Product photography uses specific techniques to showcases products in an attractive way and entice potential buyers to purchase. Product catalogs, brochures, menus… The basis of these advertising products is high-quality images, thanks to which the buyer can evaluate the assortment and choose what suits him. That is why product photography is in demand in the sales sector.
It has been proven that in more than 50% of cases, people are guided by the appearance of the product when making a purchase decision. Therefore, very strict requirements are imposed on product photographs. Color rendition, quality of lighting, texture – all this must be at a height so that the product appears in front of the buyer in the most favorable angle. The photo in the catalog must definitely emphasize the dignity of the object and be pleasant for the viewer.
Technical Highlights of Product Photography
The very process of photographing inanimate objects is different from a photoshoot with a model and creating portraits. Product photography is more measured, calmer. Agree, the apple will not bother you with a request to show the received pictures, it will not harm you. You can position the subject yourself as you see fit, choosing the background and lighting to your taste.
Take your time here (in product photography). Remember one truth, no matter how banal it may seem to you: there is nothing difficult in photographing beautifully. It is enough to perform a series of simple actions and not rush.
First, consider the photography equipment you need to photograph a product. Choose the brightest quality in it, which must be emphasized. What is it: color, texture, shape? Only after thinking over the accents, pick up the camera.
1. A Little About the Shooting Environment
The main thing here is the size. It is a mistake to think that a tiny nook is enough for photographing small objects. No, it’s not that simple. Let’s count together.
The first thing we need for shooting is a table. It should have a diagonal of 70 cm, or better – more. On both sides of the table, you need to place the soft-boxes on the racks. And also to provide a “safe” zone around the perimeter. So, we have already counted a circle with a diameter of 3-4 meters.
Not every room has so much free space, but these are the requirements. After all, a too cramped room not only creates inconvenience, but also puts expensive equipment at risk. Imagine the risk of dropping your camera or lighting fixtures on the floor if you keep sneaking between tangled wires and racks? So choose a room that is as empty and as large as possible.
Product photography requires good lighting, so it is best to place the table by the window. Moreover, it would be optimal to rotate the tabletop along the short wall of the room. If you can do this, the camera-to-subject line will run along the entire room. This means you will be more free to maneuver with a tripod.
Pay attention to the color of the walls. It should be neutral, preferably dark, not light. This will allow you to more confidently control the reflexes from the walls when using the flash (and reflexes inevitably appear in the pictures).
Remember about good lighting not only for the table itself, but also for its surroundings. Don’t rely entirely on the modeling light. Lighting should be bright and multi-level. Therefore, place a powerful lamp next to the table, which can be quickly turned on or off if necessary.
It is also important to take care of ventilation and air cooling in the room. Lighting fixtures get very hot during operation: this applies to both modeling light and flashlights.
2. Product Photography Table
If you are doing serial shooting of objects of the same type, pay attention to special subject tables. They are produced precisely for such purposes, and the sizes of such a table may be different. Such a table is better suited for shooting than a regular writing desk.
The kit necessarily includes a white plastic background, which can be folded behind the object and illuminated in light, if necessary. And when you need a colored background, it’s easy to attach over white with clips. It is also very important that product photography tables are often folding. This means that after shooting it can be easily removed until next time.
Some photographers prefer to use round subject tables. For some tasks, it suits better, and such a table is very convenient in work. Its single foot in the middle allows the photographer to come close to the table from either side. You can also get rid of the corners in the photo by making the background circular. The disadvantage of such a table is that the product is not illuminated in the light from below, through the background.
Let’s talk about the height of the work surface. You need to calculate it individually, depending on the height of the photographer, as well as the height at which the lamps on the stands are located. The table should not be too low, so that, if necessary, you can easily position the soft-box below the table top. But the table should not be too high either, because sometimes the product needs to be removed from above. The height of the table should allow you to do this without the aid of a tripod.
3. Lighting for Product Photography
Product photography is unthinkable without high-quality light. Successfully organized lighting on the site will allow you to convey the texture and volume of the thing, emphasize its color. Of course, diffused sunlight is an ideal solution, but alas, it is not always possible to catch good natural light.
It happens that the shooting takes place in the evening, at night or on a cloudy day, and then you cannot do without additional illumination. Also, lighting fixtures and reflectors help remove unwanted shadows that inevitably occur in bright sunlight.
Let’s talk in more detail about the various points that relate to lighting.
A. Adjusting the White Balance
Exhale: It’s actually very simple. All you have to do is give the camera an indication of what kind of light you are using in the frame. There are not many options here: bright daylight, cloudy, incandescent or fluorescent lamp.
The camera can select the white balance automatically, but you cannot blindly trust it in this matter. Technique is often mistaken, and then your images acquire unwanted shades: blue, yellow, red.
If you do not correct the balance in time, you will have to mess around in the photo editor for a long time and even out the tone. Better to spend a second manually adjusting your camera, isn’t it?
B. Controlling the Sharpness of Shadows
Not all photographers like too distinct shadows. If you are someone who likes soft, diffused light, use a regular cloth between the lamp and the object. But don’t forget that it is fire hazardous. Napkins need to be changed more often so that they do not have time to overheat or, at least one hour, ignite.
C. Use a Product Lightbox
Product photography is troublesome. Backgrounds, a subject table, a bunch of lighting fixtures… For many novice photographers, this seems too difficult. Therefore, they prefer to buy a light cube and not suffer.
A light cube (or a lightbox) is an elastic frame, which is sheathed with a white background fabric. Usually, this design is foldable.
The purpose of the lightbox is to help the photographer get passable lighting easily and quickly, even outside the studio. Light-cube eliminates the need for a long time to prepare a place for shooting, fiddling with a lot of equipment.
How Does It Work?
The product is placed inside the box. The camera can be pushed through the hole, or you can simply remove the front fence. But working in such a “house” is cramped and inconvenient. From the outside, the photographer can hardly see anything.
Product photography in lightbox is an option, as they say, “cheap and cheerful”. If you are looking for an inexpensive solution and do not impose too strict requirements on the quality of images, then you can try this invention, why not. You can buy it on Amazon for $19.94 only.
But you will hardly want to constantly shoot with the help of a light cube. This option is good for one or two times. Anyone who intends to further grow professionally will need a full-fledged job very soon. After all, the lightbox limits the creative possibilities of the photographer and significantly reduces the quality of the images.
D. Do You Need A Flash?
Experienced photographers advise turning off the flash and not worrying. The fact is that the built-in flash is almost always badly done and can ruin all your efforts. Yes, and you need to be able to use it correctly, and this, unfortunately, is a very difficult science. So it’s better to tackle the issues of high-quality lighting of the subject so that you don’t need any flash. You will see that without it it turns out more naturally.
You may also like to read: How to Choose a Studio Flash – The Ultimate Guide
4. Choosing A Background
To photograph a stable object that does not need to be supported by anything, any material will work as a background. But it will be most convenient, if you stock up on sheets of different colors, textures and sizes in advance.
The background can be made of polystyrene or plexiglass. Professional product photography will definitely require milky white and black backgrounds. It is better to buy sheets of these shades in several copies: over time, they lose their appearance. For a purchase, go to the wholesale warehouse for building materials and industrial products.
When choosing plastic, do not buy too thick: it will not do you any good and will only make the sheet heavier. It is best to stop at 5mm for the underneath background and 3mm for the reflector. By the way, inexpensive scraps, of which there are many in the warehouse, can also be used.
Not wanting to waste time looking for a plastic background, some photographers use regular glass backed with white or colored paper. But this is not the best option: the photo will be spoiled by double reflections and highlights.
Ordinary mirrors are also unsuitable for use as backgrounds. If you don’t like plastic, try experimenting with polished metal (such as steel plates).
5. Shooting in Macro Mode
Macro photography is great when you are working with small objects. The effect is just the way it should be: the background is blurred, and the thing itself is in focus and plays with all its edges. This allows you to draw additional attention to the main object, as well as show it extremely clearly, down to the smallest detail. When you photograph any small object, jewelry, cosmetics, etc. feel free to use the macro mode.
You may also like to read: Canon 100mm Macro Lens: Review & Buying Guide for Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8 Prime Lens
6. Do I Need A Tripod?
A tripod is a photographer’s best friend in some cases, and product photography is no exception. I advise you to actively use it. The main advantage is clear shots without the risk of blurring. Even if your hands are not shaking, the camera behaves very moody in low light. Use a firm footing to avoid bad shots.
Fixing the camera firmly has another advantage: once you set everything up and storyboard, you don’t have to re-point the camera every time. You can calmly photograph what is in the frame. This is especially convenient when you need to shoot the same object from all sides: turn it and press the trigger, that’s all.
A tripod may not be the most expensive, but it must be stable and of high quality. It is dangerous to save on it. Make sure before purchasing that, the tripod can hold your camera in any position and at different heights. Before going to the store, read carefully the instructions for choosing a tripod.
Sometimes it happens that the tripod has not yet been purchased, and the photos are needed urgently. How to get out of the situation? There are some tricks. Try placing the camera on top of a stack of thick books, or perhaps directly on top of the shooting surface. You can also use the self-timer or press the shutter button as you exhale to help your hands shake less.
Conclusion: Product Photography is Easy
Here I am ending our conversation about product photography and shooting objects. As you may have noticed, there are many rules here. On the Internet you will find a lot of articles on this topic, and mine is just one of the points of view. And, you know, you don’t have to follow the suggested advice in everything. Trust the intuition and professional instinct of the photographer more – I am sure it will not let you down.
Remember that the main thing for a good photographer is taste and daily exercise. Feel free to spy on others’ work, view and analyze other people’s pictures, and ask yourself questions about what you see.
Everyone shoots differently. Someone likes to take a series of shots of one thing from different angles in order to choose the best one later. Someone shoots a thing in close-up and then goes into detail. Some people use light to accentuate texture. And someone deliberately turns the camera so that the subject is placed diagonally in the picture. All this is a matter of taste.
You may also like to read: 10 Key Tips for Product Photography (2021)
Product photography can be diversified. Sometimes it is better to shoot jewelry directly on the model. Complement the vases with flowers, and the frames with photographs.
Also, remember that there are never too many pictures. Don’t worry about taking a long, long shot. It is better to remove bad shots after a photoshoot than to miss out on good ones. And, believe me, with experience the percentage of successful shots will inevitably grow.
Well, now product photography is not such a hazy area for you. We have put together all the necessary subtleties, which means that now you can safely go to the studio and create, experiment, live. Prepare your work area carefully, check your lighting systems, set up and install your camera. And get ready for your first product photography session.
Best wishes, Devansh Pathak.