Photo Editing for Product Photography Using Elements 10

16 Oct

Nicole Hanna, whose designs and techniques I greatly admire, recently wrote an article for her jewelry website entitled “Photo Editing (For Product Photography)“.  While I understood the tools she recommended using in the editing program, Photoscape, I could not quite figure out how she got from point A to point B because she didn’t give information or screenshots of her manipulation of the tools.  Additionally, it was clear from the comments that everyone was “afraid” of Photoshop.

So I am here to say that the step-child of Photoshop, Adobe’s Elements 10 editing software, is definitely not scary, and I’ll show you exactly how I use it to edit photos for my on-line boutique.

I think Nicole’s introduction is important for both of our methods, which I have repeated here in part:

“This article will not discuss the intricacies of operating a camera, or capturing an image.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about product photography, as concerns the self-employed, internet-based business owner, is that the image is perfect, or at the very least acceptable, in camera every single time.  However, what is often misunderstood is that the image, not the product, is the backbone behind the successful or failing internet business.   Because a customer cannot touch, taste or smell the product before purchasing, the image is its own salesperson, and as much care should be taken towards producing a powerful image as in producing a powerful product. Though some consideration needs to be given towards the photographic equipment used, the goal of producing a great image doesn’t stop with ones camera, setting or props. Unless every condition is ideal, most images will need to be processed through editing software.”

I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3 camera with an EFS 18-55mm lens.  I shoot in natural light from a west-facing window in my work room and use a large piece of charcoal grey faux suede for my background and prop coverings.  Most days I can cheat and use the “Creative Auto” function with the “Darker” setting, Background Blur one point to the left , and no flash.  Using natural light, however, restricts my photography to the morning hours.

Now for a step-by-step tutorial of my method using Elements 10!

The first thing I do is look through each shot and discard any that are not in focus.  To do this, I open the file location where my photographs are stored, and then enlarge each shot to 100%.  If your photograph is not in focus, no amount of editing software will fix it.  I use the Picassa Photo Viewer, which allows me to double-click the first photo and then zoom it out to 100% using the 1:1 ratio button.  This photo is nicely focused and will be used throughout the rest of this tutorial (to view any of the following photographs at their full size, right click on the image and choose “View Image”; you’ll need to use your browser’s back arrow to return to the post):

Check Focus

Open Elements 10 to the Edit function and open your photograph:

Open in Elements

Looking a little lopsided there, eh?  Let’s correct that with the Straighten Tool.  Click on the tool and then hold down the mouse button to start the beginning of a line and continue to hold down the button while you drag your mouse across the photo to create a line establishing the new orientation of the photo:

Prepare to Fix Alignment

When you release the mouse button, the photograph will automatically straighten.  Areas of the photograph that were outside the frame of the picture are filled in with black:

Alignment Corrected

Next, I want my resulting photograph to be square and to contain only the parts of the photograph needed to display my product.  I use the Crop Tool to do this.  When the tool is selected, options appear below the menu at the top of the screen; the Aspect Ratio should be “5 x 5 in” so your Crop is square, and the Overlay should be set to “Rule of Thirds”.

Click and hold down the mouse button to draw a square around the part of the photo you want to keep.  When you release the button, you can adjust the outline using the drag handles to expand the box, contract the box, and even rotate if your photo needs a bit more straightening.  You can also click on the very center of the box and move the whole box around.  The dotted lines that divide the image into nine sections (the “Rule of Thirds” overlay) are helpful for precision placement of your product within the frame.  When you are happy with the placement, click the green check-sign; if you want to start over, click the red null sign.

Prepare to Crop

Now my photo is square and my product is nicely centered in the frame:

Cropped

My photo is still overly large (since I shoot using 4272 x 2848) and I want to both keep the photo large enough so customers can view the details, but small enough that it doesn’t take an eternity to upload or display.  This means the photo needs to be re-sized.  I like to use Ctrl-Alt-I to open the Image or you can click on Image -> Resize -> Image Resize to open the Image Size window.

Prepare to Resize

I chose to make my photos 800 x 800, most on-line venues recommend between 500 and 1000 square.  The width is already highlighted for you when you open this window, so simply type in the size you want.  As long as “Constrain Proportions” is clicked, the length automatically fills itself in.  Click “OK”.

Resizing Window

The photo has been resized!

Resized

But it’s too small to continue working; let’s make it bigger!  Click on the “Zoom Tool” and then click “Fill Screen”.

Fill Screen

Ah, that’s better!  Now is a good time to inspect your image to see if there is any “dirt” (i.e., lint, hairs, scuffs) on your prop or background.  I can see some distracting white specks that detract from my product:

Dirt TopDirt Bottom

Elements 10 has a nifty tool to make these blend into the surrounding area called the “Spot Healing Brush Tool”.  Click on the tool, use the “[” key to make the circle smaller and the “]” to make it bigger, center the circle over the blemish and just click!

Dirt Top Gone Dirt Bottom Gone

Viola!  Let’s change to “Fit Screen” using the “Zoom Tool” so we can see the whole picture.

Fit Screen

As Nicole noted in her article, contrast is probably your best friend at this point, and Elements 10 has an auto-contrast function that’s pretty good.  So let’s use it.  Simply click on “Enhance” and then “Auto Contrast”.

Prepare to Fix Contrast

The change is subtle but powerful, and will become more so as we continue editing:

Contrast Fixed

When working with a grey background, your photos are often slightly tinted into the blue range.  Elements 10 has an easy was to fix that, so let’s click on Enhance -> Adjust Color -> Color Variations:

Prepare to Fix Color

The default for the Color Intensity is mid-range; let’s not be so drastic!

Mid-Range Color

Move the slider towards the left, making the changes incrementally smaller (one you change this, it will stay at the new intensity until you close the program).  This lets us make more subtle changes.  Leaving the area of the image to adjust at the default of “Midtones”, let’s click once on the “Decrease Blue” option, then click “OK”::

Low-Range Color

Everything is a little warmer and more natural looking.

Color Corrected

Now let’s make this baby POP!  Change from “Full” to “Guided” and scroll down to and click “Lomo Camera Effect”:

Prepare to Apply Vignette

This effect lets us apply graduated shading around the edges of the photograph, drawing the light and the attention to the center of the photo, and making your product really stand out!  Just click on the second option, “Apply Vignette”:

Apply Vignette

Here I have hit “Apply Vignette” three times.  The difference is fabulous, no?

Vignette Applied 3 Times

Now let’s save our photo so we can move on to the next one.  Switch back to “Full” and click “File” and “Save As”:

Prepare to Save

Oh, no!  Elements 10 wants to save the file in the Photoshop format.  That won’t work; we need the photo to be in a format like JPG.  Click on the format arrow and change the format to JPEG, and click “Save”:

JPG Extension

An options window will now open.  I go for the full monty so I can get the best quality photo:

JPG Options

To clear the workspace, click on the “X” button and choose not to save again (because it will try to save it again in the Photoshop format and we’ve just been there, done that!):

Close

And that is how this:

Original Image

Is turned into this:

Final Image

It takes me about 3 minutes from start to finish.  Once you get used to the controls and the sequences, you’ll be speeding along too!editorsign

4 Responses to “Photo Editing for Product Photography Using Elements 10”

  1. gt281 October 17, 2013 at 5:22 PM #

    I’m sorely disappointed—where are the Adobe-shopped naked faeries?…in 3D even…

    • Faerie♥Kat October 24, 2013 at 7:25 PM #

      Damn smart ass kids, gonna rule the world some day!

      • gt281 October 24, 2013 at 8:15 PM #

        Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
        If you’re young at heart.
        For its hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
        If you’re young at heart.

        You can go to extremes with impossible schemes.
        You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
        And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
        And love is either in your heart, or on its way.

        Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
        To be young at heart.
        For as rich as you are, it’s much better by far
        To be young at heart.

        And if you should survive to 105,
        Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
        And here is the best part, you have a head start
        If you are among the very young at heart.

        And if you should survive to 105,
        Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
        And here is the best part, you have a head start
        If you are among the very young at heart.

        How’s your patient doing? Did she like my stories?

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