How to set up a homemade photo studio for product photography?
Product photography expert at PackshotCreator, I would like to share with you my knowledge and tips to help you setting up a homemade photo studio.
Space, equipment and guideline
For this Do It Yourself, we’re not going to waste any time and ask the right questions: how am I going to organize my space? How many products do I have to photograph? Which camera and which lens to choose?
Every detail must be thought out and set in advance in order to be as productive as possible.
Do you have 20, 100 or 1000 products to photograph? Are the shooting frequencies linked to your arrivals, to special operations?
Each question must be anticipated to avoid repeating certain manipulations: taking the product out of its packaging to have to photograph it again from another angle, for example. Here is an exhaustive list of points to have in your specifications:
- How many products do you want to photograph?
- How many images do you want to shoot per product?
- What type of views do you want to create per product (front, profile, top, multi-angles, 360°…)?
- What preparations are needed for my products? Unpacking, cleaning, setting up…
- What format(s)/resolution(s) for your product image files? It depends on their use (print, website, social networks…).
- What nomenclature to better organize yourself? Example: index_suffix_name = Red_shoe_01. The ”01” can also be replaced by the type of view (front, top, three-quarter…).
- The frequency of your shots: every week, every month, every day?
Setting up a good homemade photo studio is not out of reach. It doesn’t have to be a large space and expensive equipment. Internalize and realize your visuals must rhyme with return on investment!
Depending on your products, you will need different types of studios: large space for textile or “compact” studio adapted to macro photography of objects (jewelry). Depending on the volume and the type of products to photograph, you can either use a corner on a room, or a dedicated space of less than 20 m2.
Choose either a closed or open space (in a stockroom) that leaves you enough room to install the necessary equipment. Finally, place a table to put your products to be photographed and another for those already photographed, ready to be sent back to the stock.
- Reflex camera
- Lens adapted to the shooting of your products: macro for jewelry; a zoom, if you have a range of different products…
- Tripod: for stable and sharp shots
- AC Adapter for the camera: infinity autonomy
- Lighting kit
- White cyclo background: you will get neutral visuals on a white background and be able to crop them easily!
- White or transparent support: for neutral visuals or with reflection
- Choose LED lighting for an homogeneous and faithful rendering (colors and textures)
- Accessories to position your products (transparent plastic support, dummy, hanging kit, adhesive tape…).
- Light diffusers and reflectors: they will allow you to play or eliminate shadows or optimize the rendering of colors and textures of the subject.
- Place the studio in a room without light: no risk of having two types of lighting on your product (if the weather is sunny or cloudy)
A production workflow can only be effective if everything is prepared in advance. Let’s move on to the second step: highlighting your products.
A photograph of a dusty product or a crumpled shirt does not make you want to see it. Moreover, photographing well-prepared products allows to avoid a sometimes tedious step: post-production (or editing). So we will take care of our products to show them at their best.
Here are some steps to follow:
- Wear gloves to place the products and avoid any fingerprints.
- Use an anti-dust spray for textured products.
- Use a window spray and a micro fiber cloth for sleek products (glass, metal…).
- For textiles, remember to iron/ steam them well.
Each product family is unique and finding the best angle is necessary to properly showcase your product. Showing as much detail of a product as possible is essential to increase your sales.
It often varies between four and six views depending on the typology of products: each sector has its specificities.
Front, profile, three-quarter, back. For a six-view presentation, we can add a picture from the top and a closeup photo for details (fabrics, seams, materials, etc.).
- front: it’s the first picture of the product, so it has the be the most representative. The camera needs to be levelled according to the product (it means that the center of the camera has to point the center of the product).
The product will have the right proportions without any perspective defect.
- flatlay: usually for culinary photography or fashion photography (clothes, accessories, jewels). To capture a good flatlay photography, the camera and the lens needs to be perfectly parallel to the product to avoid perspective defects.
- worn photography: chosen for the fashion industry, the worn item allows you to imagine the product “in situation” and to help the visitor to see himself wearing this product: a slim-fitting suit, a hat, a ski suit… there are many examples and they all have the same effect: a higher conversion rate.
- For a clear workflow during the capture, identify your products with labels by product family, but also by size, color, material…
- Provide yourself with shooting accessories: hand dummy, head dummy, ghost mannequin allowing an easier background removal.
- For homogeneity do not zoom in / out and do not move the position of the camera, so you won”t have images of different sizes and perspectives, which would distort the product.
To achieve successful product photography, good lighting is essential. It is the driving force in product photography. Product’s rendering online or in a catalog is a determining factor in the purchase decision: the better they are lit, the more detail they have and the more the visitor appreciates!
● Color temperature: it represents, in simple terms, the tone of light: whether a light is rather warm (candlelight) or rather cold (very overcast sky). It is measured in Kelvin degrees and varies from 800°K to 12,200°K.
In product photography we choose a color temperature as close as possible to a neutral light: neither hot (yellow) nor cold (blue). This is called “daylight”, and is estimated at a color temperature between 5000 and 6500°K.
● White balance: it is linked to the color temperature. This camera feature identifies the different light sources and their color temperature to correct them in “daylight” and have a photo, once again, with tones neither too cold nor too hot. LED lighting is the closest to daylight.
As mentioned above, LED lighting is the most reliable source of light for neutral lighting such as product photography. It also has other advantages and that’s why we choose this type of lighting:
- It is a continuous lighting plugged to power socket: guaranted autonomy
- LED lighting can benefit from power dimmers: no need to move the light source closer or further away to change its intensity.
- Unlike flash, LED lighting allows a direct preview of the light impact on the product.
- It is an economical lighting, which is at its maximum intensity as soon as it is plugged in (does not need to “warm up”): ready to use.
- It’s also a light that doesn’t heat up, so it’s perfect for photographing products that are sensitive to temperature variation.
Caro’s tips: the ideal light set
- Number of sources: for small and medium-sized products (max 30cm): five LED sources (three for the product, two for the background) and for large products (human size): eight LED sources minimum (four for the product, four for the background).
- Source size: to have a diffuse light, we will favor a large size light box type lighting, to reduce the contrast of the lighting and therefore the shadows.
- Positioning of the sources:
- on the product: two LED sources on the left and right, oriented at 45°. The more parallel the impacts of the sources are, the more homogeneous the light on the product will be: shadows on the product will automatically cancel each other out. For a configuration with five sources, position a third source above the product, between the first two.
- on the background: position the two sources on the cyclo background as on the product, parallel to each other and to the ground.
- Positioning the product: make sure that your product is as far away from the cyclo background as possible: this will avoid having shadows due to the lighting of the product.
To make a well-exposed picture – neither too bright (burned) nor too dark (blocked) – we need to adjust three variants that are coupled together: if one varies, then so do the other two.
● Aperture: also called camera’s diaphragm. This is where the light enters. The smaller the “f-number” is, the larger the aperture will be, so more light will enter the camera to make the picture. It manages the depth of field: the blurred part in a photo. The larger the aperture (and therefore the smaller the f-number), the more blurred the picture will be.
● Shutter speed: how long the diaphragm stayss open to let the light in. To have a well exposed photo, it will be necessary that a sufficient amount of light enters the camera: neither too little nor too much. If you let in too much light, it means that the shutter speed is too slow and the picture will be “burned”, i.e. too bright. Depending on the environment you are in, there will always be an aperture/speed pairing to create a well exposed photo.
● ISO: they manage the “sensitivity” of the sensor. In the days of film, you could “force” a photo to be clearer by increasing the light sensitivity of the photo film. This is an old technique, which has been applied to digital cameras. If there’s not enough light to take the picture, you have to increase the ISO to get more light. This works well but you should not abuse, because this technique ends up deteriorating the image (adding grain in film, adding noise in digital).
If you want to get quality, true-to-life photos of your products, forget about the all-automatic mode. It may be tempting for a beginner, but nothing beats having control over your production. As you will see below, it’s not that difficult. MANUAL mode position!
- Set your white balance: either in automatic, the camera calculates itself what is the best setting for a photo with neutral tones, or in custom. You have the possibility, with a “gray chart” to directly create your own white balance according to your lighting set.
- Choose your image quality: in general we choose L (wide). If you want to edit on Photoshop, then choose RAW + Large.
- Disable the flash: it would disrupt the whole setup of your studio.
- Aperture: in order to have an absolutely sharp product, and remove the depth of field, we will start on a value of the number f between 11 and 16. The larger the product will be, the smaller the aperture should be.
- Speed: should be slow, in order to have enough light on the picture. We will therefore start on a speed of 1/30 of a second. We recommend to choose a very stable tripod to avoid vibrations and therefore blurred photos.
- To give your camera a boost if your photo is too dark, increase the ISO. Basically, we start with a value of 100. You can go up to 800 if you really need more light. Be careful, the higher you go in ISO, the more you deteriorate quality.
Caro’s tips: what equipment to choose
- Camera: two options, a mid-range camera will be more than enough for photos intended for the web (Canon EOS 90D or Nikon D610), while it will be advisable to use a full-frame camera for print use of visuals (Canon EOS 6D Mark II or Nikon D850).
- Lens: for the photography of medium to large products, one could go for an 18-135 mm or a 24 – 105 mm. For photography of small products (jewelry for example) we will choose a 100 mm macro lens.
- Tripod: stability will be very important in your shots. We recommend the Manfrotto brand, which allows you to position the camera very finely.
A successful product photography rhymes not only with attractive presentation but also with a wealth of information.
If you can’t try on clothes, look at the details of an appliance, the functions of a technical device, or even a piece of jewelry, a visitor is looking for as much visual information as possible. You can equip yourself with accessories that will help you to photograph your products.
- Supports: to raise an object, to wedge it in the desired position, to photograph it from several angles.
- Hanging kit: it will help you, for example, to photograph a handbag and its handle.
- Adhesives: it will help you, for example, to hold a product.
- Ghost mannequins: to take pictures of worn clothes.
- It is both possible to be classic and to have a touch of originality. For jewelry, you can use stone pebble type supports to position a pendant.
– Still shots
– Flat-lay: a classic that has become trendy on social networks, ideal for presenting a single product or a composition of products, such as a gift box for example. It is particularly used for textiles.
– Macro: mandatory to photograph small objects such as jewelry, electronic components or to reveal the details of a product. It is imperatively realized with a camera equipped with a macro lens.
This is the most common step to show a reference under different facets, different shades or tints of colors. It usually involves three to six photos.
- In the case of a pair of shoes photograph each angle of a pair: left three-quarter, front, back, right three-quarter, top and bottom.
- Using a motorized turntable and the position memory of a packshot software will make it easier for you to obtain series of homogeneous multi-angle visuals.
- Learn about new trends or simply pick up ideas by searching for examples by product on Pinterest or Instagram.
- Use markers to mark the angles to be photographed in order to have homogeneity according to the products photographed.
Both allow to break between physical and digital presentation less impermeable.
The two fundamental differences between video and animation come from the format and their use. Animation is interactive (zoom, possibility to rotate it tactically or via a mouse…) and its format, HTML, only allows it to be read and to see all its functionalities used on a website.
The video is certainly not interactive but its format (MP4/.MOV) gives the option to integrate it on a website but also on social networks, on an emailing, etc.
- Having a motorized 360 turntable is essential to easily create animations and videos of many products
- Center the product on the turntable
Without a product photography software, you will have to, place marks on the turntable, degree by degree. You will then photograph the product at regular intervals… Fastidious and especially time-consuming, if you need to create a lot of animations.
- You’ll have to capture 12 to 24 pictures to get a fluid result with an acceptable final file weight for a use on the Web.
- To have a nice result, you’ll have to edit each visual (background removal if the background is not already white, colorimetry adjustment…).
- To be able to display this animation on all browers and devices, you should export this animation as an HTML5 file.
Here we are, the last step of our production flow, and not the least: editing visuals and exporting your files.
For product photography, this involves clipping and color adjustments (if needed). Shooting your subjects on a white background with optimal lighting, as we saw earlier, makes your task much easier. This is because the object stands out from the background. Here, below, is an example of editing:
● In the layers on the taskbar, duplicate the background (background) with a right click.
● Select the magic wand tool, available in the toolbar.
● With this wand, click on the background of your visual
● Adjust the tolerance to select the entire background.
● Once the background is fully selected, create a “curves” fill layer.
● Adjust the curve to obtain a pure white background.
● Background removal is the same workflow, working with layers and selection, except that you will have to remove the background rather than brighten it.
For a 360° animation, you will have to repeat thesesteps as many times as you have pictures.
It is possible, in Photoshop, to set up an export for all the photos of your animation. This is called scripting. You can customize it according to your specifications: format, image size, DPI…
This is the end!
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