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!