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In Product Photography for E-Commerce, designer Dane Howard shows how to take professional-looking photographs that showcase products and build buyers' trust. Using a practical approach, Dane covers objects from collectible coins to real estate, and the lessons can be applied to just about anything that can be sold online. When it comes time to capture images in the studio, Dane discusses how to select a camera and other equipment on any budget. He shares his favorite tips and tricks for getting the most out of camera angles, backgrounds, and scene lighting. He reviews image editing basics, such as cropping and retouching photographs, and explains how to take a presentation beyond a 360-degree view with the integration of rich media.
In the spirit of practical ecommerce photography, I want to spend some moments around cropping and adjusting the imagery itself. Your expectation should be that you should absolutely plan on adjusting your images once they get into computer. No one is that good to be able to shoot and go right up to the web commerce directly. So I want you to plan for spending some time inside of programs like Photoshop, I'm going to show you Picasa, and a new one called Picnik. Let's get started right now.
So here I am inside of Photoshop CS4. One of the things I first wanted to illustrate when you think about cropping or adjusting, the image on the camera may look completely different on screen. So one of the first things you want to do is first discern is this going to be something that's going to take a lot of time, or if you want to quickly bang through it? Now, this image, I can immediately tell you that I'm going to crop and then adjust. Reason is that I can bring this marquee right around here and I can tell you that I can crop into it really nicely. Now, if this curve had brought anything inside, I might have to retouch, because that is actually something that I have an issue with.
But here I can go in and I can go and begin to crop this right away. If I bring some of the marquee around, I then can go up to Image, and I can crop this. One important issue inside Photoshop is that you want to be able to crop out anything that you don't want to retouch. Now the second part is the color of this itself. I would like this to be punched up a little bit more. Again, I shot this with my iPhone. So, not the best color balance going right into the camera. So let's go ahead, and I'm going to go to adjust Levels. On a PC, I'm going to hit Ctrl+L, on the Mac, it's open-Apple+L. I'm going to bring up the Levels itself.
Now, one of the things that you can do is go directly into the Levels and adjust them uniformly. Now this is going to brighten the entire object itself. Later when we talk about retouching, we'll go into individual selection mechanisms. Here I can adjust the Levels and go directly into this and lighten up the background and brighten up the pieces directly. This is really helpful. I've done a quick adjustment. I'm ready to save out. That is probably the quickest Level adjustment you could probably do inside of Photoshop. Next, we're going to go over to Picasa.
Inside Picasa, you can see that I have the same image opened up. Now, Picasa is a free program by Google. Now, this allows me to go in to the image itself and I'm going to perform the same function. Well, one of the first things I want to do is go over the Crop tool. By selecting Crop, I can drag my mouse right over here and click-and-hold. By doing so, I have an approximate crop that I can adjust the edges directly into here. Once I like it, go ahead and apply it. I like to apply the crops first and then do my color adjustments later.
Next, I'm going to go into the Tuning menu. Going to Tuning menu, they don't have Levels, but they do give you some controls over the Fill and the Highlights, independently. This is pretty nice in order for me to lighten up the background. If in the process of doing this you feel that the color shift is too saturated, you can always go to the Effects and go down here to Saturation. I do this quite a lot and I de- saturate just enough, so it looks like the original product. Go ahead and Apply. That's a simple adjustment. Let me show you a third.
This is a new service called Picnik. It's an online application. Here I'm at picnik.com and you can go ahead and create a free account. Under the free account, they put advertising and you can also upgrade. If you're trying it out for the first time, I just want to bring some attention that happens in a browser. I'm going to go to View, Full Screen just to demonstrate that there is more on the screen here. There's a lot of ways to connect to your photographs. Now, a lot of times, some of your photographs may be up on Flickr or Picasa Web Albums, there's quite a few services that they support, even Facebook.
You can see that you can pull in photos here. I'm going to go ahead and upload my photographs. Here's that one photograph that we just had. I'm going to go ahead and upload it directly into the service. You can see that I have some immediate access to it right away. Now look, this is all inside of a browser. So one of the things I want to do again is crop. You can see that the theme is starting to take place here. I can immediately start to drag the crop, and do the same technique as I was doing before. You can see that's happening up here and I go ahead and hit OK.
The next thing I want to do is adjust the Exposure. Here I've got little different controls here. I can adjust the Lightness and the Contrast, and pretty much bring up the lightness as I'm doing it. If you want to move into the Advanced Controls, you can. You can see here that there's quite a bit of things going on here similar to what you saw in Picasa. As I bring this down, I can get it just the way I want and hit OK. Those are three methods on how you can quickly adjust in three different programs. Keep it to cropping, keep it to the Levels adjustment, and you'll have some pretty good images right away.
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