Product photography recommendations

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
After visiting the local bookstore and surfing the web I have not been able to find much information on product photography outside of lightboxes for eBay shoots, this is how I take great pictures with my DIY lighting, etc. My goal is to assemble my own studio for product photography of my own products. Once many of the adjustments have been worked out I would simply like to power my gear up, place the product, verify using a test shot, and shoot as many shots as necessary while minimizing post-production.

Here is what I have right now to work with currently:

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX II


  • Four (4) Einstein E640 flash units
  • Four (4) CyberSync transceivers
  • One (1) Cyber Commander
  • Three (3) 13-foot air cushioned light stands
  • One (1) 13-foot heavy duty boom stand
  • Two (2) 64" white PLM umbrellas RETURNED
  • Two (2) 64" PLM black outer cover fabrics RETURNED
  • Two (2) 64" soft silver PLM umbrellas
  • Two (2) 64" PLM white front diffusion fabrics
  • One (1) 47" foldable octabox
  • One (1) 14" x 60" foldable stripbox
  • One (1) 7-inch standard reflector
  • Four (4) Buff single light carrying bags
  • Two (2) 48-inch light stand carrying bags

My plans are to use the two 64" PLMs off to my right and left, the 7-inch reflector to control the light on the backdrop, and the 14" x 60" stripbox overhead and slightly behind the product. My next purchase will most likely be a Manfrotto background support system (9' width) and Savage 107” x 36’ Studio Blue seamless paper.

Here is the million-dollar question - what book would be my best reference to help get me up to speed quickly? I am quite visual and can really appreciate a few overhead pictorial layouts that I have seen in some other on-line lighting 101 articles. Any suggestions???
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,770
852
119
What products are you photographing, size, reflectance etc'?

The Bible regarding lighting control is this

https://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-Magic-Introduction-Photographic/dp/0240812255/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384504929&sr=1-1&keywords=light+science+and+magic&tag=diy0c-20

Can you post an image of the kind of product/look you are aiming to achieve?
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,563
146
privatebydesign said:
The Bible regarding lighting control is this
https://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-Magic-Introduction-Photographic/dp/0240812255/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384504929&sr=1-1&keywords=light+science+and+magic&tag=diy0c-20
There's the new updated fifth edition:

https://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-Magic-Introduction-Photographic/dp/0415719402/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

The book is an excellent tutorial on lighting different shapes, surfaces and materials (including transparent ones), but do not expect hundreds of "ready to use recipes" - the books aims more at explaining why and how light works (in photography) and thereby how to achieve the desired effect once you master the principles - some time to learn and experiment is required (well spent time, and repaid quickly later when you are able to understand easily what works and what doesn't for a given subject, believe me...)

While "standard catalog photos" may be achieved with fairly standard setups (always taking into account the subject specific needs), more appealing ones may need ad hoc, well thought setups.

For example, you may need different backgrounds and surfaces to put your product on - and that can influence the lightning as well (it's not uncommon to use transparent or reflective surfaces like perspex, glass or mirrors)
 

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
[quote author=privatebydesign]
What products are you photographing, size, reflectance etc'?
[/quote]

Products are precision mechanical components comprised of stainless steel, anodized aluminum and carbon fiber. Most of the anodized components are a silky black with a few small components anodized gold, red, blue, etc.

[quote author=privatebydesign]
Can you post an image of the kind of product/look you are aiming to achieve?
[/quote]

After spending much time searching I just have not found a good example. These are precision machined components and the viewers will be engineering and technical staff so the picture must be on the same level as the components. Very mechanical, very precise, very detailed.

[quote author=LDS]
There's the new updated fifth edition:

https://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-Magic-Introduction-Photographic/dp/0415719402/ref=dp_ob_title_bk
[/quote]
Thank you both for the tip - I will order the Fifth Addition this evening.

[quote author=LDS]
The book is an excellent tutorial on lighting different shapes, surfaces and materials (including transparent ones), but do not expect hundreds of "ready to use recipes" - the books aims more at explaining why and how light works (in photography) and thereby how to achieve the desired effect once you master the principles - some time to learn and experiment is required (well spent time, and repaid quickly later when you are able to understand easily what works and what doesn't for a given subject, believe me...)
[/quote]
Hmmm...well hopefully I can scan through to pick up the necessary information required for this particular type of photography. Eventually I will be happy to go back and read the entire work in detail - I just need to produce the specific type of picture required in a very short amount of time.

[quote author=LDS]
While "standard catalog photos" may be achieved with fairly standard setups (always taking into account the subject specific needs), more appealing ones may need ad hoc, well thought setups.
[/quote]
Yes, I think you can gather from my text above that these must be a full order-of-magnitude greater when compared to standard catalog photos. No white backgrounds here. Once we agree on a particular style of lighting, backdrop, etc. it will be time to produce.

[quote author=LDS]
For example, you may need different backgrounds and surfaces to put your product on - and that can influence the lightning as well (it's not uncommon to use transparent or reflective surfaces like perspex, glass or mirrors)
[/quote]
One of the ideas is to use the same unique background as sort of a part of the business image. My goal is to suspend these objects in space using a monofilament line that will be edited out. Any suggestions are welcome.

Some of the components are only a few ounces whereas the completed assembly ranges from 5-15 pounds. It would be nice to shoot the smaller components on a hard surface but that may detract from the overall impact of the photos.

Any additional helpful suggestions from others with similar product photography experience is welcome.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,770
852
119
What are the dimensions of the products?

I am surprised you returned the white PLM's, they are great for reflective subjects big and small, they give a much smoother look than the silver versions you kept.
 
I am not being flippant or negative when I say that you should probably just hire a real professional to shoot your pictures. If you want to become a professional yourself, rather than be a maker of the products you are selling, then you probably ought to quit your day job and concentrate on photography. Otherwise, you may wind up the "jack of all trades and master of none." Please don't take this the wrong way, I respect your industry and you might well become an excellent product photographer, but the advice I am giving you is good for almost everyone in your position. A higher end pro will almost undoubtedly do what you want done better and faster than you will be able to do it yourself, freeing you to make and/or sell more of your products faster, which is what I assume your real job is. Note that I said " a higher end" pro, because if you were to hire a lower skilled one, then, yes, you might as well try to do this yourself. To find a very good product shooter may take a little time and effort, but you should be amply rewarded for your search. Offer him or her a semi-regular freelance job and ask for a hefty discount in return.

I do not know of a better suggestion on a book than was already offered.

If you still want to fend for yourself, then, in my informed opinion, you must approach your products with just a few principles. Here they are, in very short form:

1) The best camera for shooting what I assume you're going to try to do (tabletop shots) is a view camera with both a fully moving (rise/fall/shift and tilt/swing) front and back to both manipulate the plane of focus and manipulate perspective. Barring that, and even many high-end pros no longer use this approach, using a long tilt/shift lens like Canon's 90 mm TS is the next best alternative. You should learn how to use such a lens to nearly mimic how a view camera works. Some pros also use medium format digital cams and TS adapters with them and some just adapt a digital back to a small form factor view camera, but these are very expensive options. If you don't use a TS lens then at least a macro lens of at least 90 mm is most advisable.

2) As to lighting and grip equipment, plus different set-up approaches, the possibilities are literally endless, and I can't advise you in such a limited format, nor would I want to take the time to do so. However, I'll give you some guidance. First, understand the most basic principle of lighting: the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Think of light like a pool ball on a pool table. Light particles travel like the pool ball; as they bounce of the tables rails, so do light rays bounce off the product and they enter the lens as the ball travels across the table after hitting the rail. Look at the materials to decide if they should be lit with harsh direct light (open faced or lens-concentrated light fixtures) or softer indirect light ("bounced" light or light from internally diffused fixtures) and always understand how those different kinds of light, hitting at different kinds of angles, will make the lit surfaces look. And, just as importantly, understand how such lights will effect the look of the surfaces of your product materials, depending on their reflectivity, anywhere from mirror-like or glass finishes to flat black paint or flocking, and everything in between. Last, understand that, more important than where light strikes an object is where it doesn't; in lighting, as in almost everything else visual, less is more.

There, I've given you a tiny free tutorial. Use it if you wish. and, good luck.

Regards,
David
 

leGreve

Full time photographer and film maker omnifilm.dk
Nov 6, 2010
308
0
Denmark
vimeo.com
cszy67 said:
After visiting the local bookstore and surfing the web I have not been able to find much information on product photography outside of lightboxes for eBay shoots, this is how I take great pictures with my DIY lighting, etc. My goal is to assemble my own studio for product photography of my own products. Once many of the adjustments have been worked out I would simply like to power my gear up, place the product, verify using a test shot, and shoot as many shots as necessary while minimizing post-production.

Here is what I have right now to work with currently:

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX II


  • Four (4) Einstein E640 flash units
  • Four (4) CyberSync transceivers
  • One (1) Cyber Commander
  • Three (3) 13-foot air cushioned light stands
  • One (1) 13-foot heavy duty boom stand
  • Two (2) 64" white PLM umbrellas RETURNED
  • Two (2) 64" PLM black outer cover fabrics RETURNED
  • Two (2) 64" soft silver PLM umbrellas
  • Two (2) 64" PLM white front diffusion fabrics
  • One (1) 47" foldable octabox
  • One (1) 14" x 60" foldable stripbox
  • One (1) 7-inch standard reflector
  • Four (4) Buff single light carrying bags
  • Two (2) 48-inch light stand carrying bags

My plans are to use the two 64" PLMs off to my right and left, the 7-inch reflector to control the light on the backdrop, and the 14" x 60" stripbox overhead and slightly behind the product. My next purchase will most likely be a Manfrotto background support system (9' width) and Savage 107” x 36’ Studio Blue seamless paper.

Here is the million-dollar question - what book would be my best reference to help get me up to speed quickly? I am quite visual and can really appreciate a few overhead pictorial layouts that I have seen in some other on-line lighting 101 articles. Any suggestions???

With all due respect... this is not a question wether or not you are "good enough" to shoot your own products.

But there's a golden rule, and it's a rule the snowflake generation has completely messed up. Not saying that you belong to that gen. (mid 90s - mid 00s) but they are a prime example of how mediocre you can become when you have parents who told you "you can do and be anything you want!".

You see when you get into the idea and you firmly believe it, you end up splitting your 100% abilities into parts.
Say you run a company where you make products.... then you start thinking "Oh! I can save money if I shoot the products myself!!".... then you start thinking further "OH! I can also do the marketing myself!!!" and then you say to yourself "...and of course I'll also make a YT channel and do the SoMe videos myself!!"

Most snowflakes think they can do 100% on each... or atleast 90%.

Logic would state that they'll do around 25% on each, while it might be something like 35%, 15%, 25%, 25%.

In reality those numbers are probably lower because of the deficit that WILL occur when you think you can do more than one thing.

And in the end... who is it that will buy your 35% product with 25% photos to market it?


Back to the golden rule...:

Do what you are good at and leave the rest to people who do what they are good at.

That would be:

- Pay a graphic designer or art director to do your marketing material
- Pay a photographer to do your packs
- Pay a webdeveloper to do your website and backend.

If your main work is creating products that you want people to buy, then pour all 100% into THAT. In fact... if you stick to 1 thing and 1 thing only, you can even do 110% on that one thing with the amount of energy.

My boss runs a succesful commercial photography business and have so for 22 years. How did he do that?
He shoots photos.... and nothing else. He doesn't fix the website, he doesn't art direct the shoots, he doesn't repair his own gear.

Do YOU want a product that shines in every way all the way... or do you want a half ass product that slips in between all the other half ass product that the web is littered with these days?

And about books?? Really... my ex-father in law read books like that, didn't make him a great photographer.
It isn't about the books. Heck, I hardly read any books at photography school (which took 4 years).
What we did do though was shoot A LOT of photos and talked about them. And then add on top of that 12 years of professional experience in the business.

THAT is what brings you up to speed... good luck with doing that while making and selling products.
 

heretikeen

I'm New Here
Dec 12, 2016
19
0
leGreve said:
(Jadda jadda condescending babble about "snowflakes" and how hard we real photographers have had it back in the days)
You know, you could have just let your trap stay shut and would have remained a philosopher.

If you don't want to help him, there's no use investing time in berating and insulting him. Just "get a professional to do it" would have been enough.
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,563
146
cszy67 said:
Products are precision mechanical components comprised of stainless steel, anodized aluminum and carbon fiber. Most of the anodized components are a silky black with a few small components anodized gold, red, blue, etc.
Thus read until the chapter about lighting metal. It has some specific behaviours you have to be aware of. You may have liked the white umbrellas (although you have at least diffusion fabric for the silver ones). In this type of photography though softboxes allows for more control, IMHO.

cszy67 said:
Hmmm...well hopefully I can scan through to pick up the necessary information required for this particular type of photography. Eventually I will be happy to go back and read the entire work in detail - I just need to produce the specific type of picture required in a very short amount of time.
You will find the necessary information, but you have some contradictory requirements: need to learn, short amount of time, and aiming for a non-standard appealing "look". May be hard to achieve everything at once. Be careful :)

cszy67 said:
One of the ideas is to use the same unique background as sort of a part of the business image. My goal is to suspend these objects in space using a monofilament line that will be edited out. Any suggestions are welcome.
Think well about how a given background color/surface/texture work with the subject colors an surfaces (i.e. silver/gold + blue usually OK, IMHO - but black or red + blue, maybe not - may depend also on how the background is lit). Suspending them could reduce some interaction with the background, but it will add some issues on its own.

cszy67 said:
Some of the components are only a few ounces whereas the completed assembly ranges from 5-15 pounds. It would be nice to shoot the smaller components on a hard surface but that may detract from the overall impact of the photos.
More than weight, it's size and shape that matters (from a lightning point of view, support or suspension is another matter...). Besides lightning, it may be difficult to obtain the required DOF with some shapes and setups - and that's as others said, where a view camera or T/S lens help. Lately, for example, I've been shooting train models, and there aren't many ways to frame them.
 

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
[quote author=dafrank]
I am not being flippant or negative when I say that you should probably just hire a real professional to shoot your pictures. If you want to become a professional yourself, rather than be a maker of the products you are selling, then you probably ought to quit your day job and concentrate on photography. Otherwise, you may wind up the "jack of all trades and master of none." Please don't take this the wrong way, I respect your industry and you might well become an excellent product photographer, but the advice I am giving you is good for almost everyone in your position. A higher end pro will almost undoubtedly do what you want done better and faster than you will be able to do it yourself, freeing you to make and/or sell more of your products faster, which is what I assume your real job is. Note that I said " a higher end" pro, because if you were to hire a lower skilled one, then, yes, you might as well try to do this yourself. To find a very good product shooter may take a little time and effort, but you should be amply rewarded for your search. Offer him or her a semi-regular freelance job and ask for a hefty discount in return.
[/quote]
Thank you for your informative and detailed reply. In short, I fully agree with hiring a professional to do what they are best at while focusing my efforts, pun intended, on what I am best at. Unfortunately at this point I am not in a position to hire that level so I would be working with a semi-skilled professional and considering the narrowly defined and very repeatable conditions I will be working in I am confident in my ability to eventually find that one ideal shot and simply introduce alternate product in to the same setting.

[quote author=dafrank]
1) The best camera for shooting what I assume you're going to try to do (tabletop shots) is a view camera with both a fully moving (rise/fall/shift and tilt/swing) front and back to both manipulate the plane of focus and manipulate perspective. Barring that, and even many high-end pros no longer use this approach, using a long tilt/shift lens like Canon's 90 mm TS is the next best alternative. You should learn how to use such a lens to nearly mimic how a view camera works. Some pros also use medium format digital cams and TS adapters with them and some just adapt a digital back to a small form factor view camera, but these are very expensive options. If you don't use a TS lens then at least a macro lens of at least 90 mm is most advisable.
[/quote]
I really appreciate the mention of using a tilt-shift lens. My plan was to use the 70-200 since I have a reasonable amount of room to work in for shooting. Since some of the assemblies are around three feet long and maybe under a foot tall I didn't want to distort any of the details by shooting up close. I know I have played with processing software that also permits corrections similar to what a tilt-shift lens provides.

[quote author=dafrank]
2) As to lighting and grip equipment, plus different set-up approaches, the possibilities are literally endless, and I can't advise you in such a limited format, nor would I want to take the time to do so. However, I'll give you some guidance. First, understand the most basic principle of lighting: the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Think of light like a pool ball on a pool table. Light particles travel like the pool ball; as they bounce of the tables rails, so do light rays bounce off the product and they enter the lens as the ball travels across the table after hitting the rail. Look at the materials to decide if they should be lit with harsh direct light (open faced or lens-concentrated light fixtures) or softer indirect light ("bounced" light or light from internally diffused fixtures) and always understand how those different kinds of light, hitting at different kinds of angles, will make the lit surfaces look. And, just as importantly, understand how such lights will effect the look of the surfaces of your product materials, depending on their reflectivity, anywhere from mirror-like or glass finishes to flat black paint or flocking, and everything in between. Last, understand that, more important than where light strikes an object is where it doesn't; in lighting, as in almost everything else visual, less is more.
[/quote]
It looks like I have a good amount of experimentation to enjoy. I easily understand the basics regarding angles of incidence equaling reflection although I will need to spend time comparing harsh and soft lighting - my initial plans were to use the white diffusion fabrics and begin from there. When you mention the importance of where light does not hit an object I assume you are referring to shadows or texturing?

And I did review your online portfolio - very impressive work. I especially enjoyed the cut-away of the engine and also the very blue background on the brake caliper. Do you recall the exact color of the background? I was going to order the studio blue.
 

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
[quote author=leGreve]

With all due respect... this is not a question wether or not you are "good enough" to shoot your own products.

...snip...

THAT is what brings you up to speed... good luck with doing that while making and selling products.
[/quote]
And thank you for your objective evaluation of what I am attempting and also your helpful suggestions. Yes, I agree with your 100% analogy and in general I have lived most of my life that way. While flying in the military we referred to it as compartmentalization - when we flew we locked everything else in our minds up and only opened the flight box. This saves lives. Years later while racing superbikes at the national level I read a book by Kieth Code where he equated our mental processing capacity to a ten dollar bill. He effectively gave examples of "spending" your money in the right places at the right times - like spending $9 out of the $10 on your front braking while preparing for a turn.

As I had mentioned earlier I just do not have the money right now as every penny of profit is rolled right back into the business which permits me to invest in more components and offer a wider range of assemblies. On a good note the children are all grown up and gone - the wife was thrown out a half-decade ago. I have time and I never stop working - I do not live a normal life so I am able to invest the additional time into photography in a very narrowly defined setting for a specific purpose.
 

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
[quote author=LDS]
[quote author=cszy67]
Products are precision mechanical components comprised of stainless steel, anodized aluminum and carbon fiber. Most of the anodized components are a silky black with a few small components anodized gold, red, blue, etc.
[/quote]
Thus read until the chapter about lighting metal. It has some specific behaviours you have to be aware of. You may have liked the white umbrellas (although you have at least diffusion fabric for the silver ones). In this type of photography though softboxes allows for more control, IMHO.
[/quote]
Thank you and knowing that these is a chapter discussing lighting metal I will make sure and pay attention. I returned the umbrellas simply because I wanted some additional control over the lighting and when adding the black outer fabric and bouncing the light the numbers suggested I was losing a around two stops. I was planning to use the diffusion fabric up front and still intend to do so it just seemed like the silver PLMs where more in line with my plans.

[quote author=LDS]
[quote author=cszy67]
Hmmm...well hopefully I can scan through to pick up the necessary information required for this particular type of photography. Eventually I will be happy to go back and read the entire work in detail - I just need to produce the specific type of picture required in a very short amount of time.
[/quote]
You will find the necessary information, but you have some contradictory requirements: need to learn, short amount of time, and aiming for a non-standard appealing "look". May be hard to achieve everything at once. Be careful :)
[/quote]
Although I have established a short timeframe i do have enough time to establish the correct procedure. I guess if I miss my deadline I could fire myself. My gut feeling is that I will identify something that is quite acceptable for what I require and at some point down the line with more experience I will discover what I have really been looking for. I am willing to accept that for now considering the enemy of good enough is perfection.

[quote author=LDS]
[quote author=cszy67]
One of the ideas is to use the same unique background as sort of a part of the business image. My goal is to suspend these objects in space using a monofilament line that will be edited out. Any suggestions are welcome.
[/quote]
Think well about how a given background color/surface/texture work with the subject colors an surfaces (i.e. silver/gold + blue usually OK, IMHO - but black or red + blue, maybe not - may depend also on how the background is lit). Suspending them could reduce some interaction with the background, but it will add some issues on its own.
[/quote]
You bring up a good point and this is one I have been agonizing over for some time. I do wish to establish a color that represents my company and the product lines and get away from the white backgrounds. I had considered black or maybe gray but would really prefer a color.

[quote author=LDS]
[quote author=cszy67]
Some of the components are only a few ounces whereas the completed assembly ranges from 5-15 pounds. It would be nice to shoot the smaller components on a hard surface but that may detract from the overall impact of the photos.
[/quote]
More than weight, it's size and shape that matters (from a lightning point of view, support or suspension is another matter...). Besides lightning, it may be difficult to obtain the required DOF with some shapes and setups - and that's as others said, where a view camera or T/S lens help. Lately, for example, I've been shooting train models, and there aren't many ways to frame them.
[/quote]
Copy and thanks!
 

cszy67

EOS M50
Jun 26, 2012
32
0
[quote author=privatebydesign]
What are the dimensions of the products?
[/quote]
Some of the components would be able to fit into a one inch cube but most are maybe six to twelve inches long, and inch or so wide, and maybe one to three or four inches tall. The assemblies range from two to four feet long around a foot high, and maybe a few inches wide. Quite a bit of variability but I intend to begin with the assemblies since they represent combinations of components and then work my way down to the individual components.

[quote author=privatebydesign]
I am surprised you returned the white PLM's, they are great for reflective subjects big and small, they give a much smoother look than the silver versions you kept.
[/quote]
My goal is to control more of the light and from what I read the PLMs would be sending light all over. Initially I ordered the black outer fabric covers to reflect but then after noticing I would be losing a few stops I just decided to do with the soft silver PLMs. In either case I had planned on using the white diffusion fabric on the front.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,124
1,642
Canada
Hire a pro is usually good advice...... But when you get into a very specialized niche you may find out that you are the pro.

For example, no way would I shoot a wedding. There are so many people out there with better skills and aptitude than mine for that task that my doing it would be wasting time and money for an inferior product..... But photographing antennas in an anechoic chamber..... That is a different story and I have the gear and the experience to do that better than anyone I can hire.....
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,563
146
cszy67 said:
You bring up a good point and this is one I have been agonizing over for some time. I do wish to establish a color that represents my company and the product lines and get away from the white backgrounds. I had considered black or maybe gray but would really prefer a color.
You have black items also, black-on-black is one of the situations that requires a careful selection of surfaces and lighting, or it may be easy to lose edge definition and detail. Neutral colors are surely easier to manage regardless of the subject, and some grays can be "colored" using gels - but that may be acceptable or not for a given subject and target viewer.

For a wide variety of subjects, light colors may work better than strong ones, but again depends on what look/branding your aiming for. Another way to give "character" to images is using a more "realistic" background instead of s simple plain one, but it takes more to setup, may be trickier to light, and may be against your need of very precise and detailed images.
 

dadohead

EOS M50
Dec 3, 2011
33
2
I have done a ton of this kind of photography. Long story short: shoot it so you can knock it out of the background in Photoshop easily. Learn to use the pen tool to create a mask; then you can put it on whatever background you want in PS. Rebrand your company? Drop it on a different background. Shoot on white, or grey, depending on the color of the object, and then the coloration of the object is neutral. Even mildly specular black objects will pick up the color of whatever you shoot it on.

You can spend endless hours trying to hang mono from C-stand arms and never get it right. And when you do, somebody sneezes or slams a door and the set up is ruined. If you're going to be spending time spotting out mono, you might as well do it the simple way and just knock the image out, but if you insist on doing it the hard way get dozens of small Pony clamps, double sided tape (foam and not-foam), gaffer tape (black and grey, and real gaffer tape, not duct tape), clothes pins, Justin clamps, safety pins, etc. I have two saw horses and a tilting shooting table that I made out of plywood that allows me to tilt the shooting table up or down varying degrees; it's like having cheap movements in a DSLR. Limited, sure, but it works. A better solution would be a 90mm tilt shift, but frankly it's kind of overkill. The shooting table also has a frost plexi top that I sanded matte that allows me to light from beneath if need be. I can also pull down some Translum over the table for a light-through cyc. If you have a lot of really shiny objects, you might want to invest in a shooting tent. Also, look at foam core forks to create your own reflectors/cutters from 1/2" foam core. And you'll need at least two to three C-stands if you're going to be monoing a bunch of stuff. Get the shorter ones.

Personally, after a lot of experimentation, I finally settled on a ring flash in a pan; I use a Profoto D4. I can adjust the ring in 1/10th stop increments. I use soft boxes on the left and right for key/fill or a top light and set the ring to fill in whatever on-axis light I need. If you've got the space, a really big soft box as a top light will really wrap around the object (and I mean big; like 4 or 6 times the dimension of your object or bigger). My favorite recently is to use a big soft box as a top light placed above and slightly behind the object angled back toward the camera; it kind of top and backlights the object at the same time. Then I use the ring in a pan to fill in the front to whatever ratio is desired. This really gives me a full wrap that is soft yet still dimensional. Also, get a side arm for your tripod so you can easily shoot down if need be. You can solve a lot of physical problems by rotating the shooting plane as long as you know you're going to knock it out.

Big props for the Science/Magic book; it's where everybody starts. But do think about shooting to composite; if you're doing any kind of volume it's the only way to go. Zach Arias has a good tutorial on shooting on seamless. This link shows portrait lighting, but the same principles apply to tabletop:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2415wV8mE4
 
cszy67 said:
[quote author=dafrank]
"I really appreciate the mention of using a tilt-shift lens. My plan was to use the 70-200 since I have a reasonable amount of room to work in for shooting. Since some of the assemblies are around three feet long and maybe under a foot tall I didn't want to distort any of the details by shooting up close. I know I have played with processing software that also permits corrections similar to what a tilt-shift lens provides."

Just so you know, no software processing whatsoever (and I know this as a professional retoucher as well as a photographer) will yield quite the same result as are available to you with a TS lens.

"It looks like I have a good amount of experimentation to enjoy. I easily understand the basics regarding angles of incidence equaling reflection although I will need to spend time comparing harsh and soft lighting - my initial plans were to use the white diffusion fabrics and begin from there. When you mention the importance of where light does not hit an object I assume you are referring to shadows or texturing?"

I am referring to what you might call shadows, although that is an inadequate description. It is really just the absence of light making some areas of an image appear to be black or nearly so, thereby changing both the composition, by affecting the weight and location of lit compositional elements in your shot, and having the concomitant effect of directing the viewers eye to the area or areas of an image that you want it to go to. Finally, the absence of some light also usually "simplifies" what can sometimes be too busy of an image.

"And I did review your online portfolio - very impressive work. I especially enjoyed the cut-away of the engine and also the very blue background on the brake caliper. Do you recall the exact color of the background? I was going to order the studio blue."

Certainly, thank you very much for your comment on my website portfolio. And, I certainly don't remember what color blue the seamless paper was in that shot (and, it was seamless paper), but, in any case, the color was changed and much intensified through lighting technique for that shot.
Regards,
David
 

geekpower

EOS 80D
Feb 22, 2015
187
0
wow. i should probably not be shocked by this anymore, but a couple of the replies in this thread are shockingly disrespectful. i'm sorry for that.

i don't have any specific advice, but i do want to say that i absolutely understand the desire to photograph your own products. no one who is just being "cheap" and trying to avoid hiring a professional photographer would put in the research, effort, and investment in equipment that you have. if it's really about having complete creative control (as it would be for me) then more power to you, and best of luck!
 

Hillsilly

EOS 6D MK II
Oct 16, 2010
1,096
0
Don Haines said:
Hire a pro is usually good advice...... But when you get into a very specialized niche you may find out that you are the pro.
Well said.

Cszy67, I don't have any book suggestions. But I find Youtube a good source of information for most photographic ventures.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,058
329
Vancouver, BC
I'm going to disagree with the whole "hire a pro" thing.

Yes, there's a 99.99% chance you'll get better pictures if you hire a pro. It might even help you make more money :)

However, looking at your gear list and your desire to build out your own, you must certainly love photography. If you derive happiness from setting up a studio, playing with gear, and photographing your products, why not do it yourself? After the photography, look at it objectively, and if it doesn't work out, you can still hire a pro. You can even hire a pro to come over and give you pointers and tips to set up your studio. Or, watch what they do, and learn.

Space doesn't sound like it's a major constraint for you, and it doesn't sound like you need portability, so you may wish to consider continuous lighting instead of strobe. I use both, as strobes are still WAY easier to transport; however, LED or CFL lighting options let you "see what you're going to get", and in the phase of inexperience, that's a big compensator. You can move around reflectors, adjust softboxes, move lighting, add or reduce fills, and all that kind of thing without having to snap a picture and look at whether you like what you did.

Another little product that might possibly be useful is an xrite colorchecker passport photo. You get a little makeup-kit sized thing that opens up with color swatches, which sounds crazy expensive for about USD $80. However, if color accuracy and the ability to reproduce consistent color adjustments from one session to the next of similar product is important to you, this tool is invaluable. It comes with a Lightroom/Photoshop plugin that's basically idiot-proof; it's a one-step solution where you use the color swatch to calibrate your lighting, and then apply that to all your photos taken in that lighting configuration.

An example of when it might be handy is if your product is suits, and you make many styles of olive wool suits and dress pants. With an Xrite Colorchecker, your photos will come out very close to the correct shade of olive, and as or more importantly, each batch of olive wool suits will come out the same color as the last. If you change your lighting, you just need to take a new calibration shot, and apply that to the new pictures; then, the subject of those images will be matched to the first set.

An example of when it is probably not useful is if your product is industrial in nature, say bearings and flanges, or lube systems. In that case, color accuracy just isn't important at all.