Product Photography on a Budget: Part 2

In my last post, I showed you a quick and inexpensive solution for tabletop product photography that used just a couple table lamps and a piece of posterboard. Stepping up from that option just a bit, we can add a little diffusion to our light source for smoother wrap-around lighting and softer shadows.

Quick and Portable with Diffusion:
Shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes are terrific for diffusing your light.  But for even more versatility for shooting other tabletop products (particularly shiny stuff like plastic, metal, or jewelry), you might consider investing in a small light tent. My favorite is this one for about $50 from Calumet Photographic. At a little over 30 inches cubed, my 24 x 24-inch acrylic bases fit perfectly inside.  It’s portable and small enough that I can set it up in most any space. It’s translucent white fabric and provides nice even diffusion without imparting any color cast.  And it folds up like one of those spring loaded windshield shades to a disc about 12 inches in diameter, so it’s easy to store when I need to make room on the dining room table!

I use my posterboard or acrylic bases just as with previous examples.  In the above example, the posterboard is gaffer-taped to the back wall of the tent. As with our previous posterboard / table lamp example,  you’ll probably want one light for your subject, and a second for the background.  Aimed at the sides of the tent, the fabric does a wonderful job of spreading and diffusing the light, giving you a huge light source resulting in soft shadows and gorgeous wrap around coverage.  As an added benefit, if you’re shooting shiny stuff like glass or metal, the enclosed tent helps to minimize reflections from the space around you.  Though it’s not shown in the setup photo above, this tent comes with a removable front panel with a slit for your lens, so you could completely envelope your subject in beautiful soft light with no reflections!

If you use colored posteboard for the backdrop, and black acrylic for the base, you can do something like this:

Again, with continuous lights, you can adjust the light-to-subject distance and direction until you get the look you want, and evaluate as you go. What you see is what you get.  Even outdoors in bright sun you’ll have nice, soft wrap around light: one of the keys to professional results with your product photography.

There’s no magic formula for successful product photography.  Each subject will dictate the lighting scheme that produces the best look. But the beauty of digital photography is that you can shoot, evaluate the result and adjust right away until you get the look you want.  There’s no penalty for taking a lot of pictures. So experiment!  And when you find a setup that works for you, stick with it, and tweak it a little each time until you consistently get the results you want.

Thanks for dropping by!

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