How to shoot product photography at home
If you’re a small business owner and you’re not yet in a position to outsource your photography, but you still need some super clear product shots to put on your website shop – look no further! I’ve got your back. In this post, I’ll talk you through the steps to shooting really clear and sharp product shots.
Before I do, (disclaimer!) there are multiple ways to shoot product photography at home. I’m teaching you the way that I shoot them, with the equipment that I have. Others might use two constant light sources instead of flash, and others might even have a fancy product tent. Use what you have or what you can afford and get creative.
White card or paper in size A1
DSLR camera with whichever lens you have
Budget tripod - Velbon EF-61 is good
Table next to a wall
White foam boards
Lightroom or Capture One
Tether cable (optional)
Ideally you have a table that you can push up against a wall. This could be a desk, dining table, make-up table or even a board resting on trestle legs.
Tape the top of the sheet of A1 paper or card to the wall so that it falls in a sweep. Tape the bottom of the paper to the desk or table.
I get my card from Cass Art as they have a range of great craft papers - I recommend Canford and Daler Rowney. I get a couple sheets in varying shades of white – sometimes it’s hard to see in the shop exactly what shade it is. Some whites are a little more yellow than others. I buy one in particular that is called ‘ice white’ and works well for me.
The reason for creating this ‘sweep’ with the paper is that if you simply put the product on the table, even if the wall behind it is white, there will be a horizontal line cutting across the back of all your images where the desk meets the wall. The ‘sweep’ of the card provides a non-distracting and smooth background to shoot your product against.
Mount the camera on the tripod and put it on ‘live view’ so you can see what the camera is seeing on the screen. Put one of the products you need to shoot in the centre of the paper so you can find the right distance for your lens on its tripod.
Depending on which lens you are using, you will need to move it further or closer to your table. Adjust the legs of the tripod to get it to the right height. This might take a few minutes of adjusting so have patience.
Take two sheets of white foam and prop them either side of the paper to create two ‘walls’ to block off natural light. I use two photography clamps per foam board to keep them standing upright.
If you are tethering your camera, do so now. I use a Tether Tools cable and plug it into my laptop. Fire up Lightroom or Capture One (whichever programme you prefer) and then click File > Start Tethered Capture and choose where you’d like to save your images.
The advantage of shooting to your computer or laptop is that you can see the images much more clearly on a bigger screen. There have been a number of times I think I’ve ‘got the shot’ when looking at the image on the back of my camera, only to upload it to a computer and see a small detail isn’t quite what I wanted - whether it’s something not in focus or the light isn’t how I want.
If you’re not sure how to shoot manual, here’s a super quick recap on the three settings you need to understand before you do:
When you change the ISO you are rendering your sensor more or less sensitive to light and it plays a key role in exposure. ISO usually ranges from 100 (low) to 12,800 or higher.
If you are shooting in a really low-light situation, you could crank the ISO up to get a brighter image. However, one important thing to remember is that the higher the ISO, the more grainy the image. The ISO affects how colour, highlights and shadows are captured. In general I try to shoot with ISO 350 as a maximum if possible.
For product shots in particular, you want the image to be so so sharp. As you will be shooting on a tripod, with a higher f/stop and a flash, you can easily put your ISO down to 100 or 125.
Refers to how quickly or slowly the shutter releases. The faster the shutter speed, the less time the image is exposed to light and the crisper your image if you are shooting handheld. A common shutter speed I shoot with is 1/125.
Using a higher f/stop like we do in product photography means less light is coming in through the lens, so we want the shutter to stay open longer to compensate.
For product photography, when using a tripod, you can lower your shutter speed right down to whatever you need. I shot these images at 1/10 of a second.
As a side note, if you are not using a tripod, you would avoid shooting with a shutter speed under 1/100 because you’d start to get a blurrier image.
The size of the opening in the lens through which the light passes. The aperture is measured in f/stops and perhaps the opposite of what you might think, f/2 is a bigger opening and allows much more light than for instance f/9.
Aperture plays a big role in depth of field - how sharp or blurry the area behind your subject is. The lower the f/stop, i.e f/2, the less depth of field, the blurrier the background. The higher the f/stop, i.e f/9, the greater the depth of field, the crisper the background.
For product photography, we want everything nice and sharp, so around 8 or 9 would be fine for this.
ISO: 100 or 125
Shutter Speed: 1/10, 1/20, 1/30
Aperture: around f/8 or f/9
There is no exact science because it depends on the camera model, the lens and the product you’re shooting. The above should be a good guide to start experimenting with.
Attach your speedlite to your camera via the hotshoe - the little metal bit on the top of the camera. I use a Yongnuo YN560IV which was around £60 to buy on Amazon. You can buy a branded Speedlite i.e Canon or Nikon depending on your camera model, but this is much cheaper and does just as good a job. Pop up the light diffuser card to bounce the light more evenly.
I shot these images with the flash on 1/32 at 70mm zoom, even though my lens is 50mm. There is no ‘one solution’ fits all, so just play around with the settings until you get something you’re pleased with. Trust your own judgement.
When you shoot, use your diffuser to place over the scene, so in effect you’re creating a three sided box - the two foam boards either side of the product and the diffuser over the top. You want to remove as much variation from natural light as possible to keep your images consistent.
- Play around with the settings until you get the exact exposure you want. Once you’ve found the ideal settings, keep them the same for every subsequent shot, otherwise you’ll end up with variation and inconsistency across the images.
- Pay attention and zoom into the image to make sure all of the text is sharp.
- Look at the placement of the product - is it straight on to the camera or is it a little bit wonky? A lot of product photography is paying attention to those small details.
- When you swap out one product to shoot the next, perhaps mark with a pencil where the last product was sat so you can line up the next one evenly.
- Finally, be mindful of your movements around the set and try not to knock over the tripod, foam etc because if you’re like me, that might happen!