When winter begins to settle in, with the busy summer rush over, many outdoor-product manufacturers begin to think about next year’s catalog. “Oh, yes,” they think, “we need some great photos for the new product we developed this summer — the picture-perfect kind with flourishing trees and blooming flowers in a delightful setting that will sell them their dream.” The businessman looks outside and realizes that the trees are almost bare, only a few straggly, frost-bitten flowers remain, and the grass is brown. “Oh, well,” he concludes, “my designer can ‘just Photoshop it.’ ”

While it is true that your designer can “Photoshop” it, you may want to reconsider your options. Follow along as we describe what it means to “just Photoshop it.”

Compositing an image in photoshop.

1. Photography

Even though winter lifestyle images will be composited in Photoshop, a photographer will still photograph the products in your shop, on your shed lot, or in the studio.

2. Clipping

A designer clips the photo (removes the background), which can take…

How long it takes to clip a photo in Photoshop.

3. Background Search

Your designer may look through hundreds of photos to find a suitable background…

Searching for the perfect background image.

99.9% of the photos are rejected for multiple reasons…

The color temperatures do not match.

The color temperature does not match. It could be cloudy instead of sunny or midday instead of twilight.

The camera angles do not match.

The object’s perspective does not match the perspective of the background image.

Foreground and Background photographed at various distances.

The foreground and object were photographed at different distances and/or focal lengths.

shadows fall in different directions

Shadows in the various composited images fall in different directions or run into the object itself.

Obviously this mower can go right through buildings.

There can be obvious mismatches such as the grass-mowing direction conflicting with the object’s position.

An absolutely perfect match is impossible to find. Lighting which wraps around objects cannot be duplicated. Sometimes several scenes need to be meshed together to create a setting that matches as closely as possible to the desired end result. If flooring or landscaping is needed, a whole additional level of complexity is added to the process.

4. Touch-up

Special care was taken to make this dining set appear "grounded" on the patio.

After a suitable background photo has been found, there is still more work to be done. Special clipping and shadow creation help make the object feel grounded instead of floating above the grass or patio. In addition, location-specific color adjustments may need to be made.

So, your designer has now “Photoshopped” your image. Though we have tried to make it as realistic as we could, there are certain elements that are missing and impossible to recreate. While it may be “good enough,” it likely will not be the stunning photograph that you first imagined. In addition, it may not have saved any time or money.

My Designer Can Photoshop Anything — True or False?

So what is the solution?

1. Best Option

The only way to get the real thing is to take a photo of the real thing! Find a location to take
the photo on-site, in the right season — no snow on roofs or rain-drenched patio chairs.
Automatically, the lighting, shadows, angles, and distances of the object and background
will match. The extra time spent traveling and propping may amply pay for itself, considering
the drastic reduction in processing time. The right scene, captured at the right moment,
will be the photo that speaks a thousand words!

outdoor furniture on the beach

This same concept applies to indoor furniture as well as to any other product photography.

furniture in a cabin

2. Next-Best Option

If taking the photo on-site is impossible, keep immediate surroundings as real as possible. For sheds, landscape around the shed. The landscaping will be far more authentic. For furniture, use real flooring.

3. Last Option

In the situations when you simply cannot take the photos on-site, and must photograph lifestyle scenes on plain background paper, we will do our best to “just Photoshop it.” But just maybe, you will want to reconsider. Perhaps, by planning ahead, you can get that stunning photograph after all!

Do you sell outdoor products? Call Rosewood at 717-866-5000 to take your photos this summer while the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and there is no snow to remove. Capture that thousand-word photo now!

About the Author: Adrian Nolt is the Operations Manager. Contact Adrian at adrian@rosewood.us.com.