Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photo Follow-Up: Making Progress with the Light Box and Lightroom

The Square Perfect light box out of the box,
in its convenient self-storing case
So I don't know what was wrong with me that first time I tried Lightroom last week, but I did have much better luck the next time.  Well, the next day, actually, my light box kit arrived, so I had to give it another shot, so to speak.  So I did a little photo shoot in my new light box kit by Square Perfect, and then tried editing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.  
My set-up of the light box, with the sheer white on top

First, I have to say that the light box was great, but not the  cure-all I was hoping for.  The kit I got comes with two little lights, a little tripod, velvet backdrops in white, black, blue and red (although for the life of me, I can't imagine I'll ever use the blue or red), and the collapsible light box itself folds into a nice sturdy case that holds everything.  My only real complaint about the kit is that it didn't come with instructions, and I was confused about how to set it up.  At least one side has to be black, i.e., opaque.  My instinct told me this should be the back, but the photo on the box shows the black side on top (or maybe even the back and the top).  I stuck with my instinct and set it up so that I'd have natural light filtering in from the top, with the lamps lighting each side.  I was disappointed that this set-up did not allow as much light in the box as I had hoped; I expected flooded natural-looking light with absolutely no shadows.  I will say that even thought I don't really love the look of a pure white background, it did allow the colors of my products to show better than on the natural travertine stone I'd been shooting on.  So, I think this is a style compromise I'm willing to make.  Maybe I can make up for the boring white background with more props.  And I'll try shooting in the light box on very sunny days, to see if that helps.  Although I must say the idea that, in a pinch,  I can do a decent photo shoot any time of day -- regardless of the whether it's a cloudy or sunny day -- takes some of the pressure off.  

As for my Lightroom experience, the second time around was much better.  The first day, I had trouble at every step.  I couldn't even figure out how to import photos off my camera into the program.  And then, even though I was doing okay with the "developing," i.e., editing, I couldn't figure out how to do the key things I really needed to do for my Etsy shop: (1) make sure the files were in sRGB color mode instead of Adobe RGB, so that hopefully, the colors wouldn't change when I uploaded them; and (2) reduce the file sizes to no more than 1000 pixels.  I kept trying to watch tutorials, but they kept buffering.  Arghh!

An assortment of my Zazzy Peacock needle-felted
spring hair clips shot against a white backdrop
The second day, I looked at some non-video tutorials and quickly realized that you choose the color space (the sRBG option) and the file size when you export from "Library" mode.  Aha!  Things went much more smoothly after I figured that out!  And miraculously, the second day, when I clicked on "Import," it automatically pulled up my camera as an option.  In "Develop" mode, I was able to make some improvements to the images, but I still didn't really know what I was doing.  (Notice that the white background does NOT look white!) I was disappointed that the "auto" functions for white balance and tone did not do the trick; in fact, they looked awful.  I had this fleeting fantasy that I could just hit "auto" and magically make each photo perfect.  The background got somewhat "whiter" when I realized I had to click on a neutral gray with the white balance eye-dropper.  Lucky I had those shadows after all!  It's still not great, but oh well.  I know if I keep working on it, I'll keep getting better.  I have 23 days left on my 30-day free trial to get good enough to feel like it's worth paying for!

The background may not look white, but it shows the
colors of the crystals better in this felted jewelry set
So these are the first few photos I edited and exported as sRGB in Lightroom.  By the way, they're not optimal, but I sent these three photos with an application for my first juried craft show. I'm looking forward to a live-and-in-person venue where people can see and touch my creations, and I don't have to rely on photos to convey their vibrant colors and soft, fuzzy textures.  In the meantime, I do hope to get better at this photo editing thing, so that looking at photos in my Etsy shop will be the next best thing to seeing my felted jewelry and accessories in person.  

I think this shot of some of my felted peacock accessories came out the best, so far

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