Photography News
Product Photography

Product Photography Tips

Making things visible...
It seems nowadays that more or less everything is available to buy via the internet. And for that to happen, it is enormously helpful to see the items to be purchased on good, clear, informative photographs. That’s where the commercial photographer comes in. I’m sure I’m not alone in skipping past a product I’d otherwise be interested in because the photographs are not sufficiently informative. There still exists this trust gap – seeing a thing in the flesh is different from seeing it through images – and the photographer’s skill is required to bridge that gap.

I guess it should go without saying, that the first thing you need is a good camera and a lens suitable for the task, but some nevertheless try to get away with phone-cam shots. What can I say about that? Whether you think a phone camera is good enough for your products, or whether you don’t, you’re probably right, if you get my drift. And the gear required varies widely, like products themselves. The lens required to shoot, say, an ocean-going yacht, would be different from the one you would use for jewellery. The latter would need a macro facility, to get forensically close to the object.

Then there is light to consider. In the case of the above imaginary yacht, you would almost certainly have to use natural light for the overall shots of the exterior (unless you were working to the costs and production standards that would allow film-studio-like facilities). But, you would be likely to introduce artificial light for details and the interiors, though what kind would depend on specifics.

On more modestly sized products, you would be likely to work inside a studio with any of a few forms of lighting. For larger products, you might use large studio strobes; for small ones, a light box with permanent lighting might be more appropriate; there might also be circumstances where a speed-light (flashgun) would suffice; but it is highly probable that the little one that comes with the camera, mounted on top of the viewfinder, would ever be of any use.

So, you’ve got your camera, lens and set-up. What else is there to consider? In short, everything! You need to have the right amount of light and in the right places. 'Photography' means 'drawing with light'. You need to consider where you are going to 'paint' light onto your product. With today’s digital cameras, it is easy to see on the playback screen whether you’ve got it right. Then there’s depth of field – how much do you want in focus – this can be adjusted by changing the f-stop: the bigger the number, the smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field (the amount in focus). You will see in the photo shown here that the decision was made to have only the front item in focus and to allow those behind to fade out of focus and into the distance, for effect. If you use a low exposure speed, you will need a tripod, to avoid motion blur.

And what about the background? A white ground is very popular, but other products might be suited to a black or coloured ground, and for other kinds of shot, you might require a textured or maybe wood effect backcloth. And then there’s composition: how should the product fit into the frame? Symmetrically? Decentred? Juxtaposed with something? On something? The possibilities, if not endless, are many! Happy shooting.