It’s been awhile since I have done a product photography post, so I thought it was time. If you stay in this hobby long enough, eventually someone will ask you to photograph some items for them. These could be put on Ebay, Etsy or some other online store. This is also a great idea if your want to document items for insurance purposes. How hard can this be? Place the item on a table and take a photo of it, right? Some times. If your client or friend says, “I’m going to be putting this on a website and I want the background white.” you better put your helmet on. Photographing items on white, as in pure white can be a challenge. There are a couple of ways to go about this. First, there is the Photoshop way. You photograph the objects and then spend the next hour in Photoshop with the eraser tool going around the edges of the subject to make it white. That is one way. But what if you have 50 items that need photographing? That would take forever! The second way is to photograph it in camera so that the background is white. This saves literally hours of work. This can be a challenge to set up at first if your new to this, but we’ll break it down step by step.
I was asked to do this from my wife who owns and runs her day spa in North Port, Florida. She makes all of products that they use in the spa herself and offers them for sale as well. She does all the packaging, labeling and pricing. Just a side note about day spas, if you’re going to get a pedicure or manicure, ask to see their “Log Book”, if the answer is “huh?” Run, not walk, RUN! My wife keeps such a clean day spa that she is a model shop for the state of Florida! Here is her site if your interested in seeing it: Serenity’s Touch.
If there’s one thing that doing this in camera that is required, is lighting horsepower. I have found that constant lights don’t have the output that is needed to make the background white. Even if you shoot on a white piece of paper with these lights, the camera will render the background some shade of gray. Then your back to Photoshop with the eraser tool. No good. This is going to require some flashes. You don’t need expensive studio strobes for this. In fact, the following photos were all taken with the smaller hot shoe flashes. When buying these type of flashes, you can get the “official” camera brand flashes and they are great….there’re also expensive. What I tell everyone to buy are the Vivitar DF-583 flashes. They are really inexpensive compared to their major brand cousins and do everything that they can do, including syncing off camera.
I like to set up my studio situations from back to front, this keeps me from falling over everything as I go. This is one of the differences that I do. I start by taking a light stand and using a clamp, I attach a piece of white foam board to it. This is my white background. I have a flash that I place on the floor pointed at the foam board. A few feet in front of that, I have two more light stands. Using more clamps, I attached a piece of clear acrylic. I get this at the hardware store. You want something that is thick enough to hold the object, but not so heavy that the clamps can’t hold it. I think mine is around 1/4” thick. This is our clear “shooting table” When the object is placed on the acrylic, the foam board will show through the acrylic thus being the white background. Depending on what I’m shooting, I either use a soft box or umbrella as a main light for my subject. To fill in shadows, I’ll either set up another fill light or use a silver reflector. In these photos I used a silver reflector to light the right side of the subject. Finally, the camera is placed on a tripod with a shutter release. This makes the camera as stable as possible. I like to use my 50mm f/1.4 most of the time, however if the subject is small like a makers mark on a piece of jewelry, then I’ll use my 105mm macro. I find that the sweet spots for these lenses are around f/8 – f/11. This also helps with depth of field to make sure that the entire subject is sharp from front to back. Here are a few examples:
Another one of the things that I like to use is spot focus. This way I know for sure where the critical focus will be. In this case, I put my focus box on the label. Also, you can see how the right side is lit somewhat but there is some contrast in the photo? This is where I used the silver reflector to help open the shadows a bit.
Since the set up is already in place and the light power is set for each flash, all we need to do now is to swap out different products. One thing to look for when photographing on a white background is to make sure that if there’s white in your subject, like the lid on the this container, that it still has detail. This is possible because of the “two zone” light system that we set up earlier.
Here we have a glass container with clear liquid. This really shines due to the bright background. You can also see the glass dropper inside the container.
This is all wonderful, so how long did it take to process these? Well, I shoot RAW files. I take them into Adobe Camera RAW and adjust the highlights and white sliders a bit just to make sure that the background is white. Then adjust the contrast and sharpen them. Then I knock them down for web res and save a s jpg. Total time adjusting each photo….two minutes. Don’t let this throw you, it’s easy once you do it, the only issue is getting the flashes if you don’t have then already.
Until next time….
Keep Your Glass Clean