Tips for product photography

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Tips for product photography

Whether a professional presentation of articles for eBay, the Online-Shop or high-gloss photos for catalogues – product photos are indispensable in sales and advertising.

Professional tip: Studio photography

Tips for product photography

Whether a professional presentation of articles for eBay, the Online-Shop or high-gloss photos for catalogues – product photos are indispensable in sales and advertising. Here we would like to show you a few examples for a good presentation of your goods, correct illumination and also how to master difficult shooting situations.

The equipment

Before we start, it is important to choose the right equipment.

If one would like to sell the hidden treasures from one's cellar at eBay, many hobby photographers just use a simple compact camera to shoot sales promoting photos.

If product photos are to be shot for the own Online-Shop, the use of a reflex camera is recommended. Necessary accessories are a lens with a focal length of 80 mm to 100 mm and a camera tripod with panhead. A 3D-panhead in combination with a sectioned matte, which shows auxiliary lines in the finder of your camera, enables highly accurate settings.

Background cardboards can be used as background for product photography, because these can be laid out crease-free. Backgrounds are available in different widths to suit the size of the product or set-up.

With a shooting table smaller articles can be photographed against a shadow-free background, because the table can be illuminated from underneath. Product plates are another possibility to photograph and also present products. With most rotating plates you can simply and quickly photograph your products from various sides.

A few little helpers are indispensable to place the products in your set-up and to keep everything in place. Nylon threads and adhesive paste are a great help for draping and invisible fastening. Single or double sided adhesive tape should always be at hand for product cartons. Simple means, like materials for filling or ballasting even enhance the appearance of empty packages or products like bags.

Put in the right light

The right illumination makes sure that the product is well staged, the colours are correctly represented and writing is well legible. Even special features like surface structures can be emphasized.

There are manifold possibilities to set up the illumination. It is normally individually adapted to the article and the product set-up.

For large area articles a uniform illumination is appropriate. For this purpose one can use the classical sandwich illumination with one lamp each on the right and left hand sides under an angle of approx. 45 degrees. Softboxes matching the size of the product can be used as light controls, because they enable a soft and uniform illumination.

For a more plastic representation of products it is recommended to use an illumination with one main light and a fill-in light for the shadows. In this case the lamps do not necessarily have to be placed to the left and right of the set-up. You can, for example, work with backlight or illuminate from above.

Products made of glass, metal or with a lacquered surface are not easy to illuminate and to photograph, because they are highly reflective or mirror into the surrounding area. With illumination one can intentionally generate reflexes and use these as effects in the image. For this purpose one uses rectangular Softboxes as light controls, to generate intended light edges, which should e.g. emphasize the shape of the product.

With transparent objects or fluids a transillumination from the back ensures that the material property becomes visible and the colours light up.


Extra Tip!

For bottles of dark glass, such as wine or beer bottles, transillumination is in most cases not possible, but there is another trick to master this problem. Just fasten a reflecting film, for example silver foil, to the back of the bottle and the incident light will be reflected.

In order to completely avoid reflexes and undesired mirroring, one shoots articles with a light cube. It is illuminated from outside by means of permanent lights or studio flashes. This results in a very uniform, soft illumination, because the illumination takes place through the fabric of the cube.

No matter how you realize your illumination set-up and whether you work with permanent light or studio flashes, it is highly important to adjust the white balance of the camera to the colour temperature of the illumination. Many reflex cameras offer the possibility to set the colour temperature as a value or to make a manual white balance with the help of a grey board. This prevents a colour tinge in the photo and makes sure that the products are shot with real colours.

For bottles of dark glass, such as wine or beer bottles, transillumination is in most cases not possible, but there is another trick to master this problem. Just fasten a reflecting film, for example silver foil, to the back of the bottle and the incident light will be reflected.

In order to completely avoid reflexes and undesired mirroring, one shoots articles with a light cube. It is illuminated from outside by means of permanent lights or studio flashes. This results in a very uniform, soft illumination, because the illumination takes place through the fabric of the cube.

No matter how you realize your illumination set-up and whether you work with permanent light or studio flashes, it is highly important to adjust the white balance of the camera to the colour temperature of the illumination. Many reflex cameras offer the possibility to set the colour temperature as a value or to make a manual white balance with the help of a grey board. This prevents a colour tinge in the photo and makes sure that the products are shot with real colours..


Cropping products

The term cropping generally means that the main attention is directed to the object in the image and everything else appears in the background. For this purpose one can work with blurring, reduce brightness and contrast or cut out the object.

In product photography it mostly means that the product is cut out of the background and then placed in front of a white or neutral background or is inserted into a collage. For this purpose a mask or path is drawn around the contour in an image processing program.

A few things should already be considered when taking the photos to make life easier in post-processing.

The later representation is decisive for the selection of the background. In many Online-Shops the product image should be cut out and then placed in front of a white background. In this case one could already choose a white background for shooting. With correct illumination the object does no longer need to be cut out.

If a white product is to be shot, a grey or plain coloured background should be used. For this purpose one can also use a method from filming called Bluescreen or Greenscreen. For later cropping it is generally important that contrast is present and that the product is set apart from the background, to make later post-processing easier. For the illumination set-up one must make sure that the background is uniformly illuminated without shadows. Besides background cardboard, shooting tables are ideal for cropping, because the background can be uniformly illuminated uniformly and without shadows through the translucent table plate.

Besides the technical fundamentals creativity and aesthetics are important aspects in product photography, just like in many other areas of photography. Make your products attractive for your customers and put them in the right light.