How to DIY your product photography

This weekend Sydney Made invited commercial photographer, Ben Townsend, to host a workshop called DIY Your Product Photography, where attendees learned how to take photos like a pro.

If there’s one thing we learned, you don’t need a big budget to ace your product photography. From styling with props from your studio, to inexpensive lighting hacks, here are our top 10 tips for taking great DIY photos without spending a bomb!

  1. Banish the blur: Use a tripod. Subtle movements of your hand get picked up by the camera and can result in blurred images. This may be almost imperceptible on your phone, but the larger you blow up the photo (eg. on a computer) the more obvious it is. To further decrease movement, shoot with the camera timer on so it takes the photo 2 seconds after you click the button.
  2. Light it up: Take your photos in a bright location with natural daylight. If you don’t have appropriate window light, purchase an inexpensive daylight photography lamp on eBay. Set up a screen between the lamp and your product with a piece of translucent cloth or tracing paper to diffuse the light.

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  1. Fantastic flatlays: For a simple flatlay, lay your products out in a grid format, starting with larger products. Fill the empty spaces with your smaller products to add texture and detail. You don’t need to buy fancy props. Use the tools of your trade such as paintbrushes, fabric or embroidery thread to add character and authenticity to your photos.
  2. Work with a colour scheme: When choosing your props, choose 3 – 4 colours that complement the look of your products. This may include 2 vibrant colours to brighten up the photo and 1 or 2 neutral/pastel colours to add depth.

  1. The elusive white background: Check out this great guide on how to set up your own photo studio and how to reduce shadowing with a piece of white foamcore. Photograph your products using Tip 2 to enhance your lighting. Apps like VSCO and Snapseed can help you adjust and brighten the photo afterwards. However to achieve a perfect white background, you may need to cut out the product (“deep etch”) with an app like Adobe Photoshop Mix. Pro tip: If you have a white or pale coloured product and are having difficulties distinguishing it from the background, try increasing the contrast between your product and the background by photographing on a light grey instead of white background.
  2. Reduce reflections: Reflections can be the bane of a photographer’s existence! If, for example, you are photographing a print in a photo frame and are catching your reflection in the glass, try putting a black cloth up behind you to block the light. For jewellery, cover the front of the camera (and yourself) with a white card or cloth with a hole cut out for the camera to shoot through.
  3. Adjust your angles: For flat products, shoot from the top down to highlight the design and showcase the proportions of the product accurately. For 3D objects, shoot at an angle to show off shape and form. In your product listings, remember to include photos of your product as a whole, as well as in detail (eg. zoomed in on features such as stitching, patterns, gemstones and textures).

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  1. Remember your aperture: The last 3 tips are for those of you who have a DSLR camera where you can adjust aperture, ISO and shutterspeed. The aperture setting on the camera controls the depth of focus (ie. how much is in focus from the front to the back of the shot before blur starts appearing). Smaller numbers such as f4.0 or f5.6 mean a shallow depth of focus and more blur at the back of the image. Higher numbers such as f11 or f16 mean a wider depth of focus and less blur at the back of the image. Choose your aperture depending on what you want to focus on in the image.
  2. Lower your ISO: ISO is equivalent to film speed, which controls the quality of your images. Shooting in a location with more light means that you can use a lower ISO. The best setting for most cameras will be ISO 100. Higher settings such ISO 800, 1600 or 3200 mean that you can shoot in lower light, but will degrade the quality of the image by producing more noise or “static”.
  3. Speed up your shutter: The faster the shutter speed, the less blur you will capture in your image. The recommended (approximate) shutter speed for steady hand held shots is about 1/60 of a second (sometimes showing as 60 in the display). Try to shoot at or above this speed. This can all be avoided by getting a tripod (Tip 1)!

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So there you have it – Simple ways to improve your product photos without breaking the bank. Got some great photos? Show us below!

Compiled by Fairina of Fairina Cheng Jewellery

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