Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Photography 101 : Products

As an aide to those interested in shooting small objects such as jewelry or in this case a tape measure I'm going to start off my tutorials with a tabletop product shot demonstration. First thing I want to point out is I am in fact not using fancy equipment (other then my dSLR) to achieve this. Most of what you'll need you can find around the house already, or improvise where needed. So first, what is needed for this shot?


1. Camera (any kind will do with one caveat, your life will be a million times easier if the camera has a manual mode. I'll go into this in a minute)
2. Product
3. Five sheets of typing paper
4. Table lamp.
5. Tripod (or something to rest the camera on)
6. Tape or 2 paper clips

Let's build our set shall we? First, take a sheet of paper and fold it in half widthwise. Then fold that in half what would have been lengthwise. Fold both sides of that to make a letter W (or M depending on which way you folded). You want to end up with a W shape however. Now, take another sheet of paper and tape the top edge to the arms of the W... You want this sheet to rest against your table and curve up in the back. This is the stage where your product will sit.

Take two more sheets of paper and fold each in half widthwise and set them on either side of the stage fold side up. Take your last sheet and make a small accordion fold along the center
lengthwise. Open it back up and smooth it out only a little (you should have a notch running down the paper, but you don't want it to high, this is only for structural support). Take this sheet and lay it on top of the two folded sheets on the sides, you should have the accordion fold facing up.

Take the table lamp, hopefully it's the kind that is on the arm that you can move around since what we want to do is put the light over the top sheet of paper. What we've done basically is create a tent with the product in the center. The sheet on the back swoops up so it looks like we have a white surface that goes on indefinitely, just what we want.

Place the camera on a tripod or other steady surface (we want the camera above the item and looking down on it). It helps to to back up and zoom in rather then stay close. Make sure you aren't catching any of the edges of the sheets. Having the camera on a tripod or steady surface helps to eliminate motion blur since we're not usually getting a ton of light from the lamp.

Now for that caveat I mentioned about the camera. You can get through this even if your camera doesn't have a manual (or at least exposure compensation) function. The problem is that we want to overexpose the scene. The camera takes an average of what it sees and guesses at the exposure. It tries to put this at a mid grey exposure, so that large area of white is going to look grey if you let the camera do it's thing without intervention. If we can let in more light now we can save ourselves some trouble in having to adjust it in the computer later. If your camera doesn't let you change the exposure we can adjust that in the next tutorial.

That's it. We've just taken our first product shot and if you've done everything right you probably won't need to do much post-processing work. If you do, we'll cover that in the next tutorial.

I would love to know if you use this technique, leave a link in the comments section.

Thanks, Paul


jessmc said...

sounds easy enough, i may give it a shot.

Nil said...

I am living in one bedroom and no place for hiding this light box. It's great. Thank you very much!!!

Felicia said...

Groovy tutorial :)