Product photography can be very lucrative however to succeed you need to capture the best product photos, which requires the appropriate product photography kit. Sure, you can try and hack your own product photography kit however I struggle to see the point. Product photography equipment isn’t expensive, especially when you compare it to other genres of photography such as portrait and landscape, so you may as well just buy it. Besides, with the proper product photography equipment you will get the best photos and you will recover the initial cost very quickly.
Product photography equipment – Lens
When taking photos of products you need to show off every little detail, and the best lens for this is a macro lens. Macro lenses are notoriously sharp and with the ability to get in super close and capture details you can see with the naked eye, the macro lens is by far the best product photography lens out there.
The lens I use for my product photography is the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens and I have to say that I am more than happy with the product photos captured with this lens. Like all macro lenses, this lens is tack sharp and shows every little detail.
The Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens isn’t cheap and the only reason it is part of my product photography equipment is because it is the only macro lens I own. I originally bought the Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens for insect photography, hence why I decided to splash the cash a bit. If you want a macro lens solely for product photography any macro lens is suitable because all macro lenses are tack sharp. The Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro is a particularly expensive macro lens and there are several alternatives that will capture awesome product photos at a fraction of the cost.
A cheaper alternative to the macro lens I use, and one I highly recommend, is the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. This 100mm macro lens is cheaper than the l series macro lens however it is tack sharp and well built. I actually owned this lens before upgrading to the l series macro lens and during my ownership of the lens I managed to capture some great product photos, five of which are my top selling photos of all time.
Regardless of what camera you shoot, if you want the best lens for your product photography equipment kit you need to invest in a macro lens.
Product photography equipment – lighting
The best product photography lighting produces uniform and even light across the entire subject. Forget about highlighting textures and intentionally introducing shadows for a dramatic shot, when you light products you need to ensure the entire subject is evenly lit. Some photographers consider uniform lighting boring, however boring lighting is best for product photography.
When photographing products forget about using strobes and speed lights because they are too long winded and complicated to set up.
When taking product photos the best type of lighting is continuous lighting, and all you need are a couple of daylight balanced bulbs and light stands.
Compared to strobes and speed lights continuous lighting kits are cheap so don’t bother wasting your hard earned money on expensive strobes or speed lights.
The continuous lighting kit I use for all my product photography is a Newer branded kit. My Newer continuous lighting set up wasn’t the cheapest available, but it wasn’t the most expensive either. The Newer lighting kit I bought (see here) is top quality, does everything I want it to and well-priced too.
Product photography equipment – tripod
Photos with a shallow depth of field look artistic however they have no place when it comes to product photography. One key aspect of product photography is maximising the depth of field and getting a shot that is sharp from front to back. Maximising the depth of field requires narrow apertures, which often means slower shutter speeds and long exposures.
To capture tack sharp product photos a tripod is an essential bit of product photography equipment. Most of the products I photograph are small and can fit on a table, and a standard size tripod isn’t suitable so I use a table top tripod.
The table top tripod I use allows me to get the lens closer to the subject, which makes the whole process easier.
There are plenty of table top tripods available however I use a Manfrotto table top tripod. My standard tripod is a Manfrotto one (which I rate very highly) so when I was looking to buy a table top tripod it made sense to me to stick to what I know and buy a Manfrotto. I am sure, although I can’t confirm that other table top tripods are just as good, so there are plenty of options out there. If you need a recommendation take a look at the Manfrotto table top tripod.
Product photography equipment – backgrounds
In product photography the product needs to be the focal point. Bright, colourful and distracting backgrounds are a big no-no therefore a plain background is an important bit of product photography equipment. For obvious reasons plain black and white photography backgrounds are the most common, but there are times when dark blue and red can also be sued to good effect.
My favourite background for product photography is white paper, which I buy by the roll. White paper is easy to over expose and “blow out” to isolate the subject, it is readily available and it is cheap. White paper doesn’t suffer from creases like fabric backgrounds do, and this is another reason why I use it.
A bit of product photography equipment I think is essential, although many people seem to disagree with me, is a “football goal” style background support. Many people use tape or blu-tack for their photography backgrounds, which is fine if that’s what you want to do, but I prefer the security a background support. Small table top background supports aren’t expensive and they do make product photography that much easier in my opinion.
Product photography equipment – Grey card
When taking photos of products you need to nail the colours and make sure the white balance is spot on. The auto white balance of modern day cameras is good however there are times when the colour will be slightly off.
Even if you use daylight balanced bulbs that state the colour temperature the colours may also be off and this is because you are likely to encounter stray ambient light. A grey card will help sort out the white balance, or if you prefer a white balance filter.
You may think that setting a custom white balance won’t make that much difference, and I have to admit that before I started setting a custom white balance I thought the same, however it really does. I was amazed at what a difference setting a custom white balance made, and since that day I haven’t looked back.
Grey cards aren’t expensive and they are definitely worth buying, so if you haven’t got one I recommend investing in one.
The above product photography equipment is all you need to capture professional looking product photos.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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