I’ve been shooting product photography for a bit now. I’ve had thousands of pieces come across my table and I thought I’d share a bit of my experiences. The goal with these photos was a pure white background to display on a companies website. The catch is creating a setup that I can shoot a hundred products on each day. I didn’t have the time, like traditional product photography, to position and change lighting for each piece. In this specific case I came in a couple months ago with ‘literally’ a room full of things that needed to be photographed for KEH.com. It’s an amazing company here in Atlanta that buys and sell photography equipment. If you’re looking for a piece of gear, check out their site.
For my set up,
I had a standard 4ft table against a wall with a piece of white seamless pinned up. I gobo/boomed an arm with one softbox strobe overhead and a second to the side. The second light was more to the side and facing the background, so it wasn’t set on a 45* like most photo shoots but it still provided a lot of light on the product. I’d tilt this light left/right to throw more light on the product or more on the background. I didn’t have much control over the output power on these lights, basically they’re both ‘on’. I adjusted the distance of the lights and my camera settings to get my default for an ideal photo. Most of the time I left the overhead lights on since my shutter basically killed ambient light anyhow. I used a tripod with ball head so I could position the camera easily and quickly for each shot but keep it in place as I made adjustments to each photo. My general setting were. ISO:100 F:18 Shutter:1/160 using Sony a7rii with Sony 24-70 f4 lens. I liked the a7rii because I would shoot in medium jpg (web use only) and could jump between crop and full frame mode depending if I’m shooting a full size tripod or photographing a small Leica lens and get the zoom range from the same lens = 24-105.
The key to my set up was two parts.
First was the ‘stage’. I picked up two small plastic bins to hold a piece of 18×24 plexi/lexan/acrylic (your choice). By sitting the products on the plexi I was able to bounce light at angles from under the product for a rim light with no shadows. You’ll always run into the issue of shadows if you sit anything directly on your white seamless paper. I also have a small pile of things to help pose products. Scotch tape, paperclips, a clear tic-tac container, etc. These things make it so I can prop things up or hold up one side of something, but still being clear it would disappear in the photograph and not leave a shadow (like a ninja)
The second, and more creative part of the project was a stack of foam core cardboard. The foam core board is always the tricky part. Using different cut sizes of black/white board I would modify and shape the light for each product, but again quickly without having to move any lights. Sometimes I would use large gator clips to stand two small 5×7 pieces of black board to the back left/right of a product to catch the reflection so it wouldn’t be blown out and lost. You can see that here. It’s just enough black reflection off the board to see the curve of the lens. *the boards would be cropped out.
The second part of the foamcore board was the white board used to prevent blown highlights, but in a much softer way. Here are three photos. The first is just the lights. You can see the chrome is blown out white. The second is holding a white board over the camera to the left. This cast a shadow on the front of the camera and added contrast to the dial but still had a blown out top. The third final image was holding the white board again but after I moved it around to find the sweet spot. The strobes still light the subject but they dont reflect against the chrome and make it disappear. All three photos were taken using the same light set up, and same camera settings.
This is what I’ve found to work the best for me to create working product photographs. Of course my techniques can be modified and the photographs perfected if you have more time to tinker with the details. So far I’ve been happy with the results, and the clients been happy I get more than 15 pieces photographed in a day
I hope this has been helpful to others trying to shoot products of their own. Please feel free to drop a comment in the section below with examples of your own work or if you have any question.