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Ortery 'Studio' Streamlines Inventory Photography

With ample lighting and smart software, this desktop booth can produce professional-quality images of your products.

While the likes of eBay, Amazon and PayPal make it easy to open a virtual store, there's still a lot of work for business owners to do when it comes to photographing and displaying products online. Creating professional-quality images and maintaining a uniform look across your website isn't always easy -- or inexpensive.

Ortery StudioThat's where Ortery Technologies comes in. The Irvine, Calif.-based company offers, among other things, desktop photo booths, camera control software and other digital hardware that allow companies to take pictures of their entire inventory. While many of its larger inventory photography "studios" are aimed at higher-end clients with prices upwards of $20,000, Ortery also makes the Photosimile 50, a version that more modest firms can use. Although it may have only a fraction of the features of higher-end units, at $2,450 it includes basic software, lighting-control options and other features to help simplify the process of taking and publishing pictures of your inventory for online or print.

This entry-level model seeks to compete at the high-end of the do-it-yourself, inventory photo production market. Other options can include Designers Edge L-14 adjustable work lights ($41) used with a basic white paper background, as well as mid-level choices like the Jobar Table Top Photo Studio ($35) or MyStudio MS32 ($340). These offer basic, single-color backgrounds and at least some means to control lighting, but no direct control over the product images once they are photographed, like the Photosimile 50 provides.

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What is it: The Photosimile 50 is a desktop system made up of control software and a lighting booth. It stands two-and-a-quarter feet high and is about the size of a large microwave on its side. Once a product is placed inside, the booth's four vertical lights bathe the subject in a consistent white light.

The user's camera is controlled by Ortery software that enables processing of hundreds if not thousands of images while also matching image variables such as contrast, exposure and saturation. The software also can manage file names, the locations of those files and offers protected storing options in case of computer failure.

The software runs both on Windows and Mac computers and is compatible with more than 50 cameras. No computer or camera is included in the package.

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Why you might like it:
The Photosimile 50 has potential to cut costs, increase creative control and create a differentiated marketing image. In my demos, getting consistent pictures across a diverse inventory was as simple as placing an item inside the photo booth, zooming the camera to the desired framing, previewing the image on a preview monitor and taking a picture.

The Ortery control technology automatically matches each picture to the overall photo specification you set, which is useful when trying to achieve a uniform look for your product images. It also saves images in whatever file specifications, hard drive or image server needed to post them on a website.

Given even basic photo and file skills, an entry-level employee or intern can create a large number of photos. The company says about two items can be shot per minute, which seems about right from what I observed.

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Why you might not like it: Knowledge of photo and Web basics is still required, only relatively small items can work and upgrades to the system get pricey.

Even though Ortery's control software is powerful and full-featured, it lacks the slick look and feel of such graphics editing programs as Photoshop or Aviary and can take some getting used to. While the system can generate high-quality results, taking full advantage of it requires an understanding of what makes a good photograph for your business and what does not. Getting the framing and layout right takes some practice. Additionally, some people might experience issues with reflections of shiny surfaces as well as colors that photograph poorly.

But the company says any retailer with online experience should be able to handle the technology. "If you are already on eBay and taking and posting photos, you have enough skills to run the systems," says Sam Shearer, managing director at Ortery. "I personally have taught 79-year-old grandmothers how to use it."

Also, cash-constrained businesses should realize that upgrades to this system are expensive. For example, one of Ortery’s top-of-the-line tools, the Photosimile 400 -- which photographs rotating full-body human models -- can add up to about $20,000, when other control equipment is added in.

Bottom line: Overall, Ortery's approach can be a better, faster and more affordable photo option for companies. The Photosimile 50 is worth a test for any firm that displays products online. Just make sure that if you make the investment, you either have the photo smarts or are willing to hire an expert to configure the system, to find a look that works.

Jonathan Blum is a freelance writer and the principal of Blumsday LLC, a Web-based content company specializing in technology news.
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