How To Take Great Product Photos

How To Take Great Product Photos

On a website people cannot pick-up, touch, feel and closely look at a product, so great photos are absolutely critical. In this post I will cover how to take great product photos easily and cheaply.

At a minimum you will need the following:

  • Camera with manual controls (eg SLR or high end compact)
  • Tripod
  • Light cube with lights. I would recommend getting a kit with 3 lights. I got mine from Fotogenic and am happy with it.
  • Editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, which can be got by subscription for $10/month.

Nice to have stuff:

  • A white sheet of Perspex if you want a reflection in your photo. Place this in the light cube below the object (see an example of the result below)
  • A tablet for editing. I have a Wacom Bamboo and love it. They cost around $100 for a basic one, which will be more than enough.

This video does a nice job of covering the basics.

Many newer SLR’s allow tethered shooting from a computer, that is, you can see the photo live from your computer screen and control the camera from the computer. Doing this makes it much quicker and easier to get everything set up perfectly. To activate this, connect the camera to the computer via USB cable and use the software that came with the camera (eg Canon EOS Utility).

Set up the light cube with one light behind the object, low down, and one either side of the cube in front of the object. This is how I set mine up, and the results as shot and after editing:

Product-photo-setup-2

I would recommend manually dialing in the following camera settings (leave the rest up to the camera’s auto mode):

Make sure that the camera’s auto-focus is focusing on the object.

Shoot a picture, and adjust the camera’s exposure compensation up until the object is exposed correctly, and if the lights are set up well, the background is pretty much completely white (ie overexposed – see the ‘As Shot’ image above).

I do the following in Photoshop after shooting:

  • Whiten the background using levels (Image -> Adjustments -> Levels): slide the sliders in the following directions until the exposure of the object is OK and background is as white as it can be without making the object/shadow look too light.

 Levels

  • Remove any residual grey using the paintbrush or lasoo tool (deleting the selected area and replacing it with white).
  • Crop and align the image. If the perspective is warped use Edit -> Perspective Warp to fix.
  • Save it using File -> Save For Web. This step is important – if you use the normal save function the colour reproduction can be off on your website.

It will take a bit of practice and experimentation to get this down, but once you do, you’ll be able to take great product photos in a flash.

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