Mar 2, 2010

Product Photography on a Budget

In this article we will take a look at creating some great looking product photos on a budget. We will outline how to shoot a basic product shot. The emphasis will be on background, lighting, and the positioning of the product itself. You can use any small object to shoot that offers a great example to highlight the basics of lighting and shooting an isolated product photo. I have chosen a small friendly shaped incense burner.

Lets take a look at our final photo (unedited):

Our final shot.

Our final photo (unedited).

Equipment rundown:

In both set ups I am using single lights – one diffused, one bare. Keep in mind that multiple light set ups can really increase your quality of lighting, and your budget. So for the sake of this article we are using one light, per example.

Example 1: Basic Lighting – single ‘bare’ light:

These are basic non-diffused light set ups. You can get some great quality lighting from these, and also use them as a platform to start your lighting set up. You can later add soft-boxes or umbrellas to these lights.

101_2351

My single 'bare' light

You can purchase a set from amazon for around $40.

You can purchase a set from amazon for around $40.

In action:

single 'bare' light

single 'bare' light set up

Example 2: Advanced Lighting:

There are so many more lighting options as your budget increases… you can use soft-box lighting or umbrella lighting, Continuous or flash. The list goes on. I used our in-house soft-box set up. Typically an umbrella setup is a bit cheaper with similar results.

101_2352

Soft-box

Around $80 to $100 on amazon

Umbrellas around $80 to $100 on amazon

In action:

Single soft-box set up

Single soft-box set up

Reflecting light:

You can find many things to use to reflect light, but hardly any will be as easy to use or as versatile as an actual reflector. And for about $30 on amazon you can get some great ‘5 sided’ reflectors. These will make a huge difference no matter how you shoot. If you purchase nothing else for your photos, purchase a reflector.

'5 sided' reflector

'5 sided' reflector

Location:

For our backdrop I used white paper on a roll. Very inexpensive and very reusable. There are many “portable” photo studios or “product booths” but those are pretty limited in size of product and a bit overpriced if you ask me. Our clean white paper will do just fine.

Our backdrop

Our backdrop

Set Up Breakdowns:

Set Up 1 – Bare light:

Lets take a look at shooting our ‘product’ with our single bare light set up.

Bare light

Bare light

I have left this image a bit underexposed to show how harsh your shadows can be with the bare light set up. But hard shadows aside, we don’t have a bad start to a great product photo. Let’s add a reflector to this set up.

No- Reflector

No Reflector

With Reflector

With Reflector

You can see in these images with no other change than the reflector being added opposite of our light source, what a huge difference reflected light can make. There is still a somewhat harsh shadow on the paper from our single light. This is a great single bare light set up and a perfect one on a budget. Those shadows will disappear with our next set up, but so will some of your cash. So while there is a bit of shadow, this is still a very professional set up for some great shots.

Set Up 2 – Diffused Lighting:

Single soft-box

Single soft-box

Compare this to our ‘bare’ light shot and you can see a huge difference in the lighting quality. I placed the soft box above and to the left of our product for this shot. You will first notice the wonderful soft shadows and great even lighting that we have with this set up. But it can get better.

with gold foil reflector

With gold foil reflector

Notice in the image above I am using the gold side of the reflector, this helps to “warm” the lighting of our product. It also washes out the softer but still somewhat visible shadows on the white paper.

Once you have experimented around a little bit and have your set up adjusted to your liking, you should be taking some great product photos.

Final

Final

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