Product Photography

Pleasing imagery makes us lust after new products. Place a fun gadget or piece of home decor in the wrong lighting or setting, and it suddenly loses some appeal. Product photographers strive to make viewers want whatever is being photographed.

Professional-quality shots of merchandise can help you, too, sell your creations on Etsy or get hired for a commercial product photography job. Here are seven useful tips for enticing shoppers with your product photography.

Quality of Light

In most cases, soft, diffused light is most flattering for shooting products. Find soft light by using a window with thin, white fabric over it or putting a studio light or strobe into a softbox. Do-it-yourself types can use a box and translucent paper to make a homemade light box that softens the light and reduces shadows. Some photographers use tents or plastic containers as light boxes. A light box can be used with natural light or artificial light.

Product Photography

Light Box by Bill Ward

This photographer used a cardboard box and desk lamps to construct a DIY light box.

Product Photography

diy product photography setup by Steve Johnson

A translucent plastic tub can also be turned into a product photography light box.

Angle of light

Rather than lighting your product from the front, try back lighting or side lighting to bring out your product’s dimensions. Maximize and control the light falling on your product by using reflectors. Mirrors, white paper, and foam board make good substitutes for professional reflectors. Bounce light back onto your subject wherever shadows need a bit more fill light.

Reflections

Eliminate unwanted reflections in glass and other shiny surfaces by blocking light from certain parts of the subject with black paper or foam board. Or modify your light by placing strips of paper or cardboard in front of them to make a strip light. Experiment with lighting from above, below, and the sides to reduce the most unwanted reflections.

Product Photography

Wine – Montes Cherub – Syrah 2008 by Maarten_G / GreenPictures.nl

Without a light modifier, the entire light source would have been visible in this wine bottle.

Backdrops

Backdrops can help reflect light as well as stylize your image. Simple backdrops might be white paper, wrapping paper, or fabric remnants. Create a seamless backdrop by draping your fabric or paper so that there are no folds or lines. Tape the end of the paper to a wall, box, or chair and let it sweep down on to your work surface as in the light box photos from above.

Product Photography

iPhone 5, Taipei, Taiwan by Luke Ma

 A black backdrop gave this image high contrast and created a mood of sleekness to match the product.

Depth of field

Use a shallow depth of field to draw the viewer’s eye to one particular element or close down your aperture to capture the entire product in sharp detail. Try taking several shots at different apertures to see what works best for the product.

Product Photography

14 points by Kirk Olson

Shallow depth of field was used to add allure and to illustrate the word bokeh.

Tripod

Particularly when using softened window light, you may need to use long shutter speeds that aren’t ideal for hand-holding the camera. Keep your product photos looking sharp by steadying the camera. Use a tripod and the camera’s built-in timer to eliminate camera shake caused by an unsteady hand or the movement of your camera’s mirror.

Cleanliness

Double check your product and backdrop for specks, fingerprints, dust, wrinkles, smudges, and other distractions. Iron fabric backdrops, clean shiny products with a microfiber cloth, and blow away any particles on backdrop surfaces. This reduces the need for time-consuming post-production work and makes photos look crisp.

Product Photography

2008 Leftovers: Zelda Gold Cart by David Fant

Scratches and smudges are made obvious in this type of close-up product photography. Sometimes photographers want to intentionally highlight rugged texture or imperfections.

Trial and error

When photographing products, it’s good practice to move around and shoot from as many different angles as possible. Choose angles that do not distort the product and that make it look especially inviting. If you’re shooting for a client, they’ll be pleased to have many choices and changes in perspective.

You don’t necessarily need expensive camera accessories for high-quality product photography. Use what you have or can buy cheaply to build a lighting setup that accentuates your product. Stylizing, using soft light, and experimenting will make a huge difference in selling your wares and building a strong product photography portfolio.

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Profile photo of Nicoal Price About Nicoal Price

​Nicoal is a New England photographer with a penchant for learning. Her work ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Visit nicoalprice.com for more info.

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