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Product Photography Tutorial Part Three: Photo Editing

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In last weeks tutorial I took you through the steps on how to set up your lighting tent studio kit and take your first photos of your products. This week I will be showing you how to edit your photos and correct any issues that may have arisen.

First of all you will need an image editing software. Adobe Photoshop is without doubt the best and I will be using it for this tutorial. If you don’t have access to the full Photoshop package, there are a number of alternatives, including Photoshop Elements (approx £65). A popular open source (free) product is called GIMP. This offers the same kinds of photo manipulation options as Photoshop, however I have never tried it myself. Another option is to download a free trial of Photoshop from Adobe in which you have 30 days to try it out.

Step One: Load Your Image.

Last week I photographed a designer handbag which I am intending to sell on Ebay. I’ve selected an image I think shows the hangbag at its very best, however its not looking as perfect as I would like.

As you can see there are a number of things I would like to improve on in this image:

1)  The seams of the tent are showing and I don’t want this in my final image.

2) The colour seems a bit cold. I want my red bag to truly stand out.

3) There is some dust on the bag which is not part of the leather. I need to remove this to give my photo an accurate representation of the bag (if your item is second-hand and has surface damage, you should not remove these in photo editing).

Step Two: Remove imperfections.

I always like to start by removing any imperfections which are not part of the object. Sometimes you may pick up dust or stray items without realising and you want to make sure that they are gone from the final image.

In Photoshop there are a number of techniques to to remove these glitches, however the one I like to use is the spot healing brush which looks like this on the Photoshop panel:

First of all, select the spot healing brush and choose a small brush. I have gone for an 8px brush.

Zoom in to the dust marks on your item and click on the imperfection you would like to remove. It may be that you have to click a few times around the area to remove all traces of the mark.

Step Three: Colour Corrections

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may still need to do a few colour corrections to your image. Using the Auto feature on the camera means we don’t have the same control that an experienced photographer would have. But correcting the colour isn’t difficult so everything should be just fine.

My image seems a bit cold with a blue tinge so we need to adjust the contrast. I am going to use a feature called ‘Levels. You can access this by going to Image > Adjustment > Levels.

You will see this dialogue box:

The Levels tool can adjust the brightness of an image by defining the dark, light and midtones. I recommend experimenting with the settings to see the type of effects it has on your image.

I am now going to set the dark and light parts of the image using the droppers to the right of the screen.

First of all I select the black dropper and click on the darkest point of my image. In this case it is the inside shadows of my handbag.

Next I choose the white dropper and select the whitest point of my image. This will be the tent background. Notice how that the light and dark areas of the image are now more pronounced.

However I want to lighten that background up further so my bag is against a clear white surface. I do that by selecting white slider on the input levels and dragging it slightly to the left. You may notice that the shadows in the background start to disappear.

Be careful not to take your slider too far. You don’t want to burn the image out (making the white parts of the bag vanish).

Step Three: Cropping The Image

We now need to crop the image to get rid of the bits we don’t need. In Photoshop we do this using the crop tool:

When you active the crop tool you will notice that your image is surrounded by a dashed rectangle.

I’ve cropped my image so that all of the excess background is removed and I am left with my handbag for the world to see and hopefully make me a sale!

Next week we will be looking at other forms of continuous lighting and using a background for other forms of product photography.

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