Glossy mag looks for newsheet money.
October 7, 2007 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I need to photograph some items to be sold online. I want the pix to look as professional as possible and would appreciate any tips you may have re composition, framing, lighting etc. How do I get the glossy mag look for this stuff?

I have a Canon Eos 400D Digital SLR. My lenses are an 18-55mm and a 75-300mm. I have bugger-all in the way of lighting (a variety of homeware halogen and fluoro lamps plus plenty of natural light) and cannot affort to buy any new equipment. I have plenty of props, backdrops and set-dressing stuff. I have one portable tripod and a ladder. The only flash I have is the one on the camera, alas. I have Photoshop CS to help clean up the mess.

The products in question are a motley - sushi knives, paella pans and Moroccan tagines. The knives and pans are shiny and catch the flash too much so I'm trying to work with alternative lighting. The tagines are easier, but I still can't get the photo to really "pop".

What are the trade tricks I need to learn?
posted by ninazer0 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
This might help with the lighting.
posted by Sar at 9:56 PM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Daniel Rutter had a post on his site about how he does his product photography, but I can't find it. He owns a thing that looks sort of like a tent, made of white cloth, which doubly serves as lighting spreader and neutral background.

It was either his blog or his main site, and it included a picture of one of his cats sleeping inside the thing, but I can't find it. Dan? Reading this?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:01 PM on October 7, 2007

Shoot them outdoors on a nice day (late afternoon when the sun isn't directly overhead), items laid out on a black velvet cloth. Tripod, no flash. I also have used pieces of white foam core to make a little backdrop for photographing small items.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:03 PM on October 7, 2007

Ha! Found it! (Linked correctly this time. Mods? Please delete the previous one.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:03 PM on October 7, 2007

And here's a tutorial.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:04 PM on October 7, 2007

Adjust the contrast in Photoshop (or other image editing software) - that can help a lot.

See if you can include something of a known size in the photos to give a sense of how large the items are.
posted by amtho at 10:09 PM on October 7, 2007

Best answer: I'll 2nd the Strobist link. Great resource.

Also, I can't be certain, but the 'tent' mentioned upthread looks alot like the collapsible hampers I see at the Container Store.

What light you use doesn't matter as much if you get used to tweaking the color temperature in PS. If you shoot RAW all you need to do is use a dropper and click on your neutral white (grey) background for a good temperature adjustment.

You may also want to pick up a set of close-up lenses (filter screw attachments). That way, you can include super close-ups of the knife edge, handle, and other details that show the craftsmanship. (my set was $32)

And you're worried about shiny reflections. Even in soft light, you'll get some bad ones. You can get rid of all of those with a circular polarizer (another filter screw-on). (~$20)

I have your same camera and lenses. The 75-300 and 18-55 kit lens both take the same filter size (58mm), so you lucked out there (in case you didn't plan it that way).

And just in case you're looking for camera settings, too, I'd probably shoot at 50mm on the kit lens with the polarizer, 100 ISO aperture priority at f/11, auto exp. bracketing +/- 1 stop. On a tripod. You wouldn't get that shot without a tripod.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:29 PM on October 7, 2007

Best answer: Keep it clean.

White background (don't have it resting against the background - you want the background to be out of focus), bounce any light source you have from a broad white reflector - big sheet of paper or white board (get it as close as you can without it interfering with the framing of your shot) 45 degree angle from the rear, and put some white paper to bounce/reflect the light back frontally.

Use your telephoto for best results and of course a tripod.

Here is the result

This was taken on a shitty point and shoot digital camera without any fancy lighting set ups or props and took about 10 minutes to set up.
posted by strawberryviagra at 11:49 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just a quick additional note on shooting shiny surfaces - and to help you understand why I mentioned broad lighting from behind.

The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection - what you should attempt to do is have the white bounced light source reflect off the surface of your knife/shiny object and back into your lens (mirroring the broad white surface). If your background lighting source is broad and clean, that's what the blade or surface will look like.
posted by strawberryviagra at 12:11 AM on October 8, 2007

I have started using a mirror ( in this case a lorry's wing mirror ) held at approx. 15-20 ยบ above the lens and below the pop up flash. This bounces the flash up off the ceiling and diffuses it enough not to reflect off shiny surfaces. Thus.
posted by Dr.Pill at 3:46 AM on October 8, 2007

AAAAAAA+ excellent ebayer - would buy again!!!
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:16 AM on October 8, 2007

Do not take photos of reflective surfaces while nude. That is Rule #1 for Ebay selling.

Otherwise with shiny stuff don't use the flash. Unless you know what you are doing and have multiple flashes with scrims, grids, softboxes, etc you will fail miserably. Pick an overcast day or in a shady spot with light from the north. Keep it simple, props will be confusing for product photos.Use a plain background with a muted color that may complement the pictures. Also use a tripod.

BTW, you don't want glossy mag style photos. assuming you knew enough about photography, it still takes a lot of knowledge about light as well as equipment and even assistants. Settle for "good photos".

If you want Ebay product photos to be helpful, show separate detail photos. People like to see the condition of the items and makers marks. If I know you have an authentic Spain-made paella pan instead of some cheap chinese knock-off, I will be more inclined to buy.
posted by JJ86 at 5:52 AM on October 8, 2007

I've got a 10D, and recently sold a 300D, so I know what you're working with.

A few thoughts:

- It's probably obvious, but you'll probably want to shoot in either portrait/macro mode, or Av (aperture-priority), depending on your experience. No one wants to see your table or your wall or whatever's in the background. But, watch depth of field to make sure everything is in focus.

- The others are right: you want to bounce the on-camera flash. (Or shoot outdoors! Some of my best 'product shots' were taken in partial shade with the background either much darker or much brighter...) You can improvise quite quickly and efficiently by just holding a few sheets of printer paper in front of the flash and angling it at 45 degrees or so -- a little comes through as nice diffused light, and most bounces for a nice bounce flash.

- Don't focus too much on perfection, especially on eBay. strawberryviagra's shot was so good that I thought it was a manufacturer photo for a minute. I make it a point to never buy from people who just use manufacturer's photos -- I want to see the actual item. You want good photos, sure, but don't focus on perfection, which might be counter-productive.

- If flash isn't working out, throw the camera on a tripod and use ambient lighting. A lot of interior products of inanimate objects are taken at long exposures. You can do a 10-second (or whatever) exposure even in dim lighting, and you can play with white balance. (Does the 400D let you do 'custom' WB? Shoot a piece of printer paper under whatever the lighting conditions are and set WB to that.)

- I usually prefer a longer zoom for 'isolating' the object. 300mm is probably unreasonably long, but I'd use the 75-300 lens over the 18-55mm lens. (But I don't know the close-focusing distance of it, so you may have to be somewhat far away.)

- Watch your depth of field. I know I said it earlier, but it bears repeating. Ideally, you want all of the object in focus (usually), but the background out of focus. But if you're not careful, you'll end up with shots like this, which looked good on the camera's LCD, but turns out to have the antennae (antennas?) out of focus, which is distracting. (And a cluttered background, but I digress.)

Above all: experiment. I think that's the secret of pros: you only see their "keepers." (I had a photographer from a big paper stand next to me at an event for about two minutes once. He easily got off a couple hundred photos. He then moved on to another angle, where I bet he took just as many. Only one photo from the event made the paper.)
posted by fogster at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2007

Response by poster: God, I love this place. Thanks guys - this is just the sort of stuff I need.

Today I'm basically going down the list and will try the approaches suggested. If you think of any anything else, feel free to keep 'em coming.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:31 PM on October 8, 2007

« Older How to become a Repbulican?   |   will a gin spill cause irreparable damage to my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.