If you're thinking about adding product photography to your list of services, you're not alone. The transition from printed advertising to digital hasn't lowered the demand for high-quality images of merchandise. In fact, if anything, the need for good product shots has grown, since it's easier to update inventory with new items in the digital world.
Providing the kind of images that will sell your clients' products and, in turn, your services is a matter of avoiding certain pitfalls. Fortunately for you, we're here to tell you about the most common mistakes made by aspiring product photographers, so you don't have to learn about them the hard way. Ready? Here they are:
Shooting in Auto-Exposure Mode
Product photography is all about consistent exposure. Differences in color, reflective surfaces, textures and other features can fool your camera's metering system. You set up your studio to highlight the best features of the products, so set your exposure mode to manual to ensure that you get consistent results. You'll shorten your post-processing time, too, which increases your profit margin.
Using a Wide-Angle Lens
Distortion is not your friend in this genre. You're often going to need to get in close to show the detail in small items like jewelry, and even a moderately wide angle is going to warp your images. Most pro product shooters prefer high-end lenses in the 85 - 90mm range on a full-frame camera. That doesn't mean your 18 - 55mm kit lens on your crop-sensor DSLR won't do a great job; just avoid the shorter end of the zoom range. A good-quality 50mm f/1.8 will also do the job well.
Shooting Wide Open
One of the things many novices will struggle with is to use wider aperture settings to blur the background and keep the shutter speed high. Your audience is going to want to see every detail of the items you're shooting. Keep your aperture setting in the f/8 – f/11 range, use a tripod along with a remote release, and use backgrounds that don't have to be blurred.
Shooting Against the Wrong Background
Remember, your job is to show off the product, not the setting. Don't use backgrounds with distracting patterns or textures and keep the color neutral. You can always change a background color in post if the client requests it, but your best best is usually something white and seamless that you can paint with light for the best effect.
I like the backgrounds in the MyStudio® lineup from ProCyc. Their white, 3-dimensional sweep gives you the perfect shape to sculpt gradients, darken or lighten the background with reflectors and/or accent lights and they'll handle any small-to-medium item or group of items perfectly. Take a look at the MS32 Tabletop Photo Studio Kit to see what I mean and don't forget to check out their accessories, like jewelry stands and color-matched accent lights.
Take a look at the great demo video below to see just how versatile the kit is:
Avoiding these four mistakes will get you on track for creating photos that sell products, and that is exactly what your clients want.