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6 Ways Effective Backgrounds Improve Photography

The quickest way to augment your photography involves understanding and leveraging the art of good backgrounds.

A photo’s composition is significantly affected by the background. When pictures have backgrounds that are distracting, they essentially look very cluttered and like they were clicked by amateurs. On the other hand, the composition becomes significantly better with the help of intentional backgrounds, which incorporate both meaning and depth in a picture.

One could easily overlook the significance of a background, forgetting that it plays a crucial role in a picture. However, when adequate time is taken to focus on the background’s details, it can almost instantly create novel photographic opportunities. As a result, your photography can be taken to the next level.

Set the Stage

For the overall composition, it is the background that establishes the stage.

With an effective background, you can incorporate more substance to the story, as you offer more information pertaining to the setting, which will help substantially augment your picture. The background must be your focus as much as the subject. That is because the background is a huge part of the photograph, and usually, it creates the difference between a mere snapshot and a composition that is powerful.  

You must use backgrounds to highlight the subject within a context that ensures that they stand out. However, ensure that it is not overwhelming. Thankfully, it is not difficult to find the perfect background for your pictures. All you need is a little practice to determine the ideal backgrounds that align well with the composition at hand.

We have collated a few tips and techniques to assist you in creating beautiful pictures that have strong backgrounds.

1. A Powerful Composition is usually simple

Typically, the objects placed in the background tend to seek attention along with the subject. Thus, they often result in effects that are far from aesthetic. In case you notice that your background is extremely cluttered, shift the subject to a place with a simple background, such as a plain wall. A simple background will direct attention back to the subject, emphasizing their emotions, features, and expressions.

2. Consume the Frame

In a few cases, the optimal way to leverage your background is by taking up the entire frame with the subject. When you click a close up of the subject, you can avoid elements in the background that are unnecessary and distracting. However, ensure that the subject being shot will complement this technique and a crucial part of the subject is not being cropped.

3. Exhibit a Sense of Depth with lines

Compositions that are effective typically use lines for attracting the viewer. Moreover, lines in the background can also assist in creating a form of movement within your images, or even help establish a sense of depth. Lines that are converging and disappear into the distance typically attract the viewer and incorporate a certain amount of depth. However, avoid using background lines that are unintentional and intrusive. Do not use horizontal lines or telephone lines right behind the head of your subject and ensure that no other lines are present that run in other directions. When distracting lines are integrated merely increases the confusion in the scene.

4. Leverage Contrasting Backgrounds

With contrasting backgrounds, you can integrate an element of drama and excitement and can help drive the attention to your subject. When people think of contrast, the thought immediately jumps to black and white. However, it is interesting to note that in black and white pictures, tonal contrast is simpler to spot. Even in color, there is a lot of tonal contrast. When your images are being composes, find backgrounds with different shades and tones, and leverage colors contrasting with your subject, integrating visual drama in your photos.

5. Blur the Background

The ideal way to use a distracting background is by blurring it. To do so, merely tune your depth of field with the help of a wide aperture, and ensure that there is some distance between your subject and the background. The blur is more is more significant of there is more distance between them. Begin with an aperture of around f/18 and slowly decrease it. As you end up at f/4, the background will begin to blur. Try to find opportunities where you can use a wide aperture for creating bokeh background, which is a great element in the background for every composition.

6. Leverage the Background for Communicating Your Story

Usually, powerful photos communicate a story. They are great elements to augment your images, and effectively help communicate your story. Regardless of where you are- in a scenic area or a crowded busy market, or a street corner that is dimly lit, integrating the background will assist in setting the scene and providing your viewers with an insight into your picture’s context.  

Although backgrounds are usually overlooked in photography, when you focus on the background and its impact on the composition, it can help create images that are visually powerful. It’s interesting that merely altering your position or even slightly shifting the subject can completely transform the background and the overall composition.  

Regardless of the type of background you choose- simple, bright, or zoomed in, ensure that it is intentional.

When you focus on the details in the background, and leverage them effectively, you can create compositions that are powerful and visually rich.

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How to Use a Light Tent for Small Product Photography

A lot of artists, chefs, and crafters might wish to click pictures of high quality to showcase their own creations, either to post them in some blog or even put them up for sale online, or just post them on social media. In order to click such pictures easily and reliably, we recommend using a light tent. This specific article will look at the basics of shooting using a light tent in order to click bright, high quality photographs of products.

What is a Light Tent?

Essentially, a light tent or light box is a contraption that has translucent sides and diffuses light emerging from several sources. The result is lighting that is even and devoid of shadows  when a simple, solid background is used.

A light tent can be bought as part of a kit or it is even possible to make one yourself. In case you decide to buy a light tent kit, you will receive one or several light tents, a couple light bulbs, two light stands, a tripod, and different-colored fabric backdrops. On the other hand, if you choose to make your own light tent, there is a need to buy two sources of light, light bulbs, as well as a poster board or fabric to create backdrops. .

Shooting with a Light Tent

For photography using light tend, the general set-up involves positioning the tent over some solid surface, and all the light sources to stand opposite to each other on either side, while the tripod is placed in front. When the tent is placed on a table, it becomes easier to see and maneuver, and it is also easy to use your tripod.

Inside the tent, the backdrop is affixed at the top and it must fall freely to form a gentle curve at the back and then the tent’s bottom. Ensure that you use a clean backdrop without any wrinkles. In case you are using a fabric backdrop, iron it to create a seamless look. (In case you are someone who rolls the backdrops around a tube cardboard for storage, ensure that they are devoid of wrinkles the next time.) You can even purchase a lint roller or small blower to clear out any dust and debris.

You are all set to start clicking pictures now. Inside the tent, position your subject cautiously, and place it exactly in the center. As you shift your subject in a forward or backward direction, it will alter both the lighting and shadows. You can try out different positions to determine the optimal look. Moreover, you can also consider changing the lights’ angles slightly, instead of letting them point straight at the tent. Ensure that you leave adequate space between the subject and the walls, and this way, you can zoom in or place your camera in a way that only showcases the backdrop without focusing on any edges.

Look at the ambient lighting and tune it as required. There is essentially minimal difference between clicking pictures midday in diffused indoor light and clicking at night using just the lights. However, it is important to avoid direct sunlight into your tent, since balancing such a powerful light source can be difficult.

Camera Set-up

Place your camera securely over the tripod and either use the 2-second timer or a remote shutter release to maintain the steadiness of your tripod. In case you are making use of a lens with image stabilization, vibration reduction, or vibration control, switch it off. With the tripod, you will be able to make use of longer shutter speeds and enjoy great results.

Start your shoot in aperture priority mode using an ISO of 100 (or whatever is the minimum value offered by your camera). Determine your aperture on the basis of the look that is required (a wide aperture like f/1.8 if a narrow depth of field is required and a blurriness or a narrow aperture, such as f/22 in the case of a wide depth of field and proper focus over the subject). Often, food photographs make use of wide apertures, as well as selective blur to ensure that food appears more appealing, and on the other hand, product pictures of crafts and  other handmade goods appear ideal when a narrow aperture is used so the overall item remains focused. In order to avoid foreground blurring, your focus must be set making use of the portion of the subject that is most in proximity to your camera.

You can also think about leveraging exposure compensation for shooting three shots series, bracketed at -1, 0, and +1 exposure. This way, you can determine how to achieve optimal results. In the case of white backgrounds, better results may be obtained around +1;, and this changes to -1 with black backgrounds. In case a full stop comes off as too dark or too light, you can go for half or a third of a stop.

Post-Processing Considerations

It could be challenging to get background for your shots look completely white or black as your subject remains properly exposed. In such scenarios, some additional post-processing may be required to make sure that the whites remain white, while your blacks stay black. The description below depends on tools that are available in Adobe Photoshop. However, you must be able to do a lot of this with other software products.

In case you are clicking pictures in RAW, you must tune your image’s white balance first, to ensure that your whites look white, as opposed to yellow. The majority of light bulbs tend to list the light’s color temperature they produce, which can be used as a guide to set the white balance. Moreover, the white balance can also be set manually by shooting a white card and calibrating from that image. If you are sure that your background is pure white or black, make use of the color picker in the RAW processor for neutralizing any tint.

When processing, make use of your histogram as a guide. Although advice related to standard photography recommends against leveraging your histogram for touching the edges of the scale (clipping), product shots must attain exactly this. When your background is clicked, it will result in a homogenous look on the background and direct the attention towards your subject.

In Photoshop, the Levels tool can be used to adjust either end of the histogram. By holding down the Alt (Option for Mac) key as the sliders are adjusted, it enables you to view the areas of the picture that are being clipped, which can be seen in the image above. Shift the slider towards the center till the background is clipped uniformly, while the subject is not. In case this action affects your subject too much, there may be a need to scale back your adjustment.

In case attaining a uniformly white background in the pictures is proving to be difficult, you can integrate a thin border to your final image. Although it is not exactly a white background, any picture that is displayed against a completely white background might look dingy anyway. On the other hand, a slightly grey background that has a black border can ensure that the shade of the background looks intentional.

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Macro Lightbox Photography

A crucial question may be consuming your time- is a macro photography light box something that you should purchase or create a macro photo studio on your own? In case you are looking for a simple way to effectively use macro lighting, these mini lighting studios are ideal for you, particularly if you don’t wish to establish a complex setup every time a macro shoot is planned.

By setting up a macro lighting tent, you can diffuse the light to create a great subject. It is easy to set up designs that either fold up or collapse. Moreover, even taking them down and storing them when not in use is very easy.  

Firstly, determine the optimal size for your photography lighting box. Think of the biggest subject that you would shoot and figure out what you will use for them. It is always simple to click pictures of extremely small macro subjects. However, it is unfortunate if your object is extremely large for your light box.

Who must purchase A LIGHTBOX FOR MACRO?

Understand the versatility of a product light box before you make your decision. Essentially, with this tool, you can alter the overall look when it comes to the lighting on the subject. All you have to do is tune the position of the lights that are in use. 

  • Merchants selling jewelry, coins and items that are small, using online media, must ensure that their products are displayed in an attractive manner.  
  • Moreover, they are also great when it comes to photography of insects and flowers, which are two crucial categories for macro photographers.
  • Hobbyists who enjoy a quick set-up and hope to emphasize composition without spending too much time trying to obtain nice soft lighting.

FEATURES OF MACRO PHOTO STUDIOS

  • They are usually quite small and thus, require a small room.
  • They are not expensive and multiple alternatives are available when it comes to setting them up.
  • The lights on your subject can be easily tuned by altering both the direction, as well as the distance at which the lights are placed on the external walls of the light box.

Should flash be used or is continuous lighting preferable? Watching the setup in real-time can help understand the way in which the lighting is impacting your subject. Thus, it is better than the use of flash photography where there may be a need to check your LCD screen following each exposure.

Optimal LIGHTING FOR MACRO STUDIOS

Essentially, the most important decision to make is whether the power of electronic flash must be leveraged or you must opt for a continuous light source, such as LED lighting or conventional lights used in photo studios. Your camera’s built-in flash cannot be used as it is extremely small and falls from a direction that is not optimal, resulting in distracting shadows. When remote flash units are used, there is a need to trigger them during the time of exposure. Moreover, you can also not see the way in which your subject is lighted up since the duration is very brief.  

Thus, you must attempt to assess by merely watching the LCD screen following capture. With the use of continuous lights, it is possible to tune the lighting and understand how your final photo would look.

2 WAYS TO create a DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHT BOX

You will come across many ways in which these can be created on your own. It relies on how good you are when it comes to making things, the tools that you possess, and the time you can spare.

We are discussing two simple methods to make your own macro light box. In both these cases, you must spend some time to create them. In case you are good at arts and crafts, you will enjoy the satisfaction of creating something.  

LIGHT BOX METHOD 1

This is the first two-step method when it comes to creating your own light box to engage in macro photography. This project is simpler when compared to the other method. You must start with the appropriate size box.

  1. Get a cardboard box.  
  2. Then, cut out three interior panels and substitute with any translucent material.  

This is a very cheap alternative. Ensure that you build it in a way that can light up your macro subject from all the directions- sides and above.  

Remember that you can neither fold this set-up not collapse it, although it is quite easy to create. Be careful so you don’t cut yourself with the sharp blade. We have a one minute video on method 1.

This item is not big. However, you must figure out where you want to store your macro photography light box if you don’t plan on using it. If it is merely for using once, you can easily disassemble it and the materials can be recycled.

LIGHT BOX METHOD 2

  1. Purchase one Coroplast sheet.  
  2. Fold it and cut the corners, as well as Velcro together. As a sturdy cube, the coroplast tends to support itself.

When it comes to cuts and folds, some more precision is required. However, this is collapsible. We have a five minute video on this idea.

You can make use of a diffusion paper that is both flexible and heat resistant, known as Cinegel that is often used in the world of cinema.  This can be attached to any cubical frame that can be made:


WHERE TO purchase A MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHT BOX

Interestingly, ebay sellers are the most common users of small light boxes. If you want to click pictures of a whole set of small products and make them look attractive, light boxes are the best way to go. They do not take too much time to make. There are several others ways you can leverage to ensure that light falls over your macro photography subjects.  

A great feature offered by a purchased macro lighting kit is that lights are included. Here are a few amazon links showcasing various lighting setups you can consider:

It is not very easy to set up a macro photography studio and it won’t take up a lot of your room. In fact, you can use literally any surface. When macro and small product photography is being leveraged, a good tripod is crucial to assist with composition and click extremely sharp pictures.

https://www.better-digital-photo-tips.com/macro-photography-light-box.html
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The Pros and Cons of Light Tents | Are they Worth it?

If you are considering kicking it up a notch when it comes to your product and still life photography but are unsure if you should spend money on a light tent? If you are someone who has only leveraged natural lighting, you could find the various options available in the market to be overwhelming. You may be tempted to purchase a light tent, since they seem like a great alternative to click beautiful pictures easily. But is that the truth?

Firstly, what is a light tent? A common misconception is that light tents are shelters that are temporary where photographers live when dealing with bad luck. This is something that I learned the hard way.

A light tent is essentially a wireframe cube that is layered with a thin white fabric and it constructs a lighting environment with lighting that is soft and diffused. A specific side is open to place your camera and click anything that is inside. They are available in different sizes, with the standard ones coming with a width of one or two feet. This one, for example,  is 4 feet wide.

As stated above, photographers are typically attracted to light tents because of the promise of making lighting both simple and devoid of hassles. This is quite true. Light tents essentially function as huge lighting equalizers, and regardless of how the lights are placed around it, you will create a well-lit environment. In case you wish to click pictures with ambient lighting within your room, or leverage small lamps, several hot spots that would be created by these lights are eliminated by a light tent, creating a nicer look.  

PRO: Diffuses ambient lighting into a more flattering light.

Therefore, light tents are ideal for small business owners and photographers who are less serious photographers and do not want to deal with fancy lighting and merely wish to click pictures to show how a specific object looks. Many pictures for both eBay and other e-commerce listings leverage light tents, since it is easy to click  simple white backdrop pictures of products. For instance, I clicked two pictures of a GoPro, where one was in a light tent and the other leverages a couple foam-core reflectors around.

In the light tent:

GoPro in Light Tent

With custom set-up:

GoPro Photo

The two pictures look quite similar, although one can see a few differences because of the perspective and the lighting. In order to ensure that both look the same, a lighting set-up that is fancier would be required. According to me the picture clicked with the light tent looks better and the amount of time it took was lesser.  Thus, to click such simple pictures, a light tent is a good alternative. Moreover, it provides better consistency. In other words, if you do not completely alter the lighting placed outside the tent, the lighting in each shot will look quite similar. This is one more advantage for those who sell their products online.

PRO: Consistent results.

There is a great downside attributed to the light tent. Although it is not an important thing to consider for eBay sellers, this disadvantage renders the light useless for creative photographers.

What is the disadvantage? Light tents are nothing but boxes. Nothing can be done with a box as there is very little room and whatever is done external to the box is not relevant. If you want the picture to include a background, that cannot be done. Moreover, you also cannot leverage some amazing lighting tricks.  

CON: Light tents restrict creative potential.

In case you are genuinely interested in developing amazing pictures, you may find a light tent to be very limiting. When you are working inside a small box, you cannot manipulate light. Thus, you may find foam-core pieces, tracing paper for reflectors, and cheap speed lights to be better options.

Look at this example where a whiskey bottle is being used as the subject. The shot does not look very fancy or anything. However, reflective objects such as glass and jewelry may pose problems in a light tent.

In the light tent:

Whiskey in Light Tent

The picture aligns with the brand because it appears old and dirty. However, it is safe to assume that most people would like the next shot better, as it is clicked with a custom lighting set-up:

Whiskey

The mere difference is that there was adequate flexibility to position lights and reflectors in various locations. These are essentially places that would have been blocked by the light tent. When it comes to extremely reflective objects, getting a good shot within a light tent is not possible. There is a need for precise control when it comes to the position of each light and if you are working around a translucent box of fabric, there are way too many hassles.

Conclusion

Light tents are amazing tools for those who merely wish to showcase an object, and want to enjoy consistent lighting in different pictures. Thus, it is great for online retailers.  If there are photographers aiming to develop beautiful images showcasing the subject, it is safe to say that a light tent will cause issues. We recommend avoiding a light tent altogether and instead, purchasing some foam-core and diffusion screens. You can then understand how to create lighting set-ups that ensure best possible pictures.  

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An End-to-End Guide to Light Boxes for Product Photography

Why Should I Use a Light Box?

When you are clicking pictures of small to medium products, using a light box is a good idea.  This will ensure that you have absolute control over the background and lighting of the subject.  When a soft background and diffused lighting are used, the product is highlighted beautifully and it has been reported that such pictures result in better sales and greater perceived value.

A lot of common light sources tend to be flawed innately to use for this kind of photography as they create uneven lighting, unwanted shadows and white balance that is inaccurate. The flash of your camera will mostly overexpose the subject’s front, while underexposing everything else a little. Typically, it will create some small albeit bright reflections in case there is some shininess to the product, like glass. Moreover, because the lighting is harsh and direct, it often creates dark shadows.

When clicking pictures of a product, bright, direct sunlight is better as the white color temperature tends to be more natural.  But, similar to your camera’s flash, it will create both reflections and harsh shadows.  This can be avoided under sunlight on a cloudy day, due to the soft and diffused nature of light. However, this type of light is not predictable and leaves photographers with extremely short windows for clicking photos.

Perhaps, the most problematic type of lighting is room lighting. Usually, the majority of rooms are equipped with lights of different color temperatures. The result is that ensuring apt white balance is close to impossible.  Moreover, there is typically inadequate lighting and thus, the subject tends to be underexposed.

Where Can I Get a Light Box?

You can find several light boxes being sold, which are of different sizes and prices, and the majority of them are relatively inexpensive.  But do note that in case you are on an extremely tight budget and/or there are several product shots you must get, you can create a light box on your own by spending just a few dollars.

The supplies required to create a light box are not excessive. All you need is a card-board box to hold your product, a fabric that is white and semi-transparent, tape and non-reflective paper.

You must place the box on its side and a large square must be cut out on the three sides. Remember to leave some inches around the cut-outs.  Ensure that the top flaps are left in place.  Then, cut the semi-transparent white fabric so it fits the areas that are cut out and attach them to the outside of the box using tape. Then, you must tape the non-reflective paper right from the top back all the way to the bottom front.  The paper must have a gentle slope. Ensure that you do not use wrinkled paper as they might be visible in the pictures.

How to Light the Light Box

The final step involves lighting the box and this can be done in many ways.  The ideal sources of light include two adjustable lamps with 100 watt daylight bulbs.  Note that these bulbs will resemble the sun’s color temperature, creating a natural white balance and mitigating the importance of post-processing.  In case there are no two adjustable lamps with daylight bulbs that are available, we have several other alternatives for you. You can use flashes on wireless triggers or leverage halogen work lights. In case you choose to make use of halogen work lights, ensure that you place them at a considerable distance from the light box for optimal safety.  They tend to heat up easily and are thus, a fire hazard.  Regardless of what you do, refrain from using the on-camera flash.  In case a portion of the subject is not under adequate light, shift the sources till it is illuminated.

Use a Tripod

As the on-camera flash or any source of light that is bright and direct will not be used, you must opt for a low shutter speed.  Thus, if you hold the camera as you shoot, it will definitely result in the shaking of the camera. This can be prevented with a tripod. In case you do not have a tripod, place your camera over a stable surface that aligns properly with the product being shot inside the light box.  This is a method that will definitely work. However, it is not optimal as you won’t enjoy precise control over the angles, which is allowed by a tripod.  In case you will be engaging in product photography, it is a good idea to purchase an affordable tripod. Moreover, you must also consider purchasing a remote for triggering the shutter as even touching the camera can cause some shake.

Camera Settings

As your product photos will include a lot of white, it will be quite hard for your camera to determine the proper exposure.  As a result, your pictures might be slightly underexposed.  This can be resolved by experimenting with a bit of exposure compensation at +1 and +2.

Moreover, a few cameras find it hard to work with auto-white balance when an incandescent light is used, making the result too warm.  In case you experience this, you can consider setting manual white balance to 3200k.  In case the picture is still very warm, decrease the white balance to 3000k.  One more method to tune the white balance is by merely adding some more blue till the issue is resolved.

It is important to opt for a long shutter speed as the flash is not in use.  We recommend setting your camera to aperture priority mode to ensure that it has preferred depth of field and allow your camera to determine the apt shutter speed.

Post-Processing in Photoshop

In case there is a need to adjust the settings even after all this, we have a few tips that can help you.  First, move to Image>Adjustments>Levels and select “Auto Levels”.  Many of the issues will be resolved with this. Typically, it resolves problems with tone, depth and color in your photographs.  A few times auto levels might cause more issues, like making the pictures look a little magenta, red or green.  In such a case, manually tune the color balance till it appears right.

Then, the band-aide tool can be used for eliminating spots and minor imperfections, including dust and background wrinkles.  In case the imperfection is visible over some edge or a seam, the clone stamp tool can be used, as it duplicates the selected area.