Better Product Photography for Total Amateurs

Taking good product photos is one of the top problems that handmade sellers seem to have.

I use Photoshop to edit my photos, but the best way to take good pictures is to do it right the first time so that the editing that the photos need is minimal.

I had a wedding photographer tell me once that if you’re a total photography novice, the easiest thing to do is just use natural light on an overcast day so that you avoid harsh shadows and glare.

Another photographer told me that natural light is great, but you should take the photos under a covered area so that you diffuse any direct light entirely.

I find that works well, and with a seamless background, it will give you pretty good results that will need little to no editing afterward.

Now here’s the trick…the human eye will see colors and then adjust them in your brain. So if we see something that’s white, our brains say “that’s white” and that’s the end of it.

But a camera only records what’s actually there. So if the light on a cloudy day is more blue, or a fluorescent light is more yellow, that’s what you get in the photo.

But that’s only part of the problem with product photos.

Here’s a photo of a pitcher outside on an overcast day with no white background.

You’re obviously not going to use that in a product photo even though it does show the detail on the pitcher. There’s too much other stuff in the photo that’s distracting. You want customers to see the pitcher, not the other things.

So I set up a cardboard box with some white paper taped to it. Very low-tech, but it gives you a neutral background.

(You should definitely get a seamless background, like a piece of white vinyl that will avoid having a seam in it, but for these purposes I’m just looking at the lighting, so we’ll go with this.)

Taking a photo outside with no roof overhead is okay, but you can see that the bottom is brighter than the walls. This is because the sunlight is coming from above, obviously, and hits the bottom of the setup and reflects it back.

So I put the table into the garage, right inside where the light is still bright but where the roof stops the light from coming directly in.

This is the result from those photos:

See how that evens out the light on the floor and the walls? Not you have a less contrasty photo to deal with, and editing it will be a lot easier.

If the light is fine you can leave it at that, but this is a little too dark for me, and it could MAYBE be edited a little so that the whites are a little less blue. Which is what the camera sees on a cloudy day, even though it looks white to me when I’m actually out there taking the pictures.

I use regular Photoshop, but to edit this for free online I would use free Photoshop, which is located at Photoshop Quick Editor

Click on “Start the Editor” at the bottom, and a box to upload your photo will come up:

It has to be in a Jpeg format. When you upload it you’ll see it in the editor, and there are a few ways to “fix” it. You can use the fill light or exposure functions to lighten up the background, and the little bandaid icon to fix the flaws in the background.

If you have regular Photoshop or Lightroom, you can edit with a couple of levels and color balance tweaks. Here’s my finished photo using Photoshop:

Now that might be a little on the bright side, as I see it now, but that’s another issue…People have their computer monitors set differently, so things will always look slightly different depending on what the computer decides to say it looks like.

Because of that, you should ALWAYS put something in the description about how colors may appear different on different devices. And that while you try to represent things as accurately as possible, there could be some variation.

So use a seamless background and natural light to get the best photos that need the least editing.

And one final tip from my photography instructor…Always err on the side of shooting photos that are underexposed. If something it a little too dark the information is still going to be in the digital file, and you can adjust the lighting to lighten it up.

If the photo is overexposed, the digital information isn’t going to be there, so trying to edit it after the fact might not do you any good at all.


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