Qualities of Light: How to Play with Light

By Christine Olick, Web designer for slygirlstudios.com

Quality of light is very important when creating photographs. The texture of the object and its surroundings can change the overall effect, but one can enhance a photograph by controlling the source and direction of light being shined upon the object.

All objects both absorb and reflect light in varying degrees, depending on the texture of the surface of the subject being photographed. The amount of light reflection can affect the color and amount of detail perceived by the eye and camera. The manner in which light is reflected from the surfaces of objects can be described by the terms specular and diffuse.

Specular reflection is characteristic of very smooth surfaces such as shiny metal or glass. Concentrated ight is reflected in a glarey "hot spot" or highlight.  It may include the light from the light source and light reflecting from adjacent objects (ex: a marble countertop or mirror).  Diffuse reflection is an innate characteristic of textured, matte (not glossy) surfaces.

The above photo is an example of specular reflection, by debbi

The above photo is an example of diffuse reflection, by ginette1224

Light absorption occurs when surfaces, textures, or colors absorb much of the light that strikes them. Dark objects absorb more light than objects that appear lighter. Objects that appear a certain color because that color is reflected back to our eyes while the other colors of the spectrum are absorbed by the object. For example, a blue dress appears blue because all colors except for blue are absorbed, leaving only the blue wavelength reflected.

The selection and control of the light source also determines the quality of light. Direct light produces sharp shadows, glare, or bright highlights. Direct light also produces high contrast between brightly lit and deeply shadowed areas of the work.  Areas which are the same color or tone will appear as two different colors or tones if they appear in both brightly lit and shadowed areas. Direct light may add a striking drama to the subject, cause sharp shadows, or may confuse and distract the viewer. Examples of direct light would be a studio spot light, camera flash, or a beam of sunlight.

The above photo is an example of direct light shining down on the subject, creating a dramatic contrasting shadow, by KookyKangaroo

The above photo is an example of direct light shining from the right-back side. The sharp shadow adds depth and playfulness to the work, by squareq

The above photo is an example of direct light made by a camera flash, by kimberlyw1

Diffuse light produces soft-edged shadows or no shadows (such as under the light tent) and is produced by filtered light sources (such as an overcast sky) or by reflectors from which the light is reflected indirectly towards the subject (such as aluminum panels). There will be no glare or bright highlights, and overall contrast of the image will be reduced. Tones and colors will appear more even than with direct light, and textures will be minimized. You can achieve diffuse lighting effects by placing a semi-transparent barrier between the light source and the object being photographed. Examples would be a thin white sheet, tracing paper, or even a t-shirt.

The above photo is an example of diffused light shined on the subject, creating an airy, soft shadow, by DuckTapeRose

Changing the direction of the light or adding multiple light sources can increase visual interest as well. Fill lights or supplementary lights can be used in addition to illuminate shadowed areas. Usually these secondary lights are dimmer and placed farther away from the subject than the main light.

The above photo is an example of a light source coming from the right side, adding drama and depth to the subject, by schneider

The above photo is an example of multiple light sources. Here there are two lights, one on either side of the subject, by MetalandMineral


Depth of Field: How To Guide

Written by Christine Olick, slygirlstudios.com

The control of depth of field can have a dramatic visual effect on photographs. A minimal depth of field might be used to isolate a subject against a visually busy background by reducing the background to a soft, nonrecongizable backdrop. A maximum depth of field can communicate visual information related to texture, density and deep space.

by FruttiTuttiBeadCandy

To change the depth of field in a photograph, adjust the aperture on your camera. This function is only available on cameras which have manual settings, not point-and-shoot models. The wider the diameter of the aperture opening, the shorter the depth of field, and the smaller the f-stop opening, the longer the depth of field.

A lens typically has a set of marked "f-stops" that the f-number can be set to. Typical ranges of apertures used in photography are about f/2.8–f/22 or f/2–f/16, covering 6 stops. Lower f-stop numbers correlate with larger aperture openings (less in focus, smaller depth of field), and higher numbered f-stops correlate with smaller aperture openings (more in focus, larger depth of field).  For example, f-stop 22 would mean nearly all elements in the photo would be in focus, but an f-stop of 2.8 would mean just a small area in focus.

A larger f-stop opening allows more random scattered light rays to enter the lens and record on film, and a smaller f-stop opening allows fewer of these angular light rays to strike the film. The random scattered light rays are recorded not as points of focused light on film, but as circles of confusion (blur). A wider aperture opening will always produce more circles of confusion than will a smaller opening on the same lens.

For marketing a product online, these camera effects come in handy when trying to create a sense of mystique or sophistication, or may help to fade out a overly-busy and distracting background. If you have a very small depth of field with only a portion of your product in focus, it can highlight a certain area that you want your customer to notice, enhance the texture of the item, or blur out a sharp shadow. While using Fotofuze, adjusting the aperture can help to simplify a complicated background.

Below are some recent sample photos from Fotofuze demonstrating depth of field:

by HarvestMoonDesigns

by JoannGirls

by FruttiTuttiBeadCandy

Tuesday Updates

Hi Fuzers!

First, some incredible news! Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we looked at the listings sold with Fuzed photos vs listings sold without fuzing. On average, listings that used fuzed photos sold twice as often!! This is proof in the pudding that a picture is a customer's first impression of a product, and making a good first impression is very important to sales!

We are thrilled at the positive feedback and that we helped make the holidays a little brighter for you all!

Second, lets talk about some of the new features on the site.

Fuzing speed has been massively improved. We are seeing up to a four fold increase in fuzing speed!

In addition to the fuzing speed improvements, we improved many areas of the site to be more responsive and more usable. In particular the back button behavior is much better when paging through listings.

Also, you can now change the size of the highlighter and eraser. You can get at those fine details much easier now! These new controls are to the right of the highlighter and eraser. Thanks to our fuzer fans for suggesting this! 

Looking forward to Christmas and 2011, I feel this is going to be a bright year for everyone, and we will be right behind you every step of the way. 

Merry Christmas!

- The FotoFuze Team

Etsy is having an API outage

We're having a database issue that's affecting /v2/private requests.
I'll keep you posted on the resolution.  /v2/public should be

Apologies for the inconvenience.

Justin Kerr Sheckler
Developer API Lead

Update from Etsy:

This appears to have cleared now.  The outage lasted approximately six
minutes.  We're looking into the root cause.

Justin Kerr Sheckler
Developer API Lead

Tuesday Updates

Hey Fuzers! We've got some news for you all, including some updates to the site.

First of all, we passed 100,000 photos processed sometime last week and are well on our way to 200,000 photos processed!! This is amazing news and we are thrilled that everyone loves FotoFuze as much as we do. :) Also, a very special thanks goes out to all those that donated to help support the service! We think you are amazing! 

Over the last two weeks (has it really only been two weeks?), we've added Internet Explorer support, a "check for errors" helper image, photo de-noising, contrast enhancement controls, listing/album pages, photo/album/listing deletion, and many more. We have also improved the base photo enhancement technology as a whole. We are constantly looking for ways to make your product photos the best photos on Etsy and the Web.

For any website, there is nothing more frustrating than things going wrong and not knowing why or how to fix them. We've taken many steps to help out when problems arise. Real-time live support chat and documentation on the website/blog to name a few. Sometimes, however, this just isn't enough. When you have fuzed 20 photos with amazing results, but one of them turns out odd... you need something to tell you what you need to do to fix it. On the 2D Photo's edit page, there is a "Check For Errors" helper image which pops up after previewing is complete. If you hover your mouse over the image, it will mark some areas of the photo in red where we have detected problems might have arisen from. If your getting odd results in the preview, or afterwards in the results, be sure to check the error image for places you might have missed highlighting. Just one more step in providing useful and valuable feedback, right where you need it, when you need it the most! :) 

Photo Denoising is important for high-ISO photos (low-light) and sometimes even for low-ISO photos. There are various different kinds of noise in an photo, and they are different in every camera! There is both color noise as well as brightness noise. Some cameras have more color noise, some have more brightness noise, and some have both. Image Denoising aims to help with this. Image Denoising comes in 12 possible strengths. The lower values primarily affect color-noise whereas the higher values affect both color and brightness noise. Levels 11 and 12 are specially designed for extremely high noise photos. Most people will probably stick to the low levels (0-4), only venturing into higher levels (5-10) when the occasion calls for it. 

Contrast Enhancement can be a life saver when you need it. We think you'll find that FotoFuze's contrast enhancement every bit as technologically advanced and innovative as people have come to expect from FotoFuze. :) 

To help our fuzers with literally hundreds of listings, instead of Load More.. you can now jump to a specific page. Thanks to our dedicated fuzers who helped point this out to us! 

Looking forward to the next two weeks, we are working on some changes which will make fuzing up to 4 times faster than before. Fuzing will be more convenient and practical than ever before! :) Keep on the look-out for more improvements to come! 

Comments are always welcome! Let us know what you think!


Your friends,

- the FotoFuze team

Popularity Overload

UPDATE: Website is back online! Fuze away! 

Hey Fuzers,

We've had a swarm of users, and our servers have gone down temporarily--popularity apparently has a price to pay! Don't worry, we'll be back soon--estimated time is around 6:30 pm Central time. 

In the meantime, if you've got an urgent question or comment, e-mail us at contact@fotofuze.com or support@fotofuze.com 


Thanks for supporting us. We're really sorry for the inconvenience!


-the FotoFuze team 

Tuesday Updates

Hey Fuzers! We've got some news for you all, including some updates to the site. 

First of all, we are absolutely thrilled at all the positive comments we've received about the site! Thanks to everyone who had something to say about us--your comments help us continue to improve FotoFuze, day by day. We're happy to welcome our new Fuzers as well to the FotoFuze community!

Some recent changes to the site may have caught your attention. First of all, we've recently instituted a live chat, and FotoFuze representatives are usually present on it, as well as helpful Fuzers who are part of the burgeoning FotoFuze community. Got a question? Don't want to e-mail support? (though we always welcome e-mails!) Try asking in chat! 

Additionally, a number of fixes and improvements are being put through, many of them requested by Fuzers. If there's something you'd like to see, or if you have any other comments or criticisms about the site, you can contact us at contact@fotofuze.com. We add new things from our user's wish lists to our to-do lists all the time--we strive to make our Fuzers happy. 

One new change requested by a user is the ability to disable fuze-complete emails. You can get to this setting on your profile page (link on the top right of every page.) We are also testing out some new ads today. 

Next week, we'll be adding a feature to disable the cropping feature--though the responses are generally pleased with our image enhancement as it is, this gives Fuzers the ability to further personalize their Fuzes. We're also rolling out an auto-center feature, where the website will intelligently detect the alignment of the image. Another thing to look forward to coming up is improved black levels in contrast. 

We have some additional improvements in the works, so keep a lookout! 

In the near future, we're going to start featuring interesting Fuzers whose products we think show an exemplary use of the service. If you're interested in being featured, e-mail contact@fotofuze.com.

Comments are, as always, welcome! :) Let us know what you think! 


-the FotoFuze team


The 3 Most Common Problems FotoFuze Users Have (and how to fix them!)

Here at FotoFuze, we are excited to begin our relationship with Etsy--while individual Etsy sellers have used us regularly in the past, our service is now a member of Etsy's application gallery. To all our new (and old!) users, we've got some tips on troubleshooting the most common problems users have when using FotoFuze.

1.) Incorrect background 
This is the biggie--if the background isn't WHITE or BLACK, then the software FotoFuze uses is generally unable to fuze the photo properly. For optimum results, please use a flat white or black background--it's as simple as taking a picture on a sheet, piece of paper, tablecloth, etc.

Bad background: 

Poor background: 

Good background! 

2.) Highlighting Borders
The highlighting tool can be a little confusing for the first time user. Think back to when you highlighted in your schoolbooks--we want you to highlight the whole object, not just the borders.


This is close, but still not quite right. You'll get results, but they won't be optimal. (We'll get to why in #3.)

The highlighted object should look like this once it's highlighted. This is what we recommend for best results. 

3.) Sharp Shadows
Our service does have a quirk in that when there's a sharp shadow, you must include it as part of the object. If your pictures have been coming out faded or overexposed, try evaluating how you highlight--is there a shadow you could include? Did you fill in the entire object? 

If you don't include a sharp shadow, as in our "Poor" example above, then your image probably will result in something like this.

For an optimum result, include the shadow, as shown in our "Good" example. You'll probably get a good result, like this. 

If you're still having problems or have any other questions, help is just an e-mail away--you can always reach us at support@fotofuze.com
We also recently instituted a live chat, and FotoFuze representatives are usually available as a real-time resource there as well. 
If you'd like to see a step-by-step guide of how to best use FotoFuze, check out our video tutorial, located .
In the next couple of days, we'll also have a picture based tutorial and a new FAQ coming to the website. Stay tuned!
Any other questions? Concerns? Let us know! 

-the FotoFuze team