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Photographing Product Summer School Course with Topshop and Olympus Pen

If you have time to photo edit, here's what you can achieve. Note that nothing has changed from the photo below except the gap where the two pieces of background card has been removed.
If you have time to photo edit, here’s what you can achieve. Note that nothing has changed from the photo below except the gap where the two pieces of background card has been removed.

I found out via a Periscope broadcast by London Beauty Queen that Topshop were running a photography summer school with Olympus Pen, a micro four thirds digital camera. I discovered it quite late but managed to book myself on the penultimate course – “Shooting Product”.

The Shooting Product course is relevant to beauty blogging as we take pictures of the beauty products we use (among other things). I really needed some help improving the photographs on my blog so I simply had to attend!

When I arrived I met the absolutely lovely Hayley, who is the London Beauty Queen. I was a little star-struck but she soon put me at ease.

I learned some really useful things and I want to share these with you. I will say now that I do not have a micro four thirds or DSLR camera. I just have a really good point-and-shoot digital camera with manual settings.

The manual settings are important. One of the first things our tutor Cleveland taught us was that you will not be able to get a good photo on the “auto” setting. I agree, which is why I bought my particular camera but that doesnโ€™t mean I know how to use it properly. It used to stay firmly on “auto”!

We set our cameras to deal with the aperture size automatically (the hole that lets the light through) and adjusted the shutter speed. We also learned how to use the “white balance” which for me was the most important thing.

To get the most accurate reflection of what you are looking at in the photograph, the white balance, which is how the camera sees the colour white, must be set to suit the environment. If this is not correct, the colours in the product will not be truly represented making photographs accompanying a review not as useful as they could be.

Also, if you are going for something artistic, the white balance can affect the mood of the photo and therefore influence the mood of the reader.

Here are some of my photos:

Bad photo - poor lighting and poor colour reproduction as a minimum!
Bad photo – poor lighting and poor colour reproduction as a minimum!
Gloomy mood
Gloomy mood
Ice cold..brrr...chilly!
Ice cold..brrr…chilly!
Better mood but the colour's have still not been accurately reproduced. The overall effect is cold
Better mood but the colour’s have still not been accurately reproduced. The overall effect is still cold.

I have some white balance presets on my camera so if I am outside in natural light, I pick the daylight setting. If I am inside with the light on, I’ll pick the tungsten setting. If he presets are still producing the wrong colours, I can manually set the white balance using the metering mode.

Incorrect white balance so the true colour of the product has not been reproduced. You can see it is too blue.
Incorrect white balance so the true colour of the product has not been reproduced. You can see it is too blue.
Perfect colour reproduction by using the correct white balance setting.
Perfect colour reproduction by using the correct white balance setting.

Hayley gave me a very helpful tip- place the camera square-on to the object to get an angle agreeable to the eye. This tip has revolutionised my Instagram photos. Have you noticed? (Thank you Hayley!)

Taking the photo square-on
Taking the photo square-on

Another very helpful tip I learned was that the human eye sees things at around a 50cm perspective. I don’t know the science of it but when I zoomed my camera in to 50cm then took photos, the image looked so much better. So, if you want to re-create what the human eye sees, get a lens that can cope with the 50cm distance. It was possible but a little difficult on my camera because I had to stand so far away, so maybe I’ll upgrade! Also, thanks to the gentleman who showed me that tip!

I also had a play around composing the photos, leaning how to make the, look interesting. Hayley helped me use the “rule of thirds”. Imagine that the area you see when you look at the screen or through the viewfinder is split into three equal parts (or even set the guidelines on your camera like I have done). Place the product in each of the three thirds to see where you can get the most interesting picture. This is my attempt:

Rule of thirds making the lone lipstick look more interesting. Also working with the shadows. Plus, the overall effect is warm and welcoming.
Rule of thirds making the lone lipstick look more interesting. Also working with the shadows. Plus, the overall effect is warm and welcoming.

I prefer this to a photo where he product is placed in the centre but of course, there is also a centre third which can be used.
It was an amazing course and as you can see, I learned a lot. I have begun putting this into practice to improve your reading experience!

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