At the end previous tutorial – “How to take product photos good enough for a website or ebay using an iPhone” – I left you hanging a little bit, promising I would show you how to brighten up those photos.
Well today that is just what I am going to do. Just using the iPhones native “camera” app I am going to run you through my process of editing one of the photos I took to brighten it up a little bit, make it more appealing on the eye, and therefore be a better and more useable product photo.
The latest iPhone native camera software has a reasonably good photo processing tool built into it. It’s not perfect, but it will certainly do for these purposes. At some point in the future I will post my thoughts on alternative and much more advanced iPhone photo processing software… So don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter if you want that to land in your inbox.
On to the task in hand… iPhone studio photo processing using the Native Camera App
The darkest of the photos taken last time was the shot of the top of the subject. I shan’t go into too much detail about why this has come out so dark other than to say you might find this happening to you if there is a lot of white in your subject. Whilst there is arguably just enough light and detail in this photo, it doesn’t quite do the subject justice. It just needs to be a bit brighter and a bit more eye catching.
The first thing to do is open the photo in the built in editor – Click edit top right of the screen.
From here you need to open the editing controls – Click the little dial icon middle/right at the bottom of the screen.
All of the controls we need can be found in “light” – So click that to expand the settings.
To make this slightly dull image look a lot more appealing I am going to use no more than the 6 settings available to me here, in fact, I don’t even need all of them!
Editing the photo
The biggest mistake made by almost everyone when editing photos for the first time is to take a far to heavy handed approach. The best approach is one of more subtle changes. As a general rule of thumb I try not to exceed +/-30 on the sliders. Much more than that and the image – to my eye at least – starts to break down a bit in quality. This isn’t a hard a fast rule, just a bit of a guideline.
The other major mistake is to edit blindly. What I mean by this is editing the photo without any idea of what it is the controls are actually doing. Even the most basic understanding can lead the way to a much nicer end result.
That basic understanding is what I am now going to talk you through.
Because we have a dark image, the is a natural inclination to just up the exposure. The problem is with that approach is that “Exposure” increases or decreases the lightness of the whole image uniformly, and that isn’t always the best thing to do. This particular image is dull, but the main issue of dullness is in the lower mid-tones and shadows. I have increased the exposure by around 30 this helps, but it’s just the start.
Most of the dullness is in the shadows, so if we change the setting in the “Shadows” control we can brighten the image without effecting other areas of the image too much. In other words, the shadows slider only effects the lightness of the shadow areas of the image. I have increased the shadows also by around 30. As you can see, the effect of this is to reduce the darkness of the image in the shaded areas, this is beginning to solve our issues.
I actually don’t find “Highlights” particularly using in the native iPhone camera app. Its purpose is to effect the lightness of just the lightest part of the image. I find it doesn’t really work that well and tend to steer clear. Your milage may vary.
Exposure controls the lightness of the whole image, shadows the shadows and highlights controls the lightest parts. Brightness controls the bit between shadows and highlights, or what we call the mid-tones. These mid-tones are the areas of the photo that are neither particularly dark or highlights; these tones are literally the middle tones. By brightening these mid-tones we make the main part of the subject slightly lighter. Again, I have increased by around 30. The cumulative effect of this and the two previous adjustments is that the subject is looking just about as bright as I want it to, unfortunately it is starting to look a little washed out.
Contrast is – as you might expect – the contrast between light and dark tones. Increasing contrast effects the whole image. Though it often is useful, in this particular photo it wasn’t especially. For this image, adjusting the contrast in just the lower lit areas is what is needed.
Black point, is literally that, the black point. It is the tone within the image that is set to be black. The higher it is set the lighter the shade of grey will be set to black. Make sense? no problem if it doesn’t it basically increases contrast but only within the lower tones of the image. By Increasing the black point to 30ish we retain the lower contrast in the high-lit areas of the image such as the white of the dial, but the image as a whole feels like it has more “pop” (technical term).
So just to recap, here are the settings used:
The finished image
And here is the final image. As you can see, it is brighter, but is by no means over the top bright. We have retained all the detail in the subject, but just given it a bit more of that aforementioned “pop”. Subtlety is key, and I hope you can see that what we have achieved is a much better, but really only subtlety different image.
The full frontal
And here are the settings for the full frontal shot that I teased you with last time. As you can see on this occasion I have used the contrast control. I have actually dropped the contrast by around 30, the effect of this was to take some of the over the top brightness of the screen on the top.
Once again, when comparing it to the original the difference is subtle, but the image just sits proud of the nearly completely white background. its not perfect, but considering the tools used, I hope you agree, it’s pretty close!
As with any photography tip, the best advice I can give you is to practice and experiment, but if you bear in mind the tips I have given you it should give you a good basis for getting to grips with what you are doing. Just remember, the key to retaining a good quality of image is subtle post-process changes.
All sound like too much hard work? Well don’t forget, here at F8 we do this “properly” with “proper” equipment and get results that really show of your products in the best possible light. You can find examples of our product photography along side examples of other photography services we offer here, and if you would like to talk to us about what we can offer you, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!