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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
In the first part of this installment of the practicing photographer, you saw, Konrad Eek, to my right shoot a small iPod speaker set with the idea of putting it up on eBay. Konrad, you dragged me out into some open shade, the kind of place that someone would find on the north side of their house. You kind of cut a, you scored a piece of foam core, you folded it in half, you set the shot on it, you took it and here's what we got. What are you thinking? >> What I've got up here, I've pulled up all three shots. We took one at what the camera recommended, one, a stop down, one, a stop brighter, This is the camera's recommended exposure.
One thing we didn't talk about while we were out there was how to set your white balance controls. I always kind of deal with that later because I shoot in camera raw. But this is the auto selection that the camera made at the time, it's really pretty accurate. If you shoot in raw, the advantage you have is that you can take an eyedropper tool in the raw dialogue box and just click on that white background, and it will neutralize it. It's a great way if you're getting a little color pollution maybe some fr, some reflections in the area, to clean it up. The next thing I'm going to judge is how effective I think the exposure is in selling the product.
Look here. I think we've got a crisp read on the normal exposure on everything, but in these black areas, if you look in here, there's really, it's difficult to see some of the information that I think is important as a selling tool. The little plug that the iPod slides onto now, that the new iPhones have a different style plug, I think that's important information for the consumer. So I'm going to, just to show you, this is the one that was a stop underexposed and you can see this is really muddy and gray in the background, and the blacks are really blocked up.
So I don't think we need to work with that at all. We look at the one that's a stop brighter and I really think this would be the one I'd choose. If you look in the black areas here, you can clearly see the speaker cones behind the grills. If you look down here, the the area that the iPod actually docks on, is very clearly exposed. You can see the volume controls. And all of the brand name information reads really well. >> So this is kind of a different aesthetic than what, what you may be used to because when I look at this I go oh, but that top part is, is so overexposed and this isn't as black as the real black.
But what we're really going for is to convey very specific information. >> Exactly. >> That the potential buyer wants to know about, and that should be our deciding criteria. >> Yeah. It's product photography is really kind of a storytelling exercise where you first analyze the product and then figure out how best to express the most important parts of the product. And in this case, you know, the little silver part on top, it is slightly overexposed. If you have a little bit more digital experience and wanted to take the time you could, you know, cut and paste from the different exposures. But for a quick post on eBay, I think this will do a very effective job of demonstrating what it is you're trying to sell.
>> There's a little bit of grunge or dirt or something in here. Do you worry about that kind of thing? >> Yeah, I do. I actually gave it a quick wipe down before we did the the demo. But this travels with me and so it has picked up some dirt over the years. I keep a variety of cleaning tools around. Flour sack towels are great. They're soft, 100% cotton, they leave very little lint. Q-tips are wonderful for reaching into these tiny spaces where you have bits of grunge. And I think the real key on cleaning things is, the cleaner it is, the newer it looks. And that will I think help boost your auction price.
What about compressed air? >> Compressed air is a great tool. It can often get into places that a Q-tip or a toothpick or something like that can't. >> Okay great. Konrad, you do product photography for a living. This seems like a pretty easy subject. >> Yeah, this is fairly straightforward and lighting an open shade is such soft gentle illumination it makes it really easy. But sometimes you run into products that say textiles for example, would not work that well in this sort of lighting environment, because the texture of the fabric won't read that well. >> So you need to go to a more complex. >> Yeah, a little more complex lighting setup.
>> Okay. If you're interested in that kind of thing, Konrad has has courses that will take you through lighting all those different, difficult things. If you do, though, just have something you want to get on eBay, this is a really great, very simple, very inexpensive technique to try.
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