Monday, February 6, 2012

Editing Images with Different Backgrounds

Getting crisp clear pictures are always key to selling online, a picture is worth a 1000 words. The computer may not see them but your customers do. Keywords and descriptions get you found but once the customer is in your shop, it's all on you. I've talked about ways to get good pictures before but let's go over some of the basics.

You want an in focus picture that shows off your item to its best. This means using the macro setting on your camera, getting lighting that is soft or diffused.An easy way to do this is using 2 or 3 desk lamps surrounding your items. Then you need to use some photo editing - no matter how good a shot you are, you always going to have to do some editing. For other tutorials on taking pictures, check here.

Recently I have been trying to add some more interesting, non-white or gray backgrounds.

My biggest issue was how to fix the white balance. White balance means making sure  your whites look white. Once the white is fixed, all the other colors are fixed as well, since your photo editor removes the cast. I liked the idea of wood for this dragon. It finally dawned on me to add a little piece of white paper in the corner as a control. Duh why did this take so long to do.

Now use the macro setting with the flash off and take lots of pictures - if you are new at this take more and use a tripod. Do different angles, closer, further, move the lights, but take a lot of pictures. After many, many shots I decided on this one. I came in too close for some, not allowing enough cropping or the paper showed. I uploaded pictures, then went back to take more.

All that work paid off. I was actually able to edit this picture in just 4 steps. The tools I used can be found in most free editors, GIMP, Picassa, even the editor on Photobucket but I invested in PaintShop Pro X4. Right now it is $49 dollars; originally it was $79. I found it very easy to use and got much better editing.

This is the original, it actually doesn't look too bad but after 30 shots, I'd hope something was right. I got a piece of the white in there, actually if you look at it, is is kind of pink. I kept going in too close- I was leaving no room for cropping. As long as you use a large enough image (say 1200x1600) further back isn't a problem, you can always crop.

I'd say the same about light. It is better to wind up a little dark before editing than too bright. You can always brighten it up.

Before I do anything else, I correct the white balance by clicking on the white paper. Already the colors are looking better. The dragon is more green, the wood looks deeper.

Then I brighten up the picture the picture up a bit. It's important to note, even if you pictures turn out dark, they should be evenly dark. I used little from every angle, from sides and below his head. You may need to juggle the lights around a little. I took some pictures with just the light from above and even after all the fixes, it still doesn't looks 

Now it's time to crop and bring this dragon front and center. Of course I cropped out the white paper and where the wood ends but even more importantly I cropped him to a square. On Artfire your thumbnail shots are all squares. The first shot is used in the thumbnail so while other shots don't have to be square, that first does so browsers will see this and want to look at more. Even if your item doesn't fit in a square, like a something tall and narrow. Try adding more background on the sides and if you need to crop even crop a little from the edges. Try to pull back a little to add that space in the original image.

The biggest mistakes I see when looking at listings are:
  • Item isn't cropped at all, so the item itself is too small
  • Picture is too dark
  • Out of focus
  • Color is not right
Except for out of focus, all of these can be fixed. Unfortunately buyers don't know often don't know if colors are off until they buy something or if your item has different colors in different pictures. 

Now you give it a try.Even if you don't take new pictures and just fix the color in older pictures.


Victoria said...

Great information, I am always trying to improve my photos, so thanks!

About Me said...

Thanks for the great tips! Your dragon picture looks fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I try to never stop learning. Now if I could figure out how to stage pictures...