Tutorial: Commercial Quality Product Photography

To the untrained eye, product photography is clean and uncomplicated. However, there’s always a bit more to anything than initially meets the eye. Even a five second product shot in an advertisement can take hours of planning and preparation. To give you an idea of the sheer amount of time and creative energy that goes into an advertisement, check out the techniques professional cinematographer Matthew Rosen uses to create his commercial product shots:


The setup Rosen displays in his demo is fairly complex. The foreground and background are adorned with LED pillars to create a sense of ambiance, and Rosen constructs a custom white plexiglass pillar for the product to rest on that fits naturally within the scene. Rosen also went through the trouble of mounting three silks to create a sort of deconstructed light box. Positioned overhead and to the left and right sides of the shot, they provide coverage without taking the product entirely out of the environment.


Product photographers have to act very carefully to prevent their product shots from appearing flat on film or in print. For this reason, Rosen paid especially close attention on set. The plexi pillar platform itself was built with an opening to allow for a the inclusion of a key light below the cameras line of vision. This strategy is particularly successful in capturing the texture of the product, as the main light in angled in a way that the bottle’s frosted glass is visible. The overhead silk bounces the already heavily diffused light down onto the product, producing a film of white on the lid that helps separate the darker background. The side silks also contribute to building a sense of shape, as the light they reflect brings out some of the product’s contour.

custom photo shoot lighting


Once the studio was entirely situated, it was time for the team to turn their attention to their equipment. Choosing the right lens for this scene was particularly crucial. The product’s label featured fine text, which needed to be portrayed pin sharp. However, it was also necessary to employ a shallow depth of field to ensure the foreground and background elements wouldn’t detract the viewer’s attention. Ultimately, Rosen opted for a beautiful Carl Zeiss 50mm f/2 lens. To complete the look, the Zeiss was also equipped with a diopter to magnify the overall focal length.

cosmetics product photography


Last but not least, the crew decided to incorporate movement to the shot to incorporate some action into the otherwise static scene. They decided to install a Kinney track in the studio and mount the camcorder on. Once attached, it was possible to pan through the shot slowly and smoothly, finishing off the polished piece.

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