Product Photography – Beginners’ Guide

Product-Photography-Beginners-Guide, ingen-studio

Product Photography – Beginners’ Guide

Knowing how to pull off a product shoot is one of the most rewarding and lucrative skills an aspiring photographer can have.

One basic type of product photography is having an object right in front of a solid colored or white seamless background. This is usually used in retail catalogs in order to display products with no distractions.
Most photographers can even just do it at home using just 3 to 4 lights to work with. We’re going to explore on that as we go. What you basically need are the following:

  • At least 2 good sources of light– the more the better
  • A clean and bright white poster paper
  • Translucent paper (It can be a tracing paper,white tissue paper, white umbrellas, or wax paper)
  • Image editing software(Photoshop, Gimp, or Lightroom)
  • A good table/work-space
  • Light box (optional)

Our Sample Work

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Ready, Set, Go.

You can use only a pair of flashes. You may just actually use lamps or other similar light sources, but flashes are better as they’re fairly powerful and easy to reposition.

If you do not have speedlights or flashes, you can just use florescent tubes or bulbs, incandescent bulbs, etc. The bulb’s color could vary depending on the brand. Though you may not notice it with your bare eyes, your camera can detect even the slightest difference. For a start, you can use lamps with bendy arms.

Another light option we have is no other than the daylight. It’s best if it’s a nice and overcast day. However, you can’t really control the weather and the daylight’s intensity. Thus, it’s something you can’t really rely on each time. Artificial light, on the other hand, is a consistent and steady light source, and you won’t have to worry about the light levels changing from time to time. Whatever your light source is, use multiples of exactly the same light source since it’s hard to compensate for diversified lights. It’s best for beginners to take this step instead of having to put extra effort in the post-processing. Don’t miss to use the manual white balance setting which is suitable for your light source.

The Set-up and the Object Du Jour

There are lots of ways to set your table up. You can buy a lightbox or build it yourself. You can also simply mount the paper poster to the wall. Next, choose the subject of your photoshoot. Any product will do. Don’t miss to clean whatever object you want to photograph –dirty or dusty objects have little to no appeal.

Getting the Lights Right

Again, lighting is very important. It’s one of the major aspects that can lead to a successful product shoot. In order for you to easily cut out the object later on, its outlines should be clear and crisp, and the backdrop’s shadow must be minimal.

1-2 Lights

If you place only one light, the shadow could be too strong. If you try placing an umbrella between the object and the flash, it can soften the shadow since the umbrellas can help in diffusing the light. However, using only one or two lights are not really enough. You need more if you want a polished result. If you’re using a DIY lightbox and the shadow is too strong, you may add a layer of translucent paper one at a time until it softens well enough.

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Multiple Lights

As mentioned, setting multiple lights are best. This is to achieve a stark white backdrop. Having a third light placed above to illuminate the backdrop will make the product photo look better and brighter. Setting a fourth light can also minimize the shadow down below the object. Find the best setup you can come up with. Explore and learn the best combinations as you go.

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Positioning Lights

You need to find the right angle and the position that can bring the best out of the product. Reposition the lights as much as you can until you get the best product placement and are satisfied with the result.

Choosing the Aperture

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If you’re doing a product shoot to sell the output to a stock company as a cutout, it’s good if you close down your aperture to achieve the object’s crisp outline. Try different apertures until you get the right outcome. Also, you don’t have to set a fast shutter speed. As much as you need to, lower the shutter speed to achieve a good exposure. Also, use a self-timer or a remote to get rid of unwanted camera shake.

Final Image

After all the shots made, choose your final product photo. Also, for the post-processing phase, give the product image a good boost to the saturation. Do some retouches, and you’re good to go.

You are still on the verge of polishing your skills, so it’s okay if the first outcome isn’t that perfect yet. The most important thing is you are taking the first steps to polish your skills and become better and better in time.

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If you’re an aspiring photographer who wants to start making a living out of doing product shoots, then you need to constantly polish your skills and take the first steps to perfect your craft.
The first step is knowing the basics. You initially have to arrange your set-up. Whether you’re just doing it at home or in an actual studio, you need the right set up that can bring out the right result. Then, of course you need to have your subject. Grab a product to practice photography with and take its best shot. On the actual shoot, you have to get the lights right. One to two lights are okay, but having three or more is best to achieve a brighter output. On top of having the right number of lights, you also need to learn how to position them well. At first, you may have to position the lights again and again until you achieve the kind of result that is most appealing. Choosing the right aperture and shutter speed are also essential. After having taken multiple product shots, choose your final product image and do the final touches. Use the right program for this, such as Photoshop, Gimp, etc.

You might not perfect everything overnight, but as long as consistency is practiced, you’ll eventually get there.

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Asif ul Huq
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