Make it "pop"!
This month I have decided to touch on product photography! Below are some examples of the work that I do at my current job, mainly as on-location setups. Occasionally there are opportunities for photographs of the interior and exterior of homes, and so I will include of few of those too. For the most part, the product photography that I do involves keeping the product on a neutral background- white, black, or gray. But in some cases this is not always possible to do in-camera, so items might be added to a neutral background in post-processing. In certain instances, such as with large furniture, it may even be best to just photograph the item in its environment, and leave any heavy post-processing out entirely.
When photographing on white, I personally keep my lights aimed at a 45-degree angle towards the background and keep the product about a foot away from the back in order to blow out the whites and make the product “pop!” Doing this ensures that there is no gradient of light or shadows to detract from the beauty of the item. I tend not to do much editing in post, but I do have various presets I created for black sweeps, white sweeps, strobes, external flashes, gradient lighting, environmental backgrounds, etc. This slight editing includes things such as a white boost, shadow increase, and slight contrast adjustment. I make sure to get cropping, white balance, and exposure correct in camera to move quickly through the editing process.
**[Bonus with the Olympus OMD-EM1: You can actually change your ratio to shoot at a 1:1 square in-camera! There is also a feature called "Myset" within the menu where you can set each "Myset" to remember a combination of up to four settings. This makes for easier transitioning between various environments as you can simply select "Myset __" instead of having to change all of your settings back and forth individually! Other camera models may have this feature as a "User Preset" or "Custom setting" option.]**
Exceptions to this are when I am photographing objects such as glass or white objects on white. To define the edges in camera if needed, two pieces of black mat board could be vertically stood up off to the side of the product (so that it can’t be seen in-camera) in a location that defines the edges through reflection of the boards in the item. I encourage you to look up more on the technique as it can come in handy! Otherwise I focus on lighting the subject as needed and get the exposure for the object correct in-camera, and simply boost the whites even higher in post, or use the gradient tool in Lightroom with an exposure boost, to blow out that white background again. Just be careful not to boost them too high or it will create an odd contrast to the photo, and start changing the true colors shown.
Furniture is a little different. If shooting in the environment and unable to put on a sweep, or unable to edit later, strobes or external flashes will become your best friend. Not only will this make sure your image has adequate and even lighting, but it will create a slight contrast to the item that makes it seem to stand out from its surroundings, re-introducing that “pop” to give it life! I like to keep my flash power level low, my ISO low (around 100- no more than 250 in some situations), my shutter speed at 1/250 (to sync with the lights), and my aperture around f/9 to ensure enough depth of field that the entire item is sharp and in-focus, but the background still blurs just enough to help the product stand out.
Lastly, here’s a quick tip for shooting macro: keep your aperture high! The larger the number, the greater the depth of field. If shooting macro shots of jewelry and other small items handheld, it is especially important to make sure that your depth of field is not so shallow that moving half an inch won’t push the main section of the product out of focus. Shooting with a 60 mm macro, I tend to bump my f-stop up to around f/16 with jewelry. This ensures that the gem, prongs, and front of the band or chain will stay in focus, highlighting its most important feature.
Hope you enjoyed my few tips and tricks, now get out there and experiment with some fun product photography yourself!