Baby Steps to e-Commerce Photography

Commissioning high quality product photography is neither affordable nor practical for small, independent businesses who trade on e-commerce sites like ebay, Not On The Highstreet, or Etsy.

So goes a common myth, but what is the reality?

unicorn wall plaque

This update features images created for Essex-based Fox’s Felts over the past couple of years, since they first started trading. Fox’s Felts create hand-made toys, decorations, clothing and accessories for babies and young children. As with all start-ups, they needed to budget for a whole range of up-front costs, but they knew that simple, attractive, professional photography would be crucial to their success in appealing to discerning mums and dads.

teether in gift box product shot

The first photo-shoot you ever commission can be daunting, especially when there is a lot of product to shoot. Regular communication with the client before shoot day enabled me to plan the lighting and set-ups for all the shots, and we were consequently able to shoot everything in one day. I never take the ‘throw it in a light tent and hope’ approach to photography; light tents are great for some surfaces, but each different product requires its own lighting set-up to make it ‘pop’.

product and packshot example images

For our first shoot I took a portable studio to Fox’s Felt’s premises. This allowed us to create classic ‘white background’ studio images of some products, as well as basic packshots.

The client could provide direct input to styling group shots, and relevant props were also close at hand, as the client was herself the mum of a toddler.

group shot and props

For example, we were able to utilize ready made ‘sets’ to show off products that needed more than the simple white background approach, such as the client’s range of fun mobiles.

owl mobile photographed with cot

After returning home to retouch the images, add drop-shadows, perform colour correction etc, images were sent for approval, before the final sets of web and print jpgs were delivered (all via Dropbox). I also adapted a graphic provided by Fox’s Felts for use as a watermark for their online imagery.

Since the launch shoot, I’ve returned to Fox’s Felts’ premises when they have large quantities of new product to photograph. When there are only a few new products, they post them to me along with a simple brief.

teether and bag product photograph

This simple, fuss-free solution doesn’t break the bank, and is made even more affordable by a special deal available to all my product photography clients. As with much product photography, the more you order, the lower the price of each image. I offer clients the chance to pre-ordered images, providing the advantage of bulk discount with the flexibility of having products shot as and when they become available.

Just as I was preparing this entry, Fox’s Felts phoned me to say that their mobiles recently featured in a ’10 Best Baby Mobiles’ article in The Independent newspaper. I love to hear client’s success stories!

To chat about your photography requirements, call me on 07757 259390 or send me a message via email.

Or check out some different examples of my product photography, featuring different materials and backgrounds.

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Capture Time in Motion: Timestacking

Liven up your photography by adding the appearance of motion to a scene standard photographic technique would render static. Timestacking blends multiple shots of a scene that contains both static and moving elements. Landscapes on a windy day with a smattering of dramatic cloud are a great place to start – or freshen up the perennial favourite sunset shot.

Wivenhoe waterfront timestack 2

Kit you will need:

  • camera with interval timer, full battery and empty memory card
  • tripod
  • image editing software (such as Photoshop, but not Lightroom)

The interval timer allows you to create a regularly-spaced sequence of exposures with a single press of the shutter release button. Some dSLRs have this built in, others require software downloaded from the web and run from your memory card.

The timer interval allows you to specify:

  • number of shots
  • time between each shot

Wivenhoe Waterfront Timestack 1

Experiment! Shorter intervals make moving elements appear smoother, but m

ay require more shots overall. The images here employed 5-10 second intervals and 30-80 shots.
You can use autofocus but switch to manual focus before starting the timer to ensure the camera does not lose focus (disabling the shutter release in some shooting modes).
Fire off a few single-frame test shots to get your exposure right. Manual exposure gives you a consistent exposure setting, but aperture priority may be suitable in situations where light levels are rapidly changing.

Ensure your tripod is secure, set off the interval timer, and stand back….

Wivenhoe Pier timestack
Next it’s time for some serious Photoshopping. ‘Serious’ because you’re likely to stretch your hardware when combining dozens of images into one.

After downloading images to a computer, divide them into stacking sets – one folder per stack.

Load the first image in a set into your image editing software, check it is sharp, and immediately save it. This is your base image.

flag of St George timestack

Open the remaining images in the order shot and add them as new layers above the background layer of the base image (ensure they line up precisely: shift + drag). Once you have a number of layers, select all apart from background and set layer blending mode to lighten or darken, depending on the moving elements in your images:

 

  • when moving elements are brighter than background (e.g. white clouds in blue sky) choose lighten
  • when darker (e.g. storm clouds) choose darken

blending-modes screen shot

Flatten the image and load more exposures – repeat until all (or enough!) exposures have been incorporated. The higher your computer spec, the more layers you can add each time before things that to creak.

River Colne timestack
When making colour or tonal adjustments apply the same adjustments to all images in a stack. I tend to make RAW adjustments before merging the images, and leave Photoshop editing until I can see what the whole sequence looks like merged.

Put in the time to be rewarded with stunningly vivid and slightly surreal imagery.

To chat about photography or Photoshop tuition, call me on 07757 259390 or send me a message via email.

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