Product Photography

I’ve somehow manage to clock up almost three weeks since my last post. The day after I published London at Night: Covent Garden, I conducted one of my first ‘commissioned’ photography projects. For that, I ended up taking over 1,100 images, and headed straight into editing them. I’m still editing them. This is the eternal dilemma I face for this blog: do I process the smaller posts and get them out quickly, or spend time concentrating on a bigger set of images and let things go quiet for a while? For the last couple of months I’ve been doing the former, working through my backlog and getting posts out roughly once a week. Doing this, however, has left a few 1,000+ image sets waiting months for processing. Fortunately, I’m on my winter break from work, and I’m hoping to have the time to go through those shots over the next couple of weeks. I’ve completed my first pass of the other week’s shots, and hope to have them published before the new year.

My Xmas break is often the time for little side projects that I wouldn’t always get the time to do when work is being a constant mental and physical burden. This is one such project.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to add images to my Kit page. I gave it a go a few months ago and the results were pretty flat and dull, so I decided against using them. But ever since  my brother-in-law expressed an interest in getting me to shoot some of the product for the company he works for, I’ve been meaning to try again. And this time out, I had a flashgun – and I knew how to use it.

1/25sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm

To start with, I grabbed a white sheet, lay it out on my bed and used a drying rack to prop up the back to give me a backdrop. I then set my flash up on wireless mode with a diffuser and put it to the side of the camera. It all looked a bit like this:

Then I started cycling my various bits of kit in the shot. I started out shooting using Aperture Priority mode, but that often doesn’t seem to take the flash into account, and sets second-plus long exposures, so I switched to full manual, started with an aperture of f/5 and a shutter speed of 1/6th.

1/6sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm
1/6sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm

Obviously this wasn’t the best framed shot, I somehow managed to cut the bottom of the lens out of the frame. The room I was shooting in was very poorly lit, I didn’t turn on the main light to avoid casting a tungsten hue on everything which would have clashed with the temperature of the light from the flashgun. The dimness of the room, however, caused another problem – there wasn’t enough light for the autofocus to latch on to the subject, even with intermittently firing the flash, so I switched to manual focus as well.

I moved on to shooting my telephoto.

1/6sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm
1/6sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm

As you can see, there was yet another problem I was facing: the softness of my bed was allowing the items to sink a little into the sheet. I tried to minimise it by flattening out the sheet as much as I could and placing the items delicately on the bed, but it didn’t do all that well. Next time I’ll put something firmer under the sheet, like a cardboard box or some such thing.

Not liking the angle of the lens so much, I played about with the positioning a little. I soon realised I should close up the aperture a bit to get more of the subject in focus.

1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm
1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm

I then figured, upright would look best.

70-300mm telephoto

With the smaller aperture, I went back to have another go at photographing my macro lens.

1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm
1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm

I then moved on to my ever trusty nifty fifty, which proved to be a bit easier to shoot.

1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 87mm
1/6sec, f/9, ISO 200, 87mm

Obviously, you can still clearly see the fluff of the sheet at the bottom of the lens. That I’m not sure what I can do about, apart from buying better quality fabric. Still, it works quite well as a backdrop.

I then decided I wanted a shot of the iPhones I’ve owned over the years. I bought my first iPhone a few days after it came out in the UK, and since then I’ve owned four, one of each major form factor. Being a bit of a hoarder, especially when it comes to electronics, I still have all of them, and decided to display them together.

1/25sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm
1/25sec, f/9, ISO 200, 52mm

Looking at this image now, I see a couple of problems. Firstly, there was some dust on the screens I didn’t clear off, and secondly the pile of iPhones isn’t quite straight enough. It is, however, one of my favourites from this set.

My GorillaPod was up next; at first I shot it upright since that made more sense to me at the time. I should have positioned it better, however, since from the angle I chose it looks like it only has two legs:

1/25sec, f/5, ISO 200, 30mm
1/25sec, f/9, ISO 200, 30mm

I’ve upped the exposure in post production to try to bleach out the background. It hasn’t worked all that well. I tried a shot of it lying down too, which came out in a better quality, but didn’t work as well as an image of a tripod.

1/25sec, f/9, ISO 200, 42mm
1/25sec, f/5, ISO 200, 42mm

Then I hit a little quandary. I wanted to shoot my wider angle lens. But I was using it. I hoped – but wasn’t entirely certain – that the 50mm would do the job. I was silly to doubt it.


The main issue? For some reason, this lens is more reflective than the others. I suspect it is something to do with it being the only EF-S mount lens in my kit bag, and I always associate that mount with being of cheaper build (which isn’t necessarily true, of course; I get ideas like that stuck in my head all the time).

I’ve already updated my kit page with these new images. I’m not one hundred percent happy with them; I’d love to come back at them with a firmer surface and, ideally, a second flashgun to even out the light a little more. Still, this has served as good practise, especially for shooting the cupboard full of stuff I have to stick on eBay as part of my winter home project (which will hopefully turn the currently neglected spare bedroom ‘study’ into a far more pleasant home office/study space) – I’m sure images will be forthcoming when it’s all done).

This is probably my last post before Christmas, so I hope you have a good one.

Merry Christmas!

2 thoughts on “Product Photography

  1. petit4chocolatier December 24, 2012 — 12:06 am

    Love your post. I feel like it is a lot like the 12 Days of Christmas or cameras 🙂

    I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!


    1. It is a little, isn’t it? One of the ways I now realise that I’m destined for photography is that lenses are pure pornography to me 🙂


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