My First Attempt at Product Photography

I’ve been viewing an excellent video course on product photography (see details below), and it inspired me to try some product photography of my own. 

Keep reading for a “behind the scenes” look at how I shot these photos, and also to see photos that my assistant, Robin, has been getting paid to shoot for jewelry catalogs. 

Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 24-105 f/4 L lens.  ISO 200, 88mm, f/13, 1/30 sec.  Lighting: 1 Canon Speedlite through white umbrella. Click to enlarge

Why Product Photography?

Photographing products, or any kind of objects, has always seemed like a lot of fun to me.

You don’t need to be a “people person.”

Unlike event photography, you are not rushed.  Unlike portrait photography, you don’t have to deal with difficult people and personalities.

Product photography happens in your own home or studio, where you can take the perfect shot at your leisure.  All by yourself.  Taking your own sweet time.

It probably reveals a lot about me that I find this appealing.   And if you’re an introvert like me, it probably sounds appealing to you, too.

One of the Last Great Ways to Make Money in Photography

These days, when everyone has a smartphone with a camera in their pocket, it’s becoming harder and harder to find high-paying photography jobs.

Product photography is one of the last great gigs for serious photographers.  It takes specialized skills, and it’s not going to be made obsolete by a kid with an iPhone any time soon.

How I Took These Photos

Details for the skull photo above: Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 24-105 f/4 L lens.  ISO 200, 67mm, f/14, 0.4 sec.  Lighting: 1 Canon speedlite through umbrella, upper left. 2 Canon speedlights from behind as rim lights. Click to enlarge

Here is my setup for taking these photos.  I pulled out all the stops and used three lights, just for fun, but you could do a pretty good approximation of this without all the fancy gear that I used.  (see the natural light photo below for proof)

For the platform, I used my little stand-up desk (which you see in many of my videos).  You could use your dining room table.  I put a piece of white plexiglass, from a local plastics shop, on top of the table to make a reflective surface.

Materials:

  • 1 Piece of white plexiglass
  • 1 piece of white poster board, for the background
  • 1 roll of gaffer’s tape

The Lights

  • 3 Canon Speedlite flashes (you could use cheap manual flashes instead)
  • 1 Phottix Odin flash trigger & 3 receivers (you could use $20 manual triggers)
  • 1 White shoot-through umbrella (main light)
  • 2 Lumiquest Softbox III mini softboxes (rim lights)

(By the way, if you don't know how to use off-camera flash triggers like this, you can learn that in my off-camera-flash portrait course.)

Here’s an example of how it looked without the powered lights, just in natural window light.  Not bad!  Certainly good enough for selling products on eBay.

Natural window light only.  The windows at left and right behind the setup provide natural rim light.  

After taking the photo of the Yongnuo trigger standing upright (see above), I decided to get fancy and try to make it seem like it was “floating”, or balanced on its corner.

I used the extremely high-tech method of sticking  a wad of gaffer's tape on the back, and mashing it onto the plexiglass while “balanced” on its corner.

The gaffer-tape blob that I used to prop up the trigger in the second photo

Not very sophisticated but it worked.  In hindsight, I don’t really like the way the product leans away from the camera, but it served as proof of concept for the tape-prop.

How My Assistant is Shooting Jewelry for Money

My assistant, Robin, knows some local jewelry designers, and she has been getting paid to do product photography for their catalogs and websites.

Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry.  Shot on a dining room table

Here are a few examples of her shots, done either on a dining-room tabletop or by placing the jewelry on various objects in her home.

 Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

 Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

 Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

Photo by Robin Smith for Julez Bryant Jewelry. 

She’s having a blast doing this—and getting paid for it.

You Can Learn This, Too 

If you’d like to learn EVERYTHING about product photography, I highly recommend the video course that I’m taking, taught by Tony Roslund.  

This is a HUGE course, 55 videos, 20+ hours of content, covering everything from product preparation, to camera work, to the business side of product photography.  

Get it here: The Complete Guide To Product Photography & Retouching  

I hope you have as much fun with this as I’m having—or maybe even decide to make a career of it.


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