Product Photography Made Simple

Product photography
Shot using a light box

Product Photography sounds complicated for most entrepreneurs. But you know how important it is to establish your brand and introduce your product. Big companies have little to no problem in this department because they can hire advertising photographer to get the job done. Small and medium enterprises could also hire but not most likely as it would incur additional expenses.

Product photography is a tool to use and a skill to master. However, it is a two-headed dragon. It could make or break your brand. This article is made to help you exploring this side of  business. We will make product photography easy in terms of how and what elements.

What do you need in product photography?

  1. Camera
  2. Tripod
  3. Light and reflectors
  4. Background
  5. Props
  6. Table

Camera.

There is no rule on what camera you have to use. However, a decent DSLR is an advantage. You can use your smartphone, a mirror-less, or a point and shoot camera as well. My advice is to use any camera available to you.

  • Camera specs

If you are just going to buy a camera, first consider your budget. Remember that you can get more with expensive camera but it does not make cheaper camera out of contention.

Consider the megapixel of the camera. Some photographers might not agree with this. But I think it is an important factor to consider. Obviously, the higher megapixel should have a better quality image. You should also consider choosing a camera that can take raw images. Raw is an image format that does not undergo compression in the camera. It is also the largest size of photograph you can take. We would like to make our product at its best image resolution that is why shooting in the raw format is advised. Moreover, we are going to post process or retouch the image. Raw format offers all the original elements you have captured. However, if you already have a camera and it doesn’t have an option of shooting raw it is okay. You don’t have to worry. I will discuss it in the later part.

Tripod.

In product photography, the shot is focused in the product. In other words, you will use some zooming in. The subject will be enlarged as you zoom in. It will also enlarge any movement or camera shake. Using a tripod is the best way to eliminate blur caused by camera shake. Advertising photographer uses tripod because they make composite images. In our case, we will not do composite image but we should also use tripod for camera stability.

Light.

Source of light to be exact. You can use any light source for this matter. You can actually use the light coming from your window. If ambient light is not available, you can use a flash or strobe light. Using other light source like led lights or bulbs are cheaper alternatives.

Reflectors.

White cardboard, white cloth, or commercial reflectors can be used. Reflectors are used to bounce light towards the other side of the product. This reflected light is softer than the key light or the main light.

Background.

Usually, a sweep is used in product photography. It is used so there is a continuous or infinite feel in the background. Most photographer uses a white or a black background. Bear in mind that using a white background needs different approach as to with using a black one. You can also use different backgrounds such as a rustic brick wall, pile of books, etc. Your style in presenting your product is the limit. Just be sure that the product pops out from the background. An easy way to capture image with a good background is to use a mini studio box/cube.

Props. Objects that you include in shooting the product adds a story to it. It provides different elements that boost the marketability of your product. Be sure to add props that shares the same texture. On the other hand, you can also shoot your product alone in the frame, especially when you use a mini studio cube.

Table.

A table is used to setup your materials. It is advised that a table should be use so that the whole setup is elevated. This will make you comfortable in every shot. You don’t need to make stressful movements. It could help you in organizing your setup together.

How to do product photography?

Since this is an article for basic product photography, it should be simple considering that most entrepreneurs are not well versed with photography.

Step 1. Setup

This is where most of the work will be done. Set up your camera and your work table. Make sure that the product is clean in setting up your product. There should be minimal to no dusts and fingerprints. You could use a brush to shave off unwanted particles in the product and the table. It is also advisable to wear rubber gloves (if available) when shooting bottled products so that there could be no fingerprints. Remember that, in product photography, we are trying to show every detail that is why a little dust could be a big factor. However, you could always post process the image. In case you can’t retouch the image, be sure to look carefully on these things.

Using a Light box

In using a light box, there is not so much of an issue in the setup. The product will be well lit and spot on. The few things that you must consider is the angle of the shot with respect to the position of the product. In this case (see photo below), the watch is captured in the level of the camera. Another point to focus on is the best possible position to place your product. The problem in the image below is the way it has been placed in the setup. You could place it vertically instead of horizontally. Moreover, we have said that we try to show the detail/s in the product yet the image has shallow depth of field which makes the bracelet out of focus. But, we have to experiment sometimes and break the rules. We might get the shot that we are looking for.

Product photography
I used a light box in this head on shot.
Setting up for a concept

For a more dramatic and artistic image of the product, plan your concept. (There is no better option than making a plan A, B, and C. ) Base your concept on what could be the best element the product has and in what other elements it could stand out. Make use of the environment. Shoot on beaches, waterfalls, rock formations, grasslands, etc. given that it adds value to your product in terms of visuals and a certain feel. A contrast of elements might not work here. Try making use of what compliments your product.  For example, when shooting a perfume bottle you could put water droplets to show how refreshing the product is or placing the bottle in mossy woods or twigs to make a earthy or woody feel. In this kind of setup, it is always advisable to use ambient light or natural light.

Keep in mind that you have the power of your imagination in here. You must know the product well enough to conceptualize. Just remember these pointers: light, foreground, background, props, and concept.

Camera setup

Before anything else, make sure you know your camera well enough whether its a DSLR or you phone camera. It is an advantage if you could set your camera to manual mode so that you can control the camera settings. If you are not comfortable in using full manual mode, do it semi-manually like Aperture Priority (Av or A).

ISO

– use low ISO as possible. ISO 100 is advisable to avoid grainy image.  (Click here to know more about ISO.)

White balance

– Do not use auto white balance every time. You could try other modes. Use Fluorescent if you are using white lights, Tungsten if you have yellow lights unless of course you use the yellow lights as part of your concept, etc.

Shutter Speed

– Faster shutter freezes motion (but makes it darker) while slower shutter make blurry image (and brighter). Since we will use the lowest ISO possible, I suggest using low shutter speed like 1/13. Try and try until you get the right exposure. (Click here to know more about shutter speed.)

Aperture

– Our goal in product photography is to make every part of the product as sharp as possible. So, f/8 or f/11 is preferred. But if your concept is to make some parts of the product to pop, you could use a narrower depth of field like f/2.8 or f/4.5 and focus on that part. (Click here to know more about aperture)

Step 2. Composition 

Always bear in mind that we need to draw the viewer’s eyes to the product. At the moment they saw the image, it should be almost automatic that the first thing they will see is the product. How could we do that?

Remember your concept and execute the plan. I believe you have pictured it in your mind. What you want the image would be. The next thing to do is looking at your setup in various positions and angles. Create imaginative stories. Think how people would love to see the product. From what vantage point you want to shoot.

Shooting lower than the product could be a good choice. Another option is to shoot head on or at level. Then, the over head. View it from the live view or from the viewfinder. 

Photography tyudorials Prodcut photography

Imagine this is a product. The water droplets add dramatic mood. I used flash (external) and LED lights while spraying mist. The subject was not centered but still draws the attention.

Step 3. Shoot

Actually, taking a shot could be simultaneous with making the composition. You shoot as you wish and look for the different perspective. 

Shoot more. Pressing the shutter a lot of time gives you more chance of getting the best possible image. Every each shot, check for the captured image just to adjust the settings if necessary, and to move for another angle if needed.

When shooting, I would love to use manual focus so that I can focus the shot wherever I want. But since we will be using f/8 or f/11, we can use auto-focus mode because the product is expected to be sharp anyway.

Step 4. Post process

It is a must. Little enhancements could do a lot in improving the overall appeal of the product. Increasing the vibrance and a little bit of saturation could make the product more attractive. Adjusting the temperature will also help you in portraying the concept you want to show. It adds some kind of a mood that you set in order to make them want the product.

For those who use their phones in product photography, they enhance their images using Lightroom CC or they use filters. 

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photo credits to pexels for some of the photos