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Sneaker Photography 101: Shooting Your Shot

Date: March 15 2019

By: Sneaker Freaker

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Your IG likes are abysmal, no one’s sliding the fire emoji on your Stories, and the only comments on your pics come from bots saying ‘Awesome feed!’. So what’s wrong? Simple: your sneaker photos suck.

And you’re not alone. Nearly 29 million Instagram posts are slapped with #Sneakers and you don’t have to scroll far to see the majority are hot garbage. Basic photography techniques like composition and lighting are forgotten, and editing tropes like rocketing contrast and brightness are rife.

If you’re an offender, don’t toss aside your dreams of influencing tweens just yet. We’re here to help. Rather than whinge about the state of sneaker IG — which we’d really like to do — we’re keeping our criticism constructive and offering an entry-level course into shooting your shot. This is Sneaker Photography 101.

Come (Colour) Correct

Ever wonder how people managed to find a background that exactly matches the accents on their sneakers? Odds are, they didn’t. A common hack for making people think you scaled the cityscape to find a perfectly-hued billboard or Lamborghini is to fake it with colour correction. A simple way to do this is with adjustment layers and masks. You can use them to isolate the colour you need and change it as you like without effecting your sneaker.

Flash Frying

When using a flash, you’ve got a couple of options: on-camera and off-camera. The first — the one built in to your camera — can give a harsher, direct light, which can ‘flatten’ your image. If you’ve got an off-camera flash handy, like those you can place on a tripod near the sneaker, you can get more creative with your lighting. Here, we chucked our off-camera flash a few feet away at a right angle. No fancy camera settings needed.

Don’t Go HAM in Photoshop

Confucius once said, ‘Sneaker shots are really simple, but we insist on making them complicated’. What he meant was that you don’t have to use every editing hack you’ve learned on YouTube. Just keep it simple.

A common mistake is to make sneakers look like sci-fi props using editing tools. Those like High Dynamic Range (HDR) or ‘vivid light’ filters and clarity or contrast have their uses, but more often than not a simple tweak to the levels will suffice.

Staying Lit

It’s great if you can get away with minor edits, but even better if you can nail it without them. A simple way to do this is to know your lighting. If you’re shooting a ‘Triple Black’ shoe in the middle of the day, casting it in the sun is more likely to wash it out than highlight its darker notes. 

Our rule of thumb is to shoot shoes in lighting with even exposure levels that complement their hue (Most cameras will tell you if levels don’t match — if yours doesn’t, the above is a good indication of what works and doesn’t). If you’re unsure, cover your bases. Even if you think you’ve got it right, shoot plenty of back-ups.

Kill Your Darlings

If you spend ages planning a shoot and it doesn’t go as expected, don’t force it. You can always change up the idea. Instagram itself began as a location check-in app called ‘Burbn’ before realising how much people liked taking photos of themselves. Like them, you should let your ideas evolve.

Don’t do This

If you need to ask, you’re too far gone.

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