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A whole lot of fused glass and then some …

My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 1

Recently, I was asked to write a blog post on how I photograph my products. I was a little surprised to get that request because, although I know my photos have been getting a lot better from when I started, I have never stopped to think that they might really stand out to someone.
So I am very flattered and happy to share what I have found works for me.
A lot of the following tips and tricks have come about as a result of trial and error so you have to bear in mind that there might be a better solution that I haven’t thought of and if you would like to add anything, I would be most grateful!

The first topic that seems to be inherently important when talking about photography is the camera.
When I started selling my fused glass jewelry, I already had a camera and it wasn’t an expensive one or one with very many special features. At the time I had to make due and by doing so, I learned a little more about my camera and in the end, made it work. I still use the same camera and I don’t see a reason for me to buy a “better” one any time soon.
I use the Olympus SP-310 and in my opinion, I couldn’t have bought a better camera for the money.
Initially, I used the preset categories like the ‘Portrait’ or the ‘Indoor’ setting but realized pretty soon that I have a lot more control over what the photo looks like when I use the manual setting. By using the manual settings, you are able to determine the shutter speed and therefore have influence over the type and how much light you have to use, which is especially important when you photograph glass. When you take pictures of very shiny and reflective surfaces, you might need to reduce the light or diffuse it extensively to avoid large areas of bright white reflection. In that case you can increase the time that the shutter stays open to allow for more of the light to enter the lense and therefore still have a well-lit photo. In conclusion: more light –> faster shutter speed, less light –> slower shutter speed.
There is so much more technical information about the ‘physics’ of taken great photos but I have to admit, my understanding ends right here.

The next thing that is very important to have is a tripod.
When you use the manual settings and slow shutter speeds, the slightest movement of the camera is going to blur the whole picture.
I picked up a simple tripod for roughly $25 from Best Buy.

Next, we are getting to the light box setup.
A light box, in general, is a box made of some kind of material that permits light to shine through but diffuses it to a certain degree. The box is placed in the spotlight of several light sources and the item to be photographed sits inside the box and is therefore illuminated.
A light box doesn’t really have to be a box. The important thing is that the item is illuminated from all sides except the bottom and the light needs to be filtered through some kind of diffuser.
Here is a picture of my light box setup in my basement. It’s not very professional looking but it serves the purpose wonderfully and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

There are several components to my setup.

  • the base
  • the back panel
  • the mirror
  • the side diffuser panels
  • the top diffuser panel
  • the light sources

Let’s go over each component separately.

For the base I use a couple of sturdy boxes that raise the working area up to a comfortable level. You want to make sure that you work at a level where you don’t have to exchange good photos for back pain.
I use a grate that was left over from my ferret cage as the main work surface but you can use a piece of ply wood or anything else you have available as well.

On top of the main work surface I place a mirror. It’s an old bathroom wall mirror and you can see it underneath the mannequin with the white frame.
The reason for using a mirror is that it amplifies the light you shine onto it and it also diffuses it further. In addition, it adds a certain esthetic due to the reflection it produces and you can create some cool effects with textured sheet glass, for example. The third merit of the mirror is the opportunity to quickly change the background color without having to move the item by simply standing up a colored foam board behind the scene.

And that leads us to the back panel.
The foam boards come in several different colors and can be purchased at stores like Michaels or Stamples etc.
Simply lean it again the wall behind the scene.
Check out the series of photos with different boards. The red dotted rectangle is the area you place your item in and take your photo.

The diffuser panels are called acrylic light diffuser panels for fluorescent lights and can be bought at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
I glued two of them together to increase the degree of diffusion and to make them a little more sturdy. Then I clamped on steel spring clamp and stood the panel up on the hand piece of the clamps like in the picture below.

There also is a little top diffuser panel that you can’t see in the photo of my setup. It’s basically a smaller version of the standing panels and is attached in front of the light source that hangs from the ceiling.

And that is the perfect transition to the light sources.
I figured the easiest way to create freely movable light sources are clamp lights like this one. I use two on each side clamped down in two different heights and one that is clamped in a frontal/top position on the ceiling behind the little top diffuser panel.
Most importantly though are the light bulbs you are using. They have to be daylight bulbs, meaning they produce the entire spectrum of light. Click here for an example of the right bulbs.

Wow, I did not expect this post to get so long! So I think it will be best to declare this the first part of a series of posts.

Stay tuned for more Tips and Tricks for Product Photography coming soon!

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July 11, 2010 - Posted by | Photography | , , , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. Wow. This was a GREAT tutorial : ) I found you via twitter. Your work is super pretty and you gave wonderful advice about shooting. Love it!

    Comment by life with kaishon | July 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you so much, Kaishon! =)

      Comment by Kim | July 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. This is a fantastic and beautiful tutorial

    Comment by Ricki Mountain | July 15, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thank you, Ricki!
    I am sorting my thoughts for the second part. I’m hoping I get to write at least some of it next weekend =)

    Comment by Kim | July 15, 2010 | Reply

  4. OK, it’s time to admit it!
    I am very much stuck on the second part of this series.
    Hopefully, I will get myself unstuck in the near future. Cross your fingers for me =)

    Comment by Kim | September 9, 2010 | Reply

  5. Hey Kim, this is great and PLEASE keep going! I know I started you on this with my original post but do please keep at it – I’ve learned so much from even this first part.

    I have tried some of the things you do but my results are still 1000 miles from yours. My compact camera is perhaps too simple to cope – they all have plenty of bells and whistles on these days but they don’t guarantee end results like yours. I’m still trying hard but WOW, your shots have such a crispness and clarity, that lens/lights combo is a real cracker!

    Comment by Tim | October 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. Forgot to ask……..are all these shots just simply straight out of the camera or are you doing some post-production adjustments with PSP or Photoshop? If they are the former, I’m giving up right now. Anything I do that seems OK is only as a result of having messed with it for ages in PSP afterwards. Any kind of colour accuracy is a real challenge – one at which I usually fail!

    Comment by Tim | October 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Tim!
      First of all, thank you for making me focus again.
      There are always so many excuses why I can’t finish the post right now when really, I can and should.
      So, thank you!
      Here it is: https://glassfancy.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/my-tips-and-tricks-for-product-photography-part-2/
      And yes, I do use photo editing software. I try to use it as little as possible but at the very least I crop my images and sometimes I correct the brightness. There are a few other things you can do with it without making your product look different than what it actually is (which is my biggest concern about using software).
      I intend to write a third part about just that in the (hopefully) near future.
      Thank you for all the awesome compliments and I do appreciate you reading my posts! =)

      Comment by Kim | October 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. […] the first part I discussed the photo setup that I have tinkered together. Now we are going to take a closer look […]

    Pingback by My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 2 « Welcome to Glassfancy | October 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. light bulbs these days are getting replaced by compact fluorescents and LED based ones, original incandescent bulbs are power h *

    Comment by Compatible Ink : | October 29, 2010 | Reply

  9. […] The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 117 views. The most popular post that day was My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 1. […]

    Pingback by 2010 in review « Welcome to Glassfancy | January 5, 2011 | Reply

  10. […] the first part I discussed the photo setup that I have tinkered together. Now we are going to take a closer look […]

    Pingback by My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 2 | GlassFancy – A whole lot of fused glass, and then some … | February 12, 2011 | Reply

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    Comment by tricks, cheat, method | January 26, 2013 | Reply


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