Author: Norman Talon

Post Processing

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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.

Issues

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.

Before Straightening
After Straightening and Cropping

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.

Shadows

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.

Acrylic Painting
Shadow helps Create Depth

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.

Reflections

Reflections of glass

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.

Cropping

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. 

Product Photography

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I spent the weekend of Aug 4, 2019 preparing to do some product photography for Studio Arts by Mydee . I will photograph mostly oil-based painting, framed and unframed, and a glass art work.

Before starting, I spent a few weeks reading and gaining knowledge on the best way to do product photography and now I am ready, so let us begin.

What is Product Photography?

The purpose of Product Photography is,  to create photographs that are accurate and attractive images of the actual product.  

Catalogs, brochures, advertisement and online shopping sites commonly employ this style of photography.

“A picture is  worth a thousand words” is more true today with the popularity of online shopping. A great photo of your product increases customer appeal and makes it more likely it will get noticed and purchased.

Part of preparation is to make sure you have the right tools for the job. For this shoot I used the following equipment:

Clean the camera

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had not used my D5500 in a long time. And I did not do a very good job of storing it properly. I just left it on a table, exposed to the elements.

So the first thing I did was to dust off the camera both in and out. For this purpose I used a very basic camera cleaning kit I purchased from Amazon.

Table Top Photo Studio

I considered clearing out a bigger room. But after considering the size of the subject , I decided on a table top photo studio instead. I purchased this set from Amazon and it includes two 5500 kelvin/600 lumen LED light stand,  colored backdrops and a photo-shooting tent. 

Table Top Photo Studio
Table Top Photo Studio

One of the first decisions is whether to use a white or black background.

There are differing argument for using either a black background or white background. I prefer to use the black background to cut down on refection. This is specially true when taking photos of glass framed pictures, or highly reflective products. However, a white background is very versatile. By simply adjusting the lighting, we can have anything from a black, white or gray back ground.

There are differing argument for using either a black background or white background. I prefer to use the black background to cut down on refection. This is specially true when taking photos of glass framed pictures, or highly reflective products. 

A white background is very versatile. By simply adjusting the lighting and the camera setting, we can have anything from a black, white or gray background. However, in product photography, you need to use the background that presents the product best.

When it is time for post production cropping, a white background can make your life easier.

Tripod

The Table Top Photo Studio included a cellphone stand to keep your cellphone steady when you take a picture using the  built-in camera. However, I decided not to use a cellphone but use the Nikon D5500 instead. That meant a full size tripod. Lucky for me, I already have one available.

Camera Setting

I set my Nikon D5500 to the following. Raw+Fine JPEG, 1/23 F5.6 ISO 100 and I set my white balance using a White balance card

One question I have is”Should I be using white or gray?” True white is easier to find but outside of that, I’m still not sure why I would use a gray card vs white card.

Let us get started

And now I am ready to take photographs. I expect that there will be plenty of opportunities for correcting the results. And I will try out a few ideas to get the best results. Experimentation is the name of the game. That is the only way to learn, and to remember what you’ve learned. Like homework.

In my next post, I will discuss Post Processing and the issues I encountered. This is a learning process and improvements will come with time and practice.