Product photography involves photographing a single product by itself with a plain background to remove any distractions and focus the viewer’s attention on the product. While practicing product photography can be fun in and of itself, it’s particularly important if you want to sell items on eBay or through your own website. A good product image can make your listings more effective and increase your sales.
To set up an area for product photography, you can use a table pushed against a wall. Use a piece of large white card and attach one end to the wall and one end to the table. Be careful to ensure the card has a curved bend where it goes from the wall (vertical) to the table (horizontal) as you want to avoid any creases in the card. This will create a white seamless background for your product photography.
Next set up a couple of lights or flashes to light your product and the background. A two light setup can result in much better photos than relying on natural light. The ability to control the power, shape, size, and position of lighting gives you much greater control over how the photos look.
Always-on hot lamps, small speedlights, and full size flash strobes all work well for lighting, so long as you have some way of controlling their power output. Use light stands to hold your lights in place, this will keep the lighting consistent between shots. Your lighting needs to be diffused otherwise you will end up with harsh shadows that distract from the product.
To diffuse the lighting, there are a large of accessories available. Some common diffusion techniques are using a softbox, reflector, shoot through umbrella, or reflective umbrella. These attach to your lights or the light stands. Diffusing the light will help bring out texture and detail in the product without causing harsh shadows and clipped highlights.
If using flash units for lighting (as opposed to always-on hot lamps), you will need some way of triggering the flashes. You can use flash sync cords that connect the flash units to the camera, or radio trigger units. Some speedlights can also be triggered by an infrared signal from your camera’s pop-up flash.
Position your product on your backdrop, and set up your camera on a tripod. For product photography a focal length of 35mm–100mm will work well, giving you a reasonable working distance between the camera and the product. Take some test shots, adjust the brightness of your lights as necessary, and position the lights to give pleasing lighting. Two lights pointing down at the product 45° to either side from the front works well in most cases.
If you would like a reflection underneath your product, place the product on a piece of perspex plastic. Shoot down at a slight angle to include the reflection from the perspex in the image.
Take a variety of shots of your product, at different angles, and some detail shots. Once you have your lighting set up correctly, taking extra photos should be just a case of changing the position of the product, and possibly adjusting your camera position slightly.
Depending on the size of your product, a macro lens may be needed for taking detail shots. Macro lenses are specially designed to be able to focus at close distances, and maintain their sharpness, where with other lenses image quality may degrade at short distances.
While it may cost a bit to purchase light stands, speedlights or strobes, and diffusers, it can make a big difference to your product photos. And if you’re a business, good product photos can make a big difference to your sales. If you’re a budding photographer, remember that these accessories are also useful for other types of photography, such as portrait photography, and will likely be a good investment toward improving your photography.
Product photography can easily be carried out at home or in the office, and you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment (though some basic equipment such as lights will make it easier).
About the Author
For more advice on product photography, see product photography tips. As well as photographing products for use on a website or eBay, photographing your latest purchase just to show off to friends on Facebook or Flickr can be fun. And if you follow these product photography tips, your friends will marvel at your photos.
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