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Doing your own photography – getting technical

  |   Northlight Blog, Northlight Information, Photography Business

Doing your own photography

Some technical considerations

Doing your own photography can be straightforward, but some thought about various technical aspects of photography will help to give your promotional images a more professional look.

Part 3 of our series of articles aimed at helping small businesses.

Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3 | Part 4

Northlight Images’ Karen Cooper takes a look at some of the technical issues you may need to tackle when doing your own photography for your business

product photography training

Better Photos 3 – Technical considerations

Some technical information you need to remember and that should help you get better photographs.

Despite the prevailing opinion that anyone can take a photograph, it’s probably true that if you want photographs of a consistent quality to advertise your business, then you’re going to have to ditch the auto setting on your camera/phone and delve into the realms of aperture, exposure and ISO.

There’s often no simple answer to the kind of problems you might run into when taking photos – without knowing what you’re photographing, what equipment you’re using and the conditions you’re working in, we probably can’t give you the definitive answers you might need in a single blog article  – BUT hopefully, these simple hints and tips will help you identify any problems you have and guide you to the answers you need.

In general

… always take more pictures than you think you’ll need – and don’t delete any from the camera until you’ve looked at them on a computer. What you see on the back of a camera or on your phone’s screen can be deceiving.

Composing your shot

Use your photos to tell a story and take the viewer on a journey by:

  • Remembering the rule of thirds – divide the shot evenly into thirds horizontally and vertically and make sure the subject is placed at the intersection of the dividing lines. The only exception to this is for product shots – also known as pack shots – when the emphasis is totally on the product. For shots like these the subject should be dead centre of the shot
  • Use lighting to direct/draw the eye – since we naturally look at brighter parts of photos
  • Focus on the point of interest – make sure what you want to show is the dominant subject in the photo. This is particularly important for lifestyle shots where the product is not the only subject in shot. Making sure the focus is on the product will ensure the emphasis is on what you want to sell, not the set dressing
  • Usual natural lines to draw the viewers eyes through the photograph – so a path or the line of a building for example

Lighting

Generally you should:

  • Use natural/available light whenever possible – it’s often brighter and has a more consistent colour balance than artificial light
  • Bear in mind daylight through a window can often have bluish tone – this is natural, but be aware of it and if you are unhappy with the effect, avoid taking shots where this kind of light is dominant
  • Remember that LED/CFL lights can give unusual colour casts to your lighting
  • Use a reflector – and you can either buy a reflector or simply use a sheet of white card – to direct light and fill in shadows
  • Use flash carefully – it can produce a very harsh light which can make the resulting images look washed out. Flash photography is an art in itself and not something we’d recommend to a beginner
  • Avoid direct sunlight – don’t shoot directly into the sun because you’ll gets lens flare/glare and the deep shadows it will produce will give a very high contrast image (a very wide difference in the lightest and darkest parts of the picture) which can make the picture very difficult to use
  • Use a tripod  – it will prevent camera shake and allow you to use lower shutter speeds, which means you’ll be able to work in a much wider range of lighting conditions – dusk, night, dawn – but you will need practise
led-pattern

Watch out for reflections – sometimes a lighting diffuser helps

For product photography:
  • It’s better to use 2 light sources, one on either side of the subject at an equal distance apart – this will give you an even light
  • Using a continuous light source is easier to set up and use, rather than mastering the skills of flash photography. This can be something as simple as 2 desk lamps or you can buy studio lights in varying sizes at quite reasonable prices. The lamps (bulbs) you use will make a difference to the colour caste of the light. There are ‘daylight’ lamps available, but in the first instance experiment until you find something you like and, for consistent results, once you’ve found it, stick with it.
  • Natural or available lighting is an option and requires no budget, but consistency will be a problem. Daylight changes depending on the time of year and weather conditions, so even if you take your photos in the same place every time, you’ll never be guaranteed the same lighting

Two lights used to illuminate a door for product photography – note the ColorChecker card used for colour balancing the lighting.

door-and-passport

Moving the lights and changing their brightness gives control over shadows

Photographing outdoors – including buildings:
  • Use a tripod – this will help you avoid camera shake and so your images will be sharper
  • Learn about sun angles and work out where the sun will shine and cast a shadow – we’re not saying you should avoid shadows completely but is best to work out how to use them creatively
  • Sometimes it might be better to take your photos on a cloudy day when there’ll be no deep shadows to deal with
Photographing people:
  • Use direct light from a window plus a reflector to direct the light and get a consistent look with no shadows
  • In low light – at events, in factories etc – the less people move, the easier it is the get the shot you need

Finally, remember …

Deciding first how you want your photos to look, composing the shot to get this look and managing your light source will mean you’re a long way down the road to getting the creative and technically consistent photographs you need to promote your business.

Help is at hand…

Convinced you now want – and need – to take your own photos but don’t know where to start?

We offer bespoke photography training courses that will teach you everything you need to know

Doing your own photography Part 1 | Part 2Part 3 | Part 4