September 28, 2012

Reinventing Product Photography

As you may remember, this is where my product shots for Etsy began.
Shot with a Fujifilm FinePix S1000 (discontinued model), 10 megapixels, optical zoom lens, point-and-shoot camera. After reading the owner's manual and changing some settings, image quality improved a bit, as in the shot below.
Now, with a brand spanking new, super duper Nikon D3200 with a 40mm macro lens, using the no flash, fully automated setting. (Click on the image to enlarge it, or look at them in my shop.)
I love this camera. And I haven't even read the owner's manual yet! 

OK, so yes, I have a degree in photography. But I never did take the studio lighting course while at RISD. I suspected I would have taken to it like fly on, well, you know, but the class just wasn't relevant to the type I work I was doing at the time. So here I am, once again, reinventing the wheel.

I have been shooting outside, on the porch where the sunlight is somewhat indirect. I place the ware to be photographed on a piece of white mat board - which I have in abundance from years of framing my own photographs for exhibition. And this is what I get.
Ugh. The exposure is easily fixed in Photoshop, but those shadows. Eegads. Little miss reinvention decides to try to soften the shadows by bouncing the available light off of white panels. What's on hand? The lids from the large bins in which I store my salvaged upholstery fabric and more mat board. This is what the set up looks like with my tripod in place and the trinket keeper on the floor in the center of the box formed with the lids and mat board. 
And here's the same product shot as above, photographed this time with the bounce panels in place. Still too dark, but virtually no shadows. 
Below, the same image after applying "Auto Contrast" in Photoshop.
And after several more Photoshop tweaks. Increased exposure, decreased contrast, increased brightness, decreased saturation, increased vibrance, a little color balance adjustment, and smart sharpening applied.
Not too shabby. Now, to prevent a bunch of those Photoshop tweaks. Here's the shot with the fully automated setting on the camera.
And the exact same shot made with the camera after adjusting the exposure up 2.3 stops.
Which only took 2 or 3 tweaks to become this.
In my usual style, after figuring out all this stuff on my own, I searched "product photography tips" on google. Again, as usual, my light reflector invention is an actual photography tool. Referred to as a  light box or light tent, there are many variations for sale and even more online tutorials for building your own. Here's a few tutorials from Make, Handmadeology, and Digital photography school

More simple product photography tips can be found at Table Top StudioHandmadeology offers a list of links to product photography advice specifically geared to Etsy sellers.


  1. This was a great post. I want to be a photography genius, but I am not, nor have I put any effort into trying to learn. These tricks are just the thing I might be able to wrap my head around for making my pictures of still objects better! :) I love that you have to reinvent the wheel because that always seems to be my solution, too.

    1. Hey there, A. Farmer (methinks I recognize your profile picture - wait, what's that called? avatar? whatever.). The Table Top Studio link offers more easily digestible suggestions to improve still shots of small objects. Well, the first half of the post does, that's as far as I got. May all your reinventions be successful!