Professional product photography is challenging and requires advanced skills. Not everybody will get a change to work in a professional studio and experience the actual process of both taking and editing pictures. Many of you will probably decide to play with product photography at home, which might be an interesting experience. In fact, it is possible to arrange a small low-budget studio and take pretty decent photographs. Here are some tips for those who have the courage to experiment with product photography – start this exciting adventure today!
Text by Joanna Wróblewska
Illustration based on a product photograph by one of the SAE Amsterdam students
Even beginners know the basics for good product photography: using a stable tripod, paying attention to the white balance setting, using a white background or setting the camera to the widest aperture. Of course, there are many other things that a starting photographer should be aware of in order to get satisfying results. If you really want to take product photographs at home, feel free to try these tips.
1. Know your camera
Before you start shooting, take some time to learn about the features of your camera: What options does it offer? How to control it efficiently? Where to find all the necessary functions? If it has a fixed lens, what parameters does it have? Will it work for product photography? If you have a choice of lenses, which one would work best for shooting product pictures?
2. Find the right place
It is important to find a right place for shooting. Remember not to mix natural and artificial light. They have different temperatures and will confuse the camera. It would be the best to arrange a small studio in a dark place with no other sources of light than lamps provided by the photographer. You may want to shoot on a table placed close to the wall, which can provide support for backgrounds and other required gear. Consider working in a room painted white, so you do not get unnecessary reflections from the walls.
3. Use diverse backgrounds
White backdrop is a must, but there are also other backgrounds that could serve you well. Personally, I like to use a black and a gray-gradient backgrounds. The last one works well for photographing jewelry, vases and artworks. Black background is elegant and will probably serve well for photographing small shiny items like watches. If you cannot order professional backdrops, just purchase big sheets of bristol or good quality fabric.
4. Light the backdrop
In simple product photography we often want to achieve an effect of an object floating in space. For that you need to direct one of the lights directly to the backdrop. Lighting the background will make the post-production much easier, not even mentioning an overall better quality of your photographs.
5. Diffuse the light
Product photography often requires a soft, diffused light, so using a tent or soft boxes is recommended. Many stores sell amateur white tents that are perfect for a home studio. Online you can find plenty of tutorials explaining how to make a tent or simple soft boxes.
6. Use reflectors
Simple, small reflectors are reasonably cheep, but you do not need to buy professional ones. Play with pieces of styrofoam and aluminum foil. They should serve you well. Reflecting light and creating interesting lighting situations is essential for product photography.
7. Hang products
To get rid of unnecessary shadows and achieve interesting effects hang your products. By doing so, you will achieve stunning effects and make your pictures look more appealing. Using thin transparent wires might be helpful.
8. Shoot from strange angles
Sometime you just have to shoot from the eye level and there is no choice. But what if you could play and change the perspective? Shoot from strange angles and seek for unique result. Just pay some attention to the look of your product – does the photograph show any distortion? If so, let it go.
9. Simplify the composition
You probably already know, that simple compositions are the best ones. Get rid of all the unnecessary elements: pieces of paper, dust, fingerprints, fragments of cloth being visible here and there. Make the shoot strong and clear, showing only what is truly important.
10. Edit your photographs
Finally, do not be afraid to edit your pictures. As an amateur, it is important to master your photography skills, but some things will be hard to do without professional gear. Software is available out there to help you dealing with smaller and bigger mistakes, so use it well.
Arranging a small product photography studio might be very helpful. If you are a blogger, a digital journalist or a web designer you may consider taking pictures yourself and enjoying the process of editing them and using for your own purposes. Go for it, if you feel like trying – Leonardo da Vinci would do it for sure!