I spent much of last week photographing products for Garland Goat Soap of Vermont. After a complete redesign of their product labels, they are now making headway on completely revamping their website. And a new website needs new pictures!
I’ve dabbled in product photography here and there in the past, but this was my first real project. Here’s the inside scoop on some of the things I did on this project.
The main type of picture they needed was products against a plain white background under diffused light.
And how did I create diffused light?
This video and article by IzzyVideo explains the concept very well, and shows you different ways to diffuse light. He is using all professional material, though, so not everyone can duplicate what he does. However, if you’re shooting objects smaller than people, you can create your own little lightbox to get great diffused light by following the simple steps in this tutorial by Terapeak.
I started by taking pictures of one product under three different angles of light. Each angle created a different sort of shadow. I showed these three examples to the client so he could choose the one he liked best. Once a favorite was selected, I set up the lightbox to recreate that effect and ran all the products through that same lighting setup. With over a hundred different products, this was the only feasible way of doing it!
With the setup that I had, it was very difficult to get a pure white background in-camera. Many shots turned out like this:
They required a little bit of editing in Lightroom with radial and gradient filters to get the background completely white:
The most difficult products to shoot were the ones that were white or clear. This one required some brushing in Lightroom. With Auto Mask turned on and Whites (or Highlights in Lightroom 5 or earlier) pulled pretty high, it did the trick well enough, I think, while still retaining the shadows and a little texture in the caps.
I think the trick is just making sure that the background light is even.
Beyond the individual shots, we did what we called “groupies”. Groups of the same product. It was just a matter of creativity to set these groups up in interesting ways.
Once we had everything through the lightbox, I took some time to take some more “environmental” type shots; pictures that had more than just a white background. I wish I had had more time to make these shots more attractive, but there simply wasn’t the time. I relied heavily on product arrangement to make the pictures interesting.
The lighting setup for these environmental shots was pretty simple too. Just bounce flash with a reflector to fill in shadow side. I never got it right the first time; it took many different tries to get the lighting I liked.
Almost every single shot I took on this photoshoot was with the prime 50mm f/1.8. I kept the aperture at f/2.8 almost the whole time because I felt that f/1.8 was just too shallow a depth of field, especially since most of the products I shot had labels on them with text. I tried the 70-200mm once to get a greater depth of field that way, but there just wasn’t room in the places I was shooting to zoom in that far! In the lightbox, however, I was able to shoot at f/11 or f/16 no problem, just to make sure the entire product was in focus.
I also used a tripod for pretty much every single shot. That way, I could use manual focus and quickly tweak camera or product positioning with minute adjustments.
I really enjoyed this photo-shoot, and would do it again at the drop of a hat! Of all the genre’s of photography I’ve worked in so far, I’d have to say that product photography is right up there with landscape!