Advertising campaigns attract consumers with professional images of their products. As with all commercial photography, retouching is an essential step in ensuring each image is of a great quality and high enough standard for print. Those in the industry use software such as Photoshop to do this and, by using similar tools and techniques, the same professional results can just as easily be achieved at home using your own photographs.
In this tutorial we are going to be showing you how to retouch a product shot like the pros using Photoshop CS4 and a previously shot image of a perfume bottle. Glass objects can be notoriously hard to light and photograph, with distracting reflections and refractions that can often prove difficult to retouch or remove in postproduction. However, by using some simple adjustment techniques in Photoshop we will be showing you how to correct, improve and enhance your shots, guiding you through improving overall image exposure and contrast alongside removing any unwanted colour casts and dust particles to create that flawless finish we’re used to seeing as consumers.
Follow along with our simple step-by-step guide and put into practice some of our basic retouch tips, which can help you get top-quality product shot results that wouldn’t look out of place in a pro’s portfolio.
Open up youe product photo file in Photoshop. In the Layers palette, duplicate the original layer by Ctrl/right-clicking on the Background layer and selecting Duplicate Layer. Rename this new layer ‘Exposure correction’.
Select the Crop tool from the Tools bar and click on the top corner of the image, dragging the crop cursor diagonally down to the opposite bottom corner. Holding the Shift key to keep the original proportions, pull up the bottom corner cursor, cropping out the edges until you’re happy with the position of the perfume bottle in the frame.
Open a Levels adjustment layer to make corrections to the overall image exposure (Image>Adjustments>Levels). Begin by pulling in the slider on the left-hand side (Highlights) of the histogram to where the mountainous range begins to gain height. Now move the midpoint (greys) slider along to create a punchier contrast.
Now create another new layer titled ‘Clean-up layer’ and select the Clone Stamp tool that is located in the Tools bar. Adjust the brush settings so it has soft edges and is sized proportionately to the dust spots that you want to remove (you may need to alter this as you go). Keep the Opacity at 100%.
Zoom in to check for obvious marks and spots. Using the correctly sized Clone Stamp tool select the area next to the mark; holding down the Opt/Alt key to select the clean area (for each flaw), place the cursor over the mark you wish to remove and press down to clone it out.
For harder-to-remove dust marks on reflective surfaces cut out the area using the Quick Mask mode (press ‘Q’ on your keyboard for a shortcut). Select the Brush tool with 100% Opacity and paint the area, using the Eraser tool to correct any errors. Hit ‘Q’ to preview the selection line and, when happy, go to Layer>New>Layer via Copy (or Cmd/Ctrl+J) to create a cutout of what you have masked.
Select your new cutout layer and go to Layer>Filter>Noise>Medium and blur the pixels with an 8px Radius, or thereabouts. Now adjust the Opacity of the layer to around 80%. Edit the layer by first selecting a Darken blending mode and then Linear Dodge (Add). You can reduce the overall layer opacity if you need to.
Even out the background colour by selecting Image>Adjustments>Replace Color. Use the Eyedropper tool and click on the darkest background area (eg the right-hand corner), drag the Lightness slider up to brighten out the dark regions and create an evenly white background. Make sure you zoom in to your image and check that the white is the right brightness and blends with the already existing white background colour.
Remove the warmer tones from the bottle and bring out the blues using the Color Balance adjustment layer (Image>Adjustments> Color Balance). Enable Preserve Luminosity and begin working your way through the sliders, adjusting through the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows. Continually toggle the Preview button on and off so that you can see the modified results as you go along. Remember, you don’t have to make adjustments with every slider; work gradually for best results.
Zoom in to your image and check for any unwanted marks you may have missed that still need to be cloned out. If you want to make further adjustments to the tonal range in the bottle use the Replace Color adjustment again and select a light blue area. Lighten this using the Lightness slider slowly to avoid cut-out-like results.
For a final contrast boost use a Shadows/Highlights adjustment layer. Really push the Midtone Contrast slider for best results. When happy with the final look save the layered file separately as a PSD file in case you wish to go back and edit further. Now flatten your final image layers (Layer>Flatten Image).
Before you save your final image make sure it is sharp, adding definition to edges and improving the overall quality. Go to Filter> Sharpen>Unsharp Mask and activate the Preview button to monitor the effect. Up the Amount to 100% with Threshold at 0 levels and bring the Radius up slowly to around 2.6px.
Now you’ve made the last tweaks you’ll want to resize it for web or print use. For a good-quality print you will need to increase the image resolution to 300dpi (go to Image>Image Size>Resolution). For web use, decrease the resolution to a smaller value such as 72dpi.
Remember to watermark your images before you upload them to ensure they are copyright protected. Once your work has been correctly resized to suit your output you should save the final image as a JPEG file (File>Save As>Format: JPEG) and then print out for your portfolio or upload to your online gallery.