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Product Photography Tutorial Part One: Camera Setup & Choosing a Studio

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Over the coming weeks, PhotoGeeks will be presenting a 4-part product photography tutorial aimed at beginners who are looking to set up their first studio. The series will cover choosing the right hardware, setting up a studio and finally editing your photos.


Part One: Camera Setup & Choosing The Right Studio

When it comes to selling online or in print, most will agree that a good product photograph can make the difference between a sale or a page exit. Having said that, product photography continues to be a struggle for most sellers and for good reason. It can be technically challenging and something that at times needs a lot of trial and error to get the right shot.

Thankfully, there are lots of tools and methods out there for photographers who are looking to embark on product photography for the first time. We’ll help you with this process by showing you exactly what you need and how taking great product photos doesn’t have to be expensive or hard work.

Which Camera?

There is a vast selection of digital cameras out there to choose from and no doubt, you will already own at least one form of camera (even if its on your phone). But, not all cameras offer the same settings or quality.

If you are looking to create the best photos possible, you will be wise to invest in a DSLR camera. A DSLR camera (or digital single-lens reflex camera) will offer the very best quality image, the greatest number of settings and interchangeable lenses.

They start at £300 and go right through to £10,000+. When it comes to product photography they will capture the greatest of details and make your photos look more professional.

NIKON D3100 can be purchased for around £300

If you are unable to access a DSLR camera you can still take photos using a compact or simple point and shoot camera. However, you won’t get the same kind of quality as a DSLR. When it comes to smaller cameras, you will find you do not get the best results in low light conditions, or when it comes to fine detail photography (for jewellery as example).

In our next tutorial we will be showing an example in the differences between a DSLR and a simple point and shoot camera.

Setting up your camera

To reduce camera shake (and to allow you to use a small aperture setting) it is essential you mount your camera on a tripod. A basic tripod won’t cost you much and will allow you more freedom to perfect your shot.

The next thing to do is get your camera settings ready.

AUTO: Turn your camera setting to Auto (or A). Unless you are a very experienced photographer who knows how to set up exposure on your camera, its best to stick with the Auto feature (even on a very expensive DSLR!).

ISO: The ISO setting on your camera changes the cameras sensitivity to light. Most cameras by default have this number low (the higher the number, the more light can be taken in - and will result in a grainy image). If its is not already set, change the ISO to 100 or 200.

File Type: More advanced photographers will use RAW file types which allow for more flexible editing. However, you will need software such as Adobe Photoshop for this. Instead set your file type as JPEG/JPG. You'll still be able to edit your photos successfully with this format.

Turn off filters: Many modern cameras come with an array of built in filters. Turn these off. Any additional filters can be added later in editing and you will still have your raw file for future use.

Timer/Remote: Some photographers like to set their camera timer (3 seconds) or use a remote to take the image. This is to allow them to step back from their camera to reduce shake (if you have a wobbly floor for example). This isn’t something that is always needed and may be trial and error to see what you think works best for you.

Viewer: Most digital cameras have a LCD viewer on the back to view images. As you set up your camera you will need to take photos to check your settings. Some photographers prefer to view their images on a computer screen, rather than the inbuilt viewer (purely because its smaller). You can buy a lead which will allow you to connect your camera to a computer so you can view images on a larger screen as you take them. This is personal choice and will depend on how you prefer to work.

Camera Lighting

Most people will ask “do I need additional lighting for my product photography” and the short answer is YES.

Having a good camera is only half the battle when it comes to taking better product photos. You must light your object in order to achieve the best results and the cameras own built in flash will rarely do this.

The best form of lighting for product photography is continuous soft lighting. This will give you an even, soft spread of lighting over your object, reducing any harsh shadows or spots of light normally created using a camera flash.

The type of lighting and studio set up you need depends on the type of products you want to photograph. For smaller items a light tent is an excellent diffusion option. This is a table top cube which is lit from the outside. The product goes inside the tent. This studio setup is relatively inexpensive and very easy to set up.

PhotoGeeks offer a number of light tent kits for beginners in our store.

If you are looking to take photos of much bigger items, such as furniture or sporting equipment, you may be better suited with a white cotton backdrop which is hung from a frame. This type of set up also works for portrait photography or for businesses looking to photograph fashion on a model.

In our next tutorial we will take you through the process of setting up your studio and taking your first photos using a PhotoGeeks lighting kit. We would love to see some of the photos you take by sending them into us.

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