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Tutorial: Product Photography Made Easy (Part 2)

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In the first part of this tutorial I showed you how I typically set up for product photos. In this second part I am going to show you how I do my editing using Lightroom exclusively to create an image with a pure white background that can be used on e-commerce websites.


I’m going to assume that you already have a functional understanding of how Lightroom works, so what I am going to show you now are screen grabs of the various steps I used to get the image of the Yashica-A TLR ready for use on a website.


I shot this camera at a couple of different exposure values, basically trying to push the background to pure white in camera without loosing too much detail and contrast on the subject itself. Because I only shoot in raw (no matter what it is) by over-exposing slightly I still have enough information in the file to recover highlights. I’d rather over-expose on my Olympus E-M1 than under-expose so that I don’t introduce too much noise if I have to increase the exposure in post production.


This technique is called ETTR, or exposing to the right (of the histogram) and is quite popular with many photographers. When shooting product it works quite well if you have a lot of contrast in the subject, but if your subject is closer to the colour of your background you will need to be a bit cautious using this technique.


Figure 1.


figure 1.jpg


The image has been imported into Lightroom and as you can see it looks a bit over-exposed. We’ll fix that further along in the process, but for now I need to make sure that I get my subjects background to show up as pure white.


There’s a little trick that you can use to help you with this, change the colour of the Lightroom background to be pure white, or if you trust your cursor, look at the RGB values in the histogram panel. They need to be 100% on all three levels to produce pure white, so move the cursor around the frame to check this. I prefer to just change the background to white - really simple and you’ll see immediately if your subject’s background doesn’t blend in with the Lightroom one (see figure 2 below)


Figure 2 - change the Lightroom background colour


figure 2.jpg


Figure 3 - adjust the Whites slider


figure 3.jpg


The first slider I am going to play with here is the Whites and I took this all the way over to 100%. There was some effect on the subject, but what that also did was completely white-out my background. I can see no difference between the photograph and the white background on Lightroom, so that’s perfect for use on a web store with a white background (most of them).


Figure 4 - adjust the Blacks slider


figure 4.jpg


At this point I am going to bring back the contrast and make the blacks look blacker. I settled on -48 for this shot and it looked good to me.


Figure 5 - take out the Blues


figure 5.jpg


Whenever I am shooting I always look to remove the blue values when they don’t really serve a purpose. For this shot there is a fair amount of them showing in the lenses of the TLR, which is kind of distracting, so I dropped them to -98 (could have gone to -100, but not important in this context).


Figure 6 - correct the verticals


figure 6.jpg


One of the things I have become a bit anal about since doing more property work in recent times is vertical lines. It’s a 1-click job in Lightroom, so I have a preset based on the “Auto” setting of the Transform panel in Lightroom. When I am shooting products with vertical lines I make sure that I get these vertical by using the preset.


Figure 7 - adjust the Dehaze slider


figure 7.jpg


Something else I have become accustomed to using in Lightroom is the Dehaze slider. For this shot I brought that up to +30 and it just gave the image a little bit more pop.


And that’s it for editing this image. I then use an export preset for use online and upload it to my client’s folder in Google Drive, sending them a link from where they can download. I normally send them images that are about 1500px on the long edge. 


This editing method may not work for all images as sometimes the ETTR approach won’t work for light subjects. If I find that I have to protect the subject by bringing down the exposure and therefore getting a greyer background I use the Adjustment brush tool set to +4 stops of exposure and with the Auto Mask option turned on I will carefully brush around the subject, bringing the background up to pure white, leaving the subject unaffected. This approach works well, but you’ll need to keep a steady hand around complex edges and you may need to use the erase tool (within the Adjustment brush) to fix any parts where the auto-mask didn’t find a strong edge. Most of the product photography I do for clients involves this method. 


2020-03-23 DD Product Photography Tutorials001-4.jpg


I hope this helped you but if you have any questions please just let me know below.

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Thanks, Dallas, an interesting explanation.  Typically how long would it take for you to produce this photo starting from taking the product out of the box?

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1 hour ago, Anthony said:

Thanks, Dallas, an interesting explanation.  Typically how long would it take for you to produce this photo starting from taking the product out of the box?


Once I get over the shock of having to do some work, not very long! :D 


Seriously though, it all depends on the type of product and if it falls into this particular setup it's a very quick and easy process. I did this one in about 5 minutes total, but then as I mentioned in the first part, I know my space quite well, so there was no experimenting with lighting or camera settings.


I'm currently procrastinating on another job that requires a few different setups and different processing. The client has given me three different products to shoot; packs of serviettes (napkins for you folks in the US), a water bottle and a box of edible dates. The serviettes were very easy. I had to do 8 different colours and including the processing that part took about 15 minutes, but I was also explaining what I was doing at each step of the process to my son (who knows nothing about photography but needed some lockdown boredom breakers). The date box is white, so I have to do a horrible process called deep etching to drop out the background in the dreaded Photoshop. The bottle is completely translucent, so for that product I have to do a totally different lighting setup for that, which is quite complicated - hence the procrastination. 

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Thanks for the explanation.

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