Shooting products like cellphones, ketchup bottles and pieces of jewellery is an altogether different ballgame. To begin with, you don’t require wall-high studio lights or floor to ceiling backdrops. What you require is a desk or any solid platform covered with white or black cloth. Of course, there are many tabletop tents available for shoots just like these, but I would like to stress on what you can do on your own without spending a dime.
Without further ado, here are a few tips that should get you started…
Set the props
Props matter most in product photography. For example, if you are doing a jewellery shoot, keeping the earrings with green leaves as the background works wonders. Similarly, having a rectangular crystal works wonders for shooting a cellphone. Or a glossy black laptop for a gold or ruby necklace. Similarly, having mannequins and earring stands help as much if it’s jewellery photography. For other products, the background matters most. Keeping it black and sometimes white is all that is needed.
Lighting is key
More light isn’t necessarily good for product photography. Of course, you can go back a few stops with the exposure compensation button, but still, it’s best to go for optimum lighting rather than full, hard lighting. The standard practice is to have two table lamps on either side evenly lighting up the product, while you take the other corner and shoot. However, if you want to bring out the sparkle in the gemstones, you will need an extra light placed below your camera – it could be an LED torch light that you can ask someone to hold and focus on the stones. Another way is to light up and shoot from the top, keeping your camera parallel to the gemstone stone’s face. For product photography, it’s best to employ continuous lighting from table lamps so you know the final output even before the picture is taken and avoid the unnecessary waste of time and effort.
While there is room for creativity, you cannot shoot in every possible angle in product photography. If you are shooting a gemstone that is supposed to be a pendant worn round the neck, it’s important to show the hook. If you shoot at an angle that doesn’t show the hook, it could be mistaken as an earring. Similarly, certain products need to be shot at a different angle to bring out the best in them. For example, the reflective surface of a cellphone will make you avoid lighting it up from the front. Or even when you do light it up from the front you can take a peripheral shot to avoid capturing the glare on your camera. Similarly, to bring out the 3D perspective of pearls in a necklace, it’s best to shoot from above and light it up from both sides. The pearls will look more full and not flat if you were to shoot it upfront.
While most cameras in automatic mode employ matrix metering for all manner of photography: sports, close-up, portrait, landscape – it’s best to turn on spot metering for product photography. This will make sure that the camera meters the light in the area where you are going to shoot and not everywhere in the frame. This will result in greater contrast and color reproduction.
If you want to photograph a treasure chest full of different products and want every one of them to be in focus, increase the aperture value to 11. You can take it up to 18 but not more, because after you cross the camera’s sweet spot, the background in the photograph gets overexposed and blurry.
Watch the ISO
If you are using continuous light from a lamp or flash studio light, the normal practice is to keep the ISO at 100 ASA. But it need not be because the difference between 100 and 400 ASA isn’t much. But a higher ISO value could make the difference between a usable picture and a hopeless picture. Increasing the ISO could make the picture have more contrast and better color reproduction.
Some products look awesome when a part of them is reflected on the surface they are placed. Here is where keeping them on transparent fibreglass platforms works wonders. Similarly, you could make them reflect against water, plain glass, or even a car’s surface. Anything that reflects.
Sometimes, no amount of tweaking the aperture or shutter speed gives you the right exposure. Here is where, exposure compensation and flash compensation helps. While all DSLR cameras have 0.5 stops all the way to 5, the compact cameras have up to 2, which isn’t to be scoffed at. So make the most if, experiment with under and over exposure and you will soon find the exposure sweet spot.