ASK is a series of posts answering questions asked by readers about the operative, survivalist and nomadic lifestyle. Contact us to ask your own.
“I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and have started my own which is heavily inspired by your design and style. I’ll be doing reviews and such, so how is your gear photography shot and edited?”-Warren O.
I’m no pro photographer nor do I use any specialized gear. As a vagabond, I try to keep my packing list as light as possible. So all I use is a smartphone and some apps.
But it’s not as simple as “point and shoot” then filter. It takes lighting, proper backgrounds and specific editing.
My photography style is not exactly fit for official product page placements but people do seem to like it, so if you want to do the same, these are the steps:
1) Camera //
As mentioned earlier, I don’t use a dedicated camera. I use my iPhone 6S or Xperia Z5. Using an actual or high-end camera can result in better results, but with the following steps, it’s hardly necessary.
Just remember to clean your lens with microfiber, center focus on the item and take a solid steady shot.
With a decent smartphone, good lighting and a steady hand, you can get gear shots just like mine.
2) Lighting //
Without not just good lighting, but very specific conditions, I don’t bother setting up. As a nomad, it’s hard finding that but this is what I need:
Bright white light from above is the most ideal, directly underneath with no angle from the source. This way there are no shadows and uneven coverage of the item. However, it can be tricky to get a shot without your own shadow (head, hands and camera) in it. So take the shot with the item in the upper third of the photo and crop later, to avoid casting your own shadow.
Don’t even bother dealing with bad lighting, no amount of editing can give you worthy results.
3) Background //
I use 1 of 3 very specific backgrounds for all my gear photography (other than outdoor action shot). Luckily, 2 of those backgrounds are actually part of my packing list, the 3rd however is only available if I happen to find it through my travels.
The most prevailant background I use (also used with the example photo in this post) is the back of my FAST Pack EDC Backpack. For less centralized gear shots, I layout my Raptor Hoodie Jacket in a random “wave” pattern and set the items on top. For large item shots, such as clothing and backpacks, I wait until I come across a deep black table or floor.
Avoid reflective backgrounds that cause heavy glare and detracts from the item and kill the shot.
4) Editing //
I would never post a raw and unedited photo, they can always be made better and in this case, tailored to my style… This is how I edit them:
First the raw image is opened in Photoshop CS6. It is cropped and sized. Most traces of color (80 percent) on the background is removed but retained in the actual item. The edges and corners are slightly “burned” and sometimes an inner shadow is applied, depending on how the lighting affected the image – to have even darkness / brightness throughout.
The edited image is opened in Snapseed (OS + PC) and the “Grunge” filter is applied to the most accurate color scheme of the original photo. It is sharpened greatly, slightly with the structure and finally a big boost in contrast.
You don’t necessarily need to use those apps, cheaper and even free ones can be used just as well.
Due to the popularity of this question, I’ll be publishing a more in depth guide to my gear photography. If you’re a Pro Member, hit me up for more details on this.
Ahh thanks for answering my ASK question! Feel so honored!
Love your gear photos and have wondered how you did them, no wonder they go viral. I’ll be copying your method for my instgram EDC posts.
Great stuff my man, gonna up my EDC instagram game now to.
Signed up Pro for this, good stuff buddy.
Using the backpack back panel is brilliant and looks bad ass.