Accurate Color in Apparel Catalog Photos

On fashion retailer forums and instagram feeds, I’m constantly seeing posts form DIY photographers who are having trouble with color management in their apparel website photos.  Most recently one where the owner of an eBay shop couldn’t get the teal dress to come out teal instead of blue with her iPhone photos.

Therein is the first part of the problem.  An iPhone does a nice job on landscapes and so on, but when totally accurate color is needed, it provides no solution.

A good DSLR will let you set a “custom white balance” where you meter and set the color of the light using a grey card.  Instructions on how to do this will be in the camera manual (be sure to ask the salesman if the camera will allow you to do this setting.  Set up your set and lighting, then set your custom white balance and use that while you shoot all of your products for that shoot.

There is also a “color checker card” (google it) and you can photograph that under the same set before shooting your products.  After you have downloaded your photos, you can use that as a guide – comparing the colors you see in the photo to the actual card and make needed adjustments in photoshop.  You can adjust in photoshop without this card, but it can be a help.

There is a learning curve with what I have laid out.  Fortunately there are many web tutorials on different tricks and tools for accurate color management.  I can’t cover it all in one post.

Another, and perhaps much better alternative is to hire a professional apparel catalog photographer.  Pricing on professional website catalog photography is now so low that it is probably cheaper than you can do it yourself.  You will get far better photos due to their experience, equipment and studios – and you will have more time to manage your store and sell your products.

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