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Product Photography: Do I need RAW? (+Recommendations)

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by Jack88, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. Jack88

    Jack88 New Member

    Hello everyone,

    I have recently founded a startup and I'm having a hard time with photography. I'm gradually making progress, but I'm concerned that my camera options may put me at a significant disadvantage. I know this is a common non-issue raised by many newcomers, but allow me to explain:

    One of my primary channels for promotion will be Instagram. The sector I'm in generally has excellent photography across the board. My photography skills aren't too bad, but I need to do a lot of work in post to get them looking close to acceptable. The issue is that I don't have any cameras that can shoot in RAW, significantly hampering my ability to improve the photos in post.

    So, I want to ask if you think it would be best to buy a cheap (and I mean cheap) camera that can shoot in RAW, or stick with my current point and shoot.

    For reference, the product is no more than 60x60x60mm and the backdrops will be mainly outdoors, for example placed on rocks, against trees; somewhat of an outdoor/rustic theme. Please comment if you need more information!

    Assuming I should pick up a camera that can shoot in RAW, I'm definitely open to suggestions. I don't have a specific budget in mind, but funds are tight, so I am looking for something as affordable as possible.

    Thank you for taking the time to read!
  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    if you are looking to the flexibility of post-processing raw files to rescue unacceptable results you would better invest some time in getting the technicalities right. I do choose to do my post processing on a computer rather than let the camera do it but that is a matter of choice rather than necessity.

    I've heard the name instagram but I'm not sure what it is. Is it a phone app? If the results are only to be seen on a screen a couple of inches across then there is no point to get carried away producing results that look good printed bill-board size. Some thought will have to go into the picture design so as to make the product stand-out, especially if setting it in an outdoors environment.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  3. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    If you are posting results on Instagram in the main, RAW is going to be overkill. Assuming you can frame and expose with reasonable accuracy, almost any online posting will be fine with JPEG use. The product you are photographing is small and it seems like you will be taking it from a close distance? It is a mixture of technique, equipment and ideas. Maybe you could be somewhat more specific, I do have thoughts camera-wise on this one, but they might be incorrect should my assumptions be wrong.
    RogerMac and Roger Hicks like this.
  4. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    As soon as you mention instagram you are talking about a world that I do not understand.

    Nor do I understand a business based on cheap lowlevel cameras and the lack of any basic knowledge of photography, and still expect quality product photography as the result.

    As far as raw is concerned, even the most basic cameras seem to have raw capability today. And raw certainly provides more headroom for corrections. However it is not an alternative for knowledge and skill. If anything its use increases the need for those attributes.
    To a large extent product photography is about the knowledge of and the manipulation of light. And the camera used plays only a minor part in the equation, especially when the image is going to be used at small sizes.

    Provided the camera can take sharp and reasonably accurate colour images. The lighting and view point and exposure, are the critical factors. If you get those right, the difference betwee jpeg and raw becomes largely academic, and the requirement for post processing becomes minimal.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    Brian likes this.
  5. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    As a matter of interest my choice of camera for taking small images of items for web use has always favoured good quality but small sensor cameras. At various points I have chosen to use a canon G3, a Canon G6. A fuji X10 and now a Fuji X30. They all excell at close and near macro shots. Partly because the small sensors and the resulting short focal length lenses, produce massive relative depth of field, which is very useful for product shots for the web use.
    All these cameras could shoot in raw which is my format of choice. Perhaps more importantly they can all be used, with out delving into deep menue settings, for manual settings for colour balance, shutter speed, aperture. ISO and very importantly manual focus. Product photography is definitely an area wher taking direct control of the camera is a distinct advantage.
  6. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    If you understand your product and your market and have researched your competition then there's no reason why you shouldn't take successful product photographs for your business. Here are some points you may wish to consider.
    • The appearance of sharpness is important in web images. You can achieve this by
      • using a camera support to avoid vibration
      • ensuring that the product is in focus from front to back
      • putting the background out of focus
        • for this to work you need to understand depth of field and how it applies to your own camera and lens
        • a camera with a larger sensor will make this easier - perhaps an APS or "full format" model
    • Contrast control is the other area that affects the appearance of your pictures
      • get hold of a reasonably good photo editor (if you use an Apple computer you already have one in the "Preview" app) otherwise Photoshop Elements is the low cost solution I like.
      • experiment with the sharpness and contrast settings until you can achieve the look you desire
    • Never work on the original file but always on a copy instead
      • keep the originals in one directory and your working copies in another
      • when you have a picture the way you want it do a "Save As" to a third directory
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  7. londonbackpackr

    londonbackpackr Well-Known Member

    What are you having to do in post to get the images correct? white balance, contrast, colour adjustments?

    What camera are you using at the moment, a cheap camera that shoots RAW can be worse that a reasonable one that shots jpeg, I had a fuji that shot great jpg but the RAW was poor and no post work could get them to look good.

    Can the camera shoot manual? sometimes this is the better option.

    Maybe you could post a picture that you are not happy with, and we could see where the problems are.

    I use instagram and know that images show as different size depending on what device you view them on.
    Roger Hicks and EightBitTony like this.
  8. Jack88

    Jack88 New Member

    Thank you everyone for your helpful responses!

    Instagram is an extremely popular app, think of it as an image focused social media platform.

    That's correct, almost all pictures will be taken at a very close distance, though there will be times where having the flexibility to take the shot from up to 6 feet away would be ideal.

    I'm new to post too, my main motivation for wanting to shoot RAW is so that I can play around with it in lightroom and try following a few tutorials to really make my images pop. There's not one specific setting I want to change. Unfortunately, none of my cameras can shoot manual.
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    If you can control the light (with diffusers/reflectors) then JPEG should be perfectly adequate.

    Can you show us some examples of your pictures? And point us towards pictures by your rivals?


    londonbackpackr likes this.
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Clear as mud! What size images are you producing? As per post #6 you have to tailor your approach according to what you want to produce. An example would help explain.

    I'd think that making images "pop" is likely a tall order in LR because I take that to mean making some quite extreme adjustments. You are probably better with a graphic arts package like photoshop. There is not often need to use full manual settings. The main one would be if you are in complete control of the lighting and using that control to create a targetted exposure.
  11. londonbackpackr

    londonbackpackr Well-Known Member

    I've never really know what pop is, pop as in the main image standing out from the background, pop as in the colours are bright and over saturated.

    Jpegs can be loaded into CameraRAW and you get the same adjustments as a RAW, only there isn't as much information in the jpegs as RAW but you can make small adjustments.

    Its difficult to pin down the size but I think the app displays 640px x 640px (mainly smart phones) but 1080px on the shortest edge is preferred for optimum quality across all devices but there are rumours that 2048px with work just as well.

    Personally I upload images at 1000px x XXX @ 72dpi and they seen fine on tablet, smartphone and web app.
  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I'm working with a company that heavily uses Instagram as part of its product marketing. Oddly enough, I'm not working with them on the photographic side; but they have a respectable studio set-up, with reasonable lighting, decent backgrounds and a DSLR with a couple of lenses, of which they use the macro most. They don't do a massive amount of post - well, not for correcting pictures, they do do a lot of graphic design on it. But above all, they have a remarkably competent photographer doing it.
    There's a lot of nonsense written about how to go about this stuff, and people see Instagram and think it doesn't need to be great quality - nothing could be further from the truth.
    Roger Hicks and Terrywoodenpic like this.
  13. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Instagram was designed to showcase photographs taken on a mobile phone, and I find it hugely irritating that this is still how you have to upload images to it. It does mean that the file sizes don't need to be massive (shouldn't be massive) because you have to save your resized images to something like dropbox, then get them from dropbox onto your phone's photo library and then upload them to instagram which is a huge faff. But it doesn't mean the quality of the images shouldn't be great. And you *can* take pretty good product shots with a phone if you have the right set up. It's probably more to do with the lighting and backgrounds than the camera per se though.

    As someone else has said, you can use all the tools in Camera RAW on a jpeg just as you can on a RAW file. And while you won't get AS much flexibility in terms of dragging down highlights or lifting shadows, you can still do a lot with it. I recently managed to do a pretty good rescue job on a friend's image which was not only a jpeg but also merely a 72 ppi screen grab. So if you are starting out with a decent sized jpeg it should be fine to work on in post. Especially given that you're not going to be printing these images to billboard size!
  14. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    The author is in regular battle with the Instagram API, and technically is in breach of it, but so far it's continued to work - https://www.lrinstagram.com/

    Upload straight to Instagram from Lightroom.
    Geren likes this.
  15. Jack88

    Jack88 New Member

    Hi everyone,

    At the moment I haven't taken any pictures that are comparable (I haven't tried the "nature" style yet - but please allow me to show you some examples of what other companies are putting out:
    G Squared Yoyos - instagram.com/gsquaredyoyos/
    Smashing Yoyos - instagram.com/smashingyoyos/
    Luftverk - instagram.com/luftverk/
    Basecamp - instagram.com/basecampyoyo/
    Although none of these accounts are totally nature-themed, they all have at least some mixed in. I think that's generally the style I'm going to be going for.

    Please see my reply above if you'd like to see some examples. In lightroom I was intending to make fairly subtle adjustments - from some tutorials, I watched it seemed a little better than photoshop but now you have mentioned it, I will certainly consider it!

    As for image size, I believe as long as I shoot with a somewhat decent camera it should be fine for instragram since most people will view them on a small mobile screen.

    I had no idea something like CameraRAW existed, I am definitely going to have to try that out!
  16. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I think it might be time to get my head around Lightroom then. Sigh.
  17. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Caveat Emptor: Anyone using a 3rd party app is also in breach of Instagram's Policy and you could lose your account. I don't care - it's not something I use for business generation but if you do use it for that ...
    Geren likes this.
  18. londonbackpackr

    londonbackpackr Well-Known Member

    A lot of the images on those Instagram accounts, has a very shallow depth of field to add Bokeh to the background which is nigh on impossible with a compact camera. I'm not an expert in this but your looking low f-stops 1.4, 1.8.

    The same goes for lighting some of the images on white background have probably been shot in a light tent. As for the outdoor ones, there could be fill flash and lighting used on them. Good lighting and flash work can be hard to see.

    Also looks like the vibrancy has been increase on the colours of the yoyos or some type of plug-in filters.
  19. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Looking at what other people do doesn't help with your problems - what is it that you find problematic in your photos?
  20. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Jack,

    Thanks for the examples, but sorry, I can't help. They all look like competent mediocre pictures to me, As PeteRob says, what are you personally finding difficult?



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