Category Archives: Photography Tips & Techniques

Learning How to Quickly Cut Out Table Top Photos and Give Them Web Safe White Backgrounds for Product Photography.

Welcome to Photo Exploration at VotoArt.com

Make money with product photography

 

Shooting product photography is a great way to make money with your camera and a small investment in a table top light box. Products can often be shot in your own home with very little cost and a healthy pay out to you as a freelancer, but you need some basic photo editing skills.

In this tutorial I am going to walk you through the background removal process which I used to edit a national level children’s product that was shot on a tabletop in my basement.

The product itself was a prototype which had to be cut out and adapted for packaging layouts, web placement, and social media.

If you are just starting out, consider that in many cases one or two table top photo jobs can pay for new photography equipment while still producing a small profit.

I shot this product using only a portable lighting tent with the included LED lights, a Canon 7D, and a tripod. I purchased the lighting tent primarily for the job and still made a handsome profit. As a considerable bonus, I landed 4 more days of shooting and editing time using the same set up. I do recommend the Manfrotto 405 Geared Head that I used in shooting, as it allowed me to easily make small, 3 angle, adjustments when framing the product hero shot. This was a great help, but doing the shot without it is definitely possible.

After shooting the product it was critical to cut out and replace the background with a pure white backdrop. This insured there was not an off-white box around the product when displayed on the website.

Below are the before and after pictures. The first photo is the camera raw with the product shot in the Light Box, in the second photo the background has been removed and stickers placed for packaging. I also created a slight shadow using Photoshop for the second photo.

This is the process I used to quickly and accurately cut out the product in Photoshop and replace the background without any jagged edges or halos. Just open your table top photo and follow the steps below.

Steps to quickly cut out table top photos and give them web safe white backgrounds for product photography

  1. Select your original layer and hit (Command J) to duplicate. I never work on the original in case I need to go back to it for reference, or need it for a back up when I don’t like a change I made.

  1. Once it is duplicated make a selection close to the main subject using the rectangle Marquee tool. This is selected by hitting (m) on your keyboard.

 

  1. Create a Vector Mask for the duplicate layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layer window.

  1. You should now have a new layer with a layer mask. Choose the Quick Selection tool (w). Select any of the white BG outside of the jewelry. Get it as accurate as you can. The more detailed you can get it, the less work you will have with the Pen tool. If you accidently select parts of the product just hold down the Option key and right click on the part you want to deselect.

 

  1. Once you have a reasonably close selection of every thing outside of the product then right click in the selection and select “Make Working Path” from the drop down menu. Select a tolerance of 3 or 4 so you don’t have too many points in the path making it harder to work with. You want enough points that the mask is still fairly accurate. Click OK. It should look something like this:

  1. Now select the Pen tool (p) and begin to make your path exact. While adjusting the path with the pen tool you will be pressing different keys to adjust points and handles. Start by holding down the Command key to get the direct selection arrow. Click off the path to deselect it, and then click any point you want to start adjusting.

 

  1. To adjust an individual handle hold down the option key before clicking on the handle. Remember that you are dragging the handle in the direction you want it to go from that point.

 

  1. Once you have the path exact, right click and choose “Make Selection” from the drop-down menu. It should look similar to this:

       9. Hit Shift Command I to inverse the selection.

 

  1. Select the mask in the layers menu. Make sure the background color is black. Hit delete.

 

  1. Create a new layer and fill it with black using the paint bucket. Move it below the layer you are cutting out. This allows you to check if your mask is accurate.

 

  1. Choose the Quick Selection tool (w). Select any of the white BG inside of the jewelry. Get it as accurate as you can.

 

  1. Confirm that you have a reasonably close selection of everything inside of the product you wish to remove. Next, right click in the selection and select “Make Working Path” from the drop down menu. Select a tolerance of 3 or 4 so you don’t have too many points in the path making it harder to work with. Click OK.

 

  1. Select the Pen tool (p) and begin to make your path exact.

 

  1. Once you have the path exact, right click and choose “Make Selection” from the drop-down menu.

 

  1. Select the mask in the layers menu. Make sure the background color is black. Hit delete. Notice this time you do not need to inverse the selection. This is because you were selecting the background and not the product when you were making the path.

 

  1. Repeat this process until all the inside pieces of the jewelry show the black background.

 

  1. The final step is to fill the black background layer with white.

 

That’s it! You now have a clean cut out of the product with a fresh white background. You can also add shadows on a new layer to give it that natural depth.

As a photographer, shooting table top photography products is a great way to make a good profit in your own home with a minimal amount of lighting equipment. A photo lighting tent like this one can cost a $100 or less and a single shoot could earn $500 to $1200 a day. Not a bad ROI.

Become a Top VotoArt Contest Photographer

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Plants & Natural Objects Weekly Contest Competitor
“Yellow rose”
by César Álvarez
Grow With Us!

Thanks to all your great photos, there are 224 photos competing for awards and VotoArt credits in this week’s weekly photography contests, and there are already over 100 qualified for next week. Bigger contests bring more site visitors, bigger prize pools and more exposure, particularly for top photos and photographers. In fact, our contest leaderboard and overall top photographer pages are viewed thousands of times each month.

How Can I Gain More Exposure?

  1. Vote – Simple. With bigger contests, we need quality photographers determining the winners, and active voters are rewarded with position points, which are used to rank top photographers.
  2. Enter Cash Contests – Not only can you potentially win $600 with a single photo, but WonUp Cash Contest champions are some of the most prominently featured photos on and off the VotoArt website. We regularly feature WonUp Cash Contest Champions on social networks. WonUp photos that are defeated have a chance to compete in the Weekly Cash Contest, where they can win VotoArt credits. Lastly, work your way up the top photography leaderboard more quickly, because cash contests award more position points.
  3. Become a Pro Photographer – With our annual gold pro plan, you get 10 credits per month for 12 months (that’s 120 total VotoArt credits), so you can consistently compete for more position points in cash contests. Additionally, all your photos automatically qualify for weekly contests, with a perfect score, and qualifying scores are used as tie-breakers in weekly contests. See where you can improve by studying your full win/loss history of each voting criterion against each opposing photo! Lastly, gold pro photographers earn 3x the position points for all activities that award position points!

Adding Wi-Fi Capabilities To Your DSLR

WEFE1.1-ORA_1008_72dpi_20150715There is a lot of buzz about the use of Wi-Fi and the new cameras that have Wi-Fi capabilities. This Blog is about how you can access those capabilities without having to buy a different camera if you already own a Canon or Nikon DSLR. I am not an expert on all the different types, styles and brands of cameras so I am only going to speak of my own experience in adding Wi-Fi capabilities to my Canon 7D. For me It was a fairly simple and cost effective way to get my photos to my laptop for editing or on my phone to be broadcast on social networks..

Here is what I used for my set up.

The device I used was XSories Weye Feye which can be found on Amazon.

I mounted it in the top camera shoe of my Canon 7D using this  Phone hot shoe camera mount.

I  used it with a Compatible Android smart phone and Mac Laptop.

camera and Weye Feye Set up

The Weye Feye came in a nice package and included the Weye Feye unit and a USB to Micro cord for charging. It did not include the charger so I had to use my phone charger. The battery to the unit was not charged so the first thing I had to do was charge the battery which was a four hour process. Once charged it lasted 6 to 8 hrs. While waiting for the battery to charge, I went to the Google play store and searched for Weye Feye and downloaded the free app to my phone and Lap top. The manual was not very useful but I was able to get the program up and running with a little effort. The Weye Feye itself cost $149 plus I spent $15 on the camera attachment. There are Velcro straps to attach the Weye Feye to your tripod if you do not want to have it attached directly to your camera. The clamp I purchased, was also useful when I wanted to use my phone for a live view instead of the cameras LCD screen  for shooting. So what else did I get for my  $150 investment?

I got an 80 meter reach from my Canon 7D to my Laptop. this allows me to shoot photos in a park and leave my Laptop locked safely in my car. When I am done shooting I can go to the car get my laptop and started selecting photos with my client.

I am now able to upload my photos directly to my phone so I can share them quickly on my social media channels.

I can control my camera remotely with my phone to get shots where I can not be next to my camera and still  get the shot.

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I can now use my phone as a remote monitor for shooting unusual angles where before I would have  to get down on all fours or climb a ladder in order to see what I was shooting.

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This is not meant to be a review of the Weye Feye unit so if you want more specific information about the Weye Feye you can go to their product pages on Amazon.

My purpose is to share something I tried in order to greatly increase my workflow and capabilities as a photographer. For me the benefits of Wi-Fi capabilities was well worth the $150 investment.  If you want to spend less money they have a $99 version called the Weye Feye S. It allows you to tether your camera to your phone, or laptop but does not give you the ability to control your camera with those devices.

Light Painting

Photo by Linda KnasellightPaint_Linda Knasel_6542

 

VotoArt recently ran a workshop for photographers that gave them an opportunity to try some light painting. Light painting is a great way to create interesting photos that can be entered into our abstract photo contests. If you want to win cash in the VotoArt photo contests, light painting is a great tool to have in your tool box. At our recent photo light painting workshop, many of the questions asked, were about how to get the correct settings for shutter-speed, aperture and ISO. For this reason we thought we would provide a little information about these settings so our members, who could not attend the workshop, could still jump in and have some fun experimenting with the art of light painting. We would love to see the photos you create be in our next abstract cash contest.

Shutter Speed is how long your camera aperture will stay open. If it is open for a long period of time, say 2 sec to 30 sec, it will  allow you to paint with different types of lights such as a flash light, LED, camera flash or even a spark as was done in the above photo. Where to set your aperture is determined by how long you need to “paint” in order to create the effect you are looking for.  The above photo had a speed of 30 seconds. This aloud enough time for a whisk full of  burning steel wool to be spun on a rope and throw off lots of sparks. The light streaks from the sparks were created by the long shutter speed.

Setting the Aperture

The aperture setting determines how wide the hole in your lens will be. The smaller the hole the greater the depth of field, so to help insure your subject is in focus you will want to have a higher number f stop. Remember the higher the number of the f stop, the smaller the aperture, and  the more in focus your photo will be. In short a f 22 will allow in less light and provide more depth of field than a F1.4.   The trade off of a higher f stop with a bigger depth of field is that  less light is allowed to reach the sensor due to a smaller opening. You will need to experiment to find the exact exposure and focus you need.

Setting the ISO

The ISO  determines how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. The higher the ISO number, the brighter your image will be. The lower the ISO number, the darker your image will be. The trade off is a higher ISO tends to introduce noise to your photo. You want the ISO to be as low as possible and still be able to expose the light source you are using to paint. Brighter lights will help you have a lower ISO.

Summary

In order to produce the exact results you want for your photo, you will need to experiment with the three settings. Because each of them will impact the other, you will want to look at the trade offs for the adjustment you make. While making those adjustments keep in mind  the following

Speed – The longer the exposure the more time you will have to paint, but the risk is exposing elements in your photo that you do not want to see, such as people doing the painting

Aperture – The larger the number of your f stop the more depth of field you will have to work with to keep your subject in focus.  The trade off is less light for exposure. You can compensate for less light with Higher ISO or longer exposures.

ISO – A higher ISO produces more exposure by making your sensor more sensitive to light but it  also introduce noise to your  photo.

Some samples from the VotoArt Contests

Photo by Justin Nichols

Justins bridge photo

Photo by Dhoni S

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Photo by Dika Photos

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Photo by Arie Azdhana

31328b24-ecc5-11e3-bc57-003048cab8f4Kai Leeke

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Photo by Dean Bennett

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What Makes a Good Photo?

Ganjar Rahayu Winter sanaata

Photo by Ganjar Rahayu

People often ask – What makes a good photo? Most of the answers I have heard to this question, seem to focus on the technical aspects of photography such as the rule of thirds. I,  however, believe the question people  really want to ask is – How can I take photos that others want to see and share?  The fundamental difference in the two questions is that the first question can be answered by you from a technical standpoint while the second question can only be answered by your audience. This is why the feedback you can get from the VotoArt Community is invaluable to you as a photographer.

Is it a Good Photo?

If I enter a photo that I really like into a VotoArt WonUP contest, but the site users  do not vote for it , is that a good photo?  The votes say no but there is good news. Here is the  good news. A photo that does not win still has value, because it provides valuable feedback from your audience.  For example, on VotoArt  I can view the voting history and learn what technical aspects my audience did or did not like. This is invaluable for me as a photographer. I can see if my photo had a good general impression, what voters thought of the color and lighting and how they evaluated the  composition and focus.

You can use the feedback from the VotoArt community in understanding the impact of technical elements  on the viewers and why they may not be connecting with a photo. For example, shooting a puppy from a lower angle will cause the viewer to see that puppy as powerful rather than cute.   So shooting a cute puppy from a low angle may have caused a disconnect with my audience which will show up in the voting.  By understanding the impact that angles, color, lighting, focus and other technical aspects have on your viewers, you can be more effective in connecting with them on an emotional level.

It is important for you to define your success.

What if your photo is deemed a technical zero by a photography expert but it goes viral on the Internet, is that a good photo? Some people will say yes and some people will say no. So the question becomes- how do you define your success? Will you measure your success  by the opinion of a proclaimed expert, by the response of the masses, by your own inner passion or perhaps some other form of measurement? Defining success  comes down to your own purpose for taking photos.No matter how you decide to define your success VotoArt provides a way for you to measure that success. If you want to see if your photos can actually make money VotoArt provides Weekly Cash Contests and Business Sponsorships. If you are selling your prints you can gain exposure and network with others by linking to your own URL and sharing photos and awards  on your social media channels.  If you want lots of feedback from your audience the Pro Account allows you to view the entire voting history of a photo.

No matter how you have defined your own success the key to that success is to get your audience  to emotionally connect with your photo.

Would you like to see the photos that thousands of people have voted for Current Winners

If you would to read what some Top Photographers have to say about this topic here is an article you will want to read. Answers from top Photographers

 

 

 

Quick Tips for Award Winning Landscape Photography

Phil Koch is a fine art photographer who has won numerous awards and over $350 with his landscape photos on VotoArt. This blog post features some of his excellent work and gives a few tips of where to start and what to consider if you want to be a successful landscape photographer. To see more of Phil Koch’s photography, visit Phil Koch Fine Art Photography Portfolio

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Photo by Phil Koch

Shooting at Dawn

Shooting during the Golden hours is known for producing award winning landscape photos and dawn is one of the Golden hours. At first the light of dawn is a cool blue then just before the sun starts to rise the light is flat and almost colorless. As the sun breaks the horizon the magic starts to happen. The landscape is bathed in beautiful hues of red and orange illuminating everything it touches with its glorious rays. Unless you are naturally a morning person, trying to capture this beauty may mean work and persistence. You must be willing to head out in the gloom when there are lots of reasons for staying in bed at 3am knowing that there is a risk of it being cloudy and cold. Some landscape views may only work well at certain times of the year, depending on the position of the sun. You can determine where this will be by using a sun compass or an app that shows you where the sun will rise each day.

Things to consider
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