Charleston Product Photographer | Amazing Amazon Photography

It may not be common knowledge but I have a second business and website that I’ve been building called Product Photo Lab (PPL for short). The website is still in the works, but there is some basic content up there. Finding openings in my schedule to fix and revise the work in progress that is PPL is really tough. Recently though, despite the website not being as ready as I would like it to be, I’ve been getting contacted and doing some work through it. This isn’t my usual work, as you already may have guessed by the title of this blog post, but I’m really excited that the website is starting to generate some calls, and therefore enthusiastically making time to do the work.

One of the unexpected places that I’ve been contacted to produce images for is Amazon listings. These shoots are usually pretty quick but the clients are looking for something a bit more refined to help their products stand out and hopefully get that coveted number 1 ranking on Amazon.

I’ve learned quite a few of tips on how images sell on Amazon in this process. Products in environments and in use will generally outsell those that are just plain white shots. Additionally, Amazon does require the first shot to be on an all pure white background (which has some specifics to it as well, most of my readers already know what “pure white” is but if you don’t, it’s is a rating of 255 in all color channels). So this has presented interesting challenges (which I love). One client, had a glass water bottle that he sold as a set of 6 and single. Here was what the bottle started with:

Photographing a clear empty bottle isn’t very flattering. So I filled it with water letting the light gradient throughout the inside (trick one).

Then we put very carefully selected liquids into the bottles so the colors wouldn’t get dark and murky (trick two).

Lastly, I asked how he felt about fresh plants in the bottles, which he seemed willing to entertain, and viola!

I was able to product a collection of photographs for him where the shots met Amazon’s specifics but the shots had enough color and vibrancy to pop off the page when compared to other bottles! Happily, he is already on page 1 for his requested search terms and selling like crazy! After discussing what the client needed, I composited 6 of these shots together to create his opening image on Amazon. Here is a look at what he sent me for art direction (also what the competition happens to be showing).

This is what his listing looks like this today:

As I mentioned before, I’ve worked with quite a few Amazon clients lately. Here are a few more shots just to give you an idea what being a product photographer in Charleston is keeping busy with!

This client wanted in environment and shots with a model using the product:

E-Commerce Photography Terms Defined | Miami E-Commerce Photographer Kate Benson

As a still life and product photographer, I realized that there are a lot of terms used in the industry that might not be entirely clear. So, I thought I would define them here and explain how my team and I can help you get the right photos for your needs. e-commerce images:  These are photos of your product that customers click on to purchase the product. These shots may be photographed on model or as a still life of just the product alone and can be resized to fit dimensions that your web designer requires. E-commerce images can further be broken into two categories: catalog page images and product images. Catalog page images are the library or the main page that people go to which shows an overview of the products available. The product image is the single image of the product which may show the item from various angles.

Banners and intro images: These are photos that are used as headers and on home pages for websites, like a mini ad, to draw customers in. They can be still life, on location, or on model and use a variety of ways to incorporate imagery.

Advertising images: These are photos that you might need for trade show posters, magazine ads, billboard ads, etc.

Wholesale images:  These are photos for use on sites such as Amazon, Belks, Macy’s, etc. Simply send us the guidelines that are requested by the site and we will cater your photos to these needs.

Social Media images: These are photos for use on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Using the guidelines from these sites and your brand’s image, we create photos to promote your products on social media.

Lookbook images: These are photos for use in a company’s catalog that portray the “feel” of the product. Catalogs are mailed to clients and serve as a widespread way to promote the products.

Line sheet images: These are photos that are basic and to-the-point which give facts for use in helping retail buyers place orders of your product.

Whatever your product photo needs are, we can work with you to develop images that are right for your company.

More work by Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson.

Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson | Making an Impact with Your Photos for Email Blasts

As a product photographer, I shoot quite a bit of e-commerce shots which are used for various things such as websites, ad campaigns, and on-model photos for look books. I also shoot social media shots for clients’ Instagram and Facebook pages. In addition, many clients need photos for their email blasts as well. One option is to shoot photos specifically for these email blasts. Another option is to use photos that we have previously shot for e-commerce. Either way, I can help you to create the photos you need to make a positive lasting impression in your email blasts. Here are a few examples of photos that were originally shot on-model for Cosabella’s look book but were included in some recent email blasts:

Here are a few examples of still life product shots that were originally shot for Cosabella’s look book and were then included in their recent email blasts:

And lastly, here are examples of photos that were originally shot as e-commerce photos for Donald J Pliner’s website, but were also included in their email blast:

Miami Product Photographer | Photoshop – A Useful Tool, Not Divine Intervention

Post-production of photos is extremely important in product photography. In this blog, we will examine Photoshop and its uses and misconceptions.
What Photoshop is NOT: Photoshop is not divine intervention to airbrush your photo and make it suddenly incredible. There is a common misunderstanding that by using Photoshop, any photo can magically become amazing. This is most definitely not true.

What Photoshop IS: Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can help make great photos even better by modifying certain facets of the photo.

It is crucial to begin the post-production with an effective photo that conveys a compelling story relevant to the product. The old saying “garbage in – garbage out” is a very basic way of saying that if you begin with a poor photo, no amount of Photoshop in the world will be able to make that photo great. As a photographer, I do not cut corners during the shoot. I take my time and focus my energy to create the best photo possible. I am then able to enhance this photo with the various tools available in Photoshop.

Here is a list of things that Photoshop cannot fix, taken from the blog “Six Things You Can’t Fix in Photoshop,” by Shutterfinger:

  1. Camera position – if the camera is too close to the product, it is impossible to “back it up” in post-production
  2. Lighting direction and quality
  3. Focus
  4. Blurred image due to motion of the camera or subject
  5. Lost data
  6. Lack of creativity/spark/intent

Miami Product Photographer | Raw Image Files – Better Known as “Digital Negatives”

The term “raw file” is often mistaken or misunderstood. Nowadays, with everyone taking photos on their phone and sharing them with the world, the idea of a digital photo seems relatively straightforward and easy to comprehend. But that is not really the case. If you don’t fully understand the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file, don’t worry, you are not alone! This is a common issue that I hope to clarify here.
It is essential to distinguish between these three terms (raw files, processed files, and retouched files) in order to get exactly what you need and can use from a photo shoot. Sometimes clients will ask me for the raw files from the shoot when they actually meant to ask for the processed files (they want files that have not yet been retouched, but that are in a format that they can use).

So let’s start with the basics. First of all, it is important to know what a raw file is. Believe it or not, raw is not necessarily what you think it is. Many people think that “raw”simply means that it hasn’t been re-touched or edited using Photoshop or a similar program. This is not the case. To clarify, a raw file means “camera raw.” But what does this mean exactly?

Consider this: years ago when you wanted to shoot photos, you had a roll of Kodak film, for example. You placed the roll of film in your camera and began shooting. After you shot all 24 or 36 photos on the roll, you would typically take the roll of film to a photo center to have it processed. The roll itself was no good to you until it was processed. What you got back from the photo center was the developed film (as negatives or slides) and prints (if you opted to print them). In terms of the digital world of photography, think of the raw files as the undeveloped roll of film that has been shot, the processed files as the developed film and the retouched files as the prints that you would get.

Part of the reason we shoot tethered (with the camera attached to the computer by a cable in order to send the files directly to the computer) is so that we can show the client a preview of a processed file that doesn’t actually exist in reality yet. It hasn’t been processed at this point, but it can be viewed as if it were. Shooting tethered is a great way to give the client a general idea of what the photo is going to look like when it is processed. If I were shooting to a CD or memory card, you would not be seeing the hypothetical version of the image. You would be seeing the raw version which is hard to understand unless you know how to read them.

So, after the raw images are shot, they need to be processed. Clients hire me because they like my work and part of that work is file processing. It is the part of post-production that occurs after the shoot, where I make sure that when I give you the files, they look exactly like they are supposed to. In the past, when using film, photographers would shoot photos with the idea in mind of how we were going to process it. Pushing or pulling the film during the development process was a way to adjust what we shot in order to create the best image possible. Now, with digital images, this is done in the “digital darkroom” or in the processing phase of post-production. Some of the things that can be done during processing are (from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_image_format):

  • decoding – image data of raw files are typically encoded for compression purpose, but also often for
    obfuscation purpose
  • defective pixel removal – replacing data in known bad locations with interpolations from nearby locations
  • white balancing – accounting for color temperature of the light that was used to take the photograph
  • demosaicing – interpolating the partial raw data received from the color-filtered image sensor into a matrix of colored pixels.
  • noise reduction – trading off detail for smoothness by removing small fluctuations
  • color translation – converting from the camera native color space defined by the spectral sensitivities of the image sensor to an output color space (typically sRGB for JPEG)
  • tone reproduction – the scene luminance captured by the camera sensors and stored in the raw file needs to be rendered for pleasing effect and correct viewing on low-dynamic-range monitors or prints
  • compression – for example JPEG compression
  • removal of systematic noise – bias frame subtraction and flat-field correction
  • dark frame subtraction
  • optical correction – lens distortion correction, vignetting correction, and color fringing correction
  • contrast enhancement
  • increasing visual acuity by unsharp masking
  • dynamic range compression – lighten shadow regions without blowing out highlight regions

And after the images are processed, they are typically retouched.  Retouching is a digital way to make your photo look even better. Sometimes, in order to produce the best shot, you have to shoot multiple images and put these images together into one photo. This would occur in the retouching phase of the post production work. Jewelry photography is an excellent example of this.

So, as you can see, just as in the days of “old school” film, digital photography involves multiple steps that all lead up to the final, usable image. And hopefully this clears up the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file.

If you are still a little confused, here is another photographer’s explanation

Click here for more info on Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson

Switch 2 Social Recap | A Seminar on Social Media and Blogging

Last Thursday I spoke at an ASMP event titled, “Social Media Secrets Revealed,” about how blogging has helped my business grow. For those of you who attended, thank you. For those of you who couldn’t make it or were too far away, you missed a great show! Rosh Sillars was the keynote speaker and had some great tips. Pascal Depuhl, Jorge ParraScott Coventry and I were additional speakers who shared our own personal success stories. My story was about how blogging has really helped my business. It is often overlooked by artists because we think our work speaks for itself. But in a world where clients want to know who they are hiring, the blog is your new resume and portfolio.

 

When I talk to people about blogging, there is often a lot of fear surrounding the idea of it. Some common fears are related to insecurity, weak writing skills, lack of information, and the list goes on. Insecurity stems from the misconception that someone else out there probably knows the topic better. Many people are anxious that writing isn’t their strong point and so are afraid of not sounding eloquent. Some have a false belief that they should first gather more information and then blog when they really have something of epic proportions to say. Whatever your reason, just toss it out. My first blogs were terrible (and some still are). I mean really, really awful. And the pictures that I took back then, well, I wouldn’t be putting any of them on my website today. But it was material. It was content. It was a starting point. Writing anything is almost always better than nothing. Nothing will get you nothing. Often, the idea of writing for the entire online community is daunting. Sometimes it helps to imagine that you have no audience, that you are just writing for yourself.

So, where do you begin? What would you like to tell someone about yourself or your work if you were writing in a journal and could say anything, for example? Write that. Add some visuals if you have them; if not, oh well. Post what you wrote. In the beginning your audience probably will be close to zero. I have been posting so infrequently that I’m pretty sure the size of my blog’s audience is back down. But, even if it isn’t, I prefer to imagine that it is because if no one is reading my blog and I’m just writing to give Google some fresh content to crawl, the pressure is off! I have yet to lose a client because of a blog post (knock on wood it doesn’t happen in the future). So, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, which is the same for you!

So your homework this week (for those of you who already have some sort of blog platform up): Write a post. Even if it is a post about never getting around to posting (I think I have at least 10 posts like that). But write something! Break the ice!! You have to start somewhere!

If you don’t have a blog yet, you have a bigger assignment: Figure out what platform you want to use to blog (research WordPress, Blogger, etc), learn how to install it and get to it. Or get a buddy who is computer savvy to do it for you. If you have no computer savvy friends, hire someone to do it. Just figure it out and do it!! Worst case scenario, you don’t install it correctly and have to try again. Practice makes perfect and eventually you will get it!