Great Images Start with Good Preparation
Although men ties rarely become wrinkled or creased, it can certainly happen, so it is important that you dedicate time to examine and prepare each tie before you photograph it. Transport and storage are the two most common culprits of creases and wrinkles, so be sure to have an iron handy if your tie has been folded or packaged for a good amount of time. You might also discover that the tie you are supposed to photograph is an unfinished sample or has been damaged in some way!
It is a good idea to keep clothespins, safety pins, adhesive tape, and scissors on hand so that you can repair or position neckties accordingly. These tools can even help you to create compositions that defy the laws of gravity!
Be prepared to make adjustments and repairs where necessary to ensure that each tie looks as sharp as possible. Trust us when we tell you that it’s much easier to fix these types of mistakes in real time than in Photoshop. Even simple actions like adjusting the position of a tie on a mannequin can save you time and money down the road.
Be Consistent in Photographic Style
Photographic consistency is a key factor in the success of any business that is centered around product images. You want every product photo on your website to look like it belongs in your online catalog, with the same shooting specifications. Consistency, not to mention clean and orderly display, encourages customers to perceive your services and products as desirable, high-end commodities.
But what exactly is consistency and how can you achieve it? Consistency means using the same technical settings for all product images in your catalog. You need to use exactly the same studio setup, lighting conditions, and camera settings for every single shot. The best way to do this is to take notes and makes sketches so that you know, down to every detail, how to recreate the setup for future photos, allowing zero room for error. You should record the positions and settings of your camera and lighting equipment and stick to these settings every time you photograph products. These settings include camera and light heights and angles in relation to the product, ISO, white balance, aperture, and shutter speed.
Avoid Busy Backgrounds
Photographing your apparel against a neutral background, especially a white one, is always preferable because this encourages customers to wholly examine and appreciate each product without any distractions. A busy and cluttered background will draw the viewer’s attention away from what really matters: your product. Also, a white background brings consistency to your category pages.
To the eye of your customer, consistency on your catalog gives your product a professional look. A large roll of white paper or a large white foam core board are excellent materials to use as backgrounds and can be purchased with little expense and trouble at your local craft store. Do not forget that at Pixelz we want to help you improving your images and make them look sharp on your online portfolio!
Lighting Your Tie
We tried to keep the lighting setup as simple as possible in this post, so we opted to shoot in natural window light rather than use artificial studio lights. If you feel comfortable working with strobes, the principles for properly lighting your product will remain the same. In the setup above, we have two light sources. The primary light source is natural sunlight, which is being “diffused,” or softened, by the sheer fabric that we have affixed to the window pane. The secondary light source is the reflector panel that we have positioned to the right of the product; this panel is reflecting stray window light back onto the tie.
First, you will need to position your primary light source approximately 45º (degrees) to one side of the product, elevating it above the product. In a studio setting, you will be able to move the lights where you need them to be, but in a natural light situation, you will need to position the product itself accordingly. Since the window in our setup is large and has been positioned at a close distance relative to the product, and since we have diffused the light using transparent fabric, we won’t notice any harsh shadows or overblown highlights on the product.
Next, position the secondary light source opposite to the primary light source. In this case, the reflector panel is our secondary light source. Its function is to lift up any shadows that appear on the “darker” side of the product, the side that is farthest away from the primary light source, without making the image flat. The reflector should illuminate the product less than the window. It may be tricky deciding which angle to position the reflector panel in relation to the window and the product. If that is the case, then you can simply move the reflector panel around at different angles and watch the light play on the product to find the perfect position. In the images above, you can see the difference between an image with (right) and without (left) the reflector.
Setting Up the Camera
In fashion photography, it’s wise to use one’s photographic equipment to get the absolute best image quality possible in camera. For this, you’ll need to know a thing or two about custom camera settings. The camera’s automatic metering and settings will vary depending on your lighting conditions, so it’s important to know and master the particular shooting mode that you plan to use. You might decide to go completely manual, controlling all of the camera’s settings and functions yourself, or you might choose an automatic shooting mode, which will allow you to prioritize certain settings and functions while the camera takes care of the rest.
ISO refers to your camera’s “light sensitivity.” The higher the ISO, the more light your camera will bring in to properly expose your images, but this comes at a price: the higher your ISO, the more graininess, or “noise,” you will notice in your images. For this reason, it is best to utilize a tripod and set your ISO as low as possible. For most DSLRs, 100 is the lowest possible ISO and 1600 is about as far as you can go before you will begin to lose image quality. We recommend sticking to the 100-400 range if you can.
In photography, everything is a trade-off. If you want more of one thing, then you have to sacrifice something else. Your camera’s aperture setting is a great example of this. With aperture, the lower the number, the more light will pass through the lens, so an aperture setting of f/2.8 will let in more light than f/5.6. The trade-off here is that the larger the aperture (i.e. lower number), the narrower the depth of field. This means that less of your subject will be in focus.
The best product images are usually created at lower (i.e. higher number) apertures so that most, if not all, of the subject is in sharp focus. F/8 and f/11 are usually ideal for product photography, both for this reason and because lower apertures tend to increase lens performance.
Your camera’s “shutter” opens and closes to allow a certain amount of light into the camera to expose each image. A slower shutter value like 1/100 or 1/50 means that the shutter will stay open longer to let in more light. With a tripod, you should be able to use a slower shutter speed at no risk of image blur, but it is best to take hand-held photographs at faster shutter speeds (i.e. 1/250, 1/500).
If you’re shooting your tie images with a DSLR camera, then a good focal length will be between 50mm and 105mm. Most kit lenses (that is, the lenses that came in the package deal with your camera) cover these focal lengths. Avoid using “wider” (i.e. smaller number) focal lengths like 24mm and 16mm, because wider focal lengths tend to distort subjects.
Utilize a Tripod
If you choose to use a low ISO and are using a medium value aperture such as f/10, then chances are, you will need to use a slow shutter speed to let in enough light to properly expose your images.
As mentioned earlier, the lower the shutter speed number, the higher your chances become of getting a blurred image. If you need to go below 1/100, then we absolutely recommend using a tripod. This will allow you to get the sharpest and best-exposed images possible.
Another advantage of using a tripod is that tripods allow you to maintain the same viewpoint and perspective between every shot, which helps with consistency. We can’t emphasize it enough: use a tripod!
Photograph Different Views
Maintaining a consistent photographic style does not mean photographing products from only one or two angles. Rather, the opposite course of action is best! Including images of each product from many different angles is the best way to engage your customers and convince them that your products are worth buying.
One way to capture unique angles is to use a mannequin or a live model to display the ties being worn. Position the necktie on the mannequin or model in the same way that a person would wear the apparel, making sure that everything is sharp and smart to give the best presentation of your product. A front facing close up shot and a slightly angled shot of the tie knot (shown below) will show your customers how the necktie fits. When framing, include just enough of the jacket and shirt to give a sense of size and proportion and focus on the knot.
Another good way to position the tie is to roll it into a compact pack, as shown below. Once most of the tie has been rolled, you can extend the front of the tie straight out or at a 45º angle. If you can’t get the tie to sit the way you want, use a prop to keep it still. Below, we are using a bottle to position the tie roll the way that we want it. Just remember to hide your prop underneath or behind the tie.
Another way to position your necktie is to fold or frame just half or less of it. This very simple and straightfoward framing technique will allow your customers to evaluate the patterns, shape, and color of your product.
If you are selling the exact same tie with many different color variations, you can also photograph several or all of the differently-patterned ties together. This can be a very effective technique if you make sure to arrange the ties symmetrically!
Shoot in RAW File Format
Digital photography has brought us many advantages and one of them is that we can choose to shoot in different image file formats based on our needs. You might recognize the JPEG and TIF file format designations, but you should use neither of these when shooting your product images. Instead, select RAW from your camera’s internal shooting menu.
Why should you shoot in RAW over JPEG or TIF? There are many advantages to the RAW file format, but the main reason is that shooting in RAW allows you to edit your images in a non-destructive way, which means that you get ultimate control over how your images look. In RAW format, you’re able to fine-tune image parameters and perform extensive edits without losing any image quality, whereas JPEG and TIF files are damaged with every small adjustment. Shooting in RAW will also allow you to batch process images.
Once you adjust your first image in a set, you can then apply those settings to all of your other images in just a few clicks. Other advantages to the RAW file format include: higher image quality, better colors, and having camera settings automatically recorded on each image. RAW files are huge and do require conversion before they can be used online, but clearly RAW’s advantages outweigh its minor drawbacks!
Editing Your Images
Once you have finished photographing your apparel, it’s time to make some minor adjustments to your images before you publish them on your website. Assuming you shot your images in RAW format, you will need to use Adobe Photoshop’s built-in Camera RAW software or Adobe Lightroom to tweak your images. Of course, if you aren’t an Adobe fan, there are plenty of other options, like DxO Optics and AlienSkin. Selecting your photo editing software is a matter of preference, since most of them perform similarly.
The main adjustments you should expect to make are: white balance, exposure compensation, contrast, hue/saturation, and sharpness, in addition to image resizing, cropping, and file format conversion. To show accurate colors in your product images is very important. Nothing will annoy a customer more than receiving an orange tie when the product looked red on your website, so take into consideration to make the proper adjustments to avoid this. We recommend to use greycard / colorcheckers and let a post-production software to determine that the color is spot-on.
After editing your first image, just apply those settings to all of the other images in your set, double-check that each image looks good and is sized and cropped effectively, and then export/save the images into a desired file folder at the desired size and resolution with an SRGB color profile. If you shot your images in JPEG format, then the editing process will be basically the same.
However, you should make sure that you’re editing a COPY of the original image file instead of the original file itself or you will be stuck with the edits and image quality that you make. You can learn more about improving your image editing skills and photo production workflow here, but if you aren’t an expert in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, fear not! You can always send your images to Pixelz and have them edited overnight by trained professionals.
As you can see, it is simple and easy to create suave and stunning product images of men’s neckties. Improving the quality of your product photography is a sure way to boost sales and customer confidence in your business, so we hope that you take these tips into consideration as you promote your products!