Here are some of the essentials you may need, and alternatives that don’t cost the earth.
• Camera and Lens.
I’m not going to go into much detail here as there are so many choices. You need a camera that will let you control it manually, preferably a DSLR or similar, where you can change lenses. An entry level DSLR (cropped sensor) will be fine for most uses. It’s really the lens that’s going to make quite a difference. I wrote about this above, in the section about achieving a ‘Tack Sharp’ image. Always have a charged second battery on standby so you can swap them over.
Really, you can use any roll of paper as a background. Depending on the size of your products, you could even use a roll of plain wallpaper. There are so many options here. You can use fabric too, as long as you iron it enough first. Mount boards are available in large sizes, and various colours (watch out when re-ordering though, as the colours don’t always tend to be consistent).
Quite often I have used old laminate flooring, or preferably real wood flooring. When you glue five pieces together, it gives a surface area of around 1.2m square, and you have limitless possibilities in painting them. If you do manage to find some real wood, these can be painted or stripped to accentuate the texture of the grain.
Something I personally would recommend avoiding would be printed backdrops and surfaces, for example mock 3D. I think these rarely look completely realistic and therefore really distract from the image you’re trying to portray.
You can even mix and match surfaces/backgrounds, depending on what you want to achieve.
• Sprung Clamps.
Available in local hardware stores, or online. These really are so handy, it’s not possible to have too many of them.
You can buy tables specifically for product photography, by Manfrotto and other brands that incorporate an infinity curve shape in them. I’ve never found these to be flexible enough though, and prefer to use a standard square metal table, with the top removed, to allow for lighting from any direction. But basically any sturdy table, preferably on castors will do just fine.
Not really a piece of equipment per se, but some form of lighting is necessary. Never use your built-in camera flash – they’re simply too direct, too harsh, and too inflexible. Find an open area next to a window, preferably one with lots of natural light. Indirect light is best for product photography as it gives the most soft and even illumination.
White foam board is really good as it’s very lightweight and doesn’t damage other things while you’re moving it around. This is used to bounce light back into the shadows. Small pieces of white and black card are also handy for blocking or reflecting smaller areas.
Doesn’t have to be anything fancy; if you only have a light aluminium one, you can always use a sandbag or similar and hang it from the tripod to stabilize it a little. If you do a lot of overhead shooting, it will save you a lot of time if you have a tripod with a central column that can be moved to a horizontal position. These are generally manufactured by Manfrotto.
I hope you have found this photography series useful and you can put these tips into action. If you would like to get in touch with Richard or to see more of his work, be sure to follow him on Instagram @forevercreativephotography or online