Thursday , 22 June 2017
I know photography is the bane of many creative folk selling online. We all know that a good image really helps to sell the product, but it’s a struggle just knowing how to get that magic shot.

A Journey in Photography – Product Photography Tips and Tricks

A Journey in Photography

Our guest poster is Julie Gibbons, a maker and farmer, aka tractorgirl. Today she is sharing a bit about her evolving skills as a photographer.

I know photography is the bane of many creative folk selling online. We all know that a good image really helps to sell the product, but it’s a struggle just knowing how to get that magic shot.

Well first let me say that when I started selling online about 2 years ago, I thought I knew everything about how to present work – after all, I did have a PhD in Fine Art, and that should mean I’d just snap a few pics and everything would be groovy. WRONG.

I’m going to share with you a bit of a timeline of my photographs, so you can see how I’ve progressed in getting better shots (I’m still not the world’s greatest photographer, but I’m learning!). By the way, I have a very old auto-everything digital SLR with in-built macro, but really it’s nothing special. But editing images is vital to me! I have a very old version of Photoshop (PS6) which I use all the time, but there are several free editing alternatives available on the web (more on that later). And you MUST have a tripod – nothing can fix a blurry photo.

The first thing to remember about your photograph is that it’s in a frame, and therefore it’s a composition (remember that word from high school art classes?). So, you need to think about how to purposefully compose your photo.

So let’s start with one of my first attempts. This cushion is sitting on the couch in my lounge room, in my little old house with its very small windows.

The image is dark. No surprise really, considering where it was taken. It also suffers a bit from colour cast due to the artificial light – and that can be quite tricky to correct even with clever editing. Take your images outside in indirect sunlight when possible.

Secondly, the cushion takes up just about the entire composition – it’s too big! Leave a reasonable amount of space around your object so it doesn’t feel too crowded. Besides, it looks boring, there’s nothing there to complement the cushion.

I had a think about what I had in my house, and how I could use it. This chair is a piece I inherited from my great aunt, and it was just a matter of shifting it from the study to the hall.

This image is taken from the bedroom door across the hallway, with the front door open. So, the light is better, but the door jambs are a distracting element. I could have included both door jambs to create a ‘frame within a frame’ image, but because there’s only part of one on the right, the one on the left looks like it cuts the edge of the photo off, and it’s simply an intrusion. The image is also crooked – especially noticeable in the wall boards in the top right. If you want to shoot at interesting angles, that’s fine – emphasize it. But this slight shift in angles is just annoying.

The trick is to make everything in your photo look like you’ve thought about it.

Well, I’ve progressed out the door onto the verandah. The chair is one of our own kitchen chairs, and that’s the front wall of our tiny old weatherboard house. Certainly the light is MUCH better, the angle is purposeful and there are no silly distractions. It’s a nice, clean, simple shot (although I’d probably plump my cushion up a bit straighter and not cut off the top of the chair). Oh, and notice also that the cushion is off center – some photographers go for the Rule of Thirds, where the main point/s of interest are in the side or bottom (or top) third of the frame. Makes for a more interesting composition.

This is where my photos are at now. Again I have the cushion off center, (and sitting up straight) but now I have also balanced the shot with one of my very cute cactuses, sitting on a thrifted stool. I love cactuses for their simple shapes, and think they’re a good foil for the complex spiral of the cushion. Adding in other props makes it seem much more homely, don’t you think? (Just don’t add too much! Less is more, as they say.)

Now EDITING. I cannot live without Photoshop! I ALWAYS adjust contrast and brightness (I know, if I was a better photographer, I probably shouldn’t have to do this;)), and the next most common thing I do is crop my images. Cropping allows you to easily get rid of extraneous detail at the edges (like the edge of the verandah, that lens cap you left on the bench…), get the proportions of image to object right, as well as allowing you to rotate to straighten up slightly crooked images. I also use the clone stamp tool to get rid of bits of fluff and loose threads that somehow I missed when I was setting up the shot. Very occasionally I adjust the colour balance, to compensate for different light on different days (using the same background for all my shots means that this task is a bit easier as I just have to match it to previous shots). And don’t panic if you don’t have Photoshop! There are free editors available online, such as Photoscape and FotoFlexer.

I hope these basic tips have helped you, and you gained something through seeing my journey through photography. Have you got any photography journeys to share? I would love to hear from you!

Julie Gibbons is tractorgirl, a maker of homewares and accessories, and a lover of colour, texture and pattern. She completed her PhD Fine Arts in 2001, majoring in Silversmithing, and now she blogs about contemporary craft and surface design at http://tractorgirl.com.au. She is currently writing a series about Design Elements and Principles, and how to use them to improve your product.

Julie Gibbons is tractorgirl, a maker of homewares and accessories, and a lover of colour, texture and pattern. She completed her PhD Fine Arts in 2001, majoring in Silversmithing, and now she blogs about contemporary craft and surface design at http://tractorgirl.com.au. She is currently writing a series about Design Elements and Principles, and how to use them to improve your product.

 

  

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9 comments

  1. Beautiful transition! Thanks for sharing your tips and the links. I’m always looking for a better free photo editor :)

  2. Well, nothing new for me. I have 2 big problems when taking photos: color of the light and eye-catching additions. I sell jewelry so I prefer simple hero shot, where my item is solo on the photo. Maybe I’m wrong about it, but I have no idea what to use to make my photos more interesting.
    Now, with the light, I tried to take photos outdoors but the light was too bright, except rainy days – but how can you take photos in rain? The biggest problem when shooting indoors is having colorful walls – it really affects your photo, especially if you use white background.

  3. A very informative article Julie. A last step to consider is to bring the right side of the pillow closer to the camera (so that it invites the viewer to look into the frame.)

  4. There are some excellent suggestions here (and that cactus is a lovely touch in the last shot).

    Most of our payment gateway clients have an online store, so we’ll be sure to share this link with them!

    Kind regards,
    The eWAY Team

  5. Really nice to see the transition between your earlier and more recent photos, with improvements in both composition and lighting (love the soft, pale light in the latter two photos).

    I used to be a Photoshop die-hard but have to say Lightroom is well worth the transition if you’re a photographer. So much simpler, and cheaper to boot ;)

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