4 Technique and Practical Advice
Getting a Sharp Image
Another good reason to get a tripod is for sharpness. Use a tripod to ensure that the camera is focussed upon your product, and then use the self timer (built into most cameras and phones) to take the image. Even when the camera is fitted to a tripod, the movement when pressing the shutter button can still affect sharpness. Even if this isn’t immediately noticeable, and doesn’t appear as a blur, it can reduce the sharpness of the image overall, so remember to use the self timer!
Inexpensive tripods can be easily obtained and will greatly improve the sharpness of your product images. If the tripod is lightweight, use a sandbag to prevent any movement.
In some scenes automatic focus can struggle to accurately recognise the focus point you need. Similarly, manual focusing can sometimes be difficult if there isn’t an area of high contrast for you to focus on. In these situations, it can be handy to have something else to focus upon and place in the scene. Anything that is very sharp and can be placed either against or by the side of your product can be used. Something like a barcode printed out is ideal, and can be quickly moved out of the shot.
Sharpness is very important with small objects, such as this jewellery above. It’s also very noticeable on things like lettering/typography within your work. Even this glasswork features lines in the design which would be lost if the image wasn’t sharp enough.
Tether your Camera to the Computer
It’s tempting to make a quick decision about the image on the back of the camera. I know because I’ve been guilty of this in the past! It really does pay to be patient and view them on a larger screen, such as laptop, computer or tablet. It’s quite surprising how many issues arise when viewing the scene larger, such as something protruding into the scene or a distracting shadow running across your product. These can easily get hidden viewing the small LCD screen on the back of the camera, and the colour is not depicted accurately. This is why I shoot tethered, which is where the camera is connected directly to the computer via cable or Wi-Fi. This makes it instantly possible to check the focusing, sharpness, colour and the overall product and scene. Entry level DSLRs are actually ahead of the professional models in terms of rolling out Wi-Fi at a reasonable cost. I’d certainly recommend looking into that if you require a new camera.
Consider that sometimes it takes quite a while to get your scene set up, and to get the camera and tripod into the exact right position. Even if you don’t tether, why not have a cable connecting the camera to your laptop? Before continuing, load up the image to check everything - that’s the least I would recommend. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a shoot and having to set up previous shots again. I hate that!
Why Should I Bother To Use The RAW Settings? Isn’t It Easier Just To Use the JPEG Mode?
Wherever possible always use the RAW setting on the camera. This is because, if you’re working with the raw image, certain edits (such as changing the white balance) can be done without degrading the image whatsoever. You don’t have to use Lightroom as Photoshop has its own RAW image converter for importing the images. Working with raw images will give you more control and latitude when adjusting exposure, amongst other things.