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4 common problems with handmade product images and how to use free tools to fix

07 July 2018

4 Easy product photo fixes for beginners using FREE tools

For many makers, product photography is one of the most daunting aspects of selling online, but no doubt by now you’ll have been told about a thousand times just how important your product images in the online world.

In case you’ve only heard it nine hundred and ninety-nine times, let me reiterate that your images are super important!

When you’re selling at markets people can walk into you stall, pick things up, flip them over to see them from different angles, feel the quality and textures of the materials, and yes, if you’re selling scented things, the odd sniff isn’t out of the question either!

Imagine if your market stall was behind a huge pane of glass… and customers could only press their noses up against it to get a glimpse of what you have to offer. You’d want to make sure you had each and every item displayed perfectly, from a variety of angles, with great lighting… and you’d want to make sure that big window was clean too! That’s not too far from what you’re dealing with when it comes to selling online.

4 common problems with handmade product images and how to use free tools to fix

Now, the best way to have absolutely awesome images, is to take great pictures in the first place. That means good lighting, a clean background with minimal distractions, and, if you’re brave enough, some great on-brand styling. But even photos shot in the right conditions sometimes need a helping hand, and if you have trouble at home getting the lighting just right, post-processing can help give your images new life.

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But don’t you need to pay a fortune for Photoshop and have a degree in graphic design to process images? That would be nice, but it’s really not necessary. I’ve put together a few tips on how to make simple edits to your images that address some of the most common issues I see on Madeit below, all using free editing programs available on the web.

I am not a designer, or a photographer, and when I’m editing images for our newsletter or our social media etc. I generally use Photoshop Elements (PSE), which is a more simplistic version of Photoshop. It is a paid piece of software, but rather than paying month to month, you can purchase it once from Adobe for under $150.

I’m self-taught on PSE and while I can do most things I need to with it now, it was a bit of a learning curve, and a hundred & fifty bucks is a big outlay when you’re just getting started, so for the edits I’m showing you today I’ve used two free programs; iPiccy and FotoFuze. iPiccy is brought to you by the same folks who built Picmonkey, but it’s completely free to use (although you will need a free account to access a few features). FotoFuze is a freemium product, which means you can create a free account to use some features, and upgrade for more advanced features. I’ve used the free versions for all the edits below.

So, without further ado, following are simple fixes for some of the most common image issues on Madeit…

1. Colour Cast

Ever try to take your photos against a plain white background only to find that the whole image is blue or orange? This is called a colour cast and is usually to do with the colour of your light source. Cool lights can create a blue tone in your image and warm lights create varying shades of yellow to orange. A colour cast can also be caused by the reflection of light from coloured surfaces around your subject.

Shooting tip: Use natural light when shooting your photos to minimise harsh shadows and avoid colour cast-astrophy! Try to keep the area clear of other objects and avoid shooting too close to coloured walls that might reflect coloured light onto your subject.

Fixing a colour cast: Open iPiccy.com, choose to edit a photo, and upload your funky-coloured image.

Open an image with a colour cast or tint for editing in iPiccy.com

By default, the editor menu will show to the left of your screen. Select ‘Colors’ from the menu, the click on the ‘Neutral Picker’.

Then click on an area of the image that should be white. As you can see in the above image, there’s a slight yellow / green tinge to much of the background. I find it is best to select the mid range colour, or the one that covers the greatest area of the image, to avoid over compensating for differences in light.

Using the neutral picker in iPiccy to remove a colour cast or tint from a photo

Above is the resulting colour correction. If you’re happy with it, you can click ‘Apply’ in the Colors menu or got through the process again and select a slightly different spot to tweak the resulting colour.

Before and after images of the same pot when using iPiccy to correct a yellow clour cast

2. Dark images with low contrast

When scanning over a page of product search results, some images will jump out at you and grab your attention, and others you will barely notice. This is because we are drawn to clear bright images… because they’re easy to for our brains to interpret.

If you want to capture the attention of your customers, so they click on your item to read all about how awesome it is, then you’re going to want to make sure your images are nice and bright with an appropriate level of contrast.

*Note: sometimes dark and moody images suit your brand, and I’m not suggesting they won’t work, but if you’re starting out with product photography, making your product easy to see in full detail is the MOST important thing. You can play around with styles once you have the basics right.

Shooting tip: Make sure you have sufficient light on your subject! Take some test shots and adjust your lighting if necessary. If shooting in low light automatic cameras will adjust the shutter speed, to let more light through the lense (over a longer time) so use a tripod or rest the camera on something to avoid any movement that will make the image blurry.

Fixing a dark image:

If you’ve got a dark image, open it in iPiccy.com and from the Editor menu on the left, select ‘Exposure’.

Opening a dark image in iPiccy to edit the exposure and contrast

To brighten the entire image, drag the blue ‘Exposure’ slider towards the right until your whites look white. If you find that white or light parts of your product start to blend into the background, you’ve gone a bit too far.

Corrected exposure and contrast settings to brighten a dark image using iPiccy

To refine the balance to ensure your whites look white but your blacks still look black, you can also brighten highlights and darken shadows separately using the next two sliders.

The fourth slider down is for Contrast, which will increase contrast (create more difference between the darkest shadows and the lightest highlights) when dragged to the right, and decrease contrast when dragged to the left.

Have a play with these settings to see how they affect your image. Make sure you don’t over-edit your image though. The end result should show the colours of the product as they are in real life, and an image that is too bright will lose detail.

Before and after images for brightening an image using iPiccy’s Exposure tool

3. Distracting items in the background

It’s always a bit of a shame when you see a beautiful product, nicely shot, but there’s a distracting power-point in the background, or the photographer’s shadow in the foreground. If you’ve shot your photo against a plain background, these little detractors can usually be edited out of your final photo so it looks a little more professional and your product remains the hero of the image.

Shooting tip: When composing your image, check to make sure only the things you want to be in the image are visible in the frame – particularly if you are not shooting on a plain background as they can be very difficult to remove from busy backgrounds. If you can’t avoid distracting items in your background, try to keep them away from the edges of your product so they’re easier to remove in post-processing.

Removing unwanted distractions:

Open an image in iPiccy and select the painter tool

I was pretty happy with most of the above image straight out of the camera, but I didn’t line it up properly and the image runs off the white background. Because the unwanted element is at the edge of the image I could crop it out, but if I wanted to keep plenty of white space around my product, I could also edit it out with iPiccy.

Use the eye-dropper tool to select the paint colour

To do this I would select the paint palette icon from the far left menu, then choose the eye-dropper tool. Find a part of your image near the bit you want to cover up and click the eye-dropper on it to pick up the exact colour. You’ll see the Colour appear in the Eyedropper Settings section to the left.

Selecting a large soft brush at about 30% opacity to paint over unwanted parts of an image

Then click the paint brush tool, and adjust your settings to a fairly large, soft brush, and set your opacity to around 30%. This means you’ll have to paint over the same section 3 times to get complete coverage, but lowering the opacity makes it easier to blend the colour into the surrounding background as there will invariably be some slight variations in colour.

Painting over unwanted parts of an image

Get painting over the offending area. In this image, the floor colour is a bit darker than the wall colour so I painted each one separately, picking a new colour from the floor area with the eyedropper before painting the bottom part.

Using the iPiccy clone tool to select an area to replicate

Another handy tool for small cover-ups is the clone tool. This tool allows you to paint on a ‘clone’ of your existing image, starting from a point you select. Here I’ve used it to extend the line where the floor meets the wall to make my painted area blend with the rest of the image. I clicked on the Clone tool, selected ‘Set Source’, then clicked on the line I wanted to copy.

Using the iPiccy clone tool to replicate parts of an image

I then moved the mouse to where I wanted the continuation of the line and painted that baby straight on!

Before and after images showing a distracting part of the background removed using iPiccy

4. Achieving the perfect white (or black) background

If you’ve shot your image on a plain background and you’re happy with the how the subject looks but you’d like to get a really clean background, another free tool you will love is FotoFuze.

FotoFuze allows you to upload an image, highlight the subject (your product), and then it will magically replace the background with a consistent, crisp white. It is very easy to use, even if you’re not so great with computers, but it is worth noting that it only really works well if you’ve shot against a plain background.

Shooting tip: Shoot against a plain white, untextured background. If shooting a white product, use a black or grey background.

Removing the image background:

This one is best seen in action, so below is a video of me removing the background from one of my images using FotoFuze.

I’ve found white backgrounds work best so your product shadows come across (otherwise your product can look like it is floating) but if you’re shooting a white product, use a contrasting grey or black background.

As well as choosing a plain colour for your background, you should also ensure it is untextured. Textures create shadows, and a lot of fine shadows make it difficult to distinguish the subject from the background and you’ll find FotoFuze doesn’t work so well in these cases. I’ve used white foam core for my background in the video above and it was super duper easy!

Before and after images showing the background removed from a product photo using the free FotoFuze tool

So there you have it, you don’t need to lay down hundreds of dollars on photo editing software or undergo years of training to tweak your product images.

A bit like your health, prevention is easier than cure so preventing the image problems above by spending some time setting up your shots with a good background, great lighting, and a steady camera is the best approach, but these few steps can help give your images an extra nudge towards ‘drool-worthy’ product images!

Words by:
Madeit Editor, Louise

Louise (a.k.a. “Mrs Madeit”)

Wordsmith, art & craft enthusiast, and grand-visionary.

  • Resin8Australia

    Thanks Louise! White backgrounds is something that I’ve been really struggling with so I can’t wait to try this out!

  • Thank you. Really needed the knowledge on white backgrounds for the future.

  • madeit

    Just saw your latest listing @Resin8Australia - looking good! :)

  • SnuggleBubs

    Thank you! I regularly use iPiccy but had never used the Paint Palette or Clone tool. This has encouraged me to check out what other features I can use in iPiccy.

  • madeit

    iPiccy is such a great free tool, so there's plenty of features to explore @SnuggleBubs - have fun! :)

  • MissyandMumsy

    Great article! White backgrounds are so hard to get right! But with the help of these tips, we have been able to improve our photos! Thanks!

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