Product photography isn’t an activity exclusive to product makers, photographers, and online stores. It’s quickly becoming an important part of life for a variety of new media outlets ranging from blogs and affiliate sites to full-blown video production.
Being able to capture a good product shot means having the ability to display and light it in a way that makes its various features and details come alive. Shadows are your enemy, as are backgrounds that provide limited contrast.
So what can you do? You could find a nice, light-colored wood-grain table and some photography lights, or you could go all-out and get what’s referred to as a soft box. These boxes allow you to display and light objects without the presence of shadows and other distracting elements mucking up your product photography shots.
Alternatively, you might want to have a model, or some type of display piece appear with your product. In these cases, a simple soft box just won’t do. You’ll need something a bit bigger. A more elaborate backdrop and lighting solution might be better suited for your product photography needs.
Let’s break down the differences between these solutions, and why each one might be better suited to meet your needs.
Using a Soft Box for Product Photography
A soft box (also commonly referred to as a photo cube) is generally designed to diffuse light from two sources positioned on either side of the cube in order to fill the entirety of a product’s service. A cloth backdrop drops behind and under the product, making a cropped image appear as though the product itself is sitting on a plain white, blue, red, or black surface.
These types of soft boxes are intended to make it easy for you to crop an image out and put it against a completely white backdrop for Amazon or some other distribution channel. This is an ideal solution for product photography shots of objects that are small. Something the size of a mobile phone or a digital camera would be ideal for this type of solution.
Product Photography Backdrop and Lighting System
Sometimes, a simple soft box won’t get the job done. Perhaps you want to shoot video of your object and give it a look that viewers won’t easily forget. Enter the backdrop and lighting system. These types of setups are easy to find online and give you an extremely versatile home studio solution for a fraction of the price you might have expected to pay for something like this just a few years ago.
Having umbrella lights makes diffusion and lighting your subject easy, even when the subject is the size of an office chair or a pair of snow skis. You have a full 10×10 foot area to work in, so your models and display can walk around a little without stepping outside the backdrop. Implement a little chromakey (green screen) trickery, and you can put your subject against virtually any backdrop you could imagine.
The one downside of this solution is that it takes up quite a bit more room than a soft box. You’ll need an 8-10′ area to set up and work in. The umbrella lights are massive, and will take up a lot more space when deployed than a soft box alone.
Regardless of which solution you decide to go with, your product photography shots will only be as good as your ability to work the camera. Find a good camera and learn how to make the most of it. Product shots are made and broken on the positioning and use of the camera. Get this part down, and the rest is easy. Do you have any good product photography tips to share with the rest of us? Please fire off in the comments below!