Table of Contents
- How to become a product photographer?
- Equipment to get you started
- How to manage the workspace?
- Ideas for product shoots
- Bottom line
If they like the pictures, they buy the goods. You need beautiful pictures for your scenario to be the first case and not the second. There are products that you don't even need to write anything about. For example, jewellery. Just show a photo - the beauty sells itself without too many words. Unfortunately, even such a simple task can fail if you don't have good product photos. That's why you need to have a professional product photographer, study how to set up light and shadow in detail, buy a good and high-quality camera, and know how to correctly place objects in the frame. And then you will realize how it's easily to become a product photographer, especially if you have a great passion.
Proper presentation and photos demonstrate the range and encourage the visitor to purchase from you. That's what it's called product photography job.You can get them in several ways: take them from the manufacturer, pay a photographer, or take the photos yourself. Today, we'll tell you how to take your own photos of the product and the advantage of this approach. Five minutes of reading, and you can already get down to practice.
How to become a product photographer?
A good product photographer enjoys their pictures and also brings pleasure to other people. They might ask to print it, give it as a gift, or post it on their social networks. Or they might just say, "Wow!”. A sure sign is that you'll be asked to take pictures. And they may even offer you money for it, and you'll be very surprised. In competitions, your pictures may win some places, but it's not always necessary.
So, what you must do:
- Understand how to use light.
- Learn to feel the composition that suits the moment. It won't always be a classic composition.
- Learn your technique, manual settings, and semi-automatic modes, and forget about "auto" mode.
- To look at other good pictures and analyse how they were made, in light, composition, technique, conception, weather, perspective, and so on.
- Learn to process photos in any graphics editor, not only with built-in filters but also manually. Basic knowledge of editing is enough.
Equipment to get you started
You can take pictures with anything and use a good smartphone for it. It's only worth spending money on expensive equipment if you want to create a permanent place to take pictures.
Here are a few options that will work great for professional product photography:
Smartphone or Action Camera
For product photography job with a smartphone, we suggest taking care of quality light. Choose an action camera with a 90-degree angle of view - this camera is better for subject photography and will give more panoramic footage.
Digital camera with a fixed lens
It has manual settings inherent to DSLR cameras, such as shutter priority mode, aperture, exposure compensation, and focus area selection. As a result, you can get higher-quality and professional product photography.
Digital camera with a removable lens
In this segment of cameras, the choice of models and lenses for them is enormous. This is a topic that requires a separate article. With any camera on the market, you can make a great subject. It's your choice based on your preferences and budget.
Once you have a camera, you can start organizing your work area: fix the background, set up lights and additional equipment.
How to manage the workspace?
A product photographer's workspace is a special place equipped for efficient work with photos. In order to store photos securely, quickly find and prepare them for viewing, such a place should contain all the tools necessary for the freelance product photographer. Work on a photograph consists of two main phases - shooting and subsequent processing of the footage. During the first stage, the image is captured and stored in the camera. Then it has to be materialized on paper or on the screen of some device. The photographer can do this transformation of photos at the workplace.
For professional product photography, you'll need
- sufficient space for the layout of the product;
- lighting fixtures;
- a tripod.
Now more about each item.
Where to do professional product photography?
The size of the space depends on the size of your product. What do you sell? Jewelry, beauty products, clothes, bicycles? The larger the merchandise, the larger the photo area you'll need. And vice versa, if your goods are miniature, you can photograph them on the kitchen table.
If the goods are large and there is no way to photograph them at home, you can rent a photo studio and shoot there. In addition to ample space, sometimes they offer lighting and other equipment rentals, so you do not have to buy your own.
When you've decided on a photo area, you need to set up the lights.
How to choose light as a product photographer?
It is important to remember that the temperature of the light can be different: warm and cold. It is not so important which one you choose. It is generally a matter of your taste and the peculiarities of the range. The main thing is to have all the pictures in the same style. You can use natural light from the window. But remember that such lighting is unidirectional and changeable: both in brightness and temperature. To catch more light and have more time to photograph during the day, you'll have to hurry, and they take longer to process the photos on your computer to maintain a uniform light style. That's a lot of hassle. So we advise you to use artificial light for professional product photography and take pictures anytime and for as long as you want.
There are two kinds of lights:
- Permanent ones light up when you turn them on and stop when you turn them off. They're cheaper than pulsed lights and are perfect for beginners - put them on, turn them on, and you're ready to shoot.
- Impulse lights are more expensive than constant lights. They work like a bright flash the moment you press the camera button. They are especially handy when you shoot live models or animals - the moving image is not blurred.
Otherwise, the work with permanent and pulsed light sources is not very different. A softbox is a special attachment that diffuses light. A rectangular softbox successfully imitates the light from a window. You can make a softbox yourself. To do this, attach a loose sheet of paper in front of your light bulb. The light in the frame will be softened.
You can use a lightbox or a photo box to illuminate small objects, from jewellery to shoes and dishes.
It's a convenient design with which you don't need additional background and lighting. But if this option doesn't suit you, let us tell you how to properly set the light for freelance product photographer.
Kinds of light: how to set up a lighting scheme?
Depending on the location of the sources, light can be:
Plays a prominent role in product photography job: creates delicate balance, highlights the main object, if there are several objects in the frame, reveals volumes. Aimed at the subject. Drawing light must be the strongest.
Fills in the space gently, "pacifying" the contrast. Generated by a diffuse source.
Creates highlights and reflexes on the object, thus emphasising the plasticity of the volume, smoothing out harsh shadows. Created by a diffuse source or reflector.
- Control and contour
Positioned behind the object. When it glides past, it's backlit. If it shines on the object, it's a contour light. Helps you accentuate the outline and volume of your object, get rid of the background and create an expressive composition.
Aimed at the background. Useful if you want to emphasize the depth of the picture and subtly work with the outline of the object. For example, to highlight part of the background behind the dark areas of the object.
In order for the light to beautifully outline the object, and create the desired length and density of the shadow, it is important to set it correctly. But you don't have to work with every possible light source. Even with just one drawing light, you can get beautifully lit shots. An additional light source can be replaced with a reflector. This will serve as a source of modeling light.
How do you choose the point of view?
One picture may not be enough to get the most complete and professional product photography. You can take several pictures, turning the object being photographed or changing the camera position.
Options for the camera position:
- Horizontal, i.e. on the same plane as the object. This position minimizes distortion of the subject so that you can capture its shape accurately.
- At an angle to the horizon - show the product from the side at different angles. Here it is significant to find beautiful and informative points of view on the object to emphasize its features.
- Exactly above the object, at an angle of 90° to the horizon. Take a picture of the object from above.
It is important to evaluate the informative value of each angle in order to determine which angles are advantageous to shoot as a product photographer. Make the most expressive photo the title of the entire series of photos.
Ideas for product shoots
Clothing and shoes
- Give a touch to your merchandise with photos - try to convey the texture of the fabric and its density.
- Now, it's fashionable to use dense pastel colors as a background for the model - they contrast well with the foreground without drowning it out.
- Show the product from an unusual angle - play with shape, and use symmetry.
- Shoot flat lay layouts, adding small but stylish details for the entourage. When shooting, switch your camera to grid mode - this will help you take the picture clearly at a 90-degree angle
- If you prefer minimalist shots, remember that they should be as light quality as possible.
- Try to capture the texture of the product - lipstick, cream, mascara. Make the pictures "alive" so that you want to touch them.
- When it comes to cosmetics, the customer cares about the composition: show it. Add to the picture the ingredients it consists of, or beat them up with graphics. The same advice will work for a fragrance shoot. Show what's in the bouquet - what flowers, fruits, herbs, spices.
- Your task is to convey emotion through the photo. When thinking up a shoot, imagine your client and create a mood for it. Come up with images and associations that would hook professional product photography.
- Show the subject as an art object and present it in the most unexpected way. Let no one have any doubts that your product is art.
- You can't convey the flavor and aroma of the product, but you can tell them in the photo. To do this, try to convey texture - dense or airy, moist or dry, crispy or velvety.
- Be sure to show the composition of the dish. Add ingredients to the picture, and tell through the photo about the food it's made from.
- Show in the process. The cooking itself looks as spectacular as a result. Besides, it proves once again that the dish is made from understandable products.
- Do not be afraid of unexpected solutions in the composition: now in fashion geometry and minimalism. Who says you can't use them as a product photographer for a food photo?
Jewellery and accessories
- Show the product in action - jewellery and accessories come to life on the body. It is the easiest way to show their actual size.
- Details are essential in accessories and jewellery. Take pictures from different angles, and show clasps, inside pockets, and details of chains. Let the photo allow you to see the product to the smallest detail.
- When choosing a background, ensure it is as "clean" as possible. Concrete, marble, paper in white, grey or pastel shades-anything that sets off your product but doesn't draw attention to it.
Decor and cookware
- When shooting home goods, your photos must be cosy. Add some cosiness to the frame with the same little things you use in life - light candles, pour tea in a cup and put flowers in a vase.
- Show the proportions of objects concerning each other. It's vital for customers to understand the size of the tray or chair they're buying - show them the actual scale in the interior.
- When shooting tableware, convey its texture. Some people like exclusively frosted utensils, some like smooth and shiny ones, some serve everything on porcelain, and some on rough wood spines. Let the customer choose exactly what they like best.
Finally, the most important piece of advice: product photography job is largely a matter of practice. The more you shoot, try new angles, and experiment with light, shape, and color, the better your pictures get. So don't give up if your pictures are not what you want them to be. With experience and skill, you will understand how to become a product photographer. Don't give up on what you've started. Get inspired by professional product photography examples, and everything will surely work out!
How much can you make from product photography?
As of May 2021, the average monthly salary for a product photographer freelance in America is $3,593. That amounts to about $20.73 per hour or $829 per week. According to U.S. job site ZipRecruiter.com, the average income range is $14,000 to $102,000 per year
Is product photography job in demand?
Yes. A freelance product photographer is a profitable and in-demand profession. But to succeed in it, you have to learn and improve your own skills. In this profession, you can only count on financial stability if you have earned a good reputation and have regular clients.
How to choose a background?
The main rule for the background: neutral colors without a pronounced texture or color. Nothing should distract attention from the product. The background can be white, black, gray, beige or monochrome, emphasizing the color of the goods.
Why do you need a tripod?
Using a tripod is the key to professional product photography. A tripod will allow you to photograph objects from a single point and calmly and accurately prepare the product and composition in the frame. The position of the camera is fixed, and no shaking of hands will not spoil the sharpness of the frame, even if you do not have a very bright light.