Thursday, September 17, 2009

Etsy Listing Tips: Lighting and the Evils of Flash

I link to this tutorial on the etsy forums all the time, so I though I should put it on the new blog:

A recent edition of the email newsletter for Etsy Sellers commented on the evil that is flash, but I would like to expand on why it is evil, and also address the horrors of tungsten lighting and the importance of white balance.

I've photographed a pair of earrings that I made. Because I made them for myself, they are clip-ons. However, if people like them enough, I may remake them and sell them.

We'll start with flash.

Flash vs. Natural Light

OK, the difference is clear. But I'll point a few things out.

In the photo with the flash, the colors are different, and the shadows are harsher. And the photo with flash is actually darker than the photo without! But more than all that - is that the kind of lighting you'd normally see the item in?

Unless the item is something that would normally appear in harsh light - and I can't think of anything that would - don't photograph it using that light.

This does not apply for artistic photography - flash can produce some interesting results by accident or if you know how to use it.

OK. Now to lighting in general.


Tungsten is Evil.

Tungsten makes everything orange. Even when using tungsten white balance, the colors are off.

That being said, bright daylight is very bright and will create some pretty harsh shadows. Cloudy days are your friend.

I'm lucky. I have a sort of frosted plastic covering the outside of my window for additional insulation. I always have great photography light.

Windows are your friends. Set up your photos on the windowsill, maybe early in the day when the sunlight isn't as harsh.

White balance is very important as well. Your photos will look blue or orange with the wrong white balance - and you CAN'T rely on auto-white balance. The colors on your items need to be true to life.

Photos taken in tungsten with different white balances:

Big differences, right?

Various white balances in natural daylight:

Once more, a big difference.

The completely blue one is tungsten white balance. Maybe that gives you an idea of how warm tungsten light is. ((shudder))

So pay attention! Bring out the booklet that came with your camera, find out how to adjust the white balance, and then play with it until the results match reality.

I'll be doing more posts like this soon... For my next I plan on talking about the different types of natural light, or maybe how to edit photos without fancy software. Stay tuned!

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