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Product Photography – The Basics

Product and fashion photographer June Kim has a tailor-made way about crafting images for her clients. Here, she outlines her workflow for product shoots by detailing her equipment choices and demonstrating how to successfully light a tabletop setup, plus how to create a seamless browsing experience for potential consumers.

product photography-lighting-commercial-photography

Oakland-based product and fashion photographer June Kim has a tailor-made way about crafting images for her clients. Her sophisticated blend of visual simplification and context has lead her to clients like Everlane, TevaJoshu+Vela, Moment, Offscreen Magazine, Photojojo, and Lambert Floral Studio. Here, she outlines her workflow for product shoots by detailing her equipment choices and demonstrating how to successfully light a tabletop setup, plus how to create a seamless browsing experience for potential consumers. Learn how you can capture evenly lit products shots and explore creative stylings unique to you.

Product Photography Tutorial: The Basics

by June Kim

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Product photography may seem overly simple and easy but there are key pieces of equipment to use and principals to keep in mind in order to nail a consistent look and feel. Product photography needs to showcase the object in the best light (no pun intended) to show it off and have it sell well. Especially with e-commerce, photos should be consistent and cohesive for a potential customer who comes to the site wanting to buy something.

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With an appropriate backdrop setup and the right mix of camera and lighting, product photography can become an art form in itself. While working for Photojojo, a fun online camera store specializing in accessories, and other online companies, I came up with a system that worked well for products big and small.

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Camera:
Canon 6D or 5D Mark III camera body
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8II L lens
Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens

Lights:
Two Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 strobes, one on each side of the product at varying intensity with umbrellas.

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For most, if not all products, a tabletop setup will go a long way. Set up the white backdrop (or color of your choice) and place the lights on either side, about 3-4 feet away from the product. The height of the lights should vary—one coming at a higher angle than the other in order to fill any shadows. You should set up the camera on a tripod in between the two, about a foot further back.

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To get harsh shadows and emphasize shape, simply eliminate one of the lights and turn the single light up in brightness. Play with the angle of the light in order to place the shadows exactly where you want them to be.

The Canon 24-70mm was my workhorse and usually the only lens needed to capture all the products. The range of the lens helps adapt to any size room while staying tack sharp. A tip for getting close-up detail shots is to focus on the detail first and then zoom in as far as possible instead of doing a crop in post.

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The Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens helps you get up close and personal with all the details in a way that’s hard to capture even with the 70mm on the zoom lens. To show things like paper texture and the finish on a product, the macro lens is key to capturing all the fine points.

Here are some takeaways I’ve gotten from doing product photography:

  • Consistency is key. Everything from white balance to lighting and shadows should be uniform and easy to navigate. If you see the front page of Photojojo, all the images have the same basic white background color in order to create a seamless browsing experience.
  • Become one with your lighting. Whether you’re using AlienBees, Einstein strobes, or Profoto flashes, learn it inside out and experiment in order to understand it even better! Lighting is your best friend.
  • Keep the camera setup simple. No need to fuss with multiple lenses, especially while doing product photography.

For more lighting tutorials, check out these related how-to’s:

Lighting for a Catalog Shoot

BorrowLenses’ Guide to Lighting Sync Cables

Lighting and Photographing White Seamless Background Headshots

Two Lighting Styles in 1 Shot with the Pocket Wizard MultiMax

Tags: , Last modified: May 22, 2020
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