Macro Product Photo Help Needed

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honestzed
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by honestzed »

I host a fansite that features pictures of painted plastic gaming miniatures. Most of these miniatures are about one-inch to two-inches high. I have tried a few different techniques and have been able to get good results but certainly not great results. I recently upgraded my camera and am still learning to use it efficiently. I have zero background in photography, so this has been quite a learning curve for me -- mostly trial and error.

Here is what I am using:
Lightbox: https://www.amazon.ca/Photography-Folda ... lp_pl_dp_3
Camera: Panasonix Lumix DC-ZS80
Lights: I have 2 lights which are basically this light(https://www.thecamerastore.com/3362-Lum ... Light.aspx), however they only have 1 color temperature.

The lightbox does have its own lights on the top front edge, but I don't use them as they are a different color temperature than my Lumahawk lights, and I don't find that I need top down light for my items.

Have a light placed on light stands on the left and right of my camera. I have a thin translucent filter/sheet that I place over lights to prevent shine/glare of the led's.

Generally, I get good light on my items, and with the light coming from the left and right side of my camera I don't really have any issues with shadows.

I clip the background from all of my photos, and this becomes a big challenge when the miniatures have any white, grey or silver on them (which is nearly half the miniatures). (I use Corel Photo Paint) and when I select the background removal tool it can really differentiate where the background ends and the mini begins at some of the edges of the miniature. I had the same issue when I tried using Adobe Photoshop. A large part of the problem I have concluded is that I am not getting enough light on the back of my light box, which then gives a grey background in the pictures. Here is an example:

Image

I do place the miniature at the very front of my light box as well, so perhaps I should be placing it further back -- however I still want the ability to keep the camera mounted on the stand and about 5 inches back from the miniature.

If anyone has any insight, tips or suggestions for me they would be greatly appreciated. I really don't have a clue what I am doing and several years of trial and error have improved my photos, but I think they
could still be so much better. Equipment recommendations would also be appreciated -- especially regarding lights. I'm not sure if I'm using the right light set-up for my items?


Thank you.

Peter M. Macdonald
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:59 pm
Location: Berwickshire, Scotland

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by Peter M. Macdonald »

I will let others give advice on how to get more light onto the background and thereby increase the contrast level between subject and background. However, if the image in your post is typical, it should be possible to cut that from the background fairly easily.

For years I have used Topaz Remask for such tasks. It has no been superseded by Topaz Mask AI. I have not tried the new version, as I have never felt the need to change. If I were you I would download the free trial version and give it a go. It is quite simple to use and there are good tutorials on the Topaz Labs website.

Let us know how it goes.

Macro_Cosmos
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Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by Macro_Cosmos »

As a product photo, it's actually really good. Everything is showcased here. Perhaps the background can be cleaner, but it's fine.

You say you clip the background. In this case, wouldn't you benefit from a background that's drastically different in colour to the model? ie green in this case. I am assuming that "clipping" means you replace the background. I however think I misunderstood. Looking at the photo closely, I see 2 bands, I suppose it's from LED flicker or something similar. That's an eyesore that I cannot look over once realised.

There are several good action figure/weeb figure photographers on flickr. They incorporate the background into their photos, making them unique and high quality. I personally think product photos should be like that as well, especially for action figures. I do like the story telling aspect of it.

Alexander To is one of them, his photos are really good: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spectre257
(Warning: tons of weeb stuff coming to the screen)

Another would be Leslie, he's a local that I bought a tripod from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/55142892@ ... 016515816/
He tells me that he often simply utilise lights/lamps in the street and incorporate them into his photos. Some are obvious background swaps.

bralex
Posts: 108
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:34 am
Location: New Mexico, USA

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by bralex »

I was waiting for the critiques, because to my untrained eye that's a pretty good photo. I'll echo the other commenters and suggest a brighter colored background to make removal/replacement easier.

hero
Posts: 72
Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:38 pm
Location: California

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by hero »

Lighting is always relative. What matters is not the absolute amount of light you use to illuminate the objects in the scene, but rather, how much light is used to illuminate each object relative to the others. Then the exposure settings in the camera dictates how the final image appears.

For example, if you were to use a single dim flashlight illuminating the figurine in such a way that almost none of the light shines on the backdrop, then a long exposure (slow shutter speed or high ISO) will compensate for the overall low illumination. The backdrop, even if it is white, receives so little light relative to the figurine, that it will look dark gray or black.

Conversely, if you use a single high-powered lamp and point it at the backdrop, with very little light directly striking the figurine, then the exposure can be much shorter (fast shutter speed or low ISO) than the previous case. But the background will be overexposed as white as long as the exposure is long enough--generally, 2 to 3 stops slower than the metered value. If the backdrop is black, it might need to be more severely overexposed, since for the most part, all objects have some reflectance.

The takeaway is that if you want the figurine to be illuminated a certain way, and the backdrop to be white, then dial down the light on the former, and dial up the light on the latter. The total amount of light isn't important so long as you are able to control the lighting ratio.

Next, a word about color temperature. Since you basically need two light sources to be able to get the control you want over relative illumination (it is difficult to use a single light to get diffuse lighting on your figurine while overexposing the backdrop), it becomes important that both light sources be as close together in color temperature as possible. If one light is too warm and the other too cool, the result will be difficult to color balance.

Finally, how bright an object appears in the image is not just a function of the intensity of light. It is also a function of the distance between the light and the object. The farther away the light, the less bright it will appear. With careful positioning and/or clever use of reflectors, diffusers, and/or flags/gobos, you might be able to pull off some tricks with only a single light source, but usually the easiest way to control relative illumination is to use dedicated light sources for each part of your scene.

honestzed
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by honestzed »

Peter M. Macdonald wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 11:31 am
For years I have used Topaz Remask for such tasks. It has no been superseded by Topaz Mask AI. I have not tried the new version, as I have never felt the need to change. If I were you I would download the free trial version and give it a go. It is quite simple to use and there are good tutorials on the Topaz Labs website.
Thank you for this recommendation. I gave the free trial version a try. I tried removing the background a variety of ways with this, but unfortunately it just doesn't do a clean job of this at various parts of the subjects -- it leaves numerous grey areas from the background around the perimeter of the subject. These require several more passes of retouching before they are removed. I also found that many grey and white items that were close to the background color just could not be distinguished by the software, ending up with it removing parts of the subject.

honestzed
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by honestzed »

hero wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:36 pm
Lighting is always relative. What matters is not the absolute amount of light you use to illuminate the objects in the scene, but rather, how much light is used to illuminate each object relative to the others. Then the exposure settings in the camera dictates how the final image appears.

For example, if you were to use a single dim flashlight illuminating the figurine in such a way that almost none of the light shines on the backdrop, then a long exposure (slow shutter speed or high ISO) will compensate for the overall low illumination. The backdrop, even if it is white, receives so little light relative to the figurine, that it will look dark gray or black.

Conversely, if you use a single high-powered lamp and point it at the backdrop, with very little light directly striking the figurine, then the exposure can be much shorter (fast shutter speed or low ISO) than the previous case. But the background will be overexposed as white as long as the exposure is long enough--generally, 2 to 3 stops slower than the metered value. If the backdrop is black, it might need to be more severely overexposed, since for the most part, all objects have some reflectance.

The takeaway is that if you want the figurine to be illuminated a certain way, and the backdrop to be white, then dial down the light on the former, and dial up the light on the latter. The total amount of light isn't important so long as you are able to control the lighting ratio.

Next, a word about color temperature. Since you basically need two light sources to be able to get the control you want over relative illumination (it is difficult to use a single light to get diffuse lighting on your figurine while overexposing the backdrop), it becomes important that both light sources be as close together in color temperature as possible. If one light is too warm and the other too cool, the result will be difficult to color balance.

Finally, how bright an object appears in the image is not just a function of the intensity of light. It is also a function of the distance between the light and the object. The farther away the light, the less bright it will appear. With careful positioning and/or clever use of reflectors, diffusers, and/or flags/gobos, you might be able to pull off some tricks with only a single light source, but usually the easiest way to control relative illumination is to use dedicated light sources for each part of your scene.
Thank you for all this information. I am really having trouble with lighting. I bought a new light kit and it has not helped. (https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005NMTI8K/) The entire area around my miniature is bright white now, but my camera is really capturing it as grey... such as in this photo:

Image

A lot of the white on the mini is also showing up gray and the clear translucent cape is not showing very translucent.

All the lighting I use is the same temperature. (5500).

In theory based on the amount of light I currently have hitting the subject, everything should appear pretty bright white -- but everything is appearing very grey. I've been playing around with my camera settings a bit, but I really don't know what I am doing. Although I don't really understand how to set my camera up to let more light in, I believe I did read somewhere that the more light I let in, it will also add more "noise" to the photo?

I adjusted my ISO from 80 to 200, and the Shutter speed to a minimum of 1/400, based on some information I have been reading. It is letting in a tiny bit more light, but it feel like I am missing an important setting that I don't know what to look for.

Any suggestions for increasing the amount of light my camera is letting in? I thought that would be the shutter speed -- any recommended settings for it?

I was using auto-white balance, but it was capturing the image in a wrong color hue. One of the white balance settings on my camera is for 5500k lighting, so this has been the setting I have been using). Regardless of which white balance setting I have been using it has not impacted my brightness issue.

(Note: I need to use a white background as many figures do have translucent items (swords and spell effects) so I cannot have a colored background.)

Guido
Posts: 332
Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:02 am

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by Guido »

Just lift your levels, that helps a lot.

For the rest your light meter is fooled by the white subject so your gamma is a bit off

honestzed
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by honestzed »

Guido wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 11:47 am
Just lift your levels, that helps a lot.

For the rest your light meter is fooled by the white subject so your gamma is a bit off
I'm sorry, I am a completely new amateur at all this. When people reference to increase or decrease ISO, shutter speed or F-Stop... I don't fully understand which way is increasing or decreasing.

ISO is a fixed number, so I would assume an increase of this would simply be a higher number. I thought 80 was the most preferred for macro photography. I can continue to increase this and experiment, but I just wanted to make sure that if I was changing multiple settings, that I was changing them in the right way, and in a way in which they are not counteracting each other.

Shutter speed is a fraction, so to me the higher the number on the bottom, means the quicker the speed of the shutter -- meaning that quicker speed is increasing?

F-Stop, I'm also only vaguely familiar with. In the past with my Canon Powerpoint, I used F8 as my setting and it did well for ensuring protrusions like weapons and wings from the miniatures were not getting blurred. I understand from reading up on this though, that Canon's F stop ranges are not comparable to other brand's f-stop ranges. With my camera in the mode I am using, it is auto setting the f-stop at f3.3. I'm assuming a higher f-stop number would mean, "increasing".

Aside from ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, and white balance, are there any other settings I should be adjusting or aware of?

(Sorry for all the newbie questions. I've tried to do a lot of research on this but all macro photography guides I have found are focused on shooting small subjects outdoors such as flowers and insects. Several years ago I found a really good guide that walked me through ISO/shutter speed and F-stop settings, but I have not been able to find it again.)

rjlittlefield
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Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by rjlittlefield »

honestzed, for starters you should ignore the fact that you're shooting closeup / macro, and focus attention on learning to use the exposure controls of your camera.

Start with https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm and https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-metering.htm .

Your latest image came out gray because your camera's metering system implicitly assumes that every scene is gray, on average, so it adjusts the exposure to get that result. You need to add more exposure, either by using manual exposure or by using automatic exposure with exposure compensation for the "high key" (mostly white) scene. You should definitely learn how to use your camera's histogram display. You can search at cambridgeincolour.com for "histogram" to get lots of information about that. Good info is probably also contained in the user's manual that came with your camera (or can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website).

--Rik

honestzed
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by honestzed »

rjlittlefield wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 12:32 pm
honestzed, for starters you should ignore the fact that you're shooting closeup / macro, and focus attention on learning to use the exposure controls of your camera.

Start with https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm and https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-metering.htm .

Your latest image came out gray because your camera's metering system implicitly assumes that every scene is gray, on average, so it adjusts the exposure to get that result. You need to add more exposure, either by using manual exposure or by using automatic exposure with exposure compensation for the "high key" (mostly white) scene. You should definitely learn how to use your camera's histogram display. You can search at cambridgeincolour.com for "histogram" to get lots of information about that. Good info is probably also contained in the user's manual that came with your camera (or can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website).

--Rik
Hi Rik. Those tutorials have be very helpful. Thank you for those links. I have been able to improve the exposure now, however now since there is so much light in the area, the colors on the mini are sort of being bleached out. I'm not sure if this requires different light positioning or more altering of my camera settings. If I understand metering correctly, I don't think it would help. I think exposure composition might help, however in my camera's (M) manual mode, I cannot alter the exposure composition -- which I find very odd. I can alter it in some of the other modes though. Any suggestions for reducing this bleaching of the color would be appreciated.

Thank you.

rjlittlefield
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Re: Macro Product Photo Help Needed

Post by rjlittlefield »

honestzed wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 11:22 pm
however now since there is so much light in the area, the colors on the mini are sort of being bleached out. I'm not sure if this requires different light positioning or more altering of my camera settings. If I understand metering correctly, I don't think it would help. I think exposure composition might help, however in my camera's (M) manual mode, I cannot alter the exposure composition -- which I find very odd. I can alter it in some of the other modes though. Any suggestions for reducing this bleaching of the color would be appreciated.
I think you mean exposure compensation, not "composition". Exposure compensation is not available in manual exposure because it doesn't make any sense there. That's because exposure compensation is defined as being an adjustment from some automatically metered setting. No automatic setting, no compensation. The manual controls completely establish the exposure.

There are several possible reasons for colors appearing "bleached out". But let me concentrate on what I think is the most likely problem.

At this moment, I would bet that your muted colors are a result of having a "white balance" that is slightly wrong, in the opposite direction from the colors that appear in your subject. For example if your subject has colors that are brownish, and your white balance makes the illumination look slightly bluish, then the colors get captured as grayish because browns and blues are complementary colors.

Looking at the image that you have posted above (at https://www.minisgallery.com/images/min ... e_1200.jpg), I see that what you've described as "gray" actually has a lot of blue in it. Here is that image with its histogram:
OriginalWithHistogram.jpg
Notice that the blue peaks in the histogram are all quite a ways to the right of the red/green/yellow peaks.

If we just increase the exposure to make the background closer to pure "white", then we get this:
OriginalWithAddedExposure.jpg
It's now better exposed, but notice in the histogram that the blue peaks are still too far to the right. Even though the image is brighter, we haven't changed the color balance so it still has too much blue.

If we instead use a proper "white balance" for the background, then we get an image that looks more like this:
OriginalWithAddedExposureBalancedForBackground.jpg
That's better, but still the blue peaks in the subject are still too far to the right. That might mean that the subject really is a little bit blue, but it might also mean that the background is a little bit yellowish compared to the subject. Turning that yellowish background white then still leave the subject too blue.

If we instead use a white balance that's targeted for the subject, then we get an image that looks like this:
OriginalWithAddedExposureBalancedForSubject.jpg
Notice that now the RGB peaks in the subject all line up. Combined with the pure white background, this subject now looks neutral (on average), which causes the subtle colors to be more obvious.

If this still looks muted, compared to what you see looking at the subject in real life, then you might want to increase the saturation in post-processing. Here is the result as modified by a Photoshop adjustment layer for Saturation, +50.
OriginalWithAddedExposureBalancedForSubjectWithAddedSaturation.jpg
Some care must be taken with adding saturation, especially for product photography. If customers receive something that looks much different from what they saw on screen, they won't be happy.

OK, so the next thing you need to learn is about "white balance".

Cambridgeincolour.com probably has tutorials about that also.

The most accurate way to get a correct white balance is to buy a "gray card" that is specifically made for that purpose. Search Amazon for "photo gray card" and you'll find a lot of good options.

--Rik

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