Category Archives for Techniques

Building Your Own DIY eCommerce Photography Studio For Cheap: Part 3

What does every successful ecommerce store have in common?

High-quality photos.

And how do they guarantee the highest quality photos for every aspect of their online presence?

Open access to a quality photo studio.

 

Fortunately, despite a commonly-held belief, these photo studios don’t have to be elaborate nor expensive — we proved that with part one of our series on how to build a low-cost photo studio. In it, we recommended a comprehensive, low-cost list of essentials.

In part two of our series, we explored how to put it all together.

Now, with part three, you’ll get the scoop on how best to use your camera to take sharp, stunningly clear pictures every time you pick it up. Read on to find out how:

Manual mode: the key to greatness

We know, we know: the idea of shooting manual can be intimidating. With so many options, how can you expect to get a grasp on them all?

Well, it’s not impossible — that’s for sure. Photographers everywhere can do it, and so can you. Besides, it’s worth it: total control over your camera is absolutely key to better photos — and a more successful ecommerce.

We’re not expecting you to know how to shoot immediately, of course. In the meantime, try out the other two modes most cameras have to augment your road to manual mastery:

  • Automatic This setting will have the camera take full control of all its functions when snapping away. While this takes all the control away from you, the shooter, your studio and natural lighting will present a relatively simple scene the camera can handle, so no worries.
  • Aperture Priority Great to use if you’re still beginning but want to strike out on your own a bit. With it, the camera adjusts its own light meter in response to what aperture you set. (More on that later!) By seeing how the camera works with you, you can speed up your overall learning process!

ISO

ISO is the measure of the image sensor’s sensitivity to light.  

The lower the number, the less sensitive the camera is to light and the finer the grain in the images themselves. Simply put: the better the light in the room, the lower the ISO value needs to be.

Tip: A good way to approach ISO is by setting it to 200 and experimenting, using your viewfinder to see the effect on the image. If too dark, increase the ISO value.

Since you’ve set the photography studio up to take advantage of natural sunlight, it’s important to avoid overexposing your images. (In this vein, the afternoon is the usually the best time to take shots.)

In addition, if you can use your camera’s manual mode, do it! You’ll enjoy more versatility and control over your results in addition to opening up more of the day to shoot.

White Balance

Setting your camera’s white balance correctly means accurate colors in your images. Setting Automatic in most cases will do the trick. If you go manual, aim for whites with a bit of substance. In other words, avoid overly bright, florescent-like whites.

Aperture

Considering our in-home studio setup, setting an aperture of f16 will result in a product that’s completely in focus and as clear as possible.

Tip: Make sure to use an aperture over f11! The higher the aperture, the better!

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed governs the amount of time the shutter is open when taking a photo.

Fast shutter speeds are ideal for moving subjects and vice-versa.

Tip: Anything below 1/60th requires a tripod or a camera with image stabilization. Why? These speeds are too slow for our hands, which means we’ll need outside assistance to prevent blurry photos.

Since this DIY studio is using all-natural light, aim to use the longest possible shutter speed to allow the most light to enter your camera. Combined with a tripod, you’ll be able to set a slow shutter speed for the sharpest possible image.

Light Meter

Proper use of the light meter will ensure all the rest of your camera settings we’ve discussed will work properly. Below are example of light meters:

Light meter reading

The middle arrow is neutral. This typically means favorable lighting conditions with the current camera settings.

  • When the arrow moves left of center, the subject is too dark and more light is needed. Set your shutter speed slower.
  • When the arrow moves right of center, the subject has too much light and you’ll need the shutter speed to be faster.

Focus

The aim with all the photos you take are clean, realistically presented products without distractions.

Achieve this through automatic focus. The camera will do all the work and you’ll avoid blurry images, something that’s more likely to happen after a few hours of shooting and the tired eyes that result.

Image Format: RAW vs. JPEG

  • RAW is the original, uncompressed file, allowing you fully access to every aspect of this image with post-production software. If your camera has this option available, definitely use it.
  • JPEG is a compressed image file and one of the most commonly used. As a compressed file, it ends up being much smaller but at the cost of some of quality and less flexibility to change the file itself.

With part three of our low-cost photography studio series done, you’re set! With your newly minted studio in place and the knowledge to best use your camera, you’re well on your way to a more impressive ecommerce presence!

Remember, no matter which settings and image format you use, shoot as many images as possible! Doing so gives you more choice when it comes to post-production work — something we at Background Be Gone have a ton of experience handling!

Try a free trial with Background Be Gone today!

Building Your Own DIY eCommerce Photography Studio For Cheap: Part 2

One of the most important things for any ecommerce is the availability of a photo studio. It’s key to proper photography, which in turn defines your business’ presence online and leads to greater sales. Unfortunately, most people believe it takes lots of money to build a photo studio that’s worthwhile.

To buck that trend, we explored what’s needed to construct a low-cost, effective photo studio in part one of this series. We covered everything from the type of camera you need to the best environment for a no-frills studio.

Now, we’re moving on to part two of this series: putting it all together. By the end of this article, your studio will be more than ready to go!

Setting up your table & window

With this DIY studio, the window is your best friend. It eliminates the need for expensive lighting by providing natural light from the outdoors. To use it in the best way possible, set up your folding table near a window so as to have even, natural light on whatever product you’re photographing.

Keep in mind: direct sunlight is the enemy here, making your product too bright and generally throwing everything off. Avoid taking photos during times when the sun is at its strongest.

In addition, ensure you have enough room to actually move around. Without it, you’ll find it much more difficult to be as versatile as you want to be with your photos.  

Seamless White Paper & Tape

After setting up your table, you’ll need to construct a blank background on which your products can stand out in all their beauty. This is where the white paper and tape/clamps you purchased come into play.

First, unroll the paper and tape/clamp it to something that can hold it. This can be the wall, the ceiling, or even a piece of furniture in the room near the window. Set it all up in a way that allows the paper to smoothly drape over the table.

Then, tape the sides of the paper to the table. This will prevent everything from moving when you don’t want it to, keeping you focused on producing the best possible results!

All about the goods

With the background now set up and ready to go, we can now move on to the goodies themselves. Before we get too excited, though, there’s one pretty important box to check off first: cleaning.

While it may sound pretty obvious, many actually forget this step. Not only will doing so make your products pristine, it’ll save you headaches once post-production work comes around.

Tip: With jewelry, be sure to clean and shine all its chains and gems. With footwear, be sure to address any dust, dirt, scuffs, and other unsightly marks.

In general, employ common sense to rid your products of the majority of their blemishes. You don’t need to aim for perfection, though: post-production will take care of everything you can’t get rid of. (Use these photography tips for apparel and footwear to guarantee the best possible shots!)

The magic of fill light

One of the issues that comes up depending on the light entering the room and the color of the product are dark shadows on one its sides. This will require you to add fill light for even lighting on both sides of the product.

To achieve fill light, cut a piece of foam core equal to or larger than the product you’re photographing. Then, prop it up so that it stands upright and straight, opposite of the window. (You can do this any way you’d like, but most people use tape.)

When done properly, the light coming through the window will bounce off the board and onto the darker side of the product farthest from the window. The result? Greater texture and detail, increasing the quality of your photos substantially!

Let’s talk about the camera and tripod

Proper positioning is the last bit of this dance. Do it right the first time, and you’ll have a much easier time taking photos during a session.

First, adjust your tripod until its top is exactly flush with the surface of the folding table. Make sure the tripod is level to make it easier to adjust your camera when it is connected.

Once your camera is securely attached, experiment with the position of the tripod by looking through the viewfinder on your camera while pointed at your product. Fill your product in the frame of your camera, but make sure to leave extra space around the subject. (You may need to raise the neck of the tripod to do so.)

If you’re too close or too far, try using the zoom feature on your camera or manually moving it if you’re using a prime lens.  The benefit to using the former is the versatility to position yourself however you want. The benefit to using a prime lens is the ability to get closer to a subject with a lower aperture. (We’ll get more into detail in the next post!)

Next Up: Optimizing images and post-production goodness

With part two of this series done, you’re well-equipped to head out and transform your business’ ecommerce photography.
In the final article in this series, we’ll help you get the most of out of your camera for the very best quality shots! You know, the type we at BBG love to work on!

Building Your Own DIY eCommerce Photography Studio For Cheap: Part 1

Achieving that highly sought after, prized photo studio look is the goal for pretty much any ecommerce. As you’re well aware, great product photography equals more sales, so constructing a studio is one of the most important things any ecommerce can do — especially if they’re starting out!

Where most make a mistake, though, is thinking that getting a polished studio look for their products is a complex endeavor that requires spending lots and lots of money.

That’s just flat out WRONG.

We at BBG know how surprisingly cheap building your own DIY photography studio can be. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to grab to get started. Then, we’ll follow this article up with how to put it all together. And lastly, we’ll end this series with tips on how to best take advantage of your brand-spanking new studio.

Without further adieu, let’s go!

What to buy

While the photography industry would love for you to think you need to buy the highest-end equipment to achieve the professional results you want, the truth is much simpler:

It’s possible to spend a fraction of the cost and yield similar results.

Like every hobby or profession, there’s an expensive to go about things and there’s the bootstrapped way. And while we at BBG absolutely understand the benefits professional equipment offer, going the DIY route will cost way less money and will only require a bit of ingenuity to make it all work.

But first, you’ll need a few things:

Camera

With the quality of point-and-shoots and smartphones these days, you can most likely get by with a camera you may already own.

That said, review whatever you already have lying around and determine if it produces the kind of quality you’d be satisfied with seeing on your ecommerce site.

If you decide to purchase something a little snazzier, go for an entry-level DSLR with manual exposure and aperture settings. While The WireCutter recommends the Nikon D3400 ($497) as the single best entry-level DSLR on the market right due to its higher capacity for professional work, something like a Canon Powershot SX530 (~$200-279) would work just as well if you’re just starting out — especially this high-value bundle that’s available!

SD Card

No matter which camera you go with, you’ll need more storage for all the beautiful photos you’ll be taking. For more bang for your buck, the $40 64GB Samsung Pro Plus is your best bet.

Tripod

For product photography, it’s absolutely imperative you get a tripod to reduce unseemly blurring. And while you can easily grab a very budget-friendly tripod for less than $20, try the $87 Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod if you’re looking for a better mix of quality and price that lasts much longer.

White Paper

A roll of white paper is necessary for a seamless background for your products, creating a sweep to reduce the amount of post-production work while giving the light you cast onto your products a better surface to bounce off. Something like Adorama’s Seamless Background Paper ($22) will do that trick!

Table

You’ll need a table to allow the white paper to fall over and display your product. Here, a folding table is your best bet for something lightweight and portable. Check places like your local hardware store or sites like eBay or Craigslist for cheap folding tables that will do that job. Or, you can spring for the $42 Cosco 42” Black Resin Top Folding Table instead!

Tape/Clamps

Using duct tape and/or clamps will be essential in securing what would otherwise be wayward white paper. The former is super easy to use, while clamps require no cleanup. Either works! Try your local hardware store for these two products or quickly search Amazon for a variety of choice!

A Large Window

No, we don’t mean buying a large window, but rather using the largest window in your home as a source of natural lighting. While it will need to be larger than the products you’re shooting, setting everything up in a workspace near the window it will eliminate the need of buying expensive lighting equipment — a pretty sizable investment in and of itself.

Keep in mind that a larger window will mean a more even, softer light, while a smaller window will equal less, more directional light. Make sure you think of this before buying everything above!

Next Up: How to put it all together

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now that you know exactly what to grab, the next article will focus on exactly how to put it all together for the best effect!

After we’re done, you’ll have some consistently high-quality photos — the type we at BBG love to work on!

Start your free trial with Background Be Gone today!

A Handy Guide to Apparel Photography

By now, online shopping is as normal as going to the grocery store and can be done anywhere at anytime. As an ecommerce owner, though, that doesn’t mean you can rest easy and expect money to roll in!

On the contrary, 78% of online shoppers cite not being able to feel and touch products as the most undesirable aspect of the process. This poses a special challenge when it comes to clothing, making its presentation not only important, but vital to your success.

So since that’s the case, just how do you guarantee beautiful apparel photography for your ecommerce site? Follow our short guide and find out!

 

Prepare The Clothing

In a perfect world, clothing would arrive to your studio perfectly constructed and pressed. But, that isn’t the case, now is it? This means taking the steps necessary beforehand to examine each piece of clothing and remove unsightly tags, steam out unseemly wrinkles, and repair any damage it may have sustained during transit. If you wait until post-production to all this, the quality of your image will suffer drastically. Let’s try to avoid that!

 

The Importance of a Proper Studio Set-Up

Contrary to popular belief, a proper studio need not be extremely expensive. That said, if you can shell out a few more bucks for extra equipment, you’ll be a lot more versatile because of it. Regardless of what you do, here are the most important aspects to a decent studio setup:

  • Background Let the colors of your garments dazzle the eyes with a light background using white or grey paper readily available at any photography shop. Either tape this to a wall or floor for a low-cost installation or combine it with a c-stand for more maneuverability. Make sure your area is clean and you’re already well on your way!
  • Camera While this is obviously one of the key parts of your entire endeavour, it doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. Invest in a DSLR with basic manual settings, something like a Nikon D3300, or even use a smartphone! They are, after all, increasingly more powerful with every year that passes. What is necessary, though, is a tripod: it’ll eliminate shakes and allow yourself the freedom to do something else if need be.
  • Lighting Go for natural lighting if you can. Usually, that’s all you’ll need! If you don’t have access to large enough windows, invest in a lighting kit like this one for the kind of consistent lighting necessary for proper ecommerce apparel shots.

 

Garment Styling

While models are the preferred method in bringing your apparel to life, they’re also pretty expensive. It may be an unfortunate challenge, but nothing impossible to overcome. Instead, style your clothing on mannequins, a cheaper yet still very versatile option. We at BBG can even get rid of the mannequin for you in post-production if you’re concerned the mannequin might be too distracting!

 

Set Your Camera Accordingly!

There’s no use in shooting if all your camera settings are off. It’s absolutely imperative you know how to manipulate ISO, aperture, and white balance for the most professional looking photos every time!

  • ISO is defined as the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number, the less sensitive a camera is to light and the finer the grain. So, use your tripod in combination with an ISO of 100-200 for the clearest apparel photographs.
  • Aperture controls the image sensor’s degree of exposure to light. The larger this number, the more aspects of the image will be in focus. As such, set it to larger than f/11 to allow everything be in full focus.
  • White Balance Every light source has different levels of warmth, creating different shades of color that blanket a scene. Because of this, adjusting your camera’s white balance for the specific type of light you have will prevent your apparel shots from being too blue, orange, or any other color for that matter!

 

It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Shoots

Now, it’s time to shoot. Don’t get too excited, though, but rather exercise patience and plan out your shots. The more, the better. Try different angles: in front, behind, at various angles, up close and person with details — you really can’t go wrong. The more images you come away with, the more options you have at better presenting the product in question, resulting in higher chances of actually selling it!

 

Post-Production Fun!

Beautifying all the dozens, if not hundreds, of photos in post-production can usually a slog that no one really wants to do. While it’s unavoidable, it can be tedious to devote so much attention and time to the process.

A Simple Ecommerce Photography Guide to Making Your Footwear Shine

Shoes, shoes, shoes!

From men’s athletic sneakers and sophisticated monk-strapped dress shoes to women’s flats, slip-ons, and high heels, stylish shoes have never been more in demand. As such, chances are pretty high your e-commerce deals with this lucrative product.

While it’s a fact that footwear can be a fruitful venture, it’s hard to see success if your presentation isn’t up to par, though.

Why?

Well, footwear is different from clothing since there isn’t (usually) a model to show it off. So, the key to better footwear sales is consistent imagery across your site. Master the art of taking footwear photography from different angles while keeping them proportional, and you’ll no doubt see increased interest — interest that will translate into more sales!

While it can be tricky achieving these results reliably, it doesn’t have to be. Below is a simple, easy-to-follow, step-by-step photography guide to getting consistent shots every time, courtesy of your friends at BBG!

Setup is essential

To set up, you’ll need two pieces of foamcore (preferably square/rectangular, with one bigger than the other) and pins.

The larger piece of foamcore will serve as a base. Use pins to keep it in place after you center it.

The second, smaller piece will be put on top of the larger. For now, we’ll have the smaller piece centered as well.

In addition, the camera you’re using should be on a tripod — but that probably goes without saying!

How the magic happens

Our basic setup is now ready: a set, stationary piece of large foamcore with a smaller, mobile piece on top.

Next, place your shoe on top and in the center of the smaller one and place two pins on each of its corners to ensure it stays still. Like this, you can take crisp profile images for each piece of footwear you have without worrying if anything is ever off.

After you’re done, determine your next angle and move the smaller piece of foamcore accordingly. When you’re satisfied, place pins on each of its corners to set it in place. Then, place the shoe on top and snap away!

Wash, rinse, and repeat for each angle and each shoe you need to take a picture of.  

Gotta get the lighting right

None of the above matters if your lighting is off, though. So let’s make sure every single photo is well-lit by following two simple steps:

  1. Place a light above and slightly in front of the shoe you have set up.
  2. To soften the harsh light, set up two bounce boards (boards designed to bounce light, hence their name) on both sides of the shoe.

The final result will redirect the light back to the shoe, create more contrast, and soften the harsher light. In short, guaranteeing awesome shots every time. When you’re done, send them on over to us to really get them to pop!

Conquering the Challenge of White on White Photography

Three essential techniques will help you take on the challenge of creating white on white photography – applying the proper amount of back lighting, using a grey card, and increasing exposure.

The way in which you use lighting is the key to your success. In fact, your light source won’t be focused on the subject, it will be lighting the backdrop known as back lighting. Sufficient back lighting is needed to keep the white object from fusing with the white background. This can be achieved by using one light source along with white cards to bounce and reflect more light onto the image.

Place your object on a white surface. Next prop a white board behind the object. You can use up to 4 or 5 white boards to surround the subject. Upon shooting the image, the brightness of the light will be evenly dispersed by the box you created with the white boards. Moving the boards around gives you the ability to create your desired light and regulate the quality of your photos.

A grey card should be used to get an accurate exposure reading. A grey card is a piece of cardboard that is the same tone of grey that your camera meter is calibrated for. It allows you to adjust the white balance yourself. Place the grey card in the area where the subject will be shot, grey side facing the camera. Look through the viewfinder focusing only on the grey card and take the reading off that. Dial in the reading on your camera and you are ready to shoot.

Trying to photograph something white on a white background is viewed by the camera as average brightness. Increasing exposure settings on the camera can help. Since you can’t rely on your camera’s screen to assess exposure and you can’t use auto modes, your camera has an exposure compensation manual mode. You can set your exposure in manual mode by zooming in on the white. Setting it 2 stops brighter than average will make it look white yet not be over exposed. Also, putting your camera on a tripod, positioning it on Av mode, and setting the aperture to f/3.2 will make your image brighter than average without being over exposed.

While creating white on white photographs is known to be very challenging, once mastered the results can be spectacular.