Eliminate or Minimize Distractions in Small Product Photographs
If your main goal in creating an image is to provide a literal depiction of a small product to your viewers, then choose a background that contains little to no distractions. Products are often photographed on plain white, grey, black, or colored backgrounds in order to draw complete attention to them.
The plain background enables you to show the shape of a subject clearly and present it in a clean manner. This photo provides an example of this style of product photography. The bobby pin would be difficult to see so clearly in most other situations.
100mm, 1/160, f/11, 200
Here are some things to keep in mind when photographing on a plain, solid background:
Light the subject and the background. Sometimes lighting the subject alone leaves a muddy-looking background, grey and unevenly lit. Always pay attention to your entire scene when photographing macro and close-up subjects, even when that scene consists of plain old nothingness.
Choose a lighting style for your background. Lighting a solid background evenly provides a clean look, as if the subject were floating in midair.
Include your subject’s shadow to give a sense of space or grounding in an image. Lighting your scene so there is no visible shadow causes the subject to have no sense of place — to float.
Choose a camera angle that displays what you wish to reveal. The angle you shoot the subject from determines what viewers will see in that subject. Analyze where the most descriptive detail can be found on a subject to determine the best shot(s) for it.
In the top photograph, a high angle was used, revealing the features, functions, and controls on the topside of the camera. In the bottom photograph, a low angle was chosen to reveal the subject as if you were face to face with it. This angle serves as more of a portrait, or a hero shot of the particular subject, rather than a descriptive image.
50mm, 1/15, f/16, 400
50mm, 1/15, f/16, 400
If you’re shooting outside of the studio and don’t have a plain background to work with, then you can try one of these techniques to minimize distracting elements in a scene:
Keep a great distance between your subject and any background elements. The farther your background from the subject, the blurrier it’ll appear in your photograph. Rather than placing a product right in front of a wall, or in the vicinity of other elements, find a space that enables you to pull the subject away from anything that may be distracting.
Then, let the distractions become blurry to minimize their effect on your composition. In this situation, select an aperture that provides the depth of field required to show sharp detail in your subject, while keeping the background as blurry as possible. Shoot at varying apertures to compare the results and choose the one that works best for the product.
Seek out a camera angle that minimizes distractions. If there are distracting elements behind your subject, then rotate your camera position or change the height of it. Shooting from a high angle provides a view of the subject and the ground it sits on, helping eliminate distractions in the background. By using a low angle, you can block background distractions with the subject itself.
Device used to attach certain lenses or filters to your digital camera.
The leading professional image-editing program for your computer.
A program that enables you to view one or several of your images at the same time, all in one easily navigated workspace.
A less expensive version of Photoshop with fewer of the ultra-high-end features the professional version includes.
A process that smoothes the rough edges or jaggies in images by creating partially transparent pixels along the boundaries that are merged into a smoother line by our eyes.
An opening made by an adjustable diaphragm, which permits light to enter the camera lens and reach the image sensor.
A semi-automatic exposure mode; the photographer sets the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed to produce a good exposure.
A digital camera mode in which both the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically.
A digital camera feature that turns off the camera after a certain time period of inactivity.
A feature that puts the camera in control of choosing the proper exposure settings.
A camera setting that allows the camera to choose the correct focus distance for you, usually based on the contrast of an image or set by a mechanism, such as an infrared sensor, that measures the actual distance to the subject.
A lighting effect produced when the main light source is located behind the subject. Backlighting is also a technology for illuminating an LCD display from the rear, making it easier to view under high ambient lighting conditions.
Attachments for flash devices that feature movable flaps, which allow you to finely tune light output.
A device that recharges rechargeable batteries by connecting to a power source.
A device that holds multiple batteries with which you can power your digital camera.
Refers to the number of bits available to store color information. A standard digital camera image has a bit depth of 24 bits. Images with more than 24 bits are called high-bit images.
Short for Web log. A Web site where journal-like entries are made and displayed in reverse chronological order.
Term to describe an image or part of an image that’s over-exposed with no detail.
Shooting mode in which you choose both aperture and shutter speed.
A Windows bitmap file format; the default graphic created by Windows graphics programs.
The quality of the out-of-focus areas of an image that a lens produces.
Taking a series of photographs of the same subject at different settings to help ensure that one setting will be the correct one.
Range of options that gives you limited or total control of picture-taking settings.
A digital camera’s internal memory, which stores an image immediately after it was taken until the image can be written to the camera’s memory or a memory card.
Shooting mode in which the shutter stays open so long as the shutter button is fully depressed.
A special capture setting, offered on some digital cameras, that records several images in rapid succession with one press of the shutter button. Also called continuous capture mode.
A variation on the camera bag that you strap across your back.
A portable container for your camera and any additional photography equipment (such as lenses and extra batteries).
A padded, protective container in which you can store your digital camera when not using it.
A kind of wagon that lets you roll your camera/tripod rig back and forth, as needed.
A file format offered by some digital cameras; records the photo without applying any of the in-camera processing that is usually done automatically when saving photos in other formats. Also known as Raw.
The resolution of an image that you take with your digital camera.
A device into which you insert a digital camera’s memory card, then attach to your computer to make that memory card appear as just another drive to your computer.
Short for charge-coupled device. One of two types of imaging sensors used in digital cameras.
A device on a computer that allows you to copy (or burn) information to a CD-ROM.
A compact disc that functions as read-only memory, used to store programs and data files.
Metering mode that reads the entire scene but gives more emphasis to the subject in the center of the frame.
A variation of a traditional camera bag with which you can harness your camera and equipment to your chest.
A set of functions and messages that enable applications to transfer data.
The area of a digital image that you want to clone.
The process of copying one area of a digital photo and painting the copy onto another area or picture.
A lens add-on, resembling a filter, that allows you to take pictures at a distance that is less than the closest-focusing distance of the prime lens alone.
Pronounced see-moss. A much easier way to say complementary metal-oxide semiconductor. A type of imaging sensor used in digital cameras; used less often than CCD chips.
The print color model in which cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks are mixed to produce colors.
A tinge of color that discolors your image in whole or in part.
A printer in which a laser beam produces electric charges on a drum, which rolls toner onto the paper. Heat is applied to the page to permanently affix the toner to the page.
The purity of color; the amount by which a pure color is diluated with white or gray.
The arrangement of the main subject, other objects in a scene, and/or the foreground and background.
A process that reduces the size of the image file by eliminating some image data.
A mode in which the camera updates focus when the subject moves as long as you continue pressing the shutter button halfway.
A mode in which the camera continues taking pictures as long as you press the shutter button.
The range of difference in the light to dark areas of a photo.
An image distortion that makes vertical structures appear to lean toward the center of the frame.
An image-editing program that allows you to do all the standard image-editing activities and includes photographer-quality tools.
An easy-to-use image-editing program that includes basic fixes and guided projects.
An image-editing program with a fairly comprehensive set of retouching tools, but it’s not quite as tool-rich as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. It comes as a part of the CorelDRAW graphics suite.
A bundle of image-editing software (described as a graphics suite). It includes tools for vector illustration and page layout, photo editing, and bitmap to vector tracing.
To trim an image or page by adjusting its boundaries.
Cathode ray tube. A vacuum tube used as a display screen in a computer monitor.
The breaking up of a ray of light into dark and light bands or into the colors of the spectrum, caused by the interference of one part of a beam with another.
The zone of sharp focus in a photograph.
A thin screen-like material that diffuses or softens a light source’s illumination.
A feature offered on most digital cameras; crops the perimeter of the image and then enlarges the area at the center. Results in reduced image quality.
A viewfinder feature that corrects for common eyeglass prescriptions so eyeglass wearers can use the viewfinder without wearing their glasses.
Remove pixels from a digital image.
Stands for digital print order format. A feature offered by some digital cameras that enables you to add print instructions to the image file; some photo printers can read that information when printing your pictures directly from a memory card.
Setting that determines whether a camera takes a single picture or a series of pictures.
Software that enables a computer to interact with a digital camera, printer, or other device.
Digital video disc. A high-density compact disc for storing large amounts of data, especially high-resolution audio/video material.
A device that allows you to copy (or burn) information onto a DVD.
A device that displays the information contained on a DVD.
Digital Video Interface. A specification to accommodate analog and digital monitors with the same cable.
A type of printer that uses a printing technique in which inks are heated and transferred to a polyester substrate to form an image.
An area where neighboring image pixels are significantly different in color; in other words, an area of high contrast.
Exchangeable Image File Format. Developed to standardize the exchange of image data between hardware devices and software.
The amount of light allowed to reach the film or sensor, determined by the intensity of the light, the amount admitted by the iris of the lens, and the length of time determined by the shutter speed.
A setting used to increase or decrease the exposure manually when the camera gets it wrong.
EV settings are a way of adding or decreasing exposure without the need to reference f-stops or shutter speeds. For example, if you tell your camera to add +1EV, it will provide twice as much exposure by using a larger f-stop, slower shutter speed, or both.
A camera attachment that moves your camera lens farther from the sensor, enlarging the image captured by the camera. Also called a lens extender.
The distance your eye can be from the camera viewfinder’s window and still see the entire view.
A small bag worn around the waist like a belt.
A position, represented by a square, where an image-editing program anchors a magnetic selection outline.
To fade the borders of an image element so that it blends more smoothly with another layer.
A way of storing image data in a file.
Also called forced flash. A camera setting that causes the electronic flash to always fire, which produces the effect of filling in shadows in brightly illuminated images.
In photography, a device that fits over the lens, changing the light in some way. In image editing, a feature that changes the pixels in an image to produce blurring, sharpening, and other special effects.
A device on your camera that fires a burst of light when you take a picture to illuminate your subject.
Capturing a series of photos, each with a different exposure, by pressing the camera’s shutter button once.
The distance between the film and the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused on infinity, usually measured in millimeters.
To adjust the lens to produce a sharp image.
In photography, composing your image in the viewfinder. In composition, using elements of an image to form a sort of picture frame around an important subject.
The default kind of electronic flash synchronization technique. The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure — in the instant that the first curtain of the focal plane shutter finishes its movement across the film or sensor plane.
Refers to the size of the camera aperture. A higher number indicates a smaller aperture. Written as f/2, f/8, and so on.
File Transfer Protocol. A set of communication rules that allow data or files to be transferred between computers over a network.
Short for graphics interchange format. A file format often used for Web graphics; not suitable for photos because it can’t handle more than 256 colors.
A graph that maps out brightness values in a digital image; usually found inside exposure-correction filter dialog boxes.
A kind of tape whose two sides adhere to each other, with one having rough hooks and the other soft, fuzzy material.
The device on a camera that holds an external flash and provides an electronic connection to the camera.
A bright area in a photograph that come from reflections on eyeglasses or unevenly spread lighting.
Hypertext Markup Language. A computer language used to structure text and multimedia documents, and to set hyperlinks between documents; used for display on the Internet.
A digital camera’s solid-state capture device, made up of a grid-like arrangement of red-, green-, and blue-sensitive elements.
Setting that helps correct for any up-and-down movement you make while pressing the shutter button.
Using film, a filter, or a censor that is sensitive to infrared light and also blocks visible light. The effect produces a dreamlike effect, with dark skies and brightly colored foliage.
A computer connection point that lets you transfer computer data from one device to another by using pulses of infrared light, rather than a physical wire.
A printer that works by forcing little drops of ink through nozzles onto the paper.
Traditionally, a measure of film speed; the higher the number, the faster the film. On a digital camera, raising the ISO allows faster shutter speed, smaller aperture, or both, but also can result in a grainy image.
Internet Service Provider. A company that supplies your Internet access for a fee.
Pronounced jay-peg. The primary file format used by digital cameras; also the leading format for online and Web pictures. Uses lossy compression, which sometimes damages image quality.
A camera setting that creates both a Camera Raw file and a JPEG file of a picture.
The orientation of an image in which the longest dimension is horizontal; also called wide orientation.
A way of managing elements of an image in stackable overlays that can be manipulated separately, moved to a different stacking order, or made partially or fully transparent.
A four-sided awning that covers a digital camera’s LCD screen from bright sunlight, making the LCD easier to view.
Stands for liquid crystal display. The display screen included on most digital cameras.
Light Emitting Diode. A lighting technology used in many electronic devices.
One or more elements of optical glass or similar material designed to collect and focus rays of light to form a sharp image on the film, paper, sensor, or screen.
A device that shades the lens, protecting it from extraneous light outside the actual picture area that can reduce the contrast of the image.
A plastic dome that diffuses light and eliminates reflections in photographs. You place the objects you want to shoot under this dome.
A white cloth teepee-shaped tent that diffuses light and eliminates reflections in photographs. You place the objects you want to shoot inside this tent.
A file-compression scheme that doesn’t sacrifice any vital image data in the compression process. Lossless compression tosses only redundant data, so image quality is unaffected.
A compression scheme that eliminates important image data in the name of achieving smaller file sizes. High amounts of lossy compression reduce image quality.
A lens that provides continuous focusing from infinity to extreme close-ups, often to a reproduction ratio of 1:2 (half life-size) or 1:1 (life-size).
The dotted outline that results when you select a portion of your image; sometimes referred to as marching ants.
In an image editor, selecting an area of an image to prevent that area from being modified accidentally.
Also called multizone metering. A metering mode that calculates exposure based on the entire frame.
One million pixels.
A camera’s removable storage media.
Extra data that gets stored along with the primary image data in an image file. Metadata often includes information such as aperture, shutter speed, and EV setting used to capture the picture, and can be viewed using special software. Often referred to as EXIF metadata.
Refers to the way a camera’s autoexposure mechanism reads the light in a scene.
A multimedia presentation program.
Parts of an image with tones of an intermediate value, usually in the 25 to 75 percent range.
Incandescent lamps built into a studio flash that give you a preview of exactly how the light from the flash will look.
A belt that can hold a variety of photography equipment.
A one-legged support, or unipod, used to steady the camera.
A setting that allows the camera to find more than one area of contrast to focus on.
A technique in which a small aperture gives you a long exposure, allowing your subjects to move within the frame during shooting, which creates a photo that looks like it has been exposed more than once.
An online discussion forum where people with similar interests send messages back and forth about a particular topic.
A special program, or client, through which you can access newsgroups.
Graininess in an image, caused by too little light, a too high ISO setting, or a defect in the electrical signal generated during the image-capture process.
Internet sharing services that allow you to post your images to the Web.
The degree to which a layer allows layers beneath it to show through.
A glass-covered opening in your camera that you can look through to frame and compose your image.
A traditional zoom lens; has the effect of bringing the subject closer and shortening depth of field.
When too much light hits the camera’s film or image-sensor array, resulting in a washed-out image.
A broad view, usually scenic. Some digital cameras also have a panorama mode used with software to stitch the images together.
The difference in views between the lens taking the photo and the external optical viewfinder.
A device attached to your computer that allows another device attached to it to register on the computer and be used as if it was directly connected to that computer.
A type of removable memory card used in some digital cameras. Also called PCMCIA Card (PCMCIA stands for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association).
A digital camera built into a cell phone.
A full-color printer that can produce photo prints.
A particle of light.
A universal standard that allows digital cameras and photo printers to connect directly by USB cable, without the computer serving as a middleman. Any PictBridge camera can connect to any PictBridge printer, regardless of whether both are made by the same manufacturer.
Print Image Matching. A proprietary Epson camera technology that saves image information to assist in printing a digital image more accurately.
A camera whose lens is covered except for a pin-sized hole. You have a very small aperture, so you have to shoot long exposures.
Short for picture element. The basic building block of every image.
A small program or utility that runs within another, larger program. Many special-effects filters operate as plug-ins to major photo-editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements.
A file format designed to work well with online viewing applications.
A type of digital camera that has automatic settings for most features (such as focus and exposure).
Camera filter that reduces the glare bouncing off shiny surfaces in your photos. Can also help deepen the contrast of the sky from certain angles.
The orientation of an image in which the longest dimension is vertical, also called tall orientation.
Stands for pixels per inch. Used to state image print resolution. Measured in terms of the number of pixels per linear inch. A higher ppi usually translates to better-looking printed images.
The number of pixels per linear inch (ppi) in a printed photo; the user sets this value inside a photo-editing program.
Also called native format. The format used by only that particular type of camera.
A digital camera model that includes many features on professional cameras but also offers automatic settings.
Short for personal storage device. A standalone battery-operated burner or hard drive.
A mount on some digital cameras that allows you to easily attach the camera to a tripod.
Random Access Memory. Your computer’s system memory.
A type of camera that includes a focusing mechanism which allows the photographer to measure the subject distance and take photographs in sharp focus.
An electronic flash synchronization technique in which the flash fires only when the second (rear) curtain of the focal plane shutter begins to move at the end of the exposure.
An effect from flash photography that appears to make a person or animal’s eyes glow red. Caused by light bouncing from the retina of the eye.
A term used to describe the capabilities of digital cameras, scanners, printers, and monitors; means different things depending on the device.
The standard color model for digital images; all colors are created by mixing red, green, and blue light.
A way of mentally dividing your picture horizontally and vertically into thirds, then placing important subject matter where these lines intersect.
The number of pixels both horizontally and vertically in each squared inch scanned by a scanner or recorded by a digital camera.
A device that captures an image of a piece of artwork, a slide, or a negative, and then converts it to a digitized image or bitmap that the computer can handle.
Digital camera’s special picture-taking modes that are designed to automatically set all the available focus and exposure controls for a certain type of subject matter.
Mechanism that delays the opening of the shutter for some seconds after the release has been operated.
Devices modeled after rifle stocks that brace the camera lens into your shoulder, thus helping hold it steady.
The device in a camera that opens and shuts to allow light into the camera.
The button on your digital camera that you press to take a picture.
The length of time that the camera shutter remains open, thereby allowing light to enter the camera and expose the photograph.
A semi-automatic exposure mode in which the photographer sets the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture.
A setting in which the camera focuses on a single object.
An accessory flash unit that supplements the main flash, usually triggered electronically when the slave senses the light output by the main unit.
A type of camera that includes interchangeable lenses, manual focus and exposure controls, and connections for an external flash.
A tube-like device that focuses the flash’s light to a very small area.
An attachment that mounts on the head of the flash and extends out about 6 to 8 inches, with a frosted white panel at the end, which softens the light.
Metering mode that bases exposure on light in the center of the frame only.
Creating a panorama from multiple images by overlapping those images.
Another name for an electronic flash unit, especially when it's used as the only source of illumination.
A type of digital camera that's small enough to fit comfortably in a shirt pocket.
Removable storage devices; the best-known option is the Zip drive.
The part of a tripod to which the camera attaches that you can move to some degree.
A special bracket that fastens to the tripod socket on the bottom of a digital camera; allows you to connect an external flash to your camera.
A computer attachment that acts like a pad on which the user can write or draw on a computer.
A lightweight tripod with shorter legs than a standard tripod. Also called a mini-tripod.
A lens that magnifies an image.
Pronounced tiff, as in a little quarrel. Stands for tagged image file format. A popular image format supported by most Macintosh and Windows programs.
Taking a picture at specified intervals to capture an event occuring over a long period of time.
The range of color or tonal values that will be selected with a tool such as an image editor’s Magic Wand, or filled with paint when using a tool such as the Paint Bucket.
The ink used in photo printers.
A three-legged supporting stand used to hold the camera steady. Especially useful when using slow shutter speeds and/or telephoto lenses.
A type of digital camera that's the size of a credit card, with a depth of less than 1 inch, that fits comfortably in a front jeans pocket.
When too little light hits the camera’s film or image-sensor array, creating an image that’s too dark.
Add pixels to a digital image.
Stands for Universal Serial Bus. A type of port now included on most computers. Most digital cameras come with a USB cable for connecting the camera to this port.
Video Graphics Array resolution. A display of 640-x-480 pixels with 16 or 256 colors.
A computer adapter card used to manage the display on the monitor.
The device in a camera used to frame the image.
To add dark corners to an image; often produced by using a lens hood that’s too small for the field of view or generated artificially by using image-editing techniques.
Simple video cameras designed for video conferencing and Internet telephony.
Adjusting the camera to compensate for the type of light hitting the photographic subject. Eliminates unwanted color casts produced by some light sources, such as fluorescent office lighting.
A lens that has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view than a normal lens for a particular film or digital image format.
A step-by-step onscreen guide offered on many computer programs.
The order in which you perform all the various tasks associated with image editing under particular circumstances.
A type of removable storage device known as a super floppy drive; store information on Zip disks.
A lens that can change focal lengths at your command to provide more or less magnification of the image.