As a photographer, you’ve probably snapped countless photos and selfies with your cellphone. But have you ever considered how your photographic skills could be used to sell products and boost your income? In the modern world, photography is an integral part of the marketing process. So, how do you transition from casual photographer to professional product photographer? This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of product photography and how to kickstart your own business in this field
What is Product Photography?
Product photography is a specialized form of commercial photography where products are the stars of the show. Whether it’s a small gadget that fits in the palm of your hand or a larger item, product photography focuses on presenting these items in the most appealing way possible. Think about the ads you encounter online, the posters and billboards you pass by, or even the product images you see when you shop – these are all examples of product photography.
The goal of product photography is to make the product so appealing that viewers are compelled to buy it. As a product photographer, you need to master the technical aspects of product photography, including lighting techniques, to create the best possible images.
How is Product Photography Different Than Regular Photography?
Product photography differs from regular photography in its purpose and execution. While regular photography gives the photographer creative leeway to depict subjects in various ways, product photography is focused on showcasing a product in a way that makes it desirable to potential buyers. The viewer can’t physically interact with the product, so your photograph needs to provide an accurate and appealing representation of it.
Unlike portrait or fashion photography, product photography doesn’t involve working with models, hairstylists, or makeup artists. All you need is the product and a few essential tools beyond your regular photography kit.
Steps to Becoming a Product Photographer
Ready to dive into the world of product photography? Here are some essential steps and tips to help you get started.
Gather the Essentials
Before you can start snapping product photos, you’ll need a few essential tools, including:
– A DSLR or Mirrorless camera with full manual control
– A lens (most cameras come with a kit lens, which is suitable for beginners)
– A stable platform or tripod for your camera
– A stand or table for your product
– Various types of lighting equipment, such as strobe or continuous lights, for different lighting conditions
– A diffuser or reflector to soften harsh light
– A white background (either purchased or DIY)
– Photo editing software
– And of course, a product to photograph
Master the Basics: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO
To take detailed product shots, you need to understand three crucial elements of photography: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
The aperture controls the depth of field, which dictates how much light can enter your camera. Shutter speed regulates the duration of exposure and determines the degree of motion blur. ISO sets the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. All three elements work together to create a well-exposed photograph.
Even if you’re starting with a smartphone camera, you can usually adjust these settings directly from your phone’s camera app, allowing you to practice before upgrading to a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Mastering the Basics: Composition
Composition refers to how visual elements are arranged in a photograph. Techniques like the rule of thirds, balance, leading lines, focus, depth of field, symmetry, texture, pattern, and color can transform a simple snapshot into a compelling image.
By mastering composition, you can create more interesting and aesthetically pleasing photos, which is especially important if you’re learning how to start a photography business from scratch.
What Camera Should You Buy to Get Started?
When choosing a camera, consider specifications like sensor size (full-frame or APS-C?), resolution, viewfinder dots, monitor type, autofocus, and maximum continuous shooting rate.
Canon and Nikon are two popular brands that perform well under various conditions. Canon is known for its modern lenses with the latest technology, while Nikon offers a range of vintage and manual lenses compatible with their DSLRs. In terms of usability, Canon DSLRs are often considered easier to handle.
However, once you choose a brand, you’ll usually stick with it throughout your career, so weigh your options carefully.
Should You Go Mirrorless or DSLR?
The debate between Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras is ongoing. DSLRs use an internal mirror to direct light to an optical viewfinder, allowing you to preview your image before taking the shot. Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, transmit light straight to the camera sensor, which is then displayed on a monitor or viewfinder.
While DSLRs typically use APS-C or full-frame sensors, mirrorless cameras use the same size sensors in smaller formats, resulting in a more compact and lightweight camera.
Currently, mirrorless cameras seem to be the industry favorite, with many photographers opting for these over DSLRs. So, if you want to keep up with industry trends, a mirrorless camera might be your best bet.
What Lens Should You Get for Product Photography?
There are numerous types of lenses for professional cameras, and as a product photographer, you might find yourself using different ones depending on the specific shoot.
If you’re just starting out, the kit lens that comes with beginner and intermediate cameras should serve you well for a while.
However, when you’re ready to invest in additional lenses, consider a prime lens. Unlike zoom lenses, prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which prevents diffractions and results in sharper images.
For product photography, particularly when aiming for super-sharp, detailed images, a macro lens is highly recommended. A true macro lens has a magnification ratio of 1:1 or 1x. If a macro lens is labeled as 1:2, it’s not a true macro lens.
How to Create a Home Studio for Product Photography
One of the great things about product photography is that you can set up a studio right at home. Whether you’re using your kitchen table or dedicating an entire room to your photography, you’ll need to set up your lights, diffusers, reflectors, white background, and product stand.
If you have a separate room for your photography, consider painting the walls white to achieve a consistent background and prevent unwanted color casts in your images. A white background can also be altered to different colors in post-production.
Consider investing in some basic props to add variety to your photos. The props you choose will depend on the products you’re photographing. For instance, if you’re shooting cosmetics for makeup brands, having makeup brushes on hand can enhance your photos
Setting Up Your Home Studio Lighting: A Comprehensive Guide
As a photographer, lighting can make or break your shot. Understanding how to set up your lighting in your home studio can help you produce stunning, high-quality images. Here, we will explore eleven different types of lighting setups and how they can enhance your subject’s mood and aesthetic.
1. Ambient or Natural Lighting: This refers to the light that exists in the environment, such as sunlight, moonlight, or streetlights. You’re not adding any additional light; you’re working with what’s already there.
2. Flat Lighting: In this setup, the light source directly faces your subject, which minimizes shadows and produces an evenly lit scene.
3. Broad Lighting: This involves placing the light source at a 45-degree angle from your subject. The well-lit side of the subject faces the camera, while the less illuminated side faces away.
4. Short Lighting: This is the opposite of broad lighting. The less illuminated side of the subject faces the camera, while the well-lit side faces away.
5. Split Lighting: In this setup, the light source hits the subject from the side at a 90-degree angle. This creates a dramatic effect where half the subject is bathed in light, and the other half is cast in shadow.
6. Back Lighting: The light source is placed behind the subject. Using reflectors can bounce some of the light back onto the subject, preventing a silhouette effect and maintaining detail.
7. Rim Lighting: The light source strikes the subject at an angle, highlighting the edges and creating a “rim” of light.
8. Butterfly Lighting: The light source is placed in front and above the subject, casting a butterfly-shaped shadow beneath.
9. Loop Lighting: This involves setting up the light at a 45-degree angle to your subject and slightly above eye level
10. Soft Lighting: A large, broad light source is placed close to the subject, producing soft, open shadow edges.
11. Hard Lighting: This is the opposite of soft light. The light source is placed similarly but without a diffuser, creating a sharper contrast.
As a beginner, using artificial or natural light can be your best bet. Shooting during the daytime near a sun-facing window can produce dynamic and high-quality product photos. A fill light can also help reduce the contrast of a scene.
Photo Editing with Adobe Photoshop
Once you’ve got your shots, it’s time to make them shine. While Lightroom is a good choice for image editing, Adobe Photoshop offers more advanced features that can help you deliver clean, professional-looking photos. Mastering tools like the healing brush, spot removal tool, and clone stamp can significantly improve your photos. Practicing with a mobile photo editing software like Pixlr can also be beneficial.
Showcasing Your Work: The Importance of a Website Portfolio
Your online portfolio is effectively your shop window. It allows potential customers to view your work and assess your skills as a photographer. Platforms such as Squarespace and Wix offer affordable, user-friendly templates that can help you set up a clean, modern portfolio website.
Promoting Your Photography: Tips and Tricks
Once you’re ready to showcase your skills, follow these tips to market your photography.
1. Create a Promo Piece: A promotional piece is essentially a mini portfolio that gives potential clients a tangible glimpse into your work. It can feature different photos of the same subject or subjects from various angles and lighting conditions. Professional photographers typically release three to four promotional pieces per year.
2. Cold Calling: Use social media and the internet to find companies that sell products you’re interested in shooting. Introduce yourself and your work.
3. Social Media: Regularly posting and engaging on social media can help you build your brand and attract potential clients. Remember to engage with companies, not just other photographers. Tag brands in your posts and comment on their content to get their attention.
If you’re also interested in videography, check out our post on how to make money as a videographer.
Ready to start earning from your passion? Upload your content on Shutterstock and join our community of creatives!
Starting a career in product photography may seem daunting, but with the right tools and mindset, you can achieve great things. Master the basics of photography and photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, take advantage of natural light, set up a website, and start marketing yourself.
Do you have any questions on how to start your photography business? Feel free to share in the comments below or offer your tips for aspiring photographers.