Saturday, September 24, 2011

More adventures in product photography

I've decided to temporarily stop adding new products to my Artfire store until I get a better grip on this whole photography thing.

Here is a typical photograph from my store:

I thought it was okay, but I've been told that it's kind of gauche to have an actual "background" in a product photo - especially one with a seam where the "floor" meets the wall.  Also, research tells me that my previous lighting method of waiting until a sunny day and then supplementing the sun with a lamp on the other side is...not optimal.  Neither is holding the camera in my hands.

Off to retail-land, then, to invest in some lamps, a tripod, and a sheet of white bristol board to serve as a backdrop.

My photos are better now: clearer, more striking, and much, much easier to colour-correct because each photo is lit with the same amount of lamplight instead of varying amounts and positions of sun (although the two lamps each give off a slightly different colour of light, which is totally not cool.  I bought a pair of identical bulbs for them today, which should fix the issue).

Here's my current dilemma, though: some site I stumbled across on Google said that the best way to illuminate an object for photos is to have one light above and slightly to the front of the object.  So I did that:

It looks nice when the painting is turned slightly to one side, as in the above example, but for head-on shots there's a huge glare off the varnish that detracts from the detail of the painting.  This awesome tutorial says that when taking a head-on photo of a glossy surface, it's best to place two lights in front of the painting: one to each side (and in front of) the painting, at a 45 degree angle to it.  I did this, and it helped reduce the glare from the varnish a lot.  But it also made the painting appear much brighter (almost a whole different colour!) than the other kind of lighting does:

...Interestingly, both of these newfangled, carefully-lit pictures make the painting look a different colour than it looks in the current store photos.  I know that part of good product photography is to show the colours of the product as accurately as possible (duh), but when something looks completely different depending on the type of light or even just the position of the light, then what the hell does "accurate" even mean?  (For what it's worth, I think the top-most pic - and all of the photos currently in my store - are closest to what the paintings look like in person.  And my "in person" means "a combo of overhead light and sunlight".)

To try to make my shots more consistent, I guess I'll have to play around with my lights until I find a configuration that'll work for all my product shots - or change the lighting constantly depending on the angle of the painting.  And then if the colours still don't look the way I think they should, I'll tweak them in Photoshop until they do.

Any photographers who may be reading this are totally welcome to offer advice in the comments, by the way.  (Hint, hint.) :D


Waffle with butter and syrup - life-size painting
My Artfire store has paintings and sculptures to suit many tastes!  Enter the code SHESAIDPOPBLOG at checkout and receive 15% off your first order!  (Offer expires December 31, 2011.)

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