How to Take Professional Product Photography with No Budget
No budget? No problem! This guide is going to help you take decent product photos with little to no budget at all. If you can’t afford to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your items that you need to sell online, there’s always a way to make them look more presentable. First, you need to gather all these things:
- Image Capturing Device
DSLRs are great for product photography since they have larger sensors and interchangeable lenses. If you don’t have one, you can always use a basic digital camera or a smartphone – make sure they produce images with more than 5-megapixel resolution. This way, images you post online will not appear pixelated.
- Light Source
Having a decent light source allows you to take images with proper exposure. Light sources if used effectively, create more detail and substance in your images. Photography is just as simple as light manipulation – if you master it, you can create beautiful images with any image capturing device. If you don’t have table lamps at home, you can always use natural light from the windows of your home to light up subjects.
In product photography, backgrounds allow you to showcase your subjects – your products, without any distractions. If you have plain curtain sheets, white cardboards, or just a plain white wall, use them as your background in your setup.
- Stabilizing Equipment
This may sound expensive, but there are many things at home that you can use as a stabilizing equipment for you camera. If you don’t have a tripod, you can always use binder clips, used credit cards, or even a piece of wood to stabilize your camera or smartphone.
Gather all of your DIY product photography equipments on a table – this way, you can do your photoshoot comfortably. Don’t forget to clean your products before the shoot so you don’t have to retake shots or spend more time cleaning images in post production. Now, let’s start putting all these pieces together so you can start shooting your products!
The Basic Setup for the Broke Photographer
Since you can’t buy any equipment for the product shoot, you can always use this foolproof product photography setup that most beginners do. While this isn’t the one used for marketing and branding purposes, images in this setup can be quite useful for brochures and catalogues (it’s useful for selling things online).
- One Light Source (Window)
Let’s start with the most budget-friendly approach in DIY product photography – using natural light from windows. Set up all your equipments near a window and make sure that the light is not pointed directly in front of the subject.
If the light is blowing out highlights and creating harsh shadows, use a white curtain to soften the light. To show more details on parts where shadows are cast, you can use a piece of white paper or cardboard as a bounce card.
Since this setup depends on natural light, you have to know that the quality of light you’re going to get won’t be the same throughout the day. If you can get good natural lighting in the morning, you might have to find another window to get the same quality of light in the afternoon. You’ll also have to resume the photoshoot the next day if you can’t finish it before night time.
- One Light Source (Artificial Lighting)
The use of natural light as a light source has its limitations in photography. This is why most people prefer the use of artificial lighting in product photography, since the light you get is consistent and you don’t have to wait the next day to resume your photoshoot. The setup for this kind of lighting is very similar with the use of natural light – instead of placing the light source directly in front of the subject, make sure it hits the sides, or placed at an angled direction.
You can always use bounce cards to bounce light coming from the lamp to allow more details to pop out from the image. If you’re using a lamp that produces warm images, you can always get the white balance right in post-production.
- Multiple Light Source (Artificial Light)
The more light sources you have, the more ways you can create good-looking images. This also allows you to get more details from your images. If you don’t know how to set up multiple light sources properly, you can always use this commonly used lighting setup for product photography.
This is a common setup in product photography (using two artificial light sources). You can use this setup by placing two table lamps on each side of the subject. You can also place them at an angled direction, as long as the light doesn’t hit the subject’s front side directly.
If you have access to three light sources, this is probably the best way you can light up your subjects. The light coming from all directions eliminates the shadows cast from each lamp – this enhances all details coming from your subject.
Optional: DIY Light Box
The box-like equipment you see in the images above is called a light tent or light box. This makes product photography easier since it allows you to create even lighting against a plain solid background. Photography equipments like this can be bought, or made if you’re on a tight budget. If you can spare a few bucks for this ingenious way of lighting subjects, here’s how you can make your own light box.
Things you need:
– A square box
– White fabric or thin white paper
– Tape or glue
– Bristol board
– Ruler or measuring tape
- Make windows on all sides of the box. Trace the windows with a measuring tool and a marker – this will make the task of cutting out windows easier. You can remove the box flaps on top, but leave the bottom part alone.
- Cut the Bristol board in the same width as the insides of the box. The length of course, should be longer than the box, since it’s going to serve as the background and foreground of your DIY light box. Place it inside the box and secure it with tape or glue.
- Now you can cover the holes of the box using a white fabric or paper. These things will allow you to soften light from the lamps you’re going to use in your photoshoot.
- Now you have a light box that you can use for product photography. It’s quite useful for both single and multiple lighting setups, so you don’t have to worry about buying another lamp if you only have one. You can also take it outdoors if you don’t have any artificial light source that you can use at home.
DIY product photography has its limitations, and it should not replace professional photography services. Sure, you can use it for selling items online, but you have to understand that this kind of photography doesn’t only involve a few setup guidelines and lighting tricks. Popular companies these days often hire professional product photographers since they are experts in capturing photos that suggest ideas and sell products.
We hope this guide helps in setting up your own product photography studio without spending a dime. If you want more tips and tricks like this, don’t hesitate to reach us in our contact page. Subscribe to our blog to get the latest money-saving tips in photography!