with that. It used to be, back in the old film days, that basic color balance, light temperatures, hotspots, and all the other ills were at least somewhat understood.

It did not take long for even amateurs to learn that incandescent light makes it all look yellow, fluorescent makes it all green, etc. Color correction filters were commonly used. (And in fact, some of the high end digital cameras have built in filters for color correction, but few owners even know what they are).

But what we have now in too many cases is poorly taken pictures (some downright awful) and attempts to cure it with photoshop.

Personally I find it much easier to START with a good picture.

And BTW, one use I fAs someone who worked has as a scanner operator in the pre-digital days I can tell you - reliance on Photoshop to manage crappy photography is a crutch that perpetuates incompetence. If every photo has to go through Photoshop just to get an acceptable image, you are doing something wrong.

And I would not say NEVER use flash, but never use it for the main lighting - it is sometimes useful for shadow fill, or aimed at the background from behind, to brighten it up. But for main lighting of product photos, it is pretty awful. Though pros used to used multiple flashes to avoid all the heat generated by lamps quite often, it takes a lot of experience for that, and I knew one pro that had over 30 flashes of varying intensity that could all be chained.

[edited by: Wlauzon at 12:53 am (utc) on Aug. 14, 2006]

rocknbil




msg:3045458
 11:16 am on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

And I would not say NEVER use flash

Well, I said **I** never use a flash, and in reference to the way most non-SLR digitals are configured, I still say never. :-D Mine only has the flash installed on the camera, there is no remote plugin to utilize a remote flash and disable the onboard flash, it doesn't even have a hotfoot to move it off-center. This feature would change things drastically. Anytime it's used it's sure to cast an annoying shadow outlining any product shot, so it's pretty much worthless IMO.

Almost have the wife talked into a decent SLR, woo hoo may be time to buy a new toy. :-D

Wlauzon




msg:3045565
 1:43 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Almost have the wife talked into a decent SLR, woo hoo may be time to buy a new toy. :-D

A friend of mine is a professional, and I picked up a lot of tricks from over the years.

He has in the past couple of years moved about 90% of his product and stock photo shots to digital, and his opinion is that SLR is the ONLY way to go for anything serious.

But they can be pretty expensive, especially if you get extra lenses etc for them - he probably has $10,000 in just one camera - but that includes things that most people would never use, like underwater cases, multiple micro-flash trees, some kind of gigabyte storage pack, extreme telephoto and macro/microscope lenses, etc.

I only have one extra lens - a macro for closeups of small parts, but at least a year or so ago when I bought it cost almost as much as the camera.

A lot of the pictures we need are such as installations n the field, where you have basically only sunlight to work with, so I also have a couple of reflectors on flex with clamps that I had made up. I occasionally use flash, but never for direct light - usually aimed at the ceiling or something just to reduce shadows.

rocknbil




msg:3046295
 11:12 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes, it's all a matter of degrees. In the context of the average small business owner trying to make a dent on the 'net, the mid-range cams described in this thread [webmasterworld.com] will work fine. But I would love to get my hands on an E-500 or similar.

The first digital I experienced was a huge land camera, took 25 MB images, can't recall the resolution . . . it sufficiently produced 8 X 10 images at 300 DPI and cost $50K. Obviously the boss brought it in for a demo just to see where digitals were going and sent it right back after we took a few shots with it. but I knew right then that scanning and digitizing had changed forever. :-) Second was a camera back fitted to a Nikon, it retailed for $25,000. This was only 10 years or so ago!

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