The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at www.theonlinephotographer.com!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Little Higher Fidelity in Those Product Shots

I just uploaded a fairly long addendum to the PrimaLuna post. I was just about to add a picture of the Music Hall MMF 2.1, but I got put off by the low quality of the photograph. So, just for fun, I downloaded the shot from the importer's website and did a couple of quick corrections.


Here's the importer's JPEG (above)...



...And here's my quick fix. Better? There is a lot more that could be done, and the shot itself could have been lit better. But at least you can see the product more clearly.

It does bring up an interesting point. When I used to teach darkroom printing, one of the primary points I would always try to make is that skill is not so much knowing how to effect changes, but knowing what changes to make. The controls available in the darkroom are really fairly rudimentary; it's knowing when you need what that counts.

If anything, this aphorism is more important now by a hundredfold. Granted, we all know how to apply a myriad corrections to our pictures, and the range of interpretation is far greater than it used to be. But even so, the most important thing to know is what the picture needs, pictorially or visually—not just how to apply the changes, but knowing what the changes should be.

(If you want to try your own hand at improving the top JPEG, I'll be happy post your version too.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Tony Rowlett [see comments] might like this version better (click on the images to see them larger):

9 Comments:

Blogger Erio said...

Great point!!! "...primary points I would always try to make is that skill is not so much knowing how to effect changes, but knowing what changes to make."

There was a discussion on a board I frequent about using purchased actions. I had made the point about "perceived knowledge" when using store bought actions as opposed to the days when in the darkroom where we had to "know" what the hell we were doing. Well, not only are there the "photographers" that used these actions and don't really know how these actions work, but as you say, when to use the action and for what purpose.

Digital photography has really diluted actual skill with button pushers.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Mark Roberts said...

The misuse and abuse of photogarphy is common on many web sites. I'm now teaching web design (among other things) at a University. In the field of web design and usability there is no greater authority than Dr. Jakob Nielsen, whose Alertbox column is mandatory reading for anyone serious about web usability. Here's what he had to say in a recent column:

"Go to any tradeshow and you'll see plenty of booths pushing various fancy technologies -- most of which will make very little difference to your bottom line... In contrast, no trade show booth features Photographers' Society representatives saying 'clear photos move more products,' even though it's the truth."
(http://www.useit.com/alertbox/design_priorities.html)

This one way I manage to sneak some photography teaching into my lectures :-)

The irony is that the truth Dr. Nielsen is having to hammer home (to supposedly professional web designers) is already well known to anyone who's ever sold more than a couple of items on eBay.

I suppose it is a comfort that someone so prominent in a technology field is stressing the value of hiring professional photographers.

4:55 PM  
Blogger bjorke said...

An important question, and one that usually results in a lot of photographer hand-wringing: would those changes result in the sale of even ONE more turntable than the unchanged pic?

5:09 PM  
Blogger Tony Rowlett said...

Mike, I like the shadow detail of your version, like in the felt pad, but I like the brighter whites and blacker blacks (higher contrast in some areas) in the original version. I also like the original crop. Your crop is too close. The original photo makes me think of Stealth Bomber or Darth Vader, something like that, probably the original intent of it.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Max said...

"...skill is not so much knowing how to effect changes, but knowing what changes to make."
This sentence strikes a chord. I remember having a friendly discussion with a self-proclaimed artist, and she told me she loved the traditional darkroom because there was so many stuff to do and so many results that could show up unexpectedly. She seemed to find extremely unattractive about digital work that the outcome was indeed predictable.
I said "I have an idea in my mind, I try to get there with what I have, that's mastering a medium to be able to express art, in my opinion". Well, she didn't think so. It seems random results are more artsy than cold minded calculation. You know, going through the "filters" menu in Photoshop trying everything till something interesting happens. That sounds closer to the thousand monkeys writing for a thousand years kind of art. Well, she had much better marketing as an artist than I did, that's for sure.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"It seems random results are more artsy than cold minded calculation."

I don't think there's a rule one way or the other. Some artists work well with serendipity, others don't (Jeff Koons comes to mind). And I'm sure there are people of both types who fail. The art is not in the method except for each artist.

--Mike

7:28 PM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

"skill is not so much knowing how to effect changes, but knowing what changes to make."

That point has apparently struck home with several of us. The first thing I thought of was my efforts to make better digital B&W photographs. I've learned several different techniques to affect tone and contrast in PS; that was the easy part. Where I often struggle is in looking at a photo and deciding where best to apply those techniques. In that regard, I'm still learning.

4:22 AM  
Blogger H_Leighton said...

"In contrast, no trade show booth features Photographers' Society representatives saying 'clear photos move more products,' even though it's the truth."

Be glad you don't do catalogs, "No problem the manufactuer(s) sent pictures on disk", will usually send me looking for a wall to pound my head on.

All those nice colored pictures with the fancy colored shaded backgrounds, and the catalog is going to be B&W and printed at Kinko's or worse is going to be a ad on newsprint.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...

Knowing how to drive is easy.

It's knowing where to go that's hard.

9:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home