Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Easy Product Photography Tips - How To Photograph Your Gear

Kodak Transparencies 
Sometimes you may want to photograph your gear. Sometimes you need to do a little product photography. Maybe it's for a blog or publication or Instagram. Maybe you're trying to sell something on eBay. There are many reasons why you might do it.

Product photography might seem difficult, but it's actually pretty simple. I have a few quick tips that should get you on your way to creating some interesting pictures. It won't cost you much money or take much prep work.

1. Light
Three Lenses
Let's talk about light first, which, with any photograph, is the most important part. A lot of people will use studio lights for product pictures. I prefer natural light. An open window on the shade side of a house works really well. It gives a nice diffused directional light that has a timeless quality. I like the light to be somewhere between 45 degrees and 90 degrees to whatever it is that I'm photographing.

You can play around with natural light. The window doesn't have to be the shade side. You can change the angle. Blinds can add interesting light. You can add some artificial light. You can even use a string of Christmas lights to add background and/or foreground bokeh effects. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Remember, a key ingredient to any great photograph is great lighting. Think about light first. Great light can be found all the time, it's just a matter of looking for it. 

2. Setting
35mm Film
You don't need a studio for product photography. A very simple but effective setup is ceramic tiles that look like wood. These can be found at your local hardware or flooring store for a dollar or two per tile. Buy a variety (a minimum of two, but four or more is better), and mix and match. Set one up at a 90 degree angle for the background.

Sometimes I like to use metal for the background. For 35mm Film above I used a cookie sheet. I've also used metal containers. Anything that seems like it could be interesting is something that you might want to experiment with. Even a shelve near a window can be a good makeshift product studio.

Don't be afraid to shoot straight down onto the scene. Shooting from above can give an interesting perspective. Try experimenting with different angles. Shoot straight on, from the side and from above and see what works best for each scene.

3. Setup
Ready For Adventure
One important aspect of product photography that you won't hear often enough is storytelling. Your images should say more than "this is a camera" or anything ridiculously obvious. Think in your mind how things might get the way they are, and then set it up that way. Make it appear as if there is more going on than what's pictured. Tell a story.

Adding elements to the scene can help this. Don't just show a camera, show other photography things with it. Add film to the scene, or a lens or slides. Maps give the impression of travel and adventure. Add things that help tell the story that you made up in your mind. 

I like to use odd numbers when it makes sense (especially three and five). I try to consider color theory, as well. There is a lot that you can consider when you are setting up the shot. You don't have to over-complicate things (and often simple is simply better), but you should think about how everything plays together in the scene, and set it up to be as strong as possible.  

5. Gear
Rokinon f/2 12mm & Fuji X-E1
I left gear for last because it is the least important part of this article. The photograph above shows a camera that I typically will use (I wouldn't typically use an ultra wide angle lens like what's pictured), but what camera did I use to capture that image? I used my cell phone, an LG G4. I even post-processed the image using an app (Snapseed) on the phone. You don't need specialized gear.

Most of my product images are captured with a good quality interchangeable-lens digital camera (a Fujifilm X-E1 for example). I like to use lenses with minimal distortion and that have a fairly close minimum focus distance. A couple of favorites are a Helios 44-2 58mm and an X-Fujinon-T 135mm (which are two of the three lenses pictured in Three Lenses). You don't need an expensive lens or expensive DSLR. Whatever gear you have is most likely sufficient enough.

Helios 44-2 Lens & Zenit-E SLR
I photograph my gear for articles on the Roesch Photography Blog, but also for the fun of it. Sometimes when I'm feeling the urge to capture something but I can't get out of the house, this is a good way to get the picture bug out of my system. I grab a couple of faux wood tiles, a camera, and maybe some film or a map, and begin to capture some studio images of my gear. Pretty soon I've created an interesting image.

Something that I find interesting is that these types of images (pictures of my gear) are often very popular on social media. They seem to get more "likes" than other images. So maybe there is a bigger "need" or "desire" for this genre of photography than you might think. Who knows, maybe some unexpected opportunities might come out of it.

And it didn't cost a whole lot of money. Maybe even less than $10. A product photography studio doesn't need to be expensive. Use what you have and what you can find for cheap.

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