Whether you’re taking photographs of products for use on ebay, or to produce an on-line store selling products, or simply to have an accurate photograph of treasured posessions, hopefully you’ll find this 7-step guide useful.
I’ve been taking product photos of digital cameras for over two years, and photos of other products for use on ebay for even longer. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve been able to get to a point where I can regularly produce consistant results that, in my humble opinion, look better than some manufacturers own pictures! This guide explains the process required to acheive similar results!
Product Photography Setup shown above*: the Panasonic Lumix FZ3 in macro mode with custom white balance, on a tripod, grid lines displayed on screen, light bounced off ceiling, photographing the Ricoh GR Digital.
1. Make sure item to be photographed is clean, use a clean cloth
2. Make sure camera lens is clean and free of dust and dirt, use an optical cleaning cloth, such as a spectacles / glasses cloth or a camera lens cloth
3. Get a good lighting setup – either outside using daylight, or using bright indoor lights, preferably through a light box (excellent guide on how to build your own here), or bounced off a ceiling or wall. Avoid shining bright lights directly at the object, as this will cause burnt out images (note the bright white areas on these photos where it should be grey), and avoid using the cameras built in flash, as this will also cause overexpossed highlights (an example from an early review).
3. Use a digital camera with custom white balance (also known as manual white balance), and set before every batch of photos, this should stop the images looking yellow, especially when using artificial lighting. If your camera doesn’t have a custom / manual white balance setting (if unsure, please refer to your cameras manual), try the built in white balance settings, such as ‘Tungsten Light’ (lightbulb symbol), or ‘Fluorescent Light’ (tube light symbol) – if these still don’t produce good results, then you will be best taking photos outdoors using natural light.
4. Use ‘Rule of Thirds’ / grid lines if you digital camera display has them, as this should help line up the product, and make vertical / horizontal lines stay straight (if so desired!)
5. Set the digital camera to macro mode if the object is small or close up, if auto-focus struggles, see if you camera has manual focus, and if it does, use manual focus to focus correctly.
6. Use the optical zoom if possible to avoid barrel distortion, and darkened corners. (examples can be found in these photos – note the distorted camera and dark corners) – using optical zoom can also help remove unwanted background objects.
7. Use a tripod to help take blur free photos, or use a camera with built in image stabilisation, such as a Panasonic Lumix. You may need to increase your ISO setting, but be aware that this will increase noise (as seen in the example below), and may need editing out.
Be prepared to do some work in Adobe Photoshop (or similar paint package) to adjust the levels, curves, etc to produce a white background – be prepared to edit out any small blotches / marks in the background, or scratches or other defects in the product (Update: although not if you intend to list the product on ebay!). Using a white background seems to help produce better results both in the camera (for example a green background may throw the camera colour off), and in Adobe Photoshop. Once the image is resized, apply sharpening.
The end result: A Ricoh Caplio R3 product photo.
* My current setup uses a white desk, and a white painted wall – due to the difference in textures, and slight gap between the desk and wall, there is often a line visible in product photos – this could be edited out in Photoshop, or alternatively a different curved background, perhaps from a white peice of A4 paper, or a lightbox setup, could be used to remove the line.
If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, feel free to get in touch!
More links: Create your own DIY lightbox