July 22, 2018, 01:14:14 AM

Author Topic: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?  (Read 1265 times)

cayenne

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Hi all,

I saw a post from a new person to the forum, that can't at this time start a thread, that asked on another thread about how folks set up and shoot products.

I've been thinking about dabbling in this area myself.

I've got one of the photo 'tents' that you can put smaller products into, and have your speed lights/strobes outside that will help diffuse the light....do many use this type of thing?

What about light painting of products?  I've seen some videos and talks about doing that with some very interesting and impressive outcomes?

And also...you see a lot of folks, shooting the proverbial beer bottle shot....with products used to simulate bottle sweat and ice crystals (bringing up questions of food styling, etc)....and most of those using multiple shots to not only composite with different light placements, BUT, also....for some focus stacking, like to ensure that the table on the bottle body and the neck/cap are all in tack sharp focus.....

The latter also implies a LOT of photoshop work in compositing the final shots.

Anyway, these are some topics I've been starting to look into and it all sounds fascinating.

Could any of you pros tell what type of set up with equipment and all you use?
Props?
Shooting for composites and your techniques?

What about the business side of it? How do you get new clients? Licensing of images?

Hope this gets a good discussion going as that this looks to be quite interesting.

Thanks in advance!!

Cayenne

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LDS

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2018, 12:58:30 PM »
IMHO it's a complex matter, a lot depends on what product you shoot and for what target - i.e. a simple catalog may be very different from an ad or a magazine page.

I've got one of the photo 'tents' that you can put smaller products into, and have your speed lights/strobes outside that will help diffuse the light....do many use this type of thing?

They are useful for some kind of subjects, especially high reflective ones, and to shoot quickly on a fully white background.

And also...you see a lot of folks, shooting the proverbial beer bottle shot....with products used to simulate bottle sweat and ice crystals (bringing up questions of food styling, etc)....

There are some props like fake ice cubes and the like, and each field has its tricks, but sometimes there's little need. BTW, photographing a beet bottle usually requires to light properly the beer itself, there are some classic examples in lightning books.

and most of those using multiple shots to not only composite with different light placements, BUT, also....for some focus stacking, like to ensure that the table on the bottle body and the neck/cap are all in tack sharp focus.....

That's IMHO one of the reasons Canon added more TS lenses.

The latter also implies a LOT of photoshop work in compositing the final shots.

Again, depends on the target. Some images are heavily edited, others may not.

Could any of you pros tell what type of set up with equipment and all you use?
Props?

What are you going to shoot?


cayenne

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2018, 02:50:33 PM »
IMHO it's a complex matter, a lot depends on what product you shoot and for what target - i.e. a simple catalog may be very different from an ad or a magazine page.

I've got one of the photo 'tents' that you can put smaller products into, and have your speed lights/strobes outside that will help diffuse the light....do many use this type of thing?

They are useful for some kind of subjects, especially high reflective ones, and to shoot quickly on a fully white background.

And also...you see a lot of folks, shooting the proverbial beer bottle shot....with products used to simulate bottle sweat and ice crystals (bringing up questions of food styling, etc)....

There are some props like fake ice cubes and the like, and each field has its tricks, but sometimes there's little need. BTW, photographing a beet bottle usually requires to light properly the beer itself, there are some classic examples in lightning books.

and most of those using multiple shots to not only composite with different light placements, BUT, also....for some focus stacking, like to ensure that the table on the bottle body and the neck/cap are all in tack sharp focus.....

That's IMHO one of the reasons Canon added more TS lenses.

The latter also implies a LOT of photoshop work in compositing the final shots.

Again, depends on the target. Some images are heavily edited, others may not.

Could any of you pros tell what type of set up with equipment and all you use?
Props?

What are you going to shoot?

Hmm...well, you had to ask the "tough" question, eh...what do I want to shoot.
;)

Well, I think I want to shoot some sort of bottle first. I dunno if I want to start right off with the "frosty" beer bottle look, but maybe a regular beer bottle, or maybe a nice liquor bottle type thing.....

I'm really into learning compositing, so I think that might be fun to try first.

I was considering renting a T/S lens....I have just about any other lens I would ever want, but not a T/S.
Does it really give you that much advantage?

TIA,

cayenne

LDS

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2018, 04:07:41 PM »
Well, I think I want to shoot some sort of bottle first. I dunno if I want to start right off with the "frosty" beer bottle look, but maybe a regular beer bottle, or maybe a nice liquor bottle type thing.....

Lighting glass, especially transparent one, and liquids inside, requires some specific techniques - if you're not already skilled books like "Light: Science and Magic" will teach you the basic. At least you'll need one (sometimes two) lamps, a background of the desired color, some diffusion material, plus white and black cards you can cut as needed. And of course something to support everything safely. You may also try to take advantage of ambient light, windows and curtains, if available.

But it could be advisable to start with simpler subjects, and then increase the difficulty level.

I was considering renting a T/S lens....I have just about any other lens I would ever want, but not a T/S.
Does it really give you that much advantage?

Not needed to begin, IMHO, especially for subjects like bottles - they become useful for specific setups where they can be exploited fully. Otherwise focus stacking is a better solution, if DOF is not enough otherwise.


Bennymiata

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2018, 10:47:54 PM »
Product photography is not a glamorous job. It can be very hard work.
I've been doing paid product photography for some years and there is no one "right" set-up.
Every job is different, and many of my jobs are done on location, usually at the premises of the company I'm shooting for.
Working in a studio is the easiest to control, but when you are faced with photographing large items in situ, that's when you need to think of how best to get the job done.


As a minimum you need a couple of good studio lights. Constant lighting is OK for some applications, but I find you really need the power of studio type flashes, and if you can afford them, get the battery powered ones as you will have to cart them around and you don't always have AC power available where you want to shoot.
For example, I was called to photograph a huge V16 generator. This generator was installed on the 5th floor of a yet unfinished apartment block and as the power was not turned on, I had to cart my gear up the 5 floors via the stairwell. When I got there, there were no windows and it was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.
Many of my jobs involve larger items such as large cowhides and you have to pick them up and place them, then clean them up and brush them to look nice, then photograph them, put them back and grab the next skin etc. It's hard work, even getting the lighting to work out well for such a large horizontal item.

Then there is the processing.
It's fun to process a couple of dozen of your own shots, but when you are faced with doing a few thousand shots after you've shot a whole catalogue of images, takes time and patience, and the customers are very fussy when it comes to colour correcting too and when the room you've been photographing in has 5 different colours of light coming into it, correcting can be very time consuming. I sometimes have to go back to the customer and compare the shots with the real items and them colour correct on my laptop.
Most people want all the shots on a pure white background and this can cause other problems too. Try putting a pure white hairy skin on a white background. No photography technique I've seen helps much with this, so you have to select the rug and all the hairy bits on the edge, cut it out of the photo than put it on a white background.

While photography technique is very important in product photography, post processing is even more important in many ways. If you are photographing regular shaped items like sample boards for wooden floors, the item has to be perfectly square in the image, reflections reduced to the minimum, sharpened properly with good colour and contrast. Then you need to put the customer's logo on the photos.
Customers expect the world from you even in adverse conditions.


There is so much more to product and food photography than you can possible put into one post, but if you want to get into it, you need to practise on all sorts of items, large and small and get proficient in post processing.

Here's a shot of the generator.


Talys

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2018, 01:46:33 AM »
First of all, more important than any product, I would highly encourage learning about light, how it is captured by different surfaces, and basically, how it "works".  A book I strongly recommend is Light Science and Magic.  Having an understanding of how and why will dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend in post trying to fix things that could have been perfect out of camera.

Frankly, if you understand light well, a few pieces of white cardboard, a window, and an off-camera flash can do miracles. 

As others have mentioned, a lot depends on what you want to photograph.  The SIZE of what you want to photograph matters greatly.  If you photograph a variety of things, you end up with a huge variety of lighting and lenses.  Also, if you do location shoots, your gear will be radically different from if you have the products sent to your studio, because in the former case, being able to take it there and set up quickly is very important.

A few very useful tools, in my opinion, if you want to spend less time in post include things like:
- Paper rolls for backdrops - because fabrics wrinkle
- A good tripod, preferably with a geared head - to record things like angles so that you can use the same settings for another batch
- Good light stands - don't go cheap, because the cheap ones die very quickly
- Gaffer tape - to mark positions and to, well, tape stuff down without ripping things or leaving residue
- Reflectors - white and silver in various sizes
- A way to control off camera lighting

From there, the type of lighting you need depends greatly on the size of products.  If your products are quite small (the large Starbucks coffee or smaller), you can consider inexpensive LED panels.  Other than that, consider types of softboxes, and then how you want to light them, which will usually involve a choice between continuous lights, flashes, and strobes.

I wouldn't get sucked too much into the hype of expensive strobes or high CRI lighting and all that.  At the end of the day, light is light and results from cheap light and expensive light is pretty much indistinguishable for all practical purposes for product photography, as long as you're using the right sized modifiers and positioning those modifiers correctly.

On the other hand, I you will really appreciate good equipment if you do a lot of work.  Cheap stuff falls apart, and there is value in robust equipment that is fast to put up and take down, stores well, and lasts years.  Plus, great, professional lighting has fast cycling time and will just work when you want it to work.

But on the inexpensive end, I have had very good luck with Yongnuo's system.  The Godox AD200 are a very nice intermediate, lightweight strobe, and the Godox AD600 Pro is an excellent, yet inexpensive full size studio strobe -- but it's overkill for almost all product photography, with its primary benefit being that regardless of battery power level, the output will be the same.  If you want to go full-on pro, you can rent Profoto in other cities, so that is a good system for investment.  But I suspect that is not an issue for you at the moment.

For modifiers, start with cheap ones on Amazon, and if you can afford it, get the rapid-setup ones.  Rod and ring ones are miserable for setup/take down, especially the no-name brand ones, but at the end of the day, once again, they all do the same thing.

Good luck, and experiment lots :)

Valvebounce

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2018, 10:06:03 AM »
Hi Benny.
I hope this was the shot you took and sent the person that hired you so that they knew to send in the cleaning crew.
To me there are so many things wrong with this shot.
1. The machine is filthy unless this was supposed to show how rugged the equipment is!
2. A torn box for some product, possibly someone else’s product.
3. A bunch of as yet unfitted stuff with a polyethylene bag stuffed in it.
4. A concrete block up against the machine.
5. A power lead draped untidily across the door.
I realise that much or all of this is outside of your control yet it could reflect poorly on your work, unless the aim of this was to document the poor state of the installation in which case it would pay you to emphasise this as it changes the whole context of the shot.
I hope you will see this the way I intend it, as constructive criticism. I’m no product photographer (some may say I’m no photographer at all!) though I have tried product shots for fun and it is not easy, what I offer here is an eye for detail.

Cheers, Graham.

Product photography is not a glamorous job. It can be very hard work.
I've been doing paid product photography for some years and there is no one "right" set-up.
Every job is different, and many of my jobs are done on location, usually at the premises of the company I'm shooting for.
Working in a studio is the easiest to control, but when you are faced with photographing large items in situ, that's when you need to think of how best to get the job done.


As a minimum you need a couple of good studio lights. Constant lighting is OK for some applications, but I find you really need the power of studio type flashes, and if you can afford them, get the battery powered ones as you will have to cart them around and you don't always have AC power available where you want to shoot.
For example, I was called to photograph a huge V16 generator. This generator was installed on the 5th floor of a yet unfinished apartment block and as the power was not turned on, I had to cart my gear up the 5 floors via the stairwell. When I got there, there were no windows and it was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.
Many of my jobs involve larger items such as large cowhides and you have to pick them up and place them, then clean them up and brush them to look nice, then photograph them, put them back and grab the next skin etc. It's hard work, even getting the lighting to work out well for such a large horizontal item.

Then there is the processing.
It's fun to process a couple of dozen of your own shots, but when you are faced with doing a few thousand shots after you've shot a whole catalogue of images, takes time and patience, and the customers are very fussy when it comes to colour correcting too and when the room you've been photographing in has 5 different colours of light coming into it, correcting can be very time consuming. I sometimes have to go back to the customer and compare the shots with the real items and them colour correct on my laptop.
Most people want all the shots on a pure white background and this can cause other problems too. Try putting a pure white hairy skin on a white background. No photography technique I've seen helps much with this, so you have to select the rug and all the hairy bits on the edge, cut it out of the photo than put it on a white background.

While photography technique is very important in product photography, post processing is even more important in many ways. If you are photographing regular shaped items like sample boards for wooden floors, the item has to be perfectly square in the image, reflections reduced to the minimum, sharpened properly with good colour and contrast. Then you need to put the customer's logo on the photos.
Customers expect the world from you even in adverse conditions.


There is so much more to product and food photography than you can possible put into one post, but if you want to get into it, you need to practise on all sorts of items, large and small and get proficient in post processing.

Here's a shot of the generator.
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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2018, 10:06:03 AM »

cayenne

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2018, 10:33:30 AM »
Bennie/Talys:

WoW...thank you for the great replies!!!

I'll try to get that lighting book, as that I do really want to learn to get more comfortable with knowing how light works better and how to sculpt things with it as I wish.....

Not long back, I got a good deal on one of the Orlit RT610 strobes...it is my first strobe so I want to learn to use it.

I have a couple of Cannon speedlites, the 600EX-RTs.....

I was looking forward to trying a learning project like this to learn how to use these lighting options.

Thank you, I've got some good stuff to start researching.

If you or anyone has time, it would be very interesting if you could maybe discuss some interesting shoots you did, and what challenges you had, what lighting you went with....etc.  I'm guessing on a lot of these the customer doesn't allow you to post any of your images online for me and  others to look at....is that something in the contracts?

If you could, it would be very interesting to see some pics taken, maybe a few of the different ones that you composited in, etc.

Anyway...again, thank you so far for the great info!!!

cayenne

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Re: Commercial Product Shots: What are your setups and methodologies?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2018, 10:33:30 AM »