Guitar Photography 101 October 7, 2017 13:51

When we put together the latest version of our website, we decided that getting good product photos was an important feature which we should put some work into. A quick review of other sites revealed a wide range of photographic efforts, from quick smart phone pics to full on professional studio shots. Some small independent stores do really impressive work and some big companies don't always nail it. Our hope is to match the best of them, though we've still got some room for improvement. Our intention is to show the cleanest, most accurate representation of the actual instrument you will get if you buy from The Fret House. We always take a standard set of shots (top,back, headstock, etc.) then throw in a few creative or specific shots. We always take a shot of the serial number and in the case of used instruments, we try catch any significant dings or wear. Here's a few things we have learned:

Taking good pictures of guitars is hard! They have many curved and reflective

frethouse photo studio
surfaces. Getting them properly lighted without showing a reflection of your lights can be challenging, particularly with arch-top guitars. Using soft-boxes is crucial for us; usually from the side. There doesn't seem to be any way around moving the lights frequently. We use as many lights for back lighting as we put on the instrument. Our shots are all taken in front of a sheet of white vinyl. Though we reserve the right to cut and paste onto an artificial background, we haven't done so yet. It would be fun to try working with natural light from a big window, alas, our basement doesn't have one.

Camera and Settings
Though we have seen some great shots taken with an iphone, we feel a digital SLR camera on a tripod is the best way to get consistent, and consistently good, shots. We have a Canon Rebel EOS T5. There is much you can learn, whether by reading, pestering photographers or trial and error, but the beauty of the digital age is that pictures don't cost anything, and you can bracket the heck out of everything (bracketing is the practice of deciding what setting you want then taking that shot and one on either side of it, so if you're a bit off, one of the other ones might be right). We constantly bracket the shutter speed, less often the ISO and aperture. We've settled into ISO 400 and F11 aperture as default setting, though experimenting with shallower depth of field can be interesting.

It's amazing how much a little fleck of dust that you don't even see will will jump out of a photo when you have a good camera. Ditto fingerprints. Brand new guitars fresh out of the box are not immune to this. This is one of the biggest challenges in guitar photography, particularly with chrome pickup covers and headstock closeups. We don't necessarily want to spread guitar polish all over a brand new instrument, and we've probably at least touched the tuning machines. It's time consuming to clean everything but it has to be done. Humans leave gunk all over everything they touch! We've taken to wearing cotton gloves.

Post Processing
We don't want to “photoshop” anything out of our shots, but we have found that adjusting brightness and contrast in post is much easier than getting the settings exactly right on the camera and produces the same result. It is possible to remove those pesky dust flecks, but that's very time consuming and we haven't done so; behold our dust flecks!

Still Reading? Win a Free Fret House T-shirt
If you can find a reflection of the photographer in one of the photos on our website, we'll send you a free Fret House T-shirt. E-mail us the URL. While supplies last. We may have planted one.