Published On: 02-15-2012 02:52pm
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Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a super-complicated camera to take pictures. A simple point and shoot with a macro function and white balance adjustments is all you need. Yes, a DSL mega-camera is awesome and can do some seriously things, but it's not necessary. I personally use a Canon Powershot point-and-shoot camera.
First? If you haven't done it. Grab your camera and sit down with your owners manual. (If you don't have one, a lot of camera companies make them available online for free. Do a Google search.) Read EVERY PAGE of your owners manual and follow along with your camera through the different functions it introduces you to. Pay special attention to the macro setting (usually depicted with a little flower - this setting allows you to get up close to your subject and get a sharp image instead of having to stand back to take your picture) and the white balance (this allows you to adjust the brightness of your picture before you take it). For a novice, these are the only ones that are of true importance as you'll want everything else set on auto.
Get yourself a tripod. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Get yourself a tripod. They're cheap. You can buy small (8 or 10 inches) one for as cheap as $10 and it's going to make your photography 1000x better than it already is if you start using it regularly (if it sits in the corner unused, then there was no point in buying it).
When you take your pictures always make sure that your camera is set on macro. (Remember? The little flower setting.) This allows you to get right up close on your subject and keep everything in focus. If the picture looks too dark or too pale in the viewer, toy with the white balance. If you have *glare* on the item, try changing the angle of your camera (higher, lower, more to the right or left, taking the pic from the opposite side, etc).
Lighting is a huge issue and a lot of people struggle with it. For most items you want to photograph, natural lighting is going to be best. Artificial lighting such as light bulbs, florescent lighting, etc are going to destroy your pictures with ugly glare and discoloration.
By natural lighting I am referring to daylight lighting. NOT direct light either. If you photograph outside, take your pictures in the shade. If you photograph inside, choose a window that doesn't have direct light but is shaded. Direct light causes horrible glare.
Weather is debatable. I have taken some of my best photos on rainy days and others on sunny days. Your camera will automatically adjust to a LOT of different conditions, all on its own. This is something you will have to toy with and experiment with to figure out what is best for you. Fortunately, you're using a digital camera, so you're not paying for film or developing, just snap some shots, compare different options and ideas then delete those you don't like.
A note on artificial lighting: If you live somewhere you cannot have daylight (in parts of Alaska, for example, it's dark 24/7 for an entire part of their year)... there are OTT bulbs. In some areas of the country you can find these in hardware or photography supply stores. I personally had to order mine from online.
These bulbs are very special (and NOT cheap). They create the same spectrum of light and color as natural light but a little brighter. They are not usually as easy to work with as natural light, but in a pinch they'll do the trick. You might need to filter their light through a couple layers of white tissue paper in order to cut down the glare though.
Also, light boxes are an option, but they're not one that I can go into since they aren't something I've used (at least not with any success).
In almost all cases, you want an uncluttered setting. You don't want anything to take away from the focus of your photograph (ie. your product). Some people use a piece of wood, table top, piece of tile, construction paper, poster board, fabric... there is a huge variety of options here. Whatever you choose, you are looking to make your product stand out against the back drop and will need to set your white balance accordingly.
Props are tricky and take a huge amount of skill to accomplish without taking away from your main focus. Remember, the entire point is to draw attention to your product, not away from it.
Your photography work isn't done when you've snapped the photo and loaded it on to your computer unfortunately. Yes, you've got your picture and that's terrific, but in order to really make the picture "pop" you need to do a little more work.
My preferred program for this type of work is Picasa. It's free to download, easy to install and even easier to use.
Once it's installed you can import your photos into Picasa and use the program to crop your photos, sharpen and enhance their color as well as other terrific little tricks.
When you crop a photo, you are (again) trying to pick the angle and size that is going to best flatter your product. Crop down the photo so extra empty space is removed from the picture and your product is taking up the frame. Lots of extra empty space will just distract away from your product.
- I'm Feeling Lucky
This function on Picasa is the reason I love this program. The "I'm Feeling Lucky" button and "Contrast" buttons. If one doesn't do what you need, the other will. The "I'm Feeling Lucky" button will adjust color, contrast and lots of other little nit-picky adjustments that can make your picture really pop. There is also a little slider beneath that after using the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button you can use to lighten or darken your photo a bit if needed.
If you try the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button and it causes your picture to discolor, undo it (there's a button for that too) and try the "contrast" button instead. This will adjust the contrast only instead of also the color.
Last stop on this program is the "Sharpen" button which is on the "Effects" tab. This can sharpen a photo that is just a bit (tiny bit) fuzzy. This will not work, though, on a blurry picture or one that has motion-blur (ie. if you didn't use the tripod).