How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 18/31 - Shoot: Craft Photography


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Shoot: Craft Photography

- [Julia] These guys, honestly, I treat them exactly like I treat a portrait. They're a round object, they just have a lot of texture so we want to highlight that. But using the same lighting technique, there's no huge difference in what I'm doing as far as direction of light. There's always some kind of direction. You can bring in modifiers to help you out, which we're going to talk about a lot in the in the third segment today. But for the most part, I'm going to shoot these guys. We're going to do it a little differently. We're going to do it on this table with the brick as the background. So if we could switch that out, I can take some questions while you guys are doing that. But it's really no different. With portraits, you're just dealing with expression and shadows on the face. But with product, almost all these products are round or have some kind of smooth surface. Does that make sense? And the light behaves as light no matter what. And if you look for the shadows, you're goin...

g to be fine. You just don't want shadows in funky places, or highlights in funky places. Yeah? - [Judith] All right. Since they are switching, we have time for (inaudible) doing these cues that are coming in, rapid-fire, regarding the white balance calibration, if you switch lenses, do you have to recalibrate? - No. - So it's just the light? - No. What we're measuring is the color temperature of the light in the room, this light. As a matter of fact, you can tell it's changing a little bit. The light's getting better as it goes through the day. Light is light, and the light coming through has a specific temperature. When you change your lens on your camera, that doesn't change the temperature of the light, does it? So it's strictly about the color of the light that's coming through in your area that you're using. - Great. How are we looking over there? - Doing good? Getting there? Okay. And by the way, I am going to be using that wall. So we're going to have to move that table out of the way so that stuff isn't in the background. Perfect. That's awesome, sweetie, thank you. Yeah, or just right...If we just move it down a little bit, that would be awesome. Yeah. Can you see the light getting better? It's getting a little brighter, a little more effervescent. It's a word. You guys know what I mean when I say that. It's totally not a technical term in terms of lighting, but it has that effervescent feeling, right? It's specular, pretty glowy, like little diamonds feeling. - Julia, would a 60-millimeter macro work for this type of product photography as well? - Yes, yes. Very much so. It worked great actually. So here's where color and design can get interesting. We have an oddball out, right? This is the guy who is like the more brightest one of the bunch. They are so distractingly cute. These guys are like killing me right now. And the designer of these brought…Oh my gosh, they're so stinking cute. But the designers of these brought these baskets which is awesome because some of the hardest part of product photography is just figuring out what to prop things up on, really. Aren't they funny? They're so stinking cute. But by peeking him out like that, you give him personality, you give a product personality, which of course infuses emotion into the consumer. And when they see the emotion, they want to buy the product, okay? So what I'm going to do is shoot him like this with the brick wall kind of out-of-focus in the background to highlight them. I'm limited on space. I'll switch lenses here. What do I want to use? Let's start with my kit lens, okay, because most of you have it, right? And then I'm going to switch to a portrait lens so you can see the difference. Sound good? I'm just moving around just…sorry, hon. Okay. So my kit lens is a 24 to 120, 3.5 to 5.6 lens. This lens comes with a lot of DSLRs, okay? You can buy the D750 in a kit that has this lens, okay? So they sell you the lens and the body together. They also have, I believe, it's a 24 to 70 kit lens out there if I'm not mistaken. Nowadays, this lens is really old for me I've had it since I purchased my first DSLR. Maybe a little bit later than that. But I'd bought it as a kit when I was first starting out just like you guys. Nowadays, when I upgrade my body, I just get the new body, I don't get the lens that comes with it. But the reason I want to use this lens is because most of you who are taking this class probably have a lens like this. So I want to show you what it can do, and then of course, what upgrading will do for you too. A lot of this is simply training your eye to see differently and to see how the different nuances of the lenses perform and behave, okay? So I'm going to go ahead and use this. We're ISO 800, which is a little high and granted, when I'm shooting product photography for real in my studio, I'm shooting strobes, and I'm shooting at ISO 50. I've got this Nikon cranked down to 10, the lowest it will possibly go because that's going to give me the most ability to blow up the file size, okay, because you won't have the noise on the file. In this situation, I can't. There's not enough light in the room for me to do that. Is that a problem? No. It just means you won't be able to blow it up to like billboard size without seeing a bunch of noise in it, okay? Do you really need to blow it up that high, number one? Noise also comes about more so when you under expose an image. So just be forewarned. Remember that conversation we had yesterday about how better to underexpose than over if you really, really have to go one direction or the other? The problem with underexposing is it pronounces noise and makes it more readily visible in your files, okay? So again, another reason to nail exposure every time, okay? So with that being said, I'm shooting at like 800 ISO right now. But I'm also on a full frame camera, an FX sensor. Most of you probably have a DX sensor. An FX sensor can handle noise better. So it's easier for me to shoot at a higher ISO with an FX frame camera. Makes sense? So my equipment is not limiting me at this point. Would I be able to blow up 800 ISO image up to billboard size? Yeah, it probably wouldn't look that great. I mean, it would have some issues, okay? It wouldn't look terrible but would have some issues, okay? Understanding pros and cons to everything. Okay. Little critters, we should name them. Okay. This is so funny because it's just like a portrait. I'm physically looking for catch lights in the eyes. Do we have a brush. He needs a hair brush. But seriously, I mean this is product photography. I'm going to shoot it kind of messy, but the owner of these products want them to look their best. So I need to fluff all this out. Make sure it's all perfect and not anywhere. And that's why product photography sometimes takes hours is because you have all these little things that need to be put into place. So guys know I'm do…do it. I'm not going to make it perfect here just so we can, in the interest of time, move on other things. But make sure everything… And hair is so hard to fix in Photoshop. Fix it here. Although Lindsay Adler is the master of fixing hair in Photoshop, so take her class if you really want to fix hair in Photoshop. Okay. So I'm going to leave these guys as is because I guess I don't really need a brush. You know what I'm talking about right? Okay. So kit lens, let's see. We're not going to shoot wide. I'm going to shoot at 85, okay? And my f-stop won't go down anymore, past 5.6. Now, that top dude right there is pretty much skin color for the most part. So I metered off him. So we should have a decent exposure off that. I was waiting for exposure to come up. Am I not seeing the image anywhere? There we go. Oh, colors off. You see that? See how bad the color is? I got a white balance. My light is changing. Feel that? Let's do it real quick. Belinda, do you see how the table is not the right color? Okay. The brick wall is not quite red? The red color that you see here, we're going to white balance again. So since I'm in custom white balance on this 750, and I've got a good exposure, all I need to do is press this white balance button, hold it down until I see the pre-blinking. And the minute that pre-blinking, I take a picture full frame of the gray, and then it says good right on top there. Oh my God. If it says good, we're all good. And then what I can do is take a shot just to make sure my color is good, and we'll look at the difference between this image. Thank you, sweetheart. We'll look at the next one. See how much better the table looks? It's actually got a yellow tone to it, okay? So this is a good exercise in training your eye for color. Okay. Now, we'll take these guys' shot. Oh my God, they're so cute. Much better color. See that? So I focused on the eye of the upper-left one. Put the camera, it's at 5.6 at 200th of a second. And that kind of blew the wall out of focus behind it, okay? And what that does is it highlights the product, it makes the product to focus the image. This is exactly like a portrait, it's no different. Now, I'm going to switch to 8514 lens and show you the difference, okay? So I shot that at 85 millimeters. See that? I was at what, 5.6 with that one? Let's shoot it at 5.6 and see what happens. And then I'll drop down to a lower aperture, okay? It's a touch sharper. But then I'll drop down to…Let's do 2.8. So I dropped down at 2.8. I went my shutter speed up to 1/500th of a second. Hang on. There's never any grace in photography, right? And now, watch the wall behind in the background, okay? Now, all of a sudden even more so, the characters are the focus of the image. I've got a little white here on the left that I could crop off. But do you see the difference? And this lens, see how the hair up here is just like so sharp in that file. That's what a fixed prime lens does for you. These are subtle differences that the consumer eye probably won't see. But as you shoot more and more and the problem is when you rent one of these, and you shoot with it, then you're like, "Oh, dang, I want it." It's really hard. So be careful when you go to rent equipment. Make sure you're prepared to buy because chances are you will want to buy it very quickly. Okay. So cute shot. We're working with monochromatic color here, okay? Fairly monochromatic. See? But by using a lens that can compress and blow the background out of focus, we're putting the focus on the product. There's catch lights in both these little critters' eyes. I would probably brush their hair a little bit more to make it absolutely perfect and fluffy, makes everything like stick out, real cute because that's what makes them cute. You know what I'm saying? And style it that way. Because I was using fairly monotone colors, I wanted to use that out-of-focus background in order to highlight the product, okay? But color and combining color is sometimes what makes a product stand out, right? So we could go into this exact same situation with little green dude here. Oh my gosh, really? Come on. Oh my gosh, he's like my dog, he sheds everywhere. I seriously need one of these for my kids at the studio. Wouldn't they just go nuts over this? And again, for the interest of time, not do everything to make him... But see, all of a sudden, how putting a green dude against a red wall makes him pop, that's because green and red are pretty much opposite each other on the color wheel. That's Christmas colors, right? So we can stand him up. We can put another little dude in there. But I got to be careful because the other…Really, he's in his undies. How cute is that? Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, I have to take him home. Now, I don't see…What would be really fun is if I had like yellow and blue because then I have like my primary colors going on, red, green, yellow, blue. Green's obviously not a primary color, but red, green, yellow, and blue, very childlike kid happy fun colors to make the product stand out. So all I'm saying...and this guy, I love him to death, but he doesn't really work in there at the moment, but he could go by himself. So just use color…Honestly, these guys would almost look better on white. But since we already shot the jewelry on white, I wanted to give a different look. But to work with bright color things like this on white really accentuates them and makes them stand out. So just be thinking about what kind of background you want to use with each thing, how different colors combine. If we were doing this as a real product shoot, I would ask her to bring me certain colors of things so that things popped off. But let's go ahead and shoot this dude up on the thing and I would want like a little critter in there, too. But if you're shooting it for a catalog, then of course, we'd want to do each product individually, right? If we're shooting it for an advertisement, a vertical advertisement in a magazine, it's a completely different animal, right? No pun intended. Come on, stand up. Come on, dude. He's stubborn. So do you see why I'm saying you have to really consider what medium you're going to publish this in before you shoot it? So if I going to shoot this for like a magazine cover or an article, I'm going to shoot it vertical and make sure…yeah, my window is going to show there, and make sure that I've got lots of space for the masthead and my black boxes are going to show up there too. I'll just shoot it. I'm going to make sure there's enough masthead room at the top and room around the outsides for articles and things like that to be posted. And this is not even wide enough, okay? But because the window was in the way, I was trying to frame it tighter. But if I was really going to frame this for a magazine article, I'd be like back here like this, my window is going to be in the way but that's all right, give myself lots of room on the outside to put in text for articles or whatever, okay? So granted, the window is totally ruining it but that's okay. You see my point. Make sure you understand where you're publishing the work first before you shoot it, okay? Same thing with horizontal images. We could shoot this all horizontal to leave room on either side for text and articles and whatnot, or product information. If you're shooting it just as a catalog for an internet Shopify site or whatever, you just highlight each product singly at a time. And sometimes, it's best to hide the product the same way each time so that the client knows exactly what their getting, and it's very easy to navigate through your Squarespace, or Shopify, or WooCommerce site, okay? Makes sense? Okay. The other thing you could do is, this is group photography, right? Like what we did yesterday, yeah, exactly, and a great way to practice because you don't have to worry about what people think of you, right? Your subjects think of you? Oh my gosh, this dude is killing me. And we got all kinds of... Oh my gosh, really? What a talented artist? I got my two big ones. Now, look at my white guy. He's over here on this side, why? Why? I'm not hearing, hello, microphone, answer. - Away from the light. - "Away from the light," Judith said. Yes, because he's the brightest, right? So he bounces the most light. So to keep him further away from the light, is going to help my cause a little bit. Now, squint your eyes a little bit. Just squint your eyes and look at it. The first one you see is the bright pink dude, right? So he is pretty much going to be my focal point so I can choose to do a couple of things. I can either put him over here so you read left to right, or I can put him in the middle as the front and center and let everybody's eye kind of travel around the image center and then back, okay? So if I keep him, let's say, I'm almost tempted... No, I'm going to front and center him. Oh my gosh, we need to name this dude. Cathy would be so good at naming this guy, my content producer. Wouldn't she just come up with a perfect name for him? I'll bet she's screaming in the control room back there right now. "He's name is…" You can see it coming. I'm falling over. You see what I'm doing though, right? I'm simply creating…And since this dude is gray and this dude is gray, I'm going to separate them a little bit to create balance. Okay. - Julia? - There we go. Yeah? - Cathy has named him Undie Bats. - Undie Bats. I need to take this guy home. I need to buy him because he's awesome. And Cathy probably already has dibs on him, but she can't have him. Okay. Undie Bats. We do not have fun at CreativeLive, let me tell you. Not at all. All right. So you can see what I'm doing. It's simply group dynamics. I'm making the scale of music. Do you see it? We've got a little bit of symmetry going on right here, which I'm not a symmetrical person. I don't like things perfectly symmetrical, so it's kind of bugging me. Is that bugging you? Is that bugging anybody now that I pointed it out? Okay. So we could do a couple things. We could kind of shift these guys down this way or just remove him all together because he's too much like the others. But in a family, you can't do that. So you got to stick with the relatives you've got, right? There we go, group dynamics. That works. Okay. You get my point. So anyway, this would actually be super cute. If she needed a blog header, obviously I would doctor them up and make sure they're all perfect and they all look good. But you could create an awesome horizontal image that's like a Facebook cover profile or whatever. Now, the only issue we have going on here is lighting. The light on these guys is way less than the light on those guys over there. If we had a longer table, we could do like we did yesterday, make a slight curve so that these guys are closer to the light, move back here with a nice long lens, compress the scene, and they'll all look like they're flat on the same surface, okay? So that's a possibility. We could also move them back a little bit so that this light has a more of a chance to hit this guy over here. Make sense? But again, this is all just a sliding glass door window in your house. Beautiful for this kind of thing, okay? Clearly, you need some space, but, yeah, okay. Are there any questions before we move on? Let's talk about some stuff and hash out some things. - Yeah. Feel free to grab a mic. I'll start with one from at-home. Do you ever use a lightbox to photograph products? And in what scenarios might that be helpful? I know we don't have one here to showcase. - A light box is amazing for jewelry, for anything that's shiny and reflective. And, yeah, I've used one once or twice. You don't need one clearly to do this work. But they are amazing because what they do is they scatter light in all different directions. So you can put a light on either side and create amazing cool shadows and reflections inside the box especially if you have a piece of Plexiglas down below it. Lightboxes are awesome for smaller products. And if you go to a real high-end commercial studio where they shoot automobiles and stuff, it's literally a lightbox, it's a huge lightbox is what it is. They have massive soft boxes overhead and that's what creates those gorgeous like highlights on the edges of the car. Lighting that kind of product is incredibly difficult, and it takes hours and hours of work to do it. So, yeah, light boxes can be wonderful. Of course, you're limited on size based on what you can do, of course you are here too, but lightboxes are awesome. I think you can get them and you can make one yourself. I'm going to show you later today a diffusion panel that I made out of Home Depot plumbing pipe and some Ripstop fabric that you can get from Joanne's. So you can do the same thing if you want to create a lightbox, is you'll have to either you make a frame of some kind, whether that'd be with PVC pipe or with wood of some kind and then just wrap the thing in Ripstop fabric, and all of a sudden you've got a lightbox. The only thing you need to be aware of is that your light doesn't get flat inside of a lightbox. If there's too much light going on, then you have no shadows at all, and it doesn't give the product any dimension. So be very careful about over lighting a lightbox. - [Female] Earlier, you talked about if you under expose a picture and then it will have more grain in it or more noise. So then in that situation, is it better to have a higher ISO, which also produces grain rather than underexpose the picture, is that...if you are... - That's a good question. I love how you think, girl. In my opinion, yes. That's why you've seen me go up to ISOs of 800. I would rather have a properly exposed image at ISO 800 or like 1,600 than an underexposed image at ISO 800, okay? So, granted, under exposure, in my opinion, the lower the ISO, the better always. So the goal is to try to keep your ISO as low as possible, okay? If you're on a DX frame camera, that should be like a golden rule, to keep your ISO as absolutely low as possible. The DX sensor is crop sensor, there's not as much data and information able to be captured on that sensor, so it's going to frustrate you in low-light conditions. I swear to you, the minute I graduated over to a full-frame camera probably in 2007, 2008, maybe in 2008, it changed my world. It is the one equipment upgrade that I was like, "Oh, this is awesome." That was when I was like, "Okay. Now, I can shoot in low-light. I can shoot high ISO. I'm good." So if you're on a DX frame, I would keep your ISO as low as you absolutely can, but because the sensor is smaller, you're going to have a hard time shooting in lower-light conditions. If that's the case, just get to areas as much light as you possibly can. With an FX frame sensor, say that 10 times fast, you have more information coming onto the sensor to begin with. It can handle low-light, secondly, and thirdly, because of that larger sensor, you get less noise at high ISOs, okay? So if I have a full-frame sensor, always, I still say, "Okay. I want my ISO to be as low as possible," but it doesn't bother me to jump up to 800, 1,200, 1,600 because I know the camera can handle it and you might just have to play around with your camera to see what it can do. But ultimately, better exposure trumps ISO almost all the time, okay? If you nail your exposure every time, you're going to be a happy camper. It won't matter what ISO you're on. Now, if you're on a DX frame and you pop your ISO to like 3,000, you have a perfectly exposed image, you're probably still going to have noise on it, okay? But if you under expose that image, it's going to be even worse.

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  



Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....