The look of your product photos has everything to do with how well your items sell. Therefore, you need to understand the integral camera settings to accomplish a professional looking image.
In this article we’ll be going over everything you need to know about ISO, including what it is, how it applies to product photography, and the situations you will need to adjust it.
Just like aperture and shutter speed, ISO is an integral exposure setting often overlooked by beginners. Mastering it will give your images an extra pop, in addition to avoiding unnecessary noise.
Strangely, ISO isn’t an acronym that is broken down to define what it does; rather, its meaning stands for “The International Standards Organization” whose members are responsible for creating standard ISO measurements in camera bodies.
Prior to digital photography, ISO was referred to as “film speed”. The higher the number, the more sensitive the film is to light. Nowadays, since most product photography is digital, we’ll be exclusively discussing ISO.
ISO works the exact same as film speed, in that the higher the number, the more sensitive your camera’s sensor becomes to light. Typically, the more ISO a camera body can handle, the more expensive it will be also.
ISO is primarily good for low-lighting situations, and for increasing your Exposure Value when you need your shutter speed and aperture to be set.
Different Shooting Modes
For most cameras you’re going to be able to set the ISO manually if you’re shooting in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual Mode. Those of you shooting in priority mode (p) will notice the ISO fluctuates between a high and low point, depending on how you set this preference under the menu settings (200-800 for example).
However, we recommend you always shoot in manual mode (m) for product photography. For an in-depth look at the camera settings we recommend, check out this post.
When it comes time to adjust your ISO, there are two main factors to consider:
1. How much light is available in the space where you’re shooting?
2. Are you going to be shooting with a tripod?
1. Light Availability
Light is everything when it comes to photography, and having enough of it available, or not, is the primary consideration when it comes to adjusting your ISO. If you’re shooting photos outdoors or in a well-lit studio there shouldn’t be a need to set your ISO very high.
My rule of thumb is to try and keep your ISO between 100-400, as any higher may begin to produce noise on lower quality camera bodies. If there isn’t enough light available to achieve your desired exposure, begin increasing the ISO gradually until the photograph is properly lit.
2. Image Stabilization
If you have the ability to shoot your products using a tripod, by all means do so. Often times in product photography we’re going to close off our F/stop to around F/16 to increase the depth of field, which usually requires a longer shutter speed to properly expose the photo. If your shutter speed drops below 1/80th of a second, and you’re not using a tripod, it’s very likely the photo will become blurred.
If you don’t have a tripod, this is when you’ll need to increase the ISO to keep your shutter speed at 1/80th or higher. The downside to increasing your ISO too high is that noise will begin to appear in the photograph, mostly in shadows and dark colors.
Notice how the photo with the low ISO is much cleaner than the photo on the right.
Dealing With Noise
The reason having image stabilization is so important, is that it allows you to avoid pushing your ISO beyond the point at which visible noise appears. Looking closer at the photos above, you can see in the photo’s pixels the Higher ISO leads to Higher Pixelation, which in layman’s terms is noticeable ‘noise’ or little speckles that tend to degrade the quality and appearance of your photographs.
Left: ISO 800, Right: ISO 16,000. The Canon 6D is full frame and can shoot at very High ISO before any noise begins to appear.
High Pixelation can lead to customers misinterpreting the quality of your products. In order to avoid this problem, it’s important to experiment with how well your camera handles ISO.
Fixing Noise In Post
It’s fairly simple to run noise reduction on your images in post-production. Noise reduction basically smooths out the grain by removing the speckles, which makes the images appear clear, but consequently makes the photo less sharp. In Photoshop this can be done by running a noise reduction filter, or by reducing noise in Camera Raw.
The photo on the (left) has noticeable noise. With noise reduction (right) the image appears far cleaner, but has lost some of it’s sharpness which may make your objects appear too smoothed over and inaccurate compared to how they look in person.
ISO is a tool that you only need to use when there’s not enough available light. Whenever possible keep your ISO between 100-400 as this range guarantees a much cleaner photo. If you haven’t invested in a camera body yet, it’s never a bad idea to spend a little more, to get a sensor that can handle high ISO.
What Features To Look For and Cameras We Recommend For your Budget
Commonly referred to as point-and-shoots, compact cameras are incredibly powerful and come with an array of features perfect for taking photos of your online inventory. Unlike DSLR’s, most compact cameras won’t allow you to change lenses which makes selecting the model that suites your needs incredibly important.
In this article I’ll be going over what features you’ll want to look for, and then recommending models for different price ranges.
What Features You’re Going To Need
Nowadays compact cameras are built just like DSLR’s in the way you’re given multiple camera modes in order to maximize the control you have with exposure settings. Standard point-and-shoots of the past only had automatic which made product photography very difficult.
The main features to look for are:
Manual Mode (M)
Shooting in manual means you control everything: The Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO speed, and White Balance. Without these settings the camera will adjust the exposure for you, which more often than not isn’t what we want in a studio setting.
While browsing for cameras make sure it has a dial on top of the body, and allows you to control these settings. Once you have the camera, check out the settings we recommend for shooting your products.
Can It Shoot In Raw?
Another big consideration for selecting a compact camera is the ability to shoot in raw. Shooting in raw will greatly improve your ability to edit the photo later, as this file format is equivalent to an unprocessed digital negative. If the camera can only shoot in jpeg, you might want to consider another model.
Will you be shooting small items like jewelry or coins? If so, finding a camera with Macro Mode is incredibly important for bringing out the smaller details in your products.
As previously mentioned, compact cameras typically come with a built-in lens, limiting your ability to focus on these smaller items. Macro mode is designed specifically for bringing your lens as close as 10cm away from your item.
Selecting A Camera That Will Match Your Budget
There are hundreds of compact cameras out there, but selecting the one that fits within your price range is the most important factor. Take a look at the top ten cameras we’ve evaluated ranging from $220-$900+. The price estimates are primarily based on new cameras sold on B&H Photo.
Price Range ($200-$400)
Cameras within this price range have everything you need when it comes to the settings necessary to take great product photos.
FujiFilm XQ1 ($220-$280)
On the outside this camera appears sleek and minimalist, but it’s packed with outstanding features. There’s a control ring on both the front and the back allowing you to adjust the shutter speed and aperture at the same time.
Lens: 25-100mm equivalent, F/1.8-11
Manual Mode (Y/N): Yes
Macro Mode (Y/N): Yes
Shoots in Raw: Yes
Notable Features: Incredible aperture on the lens, macro range of 3cm-3.0m, ISO of up to 12800, manual focus, self-timer, wireless image transfer.
Canon Powershot G1 X ($320)
The Canon Powershot G1 X is one of the more versatile compact cameras given the number of external controls provided on the body. Additionally, the body of the camera is built with an optical viewfinder, a feature absent from most other compact cameras (Live View has become more popular).
Since shooting product photos often requires raising the camera above eye-level, the G1 X has a pop-out swivel screen, making it easy to see what your shooting in the process.
Lens: 28-112mm equivalent, F/2.8-5.8
Manual Mode (Y/N): Yes
Macro Mode (Y/N): Yes
Shoots in Raw: Yes
Notable Features: High-Resolution LCD swivel screen, lens adapter for Canon’s macro flash light system, manual focus, ISO 12,800, self-timer, compatible with Canon Speedlites.
Price Range ($400-$700)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II ($498)
Small enough to slide into your pocket, the second edition of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is truly a compact masterpiece and my favorite camera in this review.
With 20.2 megapixels and a sensor measuring at a massive 1″, the image-quality on this camera is in a league of it’s own. What’s even more compelling about the design is you can attach a separate viewfinder to the top of the camera for those of you more comfortable looking through the lens.
Lens: 28-100mm equivalent, F/1.8-11
Manual Mode (Y/N): Yes
Macro Mode (Y/N): Yes
Shoots in Raw: Yes
Notable Features: ISO expandable to 25600, award-winning F/1.8 lens, manual focus, wireless photo transfer, “Tiltable” LCD screen.
Canon EOS M10 ($449.99)
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about the Canon M10 is the ability to switch lenses. In the kit you’ll start with the EF-M 15-45mm F.3.5-6.3, but can also order the EF-M 55-200mm F/4.5-6.3 IS STM which is excellent for macro photos.
Looking at the RX10 you may be thinking it’s a small DSLR, however, it is still considered among the compact camera class. With a powerful 1″BSI CMOS sensor, this camera offers the best image quality within this review.
The RX10 also allows you to switch out lenses, giving the the freedom to use it for multiple, specific purposes. The stock lens has an impressive maximum aperture of F/2.8 which explains the higher cost for a body capable of multiple lenses.
I hope that among these recommendations you’ll find an option to match the budget you had in mind. All are truly remarkable cameras, and you’ll be guaranteed to produce high-quality images no matter which one you choose.
If you’re purchasing a camera for multiple purposes, keep the notable features in mind as these cameras can do much more than strictly shoot products!
A Beginner’s Guide To Equipping Your Home With The Equipment Necessary To Take Professional-Quality Studio Photos
When people hear the term “professional photography studio” it usually comes with the underlying assumptions that the setup cost a ton of money, and the gear involved is outlandishly complicated. Neither of which have to be true today with the incredible options for equipment that exist online.
The primary components for building a studio include: Your camera, the lights, the backdrop, and your storage/computing elements. In this article we’ll be going over the necessary basics, as well as pointing out the accessories which can give you even greater control over your lighting environment.
1. The Background Support System
The first determination you’re going to make is how much space can be devoted to your studio. In addition to the overall space, ask yourself whether the equipment can sit there permanently, or whether you’d prefer the option of being able to store it away once you’re done shooting. Which you choose will affect your purchasing decision.
Selecting a backdrop system also needs to pertain to the type of subjects you’ll be shooting. If product photography is your primary and only use, you’ll only need the background to span a width as large as your biggest items. If you intend on using the studio for multiple purposes, like models for instance, you may want to select a system that spans at least 8 feet in width.
Permanent backdrops mount to your wall
Permanent backdrops make shooting incredibly efficient and typically come with three separate rungs for different rolls of paper (although you can add several more rungs). The most common colors for studio photography are white, black and medium tone grey.
The paper is easily released using chains (Or an electric motor), which helps preserve it from creases and tears. There are many affordable options available from Ebay or B&H Photo.
This option is for those of you wanting a studio that can be set up are torn down after you’ve finished shooting. Pop-Up backdrops contain two tripod stands and a bar, usually composed of individual pieces, that allows you to run any type of backdrop across it. The types of materials available are:
Muslin is incredibly lightweight, and can be hung to provide a solid background, or it can be folded over objects like stools and boxes to mold to what you’re trying to shoot.
There’s an incredible variety of muslin available and the fabric can come in sizes from 5×5′ to 30×30′. We advise researching muslin based on customer reviews as many ‘stock’ kits provide a very low quality of muslin that has unflattering texture and doesn’t absorb (black) or reflect (white) light effectively.
Prior to Muslin becoming more popular, canvas backdrops were the choice of many professionals. They’re heavy, thick, and tend to have subtle textures making excellent backgrounds, but are more expensive than modern alternatives.
None the less, canvas backdrops last a long time and can add a very artistic feel to your photos.
Vinyl backdrops are one of the most durable, and because of their plastic material can be washed when dirty. A potential downside is most Vinyl have a glossy sheen to them, which can produce glares if you’re lighting isn’t setup correctly.
Recently, Savage Universal announced a matte vinyl which eliminates glares and reflections. Vinyl is also very cheap, so for those of you requiring basic colors this is an excellent option you won’t have to replace.
Seamless paper comes in rolls, most commonly in the color white, but can be found in almost any color. Due to it’s non-reflective properties, the paper creates an excellent infinite space, perfect for product photography. If used carefully you can get away with keeping a single roll for several years, cutting away the bottom portions when necessary.
2. Lighting Options
The bread and butter of any successful photography studio is finding a lighting kit that will match your needs. Keep in mind that many photographers on a budget have produced high-quality photos with as little as two shop-lamps and a couple of poster boards, so when choosing your setup don’t feel pressured to buy more than what will be useful.
With continuous lighting, what you see is what you get. Because the lamps are on ‘continuously’ it makes positioning still-life objects much easier. For instance, if you’re shooting sunglasses, you’ll be able to look through the lens and determine where your lights need to be positioned so you’re not creating highlights in the lenses of your product.
It is much easier for beginners to start this way and get a feel for how positioning works. The most standard setup for studio lights is a triangle, using two soft boxes pointing at the subject from opposing angles (See Below).
By using two lights you’ll be able to eliminate most shadows present on your subject. Many kits will also come with a third boom light to place over the top of your subject and create a pleasing ‘rim-light’ effect.
If you’re still not getting the shadows out, there are additional accessories which we’ll mention below.
Strobe lighting is essentially flash photography, in which you can set up two different flashes off camera, on tripods, and angle them however you please. Strobes use umbrellas to scatter the light particles evenly over the surface of your subject.This
Strobe lighting is much more challenging because simply pointing the lights at your subject does not guarantee a perfect shot. Strobes require adjusting the flash power, and typically need to be set further away from the subject, requiring more space for your studio.
Strobes also require a decent amount of additional equipment, including:
Diffusers- This item is necessary to spread the harsh light coming out of the flash.
Sync Cords- Unless you purchase a strobe with wireless transmitters/receivers you’ll need to connect the camera with wires.
Hot Shoe Adaptor- If you’re using wires, this item sits on top of you camera and connects the sync cords to the strobe.
3. Studio Accessories
Once you’ve built the primary components of your studio, you’ll be able to select additional accessories for further assisting you in controlling light.
While a lot of the following accessories are recommendations, having a tripod should be considered mandatory. Your tripod will allow you to close off your aperture for greater depth of field, and acts as the primary image stabilizer. You don’t need anything fancy starting out, but make sure to buy a head that allows you to angle the camera without slipping.
Reflectors are the additional hands in your studio that help bounce light onto areas of your subject that may still have unwanted shadows. They’re usually very cheap, and come in a variety of colors to compliment different items.
You can either invest in manufactured discs like those on the left, or buy some white foam boards which can be cut and placed around your subjects.
If you’re working independently, clamps can greatly assist you with holding reflectors in place, or to pin your backdrop.
A pack of 6 can be purchased for under $10 on Amazon.
Aside from editing, having your laptop present in the studio is incredibly efficient for examining your photos as they’re taken. Tethering is the technique for connecting your camera through a USB cable, and will allow you to make editing adjustments as you go. This also greatly assists with adjusting your lighting to get perfect photos.
We’re Here To Help
There’s an infinite amount of options out there for selecting the best equipment for your studio. Since only you can determine your budget for building the studio, we’re here to answer any questions you may have regarding the quality or necessity for certain items.
If you find yourself needing help, leave your questions in the comments!
Save The Money You Might Have Spent Buying An Expensive DSLR By Using The Powerful Technology Right In Your Pocket!
Practically everyone has a smartphone nowadays, but not everyone realizes just how powerful the built-in cameras are. With 12MP, image-stabilization, and the ability to adjust manual settings, the iPhone 6 I’m using for this tutorial has all of the necessary components for creating beautiful product photos.
Going this route will be easy on your budget, and you won’t have to waste time doing camera research. Let’s get started!
What You’re Going To Need
#1: Your Smartphone
Two of the most common smartphone choices are Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. Whether you’re the proud owner of one of these models, new or old, or have another brand with a built in camera you’re going to be able to take high-quality photos.
It’s actually quite bewildering how many accessories have been manufactured specifically for smartphone cameras. Although you’re entirely welcome to invest in them all, you really only need the following: Lights, a sturdy table, a backdrop and a tripod. Many people have found success buying lenses that attach to your phone, but they are by no means required.
If you’re planning on shooting a lot of inventory in the next few years, it might be worth it for you to invest in a cheap lighting kit which can be purchased online for under $100.
While you can get away with shooting without lights, we recommend using them as they will assist you in filling in shadows and making the product look more appealing. If you’re on a budget all you need is to set up next to a bright window that doesn’t have direct sunlight coming through.
Most lighting kits come equipped with standard fluorescent bulbs, which means you can take desk lamps or shop lights from your home and use those instead. Just make sure they have the same bulbs, as mixing light temperatures will affect the White Balance of your photo.
Any card table or desk will work fine! Using an elevated surface makes the capturing process much less strenuous, and allows you to position the objects next to the window.
The easiest material to work with is a roll of white paper. This allows you to create the “infinity curve”, which is the technique for having your subject appear in floating white space. If there isn’t a place to purchase rolls of white paper you can always use a blank wall, or iron out a white sheet.
Most new smartphones are built with image-stabilization, but with how we’ll be shooting, it’s much easier to have your phone firmly planted so you can easily use two hands to make on-screen adjustments.
With a pivoting head and 360 degree rotation it’s incredibly easy to allign your shots.
If you already have a tripod, and only need a new head to hold your phone, the DaVoice Cell Phone Adaptor is $7.99. This is the same adaptor I’m using for this tutorial and should fit most phones.
Using a lense on your smartphone adds a higher level of optics, allowing you to take sharper and more detailed images. This route is great for those of you with smaller items like jewelry where the macro details are important to capture so potential customers won’t doubt what they’re buying.
TECHNO offers a universal kit that comes with a wide angle and super macro lens for only $24.99.
It’s been rated as one of the best kits on Amazon and has excellent customer reviews.
Selecting Apps For Your Phone
The native camera app built in to your phone works great, but using one of the following apps will give you more manual control for selecting focus, exposure, and greatly assists with streamlining the export process.
Apps for Shooting
Android- Camera Zoom FX
If you’re using an Android smartphone, this is by far the highest rated camera application in the Google Play store, and adds several great manual control options to your shooting abilities.
For this tutorial I’m using Camera+, which you’ll see adds advanced options to the shooting menu, giving greater control for adjusting exposure, and selecting focus. It also organizes the phones in ‘Lightbox’, which saves time in selecting and exporting images to your camera roll.
This app is available in the iTunes store for free.
Apps for Editing
Photoshop Express (Free)
When it comes to editing, some of you may already have Photoshop CC which is the best tool out there for bringing your photos to the next level. However, it does cost $9.99 a month, and if you’re looking for a free alternative, the creators at Adobe offer Photoshop Express for both Android & IOS.
Due to it’s “Photoshop-like” versatility and creativity, Picsart has been reviewed as one of the best photo editing apps of 2015. Free of charge, this app works on Android & IOS.
Time To Shoot!
Step#1: Your Set-Up
Now that you have everything you need to get the job done, it’s time to set-up your studio. In my setup I’ll be using: two soft-boxes, a paper roll, the iPhone 6, the DaVoice tripod adaptor, all set up next to a bright window to add to the ambient light.
If you’ll be shooting without lights, I’d recommend using a white piece of foam core to reflect light onto the dark side of your inventory (The side away from the open window).
1. Adjust the Settings In Your App
Once you have everything set-up and looking good, it’s smart to go through your menu settings on the camera app prior to capturing any photos. As I’m using Camera+ for the iPhone, here are some of the settings I’ll be using:
Zoom- Make sure you have zoom enabled so you can appropriately frame your items.
Grid- Having the grid on will help you frame your items, and keep the horizon level.
AutoSave- Specify where you want your images to be saved. In Camera+ the images are temporarily stored in Lightbox where you can export to the camera roll.
Live Exposure- Under the advanced controls make sure this setting is on as it’s very helpful to see how your photos are being exposed prior to capturing them.
Quality- As you can see, the default setting is normal.We need to change this to High so our images look their best.
2. Manually Adjusting the Camera Settings
Now that our application knows what we want to adjust, it’s time to head over to live-view and begin adjusting the exposure.
Off to the right hand side there’s three options for on-screen adjustments:
Exposure: The exposure ‘circle’ can be placed on your screen so the camera knows where to meter to properly expose your product.
White Balance: While you can use a WB circle to try and measure the color temperature with a specific point, I use the Auto setting which typically works just fine.
Focus: One of the most important settings is where you place your focus. Enabling the focus ring (Lower right) will ensure you can adjust and lock the focus where it looks best.
Currently my image looks a little darker than I would like it. Off to the right hand side you can see the EV value is reading at +0.3. To make my product image stand out, I can use the slider to brighten the image even more.
At -1.5, this image was way too dark.
Right at 0 where the meter wants the exposure it still looks a little dark.
I manually slid the EV value up to +1, where I think the photo will look much better. It’s important to bring Once you have the settings you like, zoom in to take additional photos to bring out the details.
Once you’ve captured all of the images, you need to select the best of the batch. What I like about Lightbox is it allows me to select the best images from the session, and then export them into my camera roll. On Android, this will be your gallery.
Once you’ve exported (Saved) all of your best images you can then pull them open in your editing application.
Editing Your Images
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who enjoy editing their photos, and those who’ll do anything to avoid it. Personally I love the editing phase because I get to watch my images become more attractive than they were straight out of the camera.
Now that all of the images are in my camera roll, I’m going to pull open Photoshop Express and make minor adjustments to give my product that extra POP.
Here’s how our photo looked before we edited it in Adobe Express.
And here’s how it looked after! Notice the difference?
The six basic adjustments I made were: Increased the exposure, increased contrast, brought up the highlights, straightened the photo, sharpened it slightly, and bumped up the vibrance.
Once you have the photo adjusted how you like it, it’s very easy to use the DropBox application to get your photos online where they can easily be accessed and uploaded to your online store via your laptop.
Having Trouble Getting Your Photos To Look Right?
The quality of your images goes a long way in converting sales. If you’ve gotten to the editing point, and your images aren’t looking how you want them to, we can help!
Here at Thumly we can edit your photos and remove the background, leaving a stunning image with no distractions. Take a look at our case studies and see why enhancing your images will increase your revenue today.
Optimize Your Images So They Hit The Top Of The Search Engine Results!
If you’ve ever performed an image search before, I bet you can recall coming across results that link directly back to an eCommerce store. That’s because the images on your website can be ‘optimized’ to appear on search engines like Google as another way of trafficking potential customers back to your store.
But what does optimization really mean?
Much like hashtags on social media, your product images can be embedded with keywords, which will allow the search engines to display your images based on relevant searches.
Here are the most effective methods for optimizing your product images for search engine visibility.
Name Your Files With Good Descriptions
Unlike humans, search engines cannot view your files and describe them for the people making searches. Rather than uploading your image with automatic names like “IMG_0348.jpg”, or “Image_1.jpg,” describe the item as you’d expect it to be searched.
In the photo above, the subject is a pair of men’s shoes with brown leather; therefore, the filename we elected was “Men’s-Shoes-Brown-Leather.jpg.”
Use Alt Text To Describe Your Images
Also known as alternate text, alt text is additional descriptive words added to the image tag in HTML. Alt text is what helps the search engines understand what the image is all about.
In WordPress the Alt Text can be added immediately after you upload an image, or you can add it later by visiting Media >> Library and clicking on the edit link below the image.
Make sure to avoid irrelevant keywords, spelling mistakes, and using synonyms. You want to be as brief and descriptive as possible, otherwise Google’s algorithm may become confused and rank your images lower.
Provide An Image Sitemap
In addition to your file naming and alt text, an image sitemap will provide the search engines additional information to use when crawling your website for applicable keywords. In general terms, a sitemap is a list that details all of the individual pages on your website.
Providing an image sitemap is rather technical, but can be done with assistance from Google here: Image Sitemap Support.
Last, but certainly not least, every image you upload has the option to be captioned in the media uploader.
While this isn’t the largest factor to improving your Image SEO rankings, image captions are among the most-read pieces of information on your website. Having them increases the likelihood people will spend more time on your site, which is a big consideration for the search engines.
Google specifically mentions metrics like on-page time and user engagement as measurable factors to where they position your website in the SERPs.
The process of image optimization can be carried out fairly quickly, and will greatly extend the reach of the images in your product inventory. Let us know if you have any questions!
Maximize efficiency by viewing your product photos immediately after they’re shot!
Product photography can be incredibly time consumptive with how many steps there are involved to making your products look purchase-worthy. One of the most crucial steps is reviewing your images, and deciding whether or not they came out correctly.
Often times the images on our camera’s LCD screen may appear to be in focus, or correctly lit, but upon opening them on our computer we might discover there were slight errors rendering the images useless.
That’s where tethering comes in!
What is Tethering?
Tethering is the process of connecting your camera directly to your computer through a USB, Firewire or wireless connection. Your camera communicates directly with an editing software so you can see your photos appear on screen immediately after they’re shot.
(Photo Above): Using Adobe Lightroom photos appear chronologically in the bottom panel. As you shoot you have the ability to select an individual RAW file, examine how it came out, and use the adjustment panel to modify lighting and color.
During this tutorial I’ll be using the following equipment:
Canon EOS 6D
USB Cable (The “Tether”)
Adobe Lightroom is currently included with a $9.99 USD monthly subscription when you purchase Adobe Photoshop CC. These programs are essential to Professionals, but there are other options for software, especially if you’re using a camera that is not recognized by Lightroom.
I’ll be including some additional options for software, as well as listing cameras that allow tethering.
Step #1: Connecting Your Camera To The Computer
In order to establish a bridge between your camera and the editing software you need to (1) Turn the camera on, (2) Create a catalog for where images will be saved, and (3) Initiate a tethered capture.
Create a new catalog: File > New Catalog > Save to Location. This will create a new workspace that your images will appear in. Name the set according to what products you’ll be shooting, and save in a memorable location.
Lightroom will require you to name the photo set, and save the files to a location. Save in the same folder as your catalog.
Once you hit OK, a capture strip will appear on the screen that shows what your camera’s current settings are prior to shooting your first photo.
Make sure you have adjusted your Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed. If you need help determining the best camera settings, you can find those here.
Step#2: Save Time By Creating Presets
Once you’ve taken your first image and have begun adjusting the camera settings, you’ll begin to notice those setting should apply across the following images, whether it’s shooting the product from a different angle, or shooting a product of similar qualities.
In the upper right you’ll find the ‘develop’ tab, under which you can begin adjusting the basic color settings.
Try adjusting the ‘Tone’ settings first: Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. Adjusting the White Balance, Saturation, Vibrance and Clarity may alter how your products look compared to their appearance real life, which is the opposite of our goals for capturing good product images.
Once you have settings you like, you can save them under a preset. To do so click the ‘Create New Preset(+)’ button on the left hand side.
Next, a window will appear that shows all the settings that will be saved with the preset title ‘New Develop Preset’. Name it something that applies to what kind of product or look you wish to apply to a new photo in the future:
The next image you shoot, you’ll be able to apply the same setting instantly by selecting: Develop Settings > User Presets > ‘Setting Name’ located on the camera settings panel.
Once you’ve shot all of your images, and have applied the presets, you can export all of the photos in the set as jpegs capable of being upload online.
Step#3: Export The Set of Images
The most satisfying step to this process is going through all of the images and selecting your favorites to be exported. To select multiple images to export at once, hold ‘Ctrl’ and select each image individually in the bottom panel.
Next, you can either right-click on the image screen and select Export > Export, or go File > Export.
The next window that appears will tell you how many images you’re exporting, and will give you several options for how they will be exported, including: File renaming, image size, image quality, additional sharpening and the resolution.
If you need assistance selecting the optimal export settings, especially for uploading to the web, read our post here.
What Other Options Are There?
As mentioned previously, not every camera is capable of tethering with Lightroom, and not everyone is going to want to pay for the subscription to Adobe Lightroom (Although we highly recommend it).
Camera’s Compatible With Adobe Lightroom
Adobe has a comprehensive list of all the camera’s currently supported with Lightroom. To see if your camera is supported, follow this link, and then hit ‘Ctrl F’ (PC) or ‘Command F’ (Mac) to find your particular model.
Additional Software For Tethering Your Camera
The team at Tethering Software has an excellent catalogue of additional software capable of tethering your particular camera. Their interface allows you to search by the Camera Manufacturer, Camera Model and OS of your computer.
If you’re looking for a free software, start there, and see what best fits your needs.
Digital media accounts for the biggest chunk of downloadable data on any given web page. Optimizing your product pictures for the web can not only increase your website’s performance, but it will also provide your customers with a better shopping experience with faster page loading.
Just a few years ago, one of the primary objectives to image optimization was to speed up page loading times for those of us that were still on dial-up Internet connections. Now that dial-up users are nearly non-existent these days with high-speed internet so readily accessible by Internet Service Providers, it doesn’t mean that picture optimization is no longer necessary.
Smartphones have overtaken desktops as the most commonly used device to access the web long ago. It’s estimated 62% of smartphone users have placed at least one online order within the last 6 months. Mobile browsers have less computing power to handle hefty pages, so it’s important to implement some image optimization strategies into your business’s workflow.
Desktop users only will wait 3 seconds for a page to load before hitting the back button
Mobile users will wait 5 seconds
Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year
Optimizing your images can help your web page rank higher in Google search results
Optimizing Your Pictures
Resizing a picture reduces the physical size of the image, dictating how much of the viewer’s screen that the picture consumes. Obviously, the larger your picture is, the longer it takes to load. We recommend shooting your product pictures at the highest resolution (MP) that your camera allows. That way, when you crop away the extraneous background from your images, your image size is still large enough to work with.
For example, eBay requires a 1600px wide image in order for their zoom and supersize features to work. If you have your camera set to 2 MP and then crop the image in post-processing, your resulting image will be less than 1600px because you cropped out extra pixels. Because resizing a picture to a larger size causes loss in image quality, you should always shoot your photos at a higher megapixel setting and then resize to a smaller size.
What is a good size?
The bigger the better is not always the best option when it comes to uploading pictures to the Internet. If your picture is larger than your viewer’s screen resolution, it will cause them to have to scroll to view the entire picture. The most common screen resolution to date is 1366 x 768, the screen type found on most 14″ notebooks, 15.6″ laptops, and a 18.5″ desktop monitor.
When sizing your pictures you also want to consider other elements on your web page that takes up space. For example, while a 1,366 pixel image can be easily viewed without scrolling on most computers, if you have any borders or backgrounds on your web page, it will cause the viewer to have to scroll horizontally to view the entire image. Many websites that place a picture in a webpage with other content will typically size their pictures to around 800 pixels on the widest side.
If you are uploading your pictures to a sales channel or ecommerce website platform, it’s a good idea to check their help pages and find what their image size requirements are before you resize your pictures. For example, Amazon requires a 1000px image in most of their categories, and eBay suggests that you upload a 1600px image to utilize their zoom and supersize features.
Sales channels like eBay and Amazon handle optimizing your pictures for you, so it’s recommended that you upload your images a little larger than necessary to give them some room to work with. They will then take your large images, resize and compress them, and create several different sizes for thumbnails and supersize images.
On the same token, Amazon also has upload limits and only accepts image sizes up to 3000px. I personally resize all my images to 1600px, which meets eBay’s specifications and is more than adequate for Amazon’s standards.
Resample vs resize
The term “resize” is thrown around very loosely in the photography industry, even I as have done in above comments in this very article. There is actually two options in your picture editing program to alter the dimensions of a photo, and they both produce different results. One option is called resize, and the other option is resample.
Resizing a picture is best suited for printing. Resizing a picture maintains the number of pixels in the image, but simply scales the picture down to the size that you wish to print.
Resampling a picture changes the number of pixels in the image, thus reducing both the actual physical size and the file size of the picture. When wanting to change the size of your picture on the web, always choose the resample option, which is typically found under the resize dialog box in your picture editing program.
When resampling your pictures, always make sure to select the constrain proportions or maintain aspect ratio option. When you have this option enabled, you can change just one dimension of the image, such as the width, and the height is automatically adjusted while maintaining the original aspect ratio. If this option is not enabled, the image will become distorted, or cause the subject to appear short and wide, or tall and thin. It’s a best practice to adjust the width of the image and let your editing program decide the height while maintaining the aspect ratio.
Compressing a Picture
After you have retouched, cropped, and resampled, it is now time to compress your pictures. Compressing your picture allows you to reduce the file size of your image without making any noticeable changes in quality to the human eye. While resampling a picture reduces the amount of physical space that a picture takes on a web page, compressing a picture reduces the file size of the image – the amount of space that the picture consumes on your web server. When the file size is reduced, less downloadable bytes are required to load the image, thus causing your web page to load much faster for your viewers.
Compressing a picture causes the file to lose some of its content by averaging the colors of the picture using a mathematical formula. Too much compression can be a bad thing, as too many colors are averaged together, thus causing a weird pixelated effect around edges of a subject within a photo. However, picture editing programs enable you to control the exact quality of the compression.
With ecommerce product pictures, you can typically compress a picture as much as 70% with no noticeable effect in quality. Large websites tend to average around a 75% JPG quality. eBay compresses images to a 79% quality, Google Images compresses between a 74% – 76% quality, and Wikipedia compresses to a 80% quality.
Here is an example of compression levels on a JPG image format. In the far left, we have our original product shot of a pair of shorts, with the file size nearly 1 MB. I compressed the original image to 70% quality, which drastically reduced the file size without making any noticeable changes in quality. In the far right, the original image was compressed to 10% quality. As you can see, the image is over compressed. Too many colors of the product were averaged together causing a blurry, pixelated result.
Remove the Background
Removing the background from a picture is another way to optimize and reduce the file size of your photo. Every shadow or variance in color in a background requires thousands of pixels to build. When the background is removed and the product is placed on a solid white background, it takes less pixels, thus reducing the number of downloadable bytes in the image.
Strip the Metadata
Metadata contains notes written to the image that will identify who owns the picture, when it was taken, what program was used to edit it, along with EXIF data that contains details about the actual camera and settings that were used to take the photo. Metadata is helpful because it allows you to go back and reference the camera settings that were used to take a picture, and even see the date and time it was taken. In Windows, you can view the picture’s metadata by right-clicking the photo and choosing Properties in the context menu. In the pop-up window, choose the Details tab.
Metadata is not needed to display your picture on the web, and you can shave off a few bytes of data by stripping it away without effecting the quality or pixels of your image. If you are uploading your pictures through a picture uploader at a sales channel such as eBay or Amazon, they will strip away your meta and EXIF data when optimizing your picture. If you are uploading your picture to your own website, you will need to remove the metadata yourself. The “Save for Web” option found in most picture editors will strip away the data for you.
Optimizing your pictures for the web reduces page load times and thus potentially increases sales
Choose the resample option to change the dimensions of the picture
Use the constrain proportions or the preserve aspect feature to maintain the aspect ratio when resampling your photo
Compress your picture to reduce the file size of the photo
Remove the background from your picture if applicable for your type of photo
Strip the metadata from picture to shave off a few bytes of data
Questions or comments? Have some to something to add? Leave your comments below! Stay tuned for part two, where we will discuss some of the best ways to resample and compress your pictures!
DSLR is short for Digital Single Lens Reflex, a phrase that ultimately implies the use of a mirror within the body of the camera to reflect light from a lens up into the viewfinder. The DSLR is composed of two pieces, the lens and the body, giving you the ability to switch out lenses for different purposes.
DSLR’s have become highly sophisticated nowadays, especially in the sense most consumer grade cameras (cheaper than “prosumer” and “professional”) are capable of producing professional quality photos for a fraction of the cost.
As someone looking to take your own product photos, we’re here to show you the key considerations for selecting a body, in addition to certain lenses built specifically for product photography.
But first, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
What Is Your Budget?
Coming up with a budget will greatly assist you in making an objective decision during the time of purchase. Keep in mind that DSLR bodies are typically sold with stock lenses which will work just fine. However, the benefit to buying a DSLR in the first place is the ability to switch lenses according to your particular needs.
As we go over lens recommendations, consider spending as much, if not more than the camera body. While an expensive camera body certainly has its benefits, you’re going to find that a good lens is more important for capturing products in focus.
Amazing product photos can come from a budget as little as $500-$700, so let’s go over some necessities when it comes to selecting a body.
What To Look For In A DSLR Body
The truth with buying a DSLR nowadays is that practically every camera body released within the last few years is going to provide the necessary features for producing excellent product photos. None the less, it’s important you know the essential features should you buy an older model, or something used.
The ability to shoot in RAW – The RAW file format is equivalent to a digital film negative and stores much more information than JPEG file format. Having the ability to adjust the lighting of your photos in post-processing is very important to overall quality. Notice in the photos below that the unprocessed RAW file is much less attractive than the edited version.
White balance options – One of the crucial aspects to shooting accurate product photos is capturing them in true-color. A big mistake many beginners make is mixing light temperatures, which can drastically alter the color of your photographs if you do not have the ability to control the white balance.
Full frame vs crop sensor – The sensor in your camera has an effect on a number of things, including the image quality, ISO capabilities, crop factor, image resolution and ultimately the price of the camera body. Full-frame cameras are typically going to be more expensive because they excel in many categories, but for most product photography needs it is not necessary to invest in the top notch gear.Many companies can produce outstanding imagery using an iPhone, so when it comes to deciding between the two, you can feel confident knowing a crop-sensor will take great photos as well. What will be noticeably different is how the camera’s sensor will affect the focal distance of your lenses. The image below demonstrates how a crop sensor will magnify your lens’s focal length while framing your subject.
Depending on the brand and model of your camera you’ll need to take the crop factor into consideration when purchasing a lens. For example, buying a body with a crop factor of 1.5x, would turn a focal distance of 16-35mm on a full frame, into a focal distance equivalent to 24mm-52.5mm.
ISO rating – A major selling point listed on every DSLR is how well it can shoot in low-light, hence the ISO Rating. Full-frame cameras excel in this category. However, you’re going to be using a tripod for product photography and so ISO isn’t a big factor when you don’t really have to worry about shutter speed.
Sensor size (megapixels) – Differing from the sensor ratio (crop vs full frame), a camera’s sensor is also equipped with a certain amount of megapixels (MP). This is what creates your photo’s resolution ( i.e. 5,472 width x 3,648 height = 19,961,856 pixels or 20MP). New buyers are often tricked into spending more to get a camera that shoots a higher resolution, but if your photos are solely going to end up online, you don’t need huge file sizes that will only act to consume space on your computer. Most cameras will come equipped with at least 10MP which is more than enough to make your images look crisp online.
Optional features – As you’re shopping you will begin to notice a variety of additional features that aren’t necessary, but might be useful depending on your needs.
Swivel Screen – helps in situations when your camera body is too high/low on the tripod
Video – most DSLR’s come equipped with HD video which can be helpful for creating product videos
Wi-fi – send JPEG images directly to your phone for times when you need to upload photos on the go
Once you’ve picked out your DSLR body, make sure to spend time learning the settings to maximize the quality of your photos.
How To Select A Lens
Selecting the right lens has everything to do with the type of products you will be shooting. As there are many lens options out there, I want to focus on two of the most common needs for shooting products:
SHOOTING SMALL ITEMS
You’ve probably heard the term “macro photography” before, which is defined by shooting small objects in order to bring out their intricate features. Macro is difficult because not all lenses are capable of focusing sharply enough to capture these features in vivid detail.
If the objects you’re shooting are small enough to fit in your hand, and have important details, you’re going to want to consider buying a macro lens. Macro lenses typically have fixed focal lengths, and excel at bringing details into focus that other lenses typically cannot handle.
As you will see, the prices can range anywhere from $200-$2,000. The longer the focal length, the more expensive the lens. Having a longer focal length allows you to be further away from your subject, which many photographers find to be much easier and less strenuous.
Macro lenses with shorter focal distances require you to bring the lens much closer to the subject, which can make lighting and tripod set-up very challenging. My recommendation is to try and get a lens around 100mm to give yourself some space to set up your studio.
RELY ON THE STOCK LENS
On the flip side of things, most people will be shooting objects like clothing, shoes, electronics, etc which don’t necessarily have details small enough to require a macro lens. Stock lenses are capable of capturing professional quality images and are very affordable when bundled with the DSLR body.
Going this route will allow you to get started and become familiar with your camera. If you decide you want to invest in a more expensive lens to improve image quality, that option will always be there! The image below was shot with Canon’s 50mm F/1.8 that only costs $125.
Do you already have a DSLR body and lenses? Let us know what you’re using in the comments below! If you have any questions or need additional help, feel free to comment!
Although you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take excellent product photos, it’s still very important that you’ve mastered the basics in order to effectively display your items online.
One of the first steps in this process is understanding the different settings on your camera, and how each will be applied towards capturing an image that’s true to life. In this tutorial we’ll be going over the essential settings based on what they do, and how to adjust them to produce the best possible results. Let’s get started!
For this tutorial I will be using my Canon 6D in Manual (M) mode. As long as your camera has the ability to shoot with manual settings pay no attention to the brand or model, it should work just fine!
Selecting the Camera Mode
Although some websites may tell you it’s ok to shoot in Aperture Priority (AV for Canon), we highly recommend sticking with Manual Mode (M) to maintain complete control. AV Mode allows the camera to choose the Shutter Speed, which may change the exposure of your photos depending on the products you’re shooting and where you meter.
Consistency is very important when it comes to how your photos look in your online store. Make sure you’re also shooting from a tripod as it will eliminate any camera shake, allow you to accurately focus, and shoot longer exposures if your camera cannot handle high ISO.
In your camera’s menu options you’ll find a tab labeled ‘Image Quality’.
Here you will select RAW, and if given the option, select S[RAW], which stands for small.
Shooting in RAW will greatly improve your ability to edit the photo later, as this file format is equivalent to an unprocessed digital negative. Again, many websites may tell you to shoot in the largest image format possible, but Image Size is not the same as Image Quality. Since your product photos are going online, you don’t need to waste space on your computer with unnecessary megapixels.
Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO
Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO are the three functions working collaboratively to create the exposure of your photographs.
By using the meter built into your camera, you’re going to adjust each of the three settings so that the exposure dial reads directly in the center of the meter’s bracket. (see below)
Tip – If you’re using a white background, the meter can appear in the center at 0, but the photo may still look underexposed. If this is the case adjust accordingly.
Beyond creating the exposure, these settings will also greatly affect the look of your photos as well.
Aperture is the opening in every lens that determines how much light can pass through while the shutter is open. In addition to letting in light, aperture is what gives your photos DOF (Depth of Field), which is crucial to product photography as you want your items to be completely in focus. The exception to this rule would be if you wanted to draw attention to a particular aspect of the product, you would increase the aperture to have the focus fall off and blur around one focal point.
When shooting your first products, we advise shooting at F/16 so the entire item will be in focus. Every lens is given an F/Stop rating, and each time you decrease an F/Stop you are cutting the amount of light you let in by half. Therefore, shooting at F/16 will let very little light in which is why you want to be shooting with a tripod.
Just as it sounds, shutter speed is how fast the camera opens and closes while letting in light. Shutter speed is the most important setting for capturing motion, even if your subject is sitting still.
Speeds below 1/60th of a second become too slow to take photos hand-held, and without a tripod are likely to blur. Notice in the picture below that the shutter speed was 0.3” once the aperture closed off to F/16, which would have been impossible to capture by hand.
However, since we are using a tripod, the only aspect you really have to worry about with shutter speed is selecting one that will let the appropriate amount of light in.
For those of you who don’t yet have a tripod, or prefer shooting hand-held, you can get away with an aperture of F/16 by increasing your ISO which we will discuss next.
DRIVE MODE TIP
Camera shake can occur even when you’re shooting with a tripod. To avoid this, set a 2 second timer on your camera so once you press the trigger, the camera has time to sit completely still.
ISO, although very important to photography, is usually considered last when adjusting your settings for the exposure. It is the digital equivalent to film speed, and can help properly expose your photo when aperture and shutter speed aren’t enough.
Basically, ISO increases the camera’s sensitivity to light, which can be incredibly helpful in darker situations.
The downside to ISO, is that eventually (depending on your camera body) the photo will start showing noise in parts of the photo where the camera is straining to pull light. Most camera bodies can shoot up to 800 ISO without creating any unattractive noise in the photo. However, this is something you want to pay close attention to as the clarity of your photos online is very important.
Below you will see the photo with 400 ISO has no noise whatsoever, while the photo shot at 6400 is very grainy and unattractive.
When shooting on a tripod there should be no need to push your ISO beyond 200-400 so that your images stay nice and crisp!
White balance is another very important setting you want to get right so the colors in your photo look accurate. If you look at the photo below you can see how different light temperatures can affect how shoppers perceive your product.
Unless you’re absolutely certain you can read the temperature of your lights, it’s best to stick with the AWB (Auto White Balance) setting.
Notice in the photo above that the AWB setting was able to accurately capture the color of the sunglasses, compared to Tungsten and Fluorescent which changed the color entirely. Sometimes the color is relatively close, like the cloudy setting, but if you don’t notice this while shooting you may have problems when your product arrives to a customer looking different than they had expected.
To set your WB, look under your Menu settings, and select White Balance
Within this tab you’ll find all the options for balancing the color temperature of your photos. Over time you’ll be able to experiment and use the other options, but for now AWB does a great job.
Now that we have everything we need to capture the proper exposure, file format and white balance, it’s very important that your camera is also set to capture the product in focus. Most people are going to want to shoot with Auto-Focus as taking a lot of shots manually can strain your vision and the focus may become inaccurate.
To do so, make sure the lens you’re shooting with is set to auto.
You’re Ready To Shoot!
Now that you can grasp the basic settings for capturing your products effectively, it’s time to head into your home studio and begin experimenting. While you may make minor adjustments to suit the needs of your inventory, these guidelines are always going to be where you want to start.
If you have any questions along the way, feel free to leave them in the comments below!