Taking Better Bag Photos: Lighting


Hi Lovelies. Becky from R.j.A.f.MAKES is with us for the last time to talk about how to take better bag pics, and this week she's looking at lighting.

Why is it all about correct lighting?
Correct lighting is needed to show off the true colours of the fabric you have used. Daylight is the best lighting to use, but it has its pros and cons. The most important thing to remember about daylight is that the sun and clouds will give off different colours at different times of day. The human eye will not always see this but your camera will pick it up, trust me on this one. The sun gives off a warm glow from around 12 noon onwards all the way to sunset, so the best time of day to take photos with natural light is around 9am to 11am in the morning. This is when the sun isn't at its brightest but also isn't at its yellow “glow” stage of the day. 

When you take a photo in the morning make sure there is no direct sunlight and a little cloud covering. This will give a white light as it appears to the human eye. To a camera, this white light will actually be a mild blue light. It will not affect the colours of  your photos, but it gives off a more balanced control of light and a more natural light.

The key thing about using daylight is to be patient! So, if you finish sewing that bag at night, don’t photograph it until the light is just right. If you were to photograph it at night in your sewing room you would notice a yellow/orange glow to your photos and trust me, when you’re trying to sell the item the customer won’t be interested if the colours aren't anywhere near the true fabric colour. The following day also might not be the correct lighting either. It might be raining, which will be too dull and cloudy making the photo dark and too shadowy. 
So, the main words you have to keep saying to yourself is… BE PATIENT!

Now if you’re like me and can’t always be that patient (and with British weather you could be waiting for days), you can easily pick up a studio light and stand from Amazon. 

We (and I say we as my step children use it too for YouTube videos) have a daylight balance studio light kit. It has a light tent on a stand with a daylight lamp attached to it. There is a soft mask that sits over the lamp tent area, which softens the harsh light the lamp makes without this mask. With the mask, the light works like it’s about 9am to 11am. 

However, you are then restricting yourself to the same backgrounds in your house and not photographing your bag in natural outside areas. Outside areas would give you better backdrops and foregrounds. You will also find that people can visualise themselves using that bag if it's photographed outside on a wall or even on a park bench, as that will feel more natural to them.

Not much editing should be needed if (a) you have controlled the light from the start of the photographing stage or (b) you have moved closer to the bag to get the detailing on that new zipper pull or those shiny rivets. I personally only use editing if I’m lacking in a bit of light or if I want to darken the background a little, but not for making the bag darker. 

The only other thing I do advise is if your photos need some colour correction you can add a colour overlay with most editing software and apps. However, in doing any colour corrections, you will be losing the quality of your photo. You may notice your fabric in the photo may not look like the fabric you have actually used. This is where you need to practice playing around. Look at the whites within the photo. This is where you will notice the changes you are applying. 

If your whites are:

  • yellowy - you need to add blue, bit by bit until you see the white turn a crisp white or close to it. 
  • too blue - you will need to add in a few warm tones i.e. red or pink or yellow. Just keep adding bit by bit until your whites are nearly crisp, white. 

The key thing to remember is just add a little, if needed, to colour correct a photo. Don’t go overboard.

In conclusion:
  • Use the right lighting. Be patient. Waiting is the key to taking the best photos or product photos
  • Don’t over-edit. The more you play around with the photo, the more the photo resolution will decrease.
  • Frame your photo. I take an average 20 to 30 photos of one bag before I choose the best 5 or so photos. Just delete those that you aren't going to use.
  • Have fun and play around. If it doesn’t work first time, just try again. Just keep playing. This is the only way you will learn. Practice is the key and remember, have fun whilst doing it.

Thanks Becky for a fascinating journey through Taking Better Bag Photos!

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