I’m not a stellar photographer…
I’m working on it, trying to learn, reading up on scary [to me] stuff like aperture, f-stops, shutter speeds, etc.,but when I’m photographing furniture I stick with the easy stuff – auto mode, or aperture priority, mostly. My straight out of camera shots (SOOC is the lingo the pros like to toss around, I believe) leave a little – okay, a lot – to be desired.
Before I list anything on Craigslist, I like to give the photos a little boost with Photoshop Elements so they accurately reflect the awesomeness I think the piece has to offer. [I now have PSE11, but I used to have version 7 or 8 and I don’t see a big difference between the two.]
This picture isn’t atrocious by Craigslist standards AT ALL, but it’s not particularly awesome, either. So here is how I went about getting it posting-ready.
Step 1: Levels
Photoshop Elements has a really great tool called “levels” that helps you fix the coloring and lighting in your photos. They keyboard shortcut for it is CTRL+L, and it looks like this:
I always like to test out the “Auto” button first, because it will make adjustments for you, and 80% of the time, the result looks great to me. The other 20%, I end up tweaking the outcome by moving around the sliders you see under the histogram (mountain range looking thingy). If there is any pure white in the photo, another easy way to correct color & brightness is to use the white eye-dropper: click on a white area of the photo, and the tool does the rest!
Here is the same image after the levels were adjusted:
Brighter, happier, and more true-to-life coloring.
Step 2: Straight Lines
I’m sure there’s a valid reason for this, and I just need to learn more about photography to solve this problem, but I just can’t get straight lines when shooting furniture. (Photography friends, is it my technique? Lens? Any tips) To compensate for my shortcomings, I was excited to discover the “distort” feature in Photoshop Elements – go to the Image tab, Transform, and then Distort.
I like to turn on the grid (CTRL+’) so I have straight lines as a guide:
Then I select the distort tool and grab and drag a corner of the photo until that side is looking a little better:
And repeat with the following side, making adjustments as needed until the item starts to look proportional and non-distorted. It gets worse before it gets better, just keep tweaking until it looks less like a fun-house mirror and more like a piece of furniture:
Step 3: Crop
It’d be kinda awkward to leave the image in the resulting trapezoidal shape, so cropping comes next. Much better:
And of course for Craigslist, I leave off the watermark. But that’s about it. It takes me just about two minutes for each photo, and looks tons better in my book! Until I can master my camera, I’m totally fine with a little Photoshop tweaking.