Thursday, November 29, 2007

From "Ho-hum" to "Wow!"

I have been preaching about the importance of having the best possible images of your work. It is absolutely essential to market your work effectively. While professional photography is great for the pictures you want to submit for shows or competitions, it is also very expensive. I take most of my own photos. I invested in a tabletop studio several years ago, and it was one of the best investments in my business I could have made. I have raved about it in the past, and I will continue to rave about it to anyone who asks. It has dramatically improved the quality of the pictures I am taking.

This photo was about the best I could do using a plastic bin on it's side, with some halogen lights, and a grey paper backdrop. I think I was using a 1 Megapixel camera at the time, as well. It was okay, but very flat. It could easily put you to sleep.

After I improved the quality of my camera, (6 Megapixels, not great by today's standards), and got a tabletop studio set-up, without any tweaking on the computer, the images were better. This necklace was taken with my Fujifilm camera in my photo cube, with a grey gradient backdrop. No tweaking. This is how it comes off the camera. Much better than before.

But it could be better. I have been using Photoshop Elements to adjust my images for the last few years. It is the basic program, relatively inexpensive, and does most of what I need. You can see what it can do to both of these images, below.

This is doing some very basic things....color correction, cleaning up the dust, adjusting for contrast and brightness, and making a slight adjustment with Unsharp Mask, to remove the flatness that you can get with digital images. All this takes me no more than a few minutes per image now....unless there was a lot of dust on the backdrop! And it is a big improvement.

But, I have been running up against some of the limitations of Photoshop Elements for the last year or so. I have needed a CMYK image a few times, or a RAW file and you can't get that with Elements. And most of the adjustments are "auto", meaning the program is doing the thinking for you. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is not.

Recently I ran across this information on using Curves in Photoshop to make adjustments to the image. There were a few other functions that Elements did not have, that I thought would help my images get just a bit stronger. Yesterday, I took a deep breath, and bought Photoshop. It is not inexpensive, but,...Wow! Look at the same images again, this time edited in Photoshop CS.

The necklace seems to pop off the page, and the bracelet is almost passable. It still is not a very strong picture, but it at least is more interesting visually than the one at the top of the page.

I am not in the league with the professional photographers I mentioned in a recent post, but I am doing better than I was last year, and better still than the year before. And that is what it is about. Doing a bit better. Taking those baby steps.
I do not spend this money easily or without a lot of angst. I have been thinking about making this move for over a year. When I can get these kinds of results for the money I spent....and the time learning about curves!...then it is money and time well spent. I am still learning the ins and outs of Photoshop, and will never claim to be an expert, but with each image, it gets a bit easier and faster.
Here are a few more pics.
Before and after.


Polka Dot Creations said...

Wow - those before and afters are really striking!

Kathi said...

good camera and good graphics program to make an amazing difference don't they? I love the contrast between the before and after. I too use PS CS and am learning as I go. My favorite button is the *undo* :)

Susan Lomuto said...

Perfect timing Judy. I don't post my work often enough on PCNotes - largely because my pictures are not great. Not even good! I am in research mode right now looking for the right photo setup. This post is helpful.

I also have Photoshop Elements and I am really surprised by the difference you show between Elements and the full version of Photoshop. Kind of discouraging regarding Elements...

As always, thanks for the good info!

Barbara Forbes-Lyons said...

Gimpshop is a free, open-source photo editing package that has most of the features of Photoshop in a PS-esque interface. Somewhat klugy in some areas, but more than worth what you pay for it.