Over here at MODERNHYPE we’ve been lifelong sneaker fans, so we’ve rounded up some simple yet important tips you’ll need in executing quality sneaker photography whether you’re a professional or simply somebody that wants to share their latest sneaker pick-ups or collection. Whether you use a smartphone camera or DSLR, this is for you.
The key is to keep it simple and clean, meaning no complicated shots with crazy backgrounds. You should always try shooting your sneakers on plain backgrounds with standardized angles, just to perfect your control over your camera before you mess around with more dynamic shots. Photography should always be fun no matter what you are shooting. The tips given here are just basics to begin by – hopefully they are enough to help you develop your own shooting skills and style.
As we all know sneakers come in different iterations. Obviously lace-less sneakers need not apply here. The key is to keep it neat and tidy, therefore you can have them laced up or untied – what’s important is keeping your shot clean and simple.
SHAPE OF THE SHOE
This applies to off-foot shots where the sneaker needs to maintain its shape. Simply use crunched up paper or plastic bags, it usually does the job. The shape of the shoe should look like there is a foot inside of it, so don’t overpack it, but give body to the toe box, tongue and arch of the shoe. It is important that both shoes (left and right) are symmetrical in shape and that the laces are matching.
For non-studio shots but generally lifestyle street vibes, you should usually rely on good natural light. If you want the shot to be more moody, find some interesting shadows that can fall on the sneaker. Either way the light on the sneaker should be even, so as not to hide any details. Generally the early morning or late afternoon are the best. In between those times, the sun is often too strong and can cause sharp shadows.
LOCATION AND BACKGROUND
Finding a background with a colour that doesn’t clash with the sneaker is key. But there are cases where having the same colour background as the sneaker works, but in most cases having a different colour allows the sneaker to “pop” more. Basically if it’s a dark-coloured sneaker, find a lighter, more neutral-coloured background, and if it’s a light coloured sneaker, find a darker contrasting colour. Avoid backgrounds where there are objects that obstruct your kicks – e.g. trees, lampposts and barriers. You want the shoe to have negative space around it, just so that no attention is taken away from the shoe.
Here you have options, as there’s many different angles you can shoot, but the most used and clear angle is the side profile. The height you take a side shot from should be at eye-level. Make sure that the silhouette of the shoe is clear. Sometimes make the second shoe pop out a little bit behind the first shoe a little bit to give the photo some more depth-of-field.
For non-smartphone users, depending on what DSLR camera you use, the outcome can vary. When shooting sneakers some of the best shots usually come from a full-frame camera and a fast prime lens. Primes unlike their zoom counterparts allow you to properly isolate the subject and the background thanks to large apertures absent on zooms. Three of the most popular and widely used primes lenses and their focal lengths for their sneakers are generally the 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm (macro) lenses.
Super important thing to take into account is that everyone works differently. If you’re a serious photographer or just using your smartphone, how you set your camera will be different. Start off in manual mode, typically with an average shutter speed of 160, aperture at 1.8 and adjust ISO level at 100. This is our “zero”, now adjust ISO levels and the shutter speed according to the lighting. Keep the aperture at f/1.8 the sneaker should stay in good focus. If shooting a flat image e.g. a top-down shot of the sneakers on the floor. Then crank up the aperture because there is no need for depth-of-field and you’re looking for uniform sharpness. There isn’t one way to shoot sneakers. For nighttime shots, usually shoot wide open, but you have to ensure you have even sharpness when shooting under these conditions.
POST PRODUCTION – PHOTOSHOP/LIGHTROOM
DSLR users – Editing is just as important as the shot itself. Kicks need to look clean, so spend time cleaning up dust particles or anything that isn’t supposed to be there. If there is any glue showing make sure you clean it up. Sometimes if the tone and colours require tweaking, edit those too. If the background is a cement wall and it has a bit of a yellow tinge in it, use some desaturation a bit to make it greyer. It’s not overly complicated; these are just some of the things to make the whole image look cleaner.
TO FILTER, OR NOT TO FILTER
Smartphone users – This is the question that we all ask ourselves, right? For the most part we’d say stay away from filters, especially Instagram filters. VSCO presets can be done in Lightroom, since VSCO has become the go-to photography app when it comes to editing. We would encourage you to just play around with the contrast, exposure, and shadow play and not use the presets where the colour of the sneaker is altered.
NB. Adobe has developed iOS & Android apps Photoshop & Lightroom and more available to download on your smartphone.
Good luck, all the best and happy shooting!
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