March 01, 2014

Product Photography Tips

Hello readers! Today’s post has been contributed by my friend Heena Verma, a passionate beauty blogger behind Vanity Case Box. She takes exceptionally good photographs of her beauty and makeup products. Through this post, she shares with us, the top 5 tips to take ‘wow’ photos of your products :)

Tip 1. Lighting Is Very Important

lighting importance

swatch lighting

If you have a good lighting, you have done more than half of the job. I always prefer natural light to photograph my products. It only means you have a clearer picture and a picture that depicts its true colours which is very important while photographing beauty products. You don’t want your bright pink eye shadow to be looking like a light pink eye shadow and fool your readers! Along with that, natural lighting also helps in bringing out true swatches of the products. Even in natural light, experiment with your camera settings to bring the swatch as close to the accurate shade of the makeup.

 

Tip 2. Avoid Using Flash

I also avoid using flash since it washes out the colours terribly and brings out another picture. The more you explore your camera and play with its settings, the more you will realize that how much good a plain digital camera can be!

 

Tip 3. Retouch, If Necessary

Also, when the weather is really gloomy and it’s getting tough to capture pictures nicely, you can always use a touch of photo editing software to brighten up the pictures in such a way that does not alters the product image drastically.

3 4

 

Tip 4. Get Creative!

taking photos from different anglesTaking creative pictures is one of the most satisfying things for me in my blog. Think about different angles, different composition, and different backgrounds. Different angles mean as to in what way you want to capture your product i.e. sitting, lying, vertically, open or closed. You don’t want to place your product far in the picture. The product’s ratio should have a good balance with the picture frame.

 

Tip 5. Take A Look At The Background

using balloons as propsMake sure that the product doesn’t get distracted by the background. Take a clean background. I have seen many pictures with the products being showcased in a very messy background. Avoid it. It causes distractions. You can use different locations and even different types of pretty handmade sheets to capture beautiful pictures. Many-a-times, you can also use different props to enhance images. Just make sure that you place them in a way that doesn’t interfere with the product and goes with the personality of the product. For example, while capturing skincare and bath care products, you can use towels and candles along side. Similarly, while capturing lipsticks or nail polishes, use can use jewellery behind them but in a sober manner!

jewellery behind lipstick

pearl in the background

glitter sheets in the background

Lastly to make sure that you get the most out of your digital camera, make sure that you are well acquainted with all of its functions!

 

About the Guest Author:

Heena  owns a makeup and beauty blog – vanitycasebox.com. She loves to take creative photographs on her blog. Hop on to her blog to see more of the pretty pictures

June 19, 2013

Learning What Can’t be Self-Taught: What a Photography Education Can Teach You

You will find a lot of columns and articles on the web featuring photographers outlining the ways in which going to a photography school and earning a photography degree is deficient in preparing a (future) photographer for the realities of a career as a shutterbug. And those articles and columns make a lot of good points.

Art degrees do often fail to include well fleshed-out coverage of practical business practices, cultivating marketing savvy, maybe the necessary writing skills that can prove necessary for some kinds of photography work and the details of some practicalities you’d never consider. Practicalities like protecting your images from unlicensed use, fixing broken printers, dealing with unhinged customers and unscrupulous competitors and perhaps too little about navigating ethical quandaries.

In my experience photography seems to attract people with more solitary and/or self-sufficient dispositions. It’s not an art or career that requires all that much collaboration much of the time and more intangibly, Freud might argue that there’s something inherently isolating about the use of a camera. Whatever the case, I suspect that tendency is partially responsible for the popularity of downplaying the importance of an education in photography. There’s no question there are things you’ll need to learn for yourself but there’s a lot a foundational education can give you that you just won’t find elsewhere. Here are a few of them:

 

Profs with an Eye for Photography and Peers to Critique Your Work

This is a big one and can be more important than people realize. Even photographers with a great natural eye can almost always stand to improve some feature of their work - composition, light work, framing, whatever. Unless someone’s lucky enough to have a family and circle of friends who are in possession of a technical and artistic understanding photographic expertise far greater than the average person, getting their critiques and opinions can only help so much, if at all.

You may be compelled to explain or defend your choices and work which will force you to think about those choices and that work. You’ll have an opportunity to examine and critique the works of fellow students too- learning from their mistakes and masterstrokes. Being in a position where no one reviewing your work feels obligated to simply compliment it can take you out of your comfort zone but is absolutely necessary. Speaking of which…

 

Taken Out of Your Comfort Zone

GroundPhotogI shot for a college newspaper and my first year virtually everybody on staff wanted to be a sports writer or photographer. I was the exception. A couple years later, no one did. All the sports guys had graduated or left the paper and the new crop had absolutely no interest in covering the athletes of our alma mater. There was even serious talk of abolishing the sports section altogether- everyone getting fired up about retuning the paper to focus on academics, news and politics- the things that mattered. Our editor, bless her heart, though not a sports fan by any means was wise beyond her years and brought us all back down from our ivory towers,

“We are going to have a sports page. A lot of people read it and the alumni like it. Amy, you’re sports photog.” She said in paraphrase. I was miffed but sulkily complied and found that while I was never converted to True Believer lifelong sports fan, I loved going to the games. Racing up and down the field or court for good action shots was a blast and the crowd’s enthusiasm was infectious. As often, it’s a class assignment for portrait or still life, wildlife or whatever that turns someone on to something they’d never have considered if not forced to try it.

 

The Shoulders of Giants

If you look at the paintings of Picasso before he got into cubism, Pollock before his abstract impressionism, or James Joyce’s writing before he began producing stream of consciousness masterpieces, you will find the work of men with a thorough understanding of and owing a debt to classic technique. Those guys didn’t begin their careers by producing the work we’re familiar with.

JacksonPollockHowever high the evolution of their art took them and original as it was- they wouldn’t have reached those pinnacles without a boost up from the shoulders of giants. The probability is very slight that anyone becomes an Annie Liebovitz, Mick Ross, Chris Johns or a member of the Bang Bang Club without studying the work of Lumiere, Philippe Halsman, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

 

Tools of the Trade

Not unlike the differing perspectives granted by a community of aspiring photographers and the professionals teach all of you, chances are you’re not going to find yourself in another situation where it’s your job to try out a great variety of cameras, styles, equipment, have easy access to a darkroom for ‘free’ (tuition notwithstanding). A good photography program can be invaluable in helping you find the equipment that will best facilitate your success. As for that community I mentioned…

 

A Community of Photographers

Friends GroupThis is a biggie. Both personally and professionally finding a group of like-minded, like-careered, likewise-neurotic (in my case) community of shutter-jockeys and forming connections with them is invaluable. Other photographers can refer you work or give you a heads-up on good leads for client-bases. Hanging out with other photographers helps keep you in the loop regarding new tech and gadgets, the aforementioned work situation, new techniques, programs, apps, gossip, what have you. As or more importantly- maintaining a circle of friends with whom you can go have a beer and decompress, confide in, or who will kick your as* into gear when you’re just not feeling it. For that alone, I will never regret my decision to get a BFA in photography.

About the Guest Author:  Amy Cobb feels most at home behind a keyboard or a snapping shutter. She's a Jill-of-All-Trades media refugee turned blogger who, since jumping ship from the Fourth Estate, blogs on all things media and media-education-related. Most recently she's worked on cataloguing which school has the best photography degree. When not writing, Amy is doing her best not to torture the flora in her square foot gardening plots and she’s always at the beck and call of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Snarls Barkley.

June 12, 2013

Understanding Exposure Compensation For Better Photographs

There are photographers who choose not to shoot in Manual Mode. Instead, they prefer to use automatic by choosing between the Aperture Priority (A for Nikon and Av for Canon) or Shutter Priority Mode (S for Nikon and Tv for Canon). There are times though when these programmed modes will not expose the subjects correctly. To help solve this problem, one must learn how to use the Exposure Value Compensation or EV Compensation on the equipment.

What is Exposure Compensation?

It is so easy to get lost in the technical definition of the term. In order to avoid confusion, let us try to use something that everyone can understand. Exposure compensation allows you to tell the camera to adjust the amount of light it “sees.” It helps in keeping the image from being underexposed (too dark) or overexposed (too light with loss of details).

How Does It Look Like?

EV settings on a camera

Look for the button on your camera that has the (+/-) sign. Press it to see a slider that looks like a ruler. You will notice that it has two sides, the right has (+) values which adds light to your image, the left has (-) values which lessens the amount of light entering the camera. The value is by default set to (0) in the middle.

How to Use the EV Function?

Even with good sensors there are times that your equipment makes an error in its calculations. The following scenarios show instances of when to use Exposure Compensation:

  1. When you have a white or light subject like a bride in her wedding gown, the camera by default will adjust its settings and the result may be an underexposed image. In order for you to get the natural looking colours, you have to dial the controls going to the positive values. This will help to lighten the images whilst still keeping the details visible.
  2. Black or dark subjects “confuse” your camera. Dark subjects are often misplaced by the device in the middle-grey area, resulting in an image without any details. To address this issue, you have to dial the EV down to the negative values. This will help bring the fine points back to your subjects. This setting is also good when dealing with backlit subjects.
  3. Landscapes that have both light and shadowed areas can be a little tricky. In this situation, your camera will calculate the values according to the bright area. It can lead to washed out details with properly lit shadowed parts. To resolve this, you must be ready to compromise. Choose the value that would give you enough points of both the foreground and background. Be prepared to see some loss of details in the well-lit portion of your landscape.

There is no specific formula on how to get the proper exposure. The best way to learn more about your camera’s output and performance is through trial and error. Experiment with your shots. Take photos of everything and anything under different lighting conditions. Study and learn how to read the histogram of your photographs. This will give you a more accurate idea about the lighting conditions of your images. Once you determine what the problems are, take new photos adjusting the settings of your camera every after shot until you get a more natural looking image. Learn how to work with your equipment. Take the time to really understand your camera’s controls and the way it takes images. This would take you a long way when it comes to getting the correct settings every time you press the shutter button.

If you’re still unsure of what to do, here is an activity that you can try to help you gain more confidence.

exposure compensation example

  1. Choose any stationary subject like flowers in a vase or fruits in a bowl
  2. Place your subjects near an open window or any place that has ample lighting in such a way that the subject is properly backlit (See, In the example photo above, it’s a car/van in front of a bright sky)
  3. Set your camera to aperture priority mode. Look at the top dial on your equipment, rotate it to A (Nikon) or Av (Canon)
  4. Using the programmed EV value (0), take a shot. After the first try, adjust it to +0.3 then take another shot. Your third photograph should have an EV of -0.3 and so on…
  5. Keep shooting and adjusting the values until you have at least 4 or 5 images with different Exposure Compensation values. Transfer them to your computer to see which one is better.

The key is in experimenting, as you can see from the above shot that the image taken at EV (-1) gives the best result – both the sky and the car are properly exposed with no considerable loss of details!

Whilst it is possible to correct the photo issues using various editing programs, it is best to start with a good shot. Try to take a photograph using different exposure settings and then go after editing if it’s really needed. Check which one comes out better. Will it be the underexposed photo, the overexposed or the one that you shot using the right settings?

After experimenting with your shots using the suggestions above share your images on our Facebook page. Please include the camera and settings that you used.  We hope that this post has helped to encourage you to pick up your camera and experiment with your shots!

 

About the Guest Author:

Nadia Hyeong loves following the latest news on gadgets, wireless technology, music and the latest developments from companies like Sony, Apple and O2. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and Google+

May 29, 2013

Top Tips For Pregnancy Photo Shoots

The objective of any pregnancy or ‘maternity’ photo shoot should be to make your client look amazing and feel great at a point when she may not feel at her best – in her later stages of pregnancy.

baby bump shoot

As a photographer it’s your job to use flattering lighting and suitable props to bring attention to a woman’s bump without making the woman feel self-conscious or exposed. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or are worried about shooting your first maternity session, here are some tips designed to help enhance your shots:

1. Timing

The best time to take a pregnancy photo shoot is at some point during months 8-9 when the woman’s belly is nice and big. Of course, this is just a guide – 9 months might be a little late for some clients so it’s worth consulting with each person in advance.

2. Comfort

If the photo shoot is being carried out at your studio, ensure that your client feels comfortable and looked after. As it’s a maternity shoot, you’ll need to ask her to take some degree of clothing off to show off her bump, so it’s vital she feels secure. Provide her with a private changing area, or at the very least, a screen. Also, it always helps if she brings a familiar face with her, whether it’s her partner, mum or friend.

3. Clothing

During the shoot, first take some shots with full clothing on. Once you’re happy with the assortment of those shots, ask your client to put on some under bump jeans and a vest top (you’ll have to remind her to bring these beforehand).

4. Materials

In terms of background fabrics and cloths to drape around your client, buy lots of lengths of chiffon and floaty material - some in blue and some in pink work nicely if your clients know if they are having a boy or a girl. I also recommend keeping a selection of neutrals and black and white for them to choose from.

5. Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of pregnancy photography. Studio lighting should be used to make shots subtle and beautiful. Start off by placing flash lights behind the woman to create stunning silhouettes of the bump. As they show off just the rim of the bump, the client doesn’t need to worry as much about stretch marks or pregnancy rashes.

I also recommend trying natural lighting with window light behind the woman. This will give your photos a beautiful, ethereal feel. Using white chiffon to drape the mum in further adds to this natural, subtle look.

6. Props

I personally like very natural images, but it can be fun to incorporate baby building blocks that spell out 'baby' or the baby's name or nickname (parents often have a pet name for their bump). Baby scan images and measuring tapes are also popular props to use to bring a more personal meaning to the finished image.

7. Poses

In terms of poses, it’s very much a case of trying out different ones to see which ones the delicate mum-to-be is comfortable trying out. Below, however, are some of the most popular poses with both clients and photographers:

  • Client standing with her side facing the camera, silhouetted with a light behind the bump
  • Same pose as above, but with a small amount of soft lighting in front, lighting the bump and face a little more
  • Client looking down at her bump, with one hand on top of it and one at the bottom
  • Mum sitting down and holding her bump, with legs to one side, looking upwards towards the camera
  • Lying on her back with legs in air and ankles crossed. Do give her some support so she can rest her legs as a pregnant woman can’t hold her legs in that position unaided
  • For standing poses – as you would with a model, emphasise the curves of her body, so get her to bend her knees and arms. This creates space between limbs and ensures even more flattering, beautiful photos
  • Above all, remember she may be 7-9 months pregnant so try not to make it too much like an aerobics workout!

Do you have any other worth mentioning tip to share? I look forward to see your views in the comments below ;)

Lisa Gill

About the Guest Author:

Lisa Gill is a UK based professional photographer and training provider with many passions – pregnancy photography being one of her biggest! You can connect with her on twitter @LisaGillPhoto.

April 25, 2013

The Importance Of Black-and-White Photography

What comes to your mind when you see a photo in black-and-white tone? Do you think it’s too archaic to think of? Well, think again! Black-and-white photography has started attracting many natty photographers from around the world. And here are the two solid reasons why many people still prefer monotones to full saturated colours:

1. A photo in black-and-white tone allows you to focus on lights, shadows, textures and lines, which are obviously difficult to discern in case of a full coloured tone!

2. Black-and-white tones are evocative to cheerful memories of the past.  For example – A wedding photograph in black-and-white tone will be more poignant to look at, than just a plain coloured one.

black and white wedding photography

Well, this post is not to teach on how to shoot in black-and-white, instead, how to convert a coloured photograph into black-and-white tone in Photoshop!

It’s always a better choice to convert your coloured photos into black-and-white using post-processing techniques, than to directly shoot in black-and-white at the first place. There’s a good reason for that – A photo shot in black-and-white tone is very difficult and time consuming to colourize using Photoshop and, on the other-hand, a coloured photo can be very easily converted into a black-and-white one! So, in this way you have an option to preserve both the tones :)

How To Convert A Coloured Photo Into Black-And-White In Photoshop?

Before you start the conversion process, please note that - not just every photo looks great in b/w tone. You have to identify the types of photos first…

Here are some of the photo themes that look wonderful in b/w tone:

Child PhotographyWedding PhotographyPortrait Photography and Wildlife Photography (For rest, you can always experiment)

Step1. Open up your image in Photoshop and navigate to Image –> Adjustments –> Black & White (70% of the task is completed here itself!). A pop-up window will appear soon after that. You don’t have to change any colour value there. Just click OK!

black and white selection

Step 2. Navigate to Image –> Adjustments –> Levels.

levels in photoshop

Tweaking with levels gives you a wide range of control over the shadows and lights of your black-and-white image. Tweaking the ‘input levels’ make your shadow areas more darker and the light areas more lighter while tweaking the ‘output levels’ does the opposite. So, adjust the sliders a little bit in accordance to your editing taste and till you get the desired results!

If the photo gets a little bit over-exposed, move the lighter slider in the ‘output levels’ a little bit to the left and if it gets under-exposed, move the shadow slider in the ‘output levels’ a little bit to the right.

Here are the slider values for the photo that I’m converting (that’s just for an example, your slider values might completely differ in accordance with the tone of your photo)

level slider values

After all that, just click OK! and save your photo. Here are my results…

original colored photo

converted bw photo

Can you feel the magic of the above monotone? While the coloured one appeared just plain and distractible, the converted one brings the main subject into focus. The tone is calm and soothing to the eyes!

So what’s your preferred tone? Coloured OR Monotone. I look forward to hear your thoughts in the comments below :)