Whether you are disappointed with your Christmas gifts and want to resell them on the Web or you have a blog on which you display various objects, you will always need beautiful photos of your items. We have therefore concocted a photo tutorial to help you highlight them, with as usual tips and advice to guide you.
Preparing for your photoshoot
Take care of the objects to be photographed
The first step may seem trivial, but is in fact essential since it consists of taking care of the objects to be highlighted, and in particular thinking about pampering them, cleaning them before photographing them, so as to avoid any unsightly marks that would be detrimental to the quality of the final photograph. For all black surfaces, such as screens (smartphones, cameras, televisions, etc.), remember to wipe off fingerprints, which are often very visible to the eye. Of course, do not forget to remove the labels, remove the dust, in short, any element likely to disturb the reading of the image. Taking care of the object is essential, but checking that the decor is clean is also very important. It would be a shame to photograph an object on a white background full of fluff or on a black background full of dust, for example. In addition, it is a considerable time saver for retouching your images.
Choose a background, a decor
When photographing objects, you shouldn't just place them on your carpet or on the corner of your overgrown desk, you have to take the time to anticipate a background or decor. The most suitable for highlighting an object is still the white background, but often considered too sanitized, it can be replaced by colored and plain backgrounds. Be careful, however, to choose relatively neutral and soft funds. Here at the editorial office, we particularly appreciate the backgrounds with wood effect which purify the image and also allow to highlight clear objects.
Ideally, the background should be clear and clean in order to highlight the object to be photographed. Another alternative, visually very effective, consists in contextualizing the object by staging it in the space that corresponds to it, as we did with the unicorn night lamp. Providing other objects to dress up the photo is also a good idea. Thus, a single image is enough to understand the interest and the function of the main subject. It is often much more effective than several stitched images.
© Céline Nebor on the left, the photograph taken in studio conditions (white background and continuous lights). On the right, in natural light on a wooden board.
Think about DIY accessories
Aluminum foil used as a reflector, parchment paper or white sheet as a diffuser, mirror as a support or reflector are all small accessories common to all and very practical to improve your shots. Be imaginative and use everything you have at hand to create your images. If your bathtub is white, it will act as a good light box and can reflect light to the sides thanks to its curved shape, for example. Everyday objects can be great photo props. It is also possible to invest in professional equipment, even at low cost.
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We suspect that everyone does not benefit from a photo studio installed at home with a perfectly white background and continuous lights. However, there are other solutions to highlight your objects and we even think that the environment around us is the best way to challenge yourself and simply learn how to make beautiful images.
Shoot in daylight or continuous light
There is really no secret, in the absence of continuous light, photographing in daylight is the best way to succeed in your images. This allows the camera to choose appropriate settings (speed fast enough to avoid camera shake, low ISO to avoid electronic noise, large aperture to bring out detail, or small aperture for perfect sharpness) and avoids the inopportune use of the flash (which we particularly advise against, unless you have perfect control of it). It is rather recommended to photograph in broad daylight, near a window to make the most of the light. The rendering will be all the more natural.
For continuous lights, we recommend so-called "cold" fluorescent lights, with a color temperature close to daylight (about 5 to 000 K), rather than warm temperature halogen light. Fluorescent lights will make it easier to manage the white balance, they are economical and do not heat up as much as halogen. It is the ideal tool for food or object photography.
Use PASM modes
We have already devoted a tutorial on the P, A, S and M modes of the cameras and we strongly urge you to consult it again (links below) if you are still using the fully automatic mode. We recommend playing with the aperture to bring out a detail of the background and get a nice background blur. This gives more depth and adds cachet to the image.
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f / 2,8, 1/80, 250 ISO.
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Shoot from multiple angles
Photographing from several angles is essential to reveal all the facets of your objects, but also to highlight certain details. A single photograph is often insufficient to give an idea of the object as a whole. So do not hesitate to turn around, move it, change its position and photograph from different angles. Do not hesitate either to make wider shots to visualize the whole and closer shots to highlight a detail.
© Celine Nebor
Slightly overexpose your images
We had already told you about this point in our tutorial for photographing winter, valid again here. On a white background, we recommend overexposing the images. Why ? Because the cell of your camera, responsible for evaluating the brightness reflected by the subject, will, as a basis, apply exposure adjustments to restore the equivalent of a neutral gray at 18%. Thus, when the subject is particularly bright (or particularly dark), your camera will tend to respectively underexpose (or overexpose) to restore this 18% on the measured area. Slightly overexposing is therefore essential to avoid obtaining a background that is too greyish when shooting. This is a trick that saves considerable time, but in any case, to obtain a correctly exposed subject and a perfectly white background, it is necessary to go through post-production.
On the left, the exposure proposed by the camera, whose rendering is too greyish. In the middle, the overexposed image of a diaphragm (+1 EV). On the right, overexposed by two diaphragms.
Retouch your images
We must not hide our face, most of the photographs displayed on blogs or sales sites are retouched. Preparing and setting up a photo studio is a definite time saver and allows those who don't like post-production to produce presentable images. However, it is often essential to go through this step, especially since the camera is unable to reproduce exactly what our eye sees. Here are some tips to easily outline your subject and make the background perfectly white.
Trimming and filling technique
The advantage of the white background is that it allows fast and often precise clipping. The technique that we present here is particularly simple, but nevertheless imposes a few rules to be respected in order to be effective. It requires objects that stand out distinctly from the background and avoid objects with fine details (hair, frayed fabrics, etc.), whose clipping is complex. The clipping and filling technique we present was made with Photoshop CC, but it can be used with any other version of Photoshop.
• First step: In the layers, duplicate the background via the right click (essential in photo editing, so as not to risk touching the original file: [Window] -> [Layers]) then select the tool magic wand, available in the toolbar ([Window] -> [Tools]). With the wand, click on the white/grayish background of your image. To be precise, we decide to set a low tolerance (here, 25) and to select the area in several times thanks to the function located at the top left (representing two squares one on top of the other) which allows to add one selection to another. The lower the tolerance, the fewer colors the wand will select and the higher the tolerance, the wider the wand will cover a range of colors. Move around the image until you select the entire background. Here, 4 clicks were enough.
• Second step: once the background has been completely selected, you must create a "curves" filling layer.
• Third step: Place a point in the middle of the curve and orient it to the right to modify the exposure of the selection only (to the left to overexpose, to the right to underexpose).
That's it, your background is perfectly white and your subject properly highlighted. Effective, right?
Of course, there are a multitude of different techniques. For those who want to go further, there are also techniques to further refine the selection.