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Notes on Photography and Other Things

PHOTOGRAPHING CLOTHING ITEMS FOR THE INTERNET

What's the best way to photograph clothes upload the picture on Internet (for example, in the classifieds section, or on an auction like eBay)?

Of course, the ideal option is a studio photo shoot with a lot of charming models, which will fully demonstrate all the charms of the proposed outfit.

But if it is a one-time sale of a piece of your own closet, then, obviously, you will have to make it on your own. Therefore, this article considers the option of shooting without the use of artificial lighting, using simple devices.

To take the picture we will need:

  • A camera. It is desirable to have (borrow from your friends) not a simple digital camera, but an advanced amateur camera or a digital camera. And it's not just because inexpensive soap cameras are exactly what they are called "washes out" (they make washed out pictures), but because they usually do not have a possibility of adjusting the exposure, which is important when you are, for instance, shooting black clothes on a white background.
  • A large enough and bright enough window, but without direct sunlight. There should be enough space next to the window to put the model and hang the background.
  • Tripod. When shooting with light from a window, taking pictures with your hands may cause a "fuzzy" - blurred images.
  • Reflector. If you don't have a special reflector, any white surface of at least 100x50 cm will do. (white board, piece of dense cardboard, foam plastic).
  • A mannequin or model. Clothes just laid out on the floor doesn't do a good job of conveying the design/stitching features. In such a picture you can't see "how the jacket fits". Therefore it is better to represent the clothes on a mannequin or model. One should be very serious when choosing a model (most often relatives or friends are "pretending" to be the model). If the item of clothing to be photographed does not fit your model well, the impression of potential buyers looking at the picture may be spoiled.
Схема  установки освещения

So, if all the components are ready, you can start preparing for the shoot.

Choose a place for the model near the window so that direct sunlight does not fall on the model (it is better to place the model half-way to the window). From behind (perpendicular to the window, or at a slight angle of about 80°), place a white background (a piece of white fabric, a sheet). Try as much as possible to smooth out the background material, so that there are no folds.

Try to place the background so that it gets no less light than the model (otherwise it will look too dark), the model should not stand directly in front of it, but stay at a certain distance from it (at least half a meter).

Place your reflector (white panel) on the side of the model opposite the window so that it highlights the shadows on the model with the light reflected from the window. Approximate scheme of the arrangement of the background, model and reflector near the window is given on the right (click to enlarge).

Place the camera on a tripod and place it at a distance from the model. How do I calculate the right distance to shoot? It depends on the camera and the lens. It's best to shoot with a lens focal length (in 35mm film equivalent) of 50 to 100mm.

If you have a lens with the focal length indicated on it, set the value in the indicated interval and move away from the model at such a distance that the model in the required scale (full-length, half-length, half-length) "fits" into the viewfinder/screen of the camera.

If you have a built-in "zoom" that doesn't specify a focal length, just "extend" the lens by about half or a little more and move back to the desired distance. Why do you need to do this?

If you shoot with the zoom lens in the wide angle position (without "zooming in"), we will get significant image distortion, especially on the edges. Our task, on the other hand, is to ensure that the subject of the garment is displayed as accurately as possible.

Another important task is to correctly determine the exposure (i.e. the values of shutter speed and aperture at which the picture will be correctly exposed). Before you determine the exposure it is important to set the sensitivity of your sensor (ISO) to the lowest possible value (for instance, 50, 100 or 200 - depending on your camera). Be sure to turn off the automatic sensitivity setting. This is necessary in order to get an image of the highest possible quality (the higher the ISO value, the lower the quality).

It is also better to manually set the white balance (white balance or WB) so that the colors match reality as much as possible (here we can remember the story about the dress that is either white and gold or blue and black). Many cameras have a white balance value such as "daylight" or "daylight in the shade". In principle, both of these values should work.

You can get the best option if your camera has the ability to set the white balance manually, on a sheet of white paper. Alternatively, you can place a gray card (discussed a bit below) in the corner of the image, which can then be "scaled" (cropped).

After that, we start determining the optimal shutter speed and aperture. The automatic exposure, which you probably have in your camera, does not always work correctly since it is designed for an "average" frame. If we're shooting against a white background, we won't get an "average shot" most of the time.

If your camera has a function for displaying the automatically selected exposure (i.e. shutter speed and aperture) and manually setting the exposure, you can use the so called "gray card" to determine the correct exposure values. A gray card is a sheet of paper filled with 18% gray color. Such cards are sometimes sold in photo stores, or you can make a more or less accurate copy yourself  by printing this page (5.6 kb) filled with 18% gray on the printer.

So, we place our gray card in front of the model/dummy parallel to the camera, zoom in on the gray card so that it covers the entire viewfinder/screen and look at the shutter speed and aperture. Then switch to manual exposure mode and set the same values.

If manual exposure setting is not available in your camera, but there is an option to set the compensation, you can try to correct the automatically determined exposure. To do so, you should set positive compensation when taking pictures against a white background and negative compensation when taking pictures against a dark background. You will have to determine the compensation value by eye. In other words, if the clothes and the background are too dark, add +1 compensation. If they are still dark, add +2.

If your camera has neither manual mode nor compensation, try shooting against a neutral gray background (you can move your white background into the shade to make it look gray).

You can start taking pictures.

During the shoot, try to have the model take relaxed poses, don't keep a dejected facial expression, and try to show the best aspects of the outfit being presented.

As an option, you can try shooting outside against an abstract background (like a monotone wall). It's best to photograph outdoors when it's slightly cloudy, so the model and clothes don't have too many dark shadows on them.

When photographing under direct sunlight, you need to watch out for shadows. It is best to illuminate them with a white reflector or flash.

After shooting.

After the shooting is finished, the resulting photos usually need to be finalized on a computer. The basic operations are lightening the background (which will not be perfectly white, because we have not used special lighting equipment) and cropping.

(credits for images — dreamstime.com
lighting setup diagram template — Kevin Kertz)

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