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Utilizing Clipping Paths in Pack Shot and Product Photography.

Got some products you need photographing? In this article I'll introduce you to Clipping Paths and show their many benefits in Product Photography.

In my years of shooting commercial photography I'm persistently being asked to shoot a customers object against a plain white backdrop.  Typically this is because the client needs to place the product on a white printed brochure page or web page and also because products often contrast well against a white backdrop, bringing out their colour, intricacy and punchiness.

For some subject matters the job of preserving a exquisitely lit, well exposed and crisp subject whilst creating a flat true white backdrop from edge to edge is indeed manageable, particularly when the product is much darker than the whiteness of Colorama.  More often than not though this method will prove to provide very unacceptable results for one quite simple reason:
In order to unveil the form, texture and fine detail of the product to be photographed, the best and most appropriate lighting for the product will usually be totally different to the lighting necessary to make a white Colorama paper appear a truly flat white.  Effective lighting for the object will generally result in underexposure of the background so that it looks an unappealing or at least irregular shade of grey.  Take as an example a shot of a white paper plate.  To enhance the surface texture and detail of the plate the commercial photographer would have to slightly underexpose this sector, but by exposing for the brilliant white background the intricacy on the plate would be lost and consequently appear flat and two-dimensional.

A capable professional photographer could certainly overcome these challenges by complex photographic techniques such clever but time consuming masking or flagging of the object.  This would create a very agreeable photograph but at the expense of time, one thing that neither the photographer or client has the luxury of.  Fine if this is a one off bespoke shot and the client is ready to pay a whole days photography fees for one or two shots although lets be sensible, most clients simply need a well shot Pack Shot.

When time and budgets are small or the use of the eventual image just doesn't warrant this expense then a hand drawn clipping path is generally the best all round answer  Created in professional image editing software like Adobe's amazing Photoshop, clipping paths are hand drawn vector paths that once utilised isolate and separate the product from the background and effectively permit the product to be placed onto a infinate number of backgrounds.  It can be compared simply to taking scissors to a printed magazine, cutting the desired object out and dropping it onto a background of your liking!

The advantages of creating clipping paths are that in isolating the object from the background you are free to modify the colour, tone and contrast of the object while not effecting the relative values of the background, plus the advantage of being able to simply paste this cut out object onto any background you may need (whether that be a white web site or a graduated pink brochure etc).  Also since the path is vector based as opposed to bitmap, you can shrink or enlarge the object to any dimension you need and the clipping path will always remain correct.  And once a clipping path has been employed this in turn allows for the inclusion of soft drop shadow effects which can also help ground the object and create a subtle transition between the objects boundaries and the page.

To put it succinctlyHealth Fitness Articles, clipping paths generally denote the most cost effective and efficient solution when shooting Pack Shot or Product Photography.  They permit the photographer to shoot 'for' the product and enhance its best elements whilst lengthening the useful life and versatility of the shot by allowing usage in several settings and against multiple backgrounds.

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Andy Nickerson is the owner of Brampton Valley Photography, Commercial Photographers Northampton.  Andy also creates bespoke art in Northampton from his studio Space Candy.

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