It is best to set the correct environment to take the best photograph possible. That being said, the conditions are not always going to be ideal. And that is where post processing comes in.
Post processing is when a photographer manipulates, edits or enhances a photograph in such a way as to produce the desired image. This involves cropping, adjusting the brightness, contrast, exposure and saturation, to name a few.
And in the age of digital photography, that means using software.
I considered using a commercial software like Adobe Photoshop or lightroom for archiving my photos and for post processing. But then I would need to pay for these.
I also considered open source software like Digikam, Rawtherapee, Darktable and even those offered by google and Flickr. I wanted to continue working even if I lose internet access. Which means, I need to use software that runs on the desktop. And it had to cost as low as possible. That meant open source. Ultimately, after a few more online research, I went with Digikam for basic post processing and Digital Asset Management (DAM), and GIMP for more intensive processing. I can’t imagine that I will need GIMP for product photography, but it is an option.
Post processing gives us the opportunity to fix some issues that occur, to make adjustments and make the final image presentable. It sounds easy, but it is not. So many choices in terms of settings and adjustment. I will just need to play with the software and figure out how I like things to be.
Image is not straight
It is difficult to take a photo that is perfectly straight. With my setup, the soft table top created an uneven surface that contributed to this problem. I corrected this by adding a flat piece of wood underneath the photo tent.
When taking photos of a framed pictures and artworks, it is important that the camera be parallel to the subject. Otherwise you might end up with an image that is trapezoidal. Wider at one end, thinner on the other. If the subject is inclined, then incline the camera to compensate. The tripod I use has built-in levels. I used these to ensure a level camera.
A bigger problem was the subject itself. You expect expensive frames and canvas to be perfectly square or rectangular. I fixed most of the issues by using the “Free Rotation” tool in Digikam, and cropping when workable. The image on the left is a photo before correction. The image on the right is after the photo was rotated and cropped.
Clearing the Background
As mentioned earlier, using either black or white backdrop works fine. Look at the right image above. I used a black background when taking the photograph. And now I will need to put in more processing work to remove the black areas along the edges. If I took the time to plan a little, then I might have used a white background instead of black.
Always take the time to plan your shoot. It will save you from unnecessary work later.
Taking a photo of a framed artwork introduces shadows, depending on the number and location of your light sources is. This is not necessarily bad. I had only two LED lights available, so I needed to be creative in the presentation, and to use reflectors when needed. I tried moving the light source further out, but that only created larger shadows. Shinning the light through diffuser worked on certain images. Sometimes, bouncing the light off a white wall worked better. I even tried having the light source come directly from the camera location. It is almost impossible to remove the shadows.
Shadows are not bad. It helps create depth in the image. If you really do not want the shadows, then the best solution will be to remove the frame and photograph the artwork.
Photographing any reflective object present a different challenge. You want to minimize the chance that an image of the light source, the camera or yourself appearing as a reflection off your subject.
The image to the right is an example of a reflective subject. The frame has a glass cover and shiny borders. You can see the reflection of the light source.
In my next post, I will discuss how I deal with these reflections.
Inevitably, there will be situations where the reflections cannot be entirely removed. IF you do not deal with reflections, then the solution is to take the photos before mounting.
At issue is not how to crop, but whether you should. It can be difficult to make an image perfectly straight. This is especially true if the subject itself is not perfect. If you can crop the image, I say go ahead. I certainly did. But if you end up loosing some intended character, then you should just chalk up the imperfection to just that, presentation. After all, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.