E Commerce is all the rage

More and more people are buying stuff online each day.

Online shopping has its drawbacks though.

Your not physically there so you can’t see the actually product.

You can’t hold it, weigh it, touch its materials, look at it from all the angles.

It’s much harder to visualize the product looking at images online.

That’s why for someone running an online store, it’s important to provide images that will show customers what they can expect.

You need to provide as many photos as it takes to make sure the customer is confident that they will receive what they want.

Accuracy is important

If customers receive something they didn’t expect because the images weren’t clear, they might return them.

Accurate images will reduce product returns.

Product images need to be accurate and they need to be stunning.

Stunning images will make your store look great and reliable.

Reliable stores will give customers more confidence in shopping at your store and therefore more sales.

The Steps

In this video I’ll demonstrate how to take photos of Running Shoes to put online.

I will be using a micro four-thirds mirrorless camera, the Panasonic G7 with the kit lens in Manual mode shooting raw images. I will explain all the settings and gears used as well as the steps for post editing. You don’t need an expensive camera for posting online but shooting raw images will give you much more flexibility in editing later on.

This video will be split in 3 sections.

  • the planning
  • the photo shoot
  • and the post editing

We will go through all the gears, settings and software used in the process.

This setup and workflow is specific to my needs, its not perfect so please keep that in mind.

Plan it out

To begin, we need to decide what photos are required for our products.

For the running shoes, I decided that 6 angles will be good, with 3 shots taken from eye level and 3 shots from above. One of this shot will be the main image. You typically want to provide at least 3 or 4 images for your products. I chose 6 because, taking 4 images and 6 images won’t make much difference in preparing. With 6 angles, it is possible to see every side of the shoe including the bottom.

Gear

Tripod

For this shoot and almost all product shots, we’ll be using a tripod. I’m using a flimsy one that was lying around but it’s ok indoors as long as you have a way to deal with camera shake.

Photo Soft Box Tent?

Probably the most important equipment in this set up is this 80 by 80cm Photo Box Tent. This particular one can be found on Amazon and helps diffuse the light so we get nice soft light.

The previous Photo Box I used before had reflective surfaces on the inside with Led lights built in the top.

This produced harsh lighting at the top of the subject and insufficient lighting all around. It’s a good all-in-one set up for some small products, but maybe not for Running Shoes.

lighting

For the lighting, I am using a Soft box for the back and two LED lights on both sides. The lights are around 5500K. I’m setting up the lighting that’ll be used for all the angles, trying to light up the subject whilst creating a bit of shadow to give it some shape.

White Balance

photography grey card
photography grey card

Once the lighting is set up I’ll start shooting with the camera in Manual mode to tweak the settings. This first image looks way blue, and that’s because of the White Balance settings of my camera.

I’m going to place a grey card in front of the subject and adjust the White Balance Settings. You can always fix White Balance in post when shooting raw images, but its quite distracting when their that off. If you’re shooting jpgs, you need to adjust your White Balance as you won’t be able to fix them as easily in post. If you are going to shoot on a regular basis, I recommend getting a bigger grey card as it is sometimes difficult to get the reading off the small card sometimes.

Exposure

Next thing I do is make sure to get good exposure. I don’t want images that are too bright or too dark. If you had to choose though, its better to under expose than over expose because once the image is too brightly white, you’ve lost data and it can’t be recovered.

Camera Settings

I need the whole shoe in focus so I’m going to use an aperture of at least f8. The iso is a no brainer set at the lowest value and just adjust the shutter speed until I get the desired exposure. The setting I ended up with was an aperture of f11 ISO200 and Shutter Speed of 15 of a second. I’m going to completely ignore the exposure indicator on my camera because I know this is the exposure I want.

Shoot in Manual Mode

dslr manual mode aperture shutter speed iso
dslr manual mode aperture shutter speed iso

One advantage of shooting in manual mode is that you will always get this consistent exposure with all your shots. If you shoot in auto mode, You will get bright shots and dark shots. If you place a dark shoe, the camera will think its under exposed and make it bright and vice versa with a bright shoe it will make the shot dark.

So if you never shot in Manual mode before but want to get consistent shots every time. Just get a tripod and set your camera’s aperture to at least f8, lowest iso and tweak with the shutter speeds until you get the desired exposure.

Why these Manual mode settings ?

Aperture:

  • F is for aperture and is the size on the hole through the lens.
  • The smaller the number, the bigger the hole and vice versa.
  • The bigger the hole the brighter the image, but also a more shallower the depth of field.
  • Shallow depth of field means less points will be in focus and the rest will be blurry.
  • This is good for portraits when you want a person in focus but the background very blurry.
  • For this product shot, we want the entire shoes to be in focus so we want to prevent any blurriness on the shoes.
  • An aperture of at least f8 or maybe f11 will ensure that the entire shoe will be in focus.

ISO:

  • How sensitive the camera sensor is to light.
  • The higher the number, the brighter the image but the image can get noiser (grainy)
  • We will set this to the lowest number because we want the cleanest image and because we have control of the lighting.

Shutter Speed:

  • The amount of time the shutter opens and closes to let the light in through to the sensor.
  • The faster the shutter speed, the darker the image because it lets less light in and vice versa.
  • Fast Shutter speeds are used in sports scenes to get sharp images of fast moving objects,
  • Slow shutter speeds can be used to let in more time or show some movement (blurry waterfall) in the image.
  • Since our product is not moving, we can adjust this setting until we get the our desired exposure.
  • For this shoot it ended up being 125 of a second.

Remote Shutter, Timer Release

panasonic g7 touch release
panasonic g7 touch release

Even if we are using a tripod, We can introduce shake to the camera when we press the shutter button and make the image blurry. To prevent this, we can use a shutter release cable or the self timer setting on the camera.

I found that the 2 second timer worked fine in my case.

Double check the lightings

aputure led lighting
aputure led lighting

I turn off all the lights in the set up to see that I’m not getting any lighting from external sources. I only want the lightings I control to be affecting the products. I will take an test image which should be pitch black.

Once all the settings are applied, I can start with the photo shoot. On this particular day I was shooting 20 pairs of shoes. I made sure to take all the shoes in the same order of angles. I also had to make sure to take all the shoes in the right order. It’s helpful to prepare a checklist with the order you will take the shots as it will help you rename the files later.

I’m also using the touch screen to take the shots with a self timer set to 2 seconds to minimize camera shake. After every shot I make sure that the shoe is in focus and looks sharp.

Plan the order

product shot order checklist
product shot order checklist

This day I shot 20 paris of shoes each with 6 angles. That’s a total of 120 shots. In order to keep track of the order, I prepared a visual checklist so I don’t get confused if a get interupted halfway. This checklist also comes in handy when you need to rename the images files later in post.

Please check the video above to see how a created the check list.

Main Image

The main image (the photo in category pages) needs to look consistent for all the products. This means you need to pay extra attention to the angle and composition for these shots. In my opinion the other images aren’t as important but ofcourse that will depend on how you use your final images.

The Set Up

If you don’t want to post edit your images then a smooth (clean) background is required. Make sure you sure a peice of cloth or paper have has no creases and scratches. For my shoot, I already knew we were going to clip out the background so we didn’t iron out the creases off our material.

Prep the Product

Make sure the product your shooting is clean and has no smudges or dust. Wipe with a damp cloth and buff with a dry one if needed. Minor imperfections can be removed in post but its better to handle it at this stage if possible.

Post Editing

Once the shoot is complete, we need to edit the images to make them look good and accurate. This includes removing the background, removing inperfections, toning up the colors and details, ensuring the colors are accurate. We will use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for these processes.

color accuracy in blue and purple
color accuracy in blue and purple
same image before and after color correction

Adobe Lightroom Edit Steps

Details are explained in the video above, here are the brief steps:

  • Import the images in Adobe LIghtroom
  • Adjust the White Balance
  • Adjust the Exposure
  • Check the colors are accurate
  • Fix imperfections quickly

Adobe Photoshop Edit Steps

  • Fix imperfections that are complex
  • Clip the product and add a clean background
  • Add artificial shadow (optional)

Adobe Lightroom Edit Again

  • Crop the image for the final product image.
  • Rename the product images
  • Export the images as a final jpeg image