DIY Product Photography

Does anyone have any tips on simple techniques/setups for simple product photography? Ideally, I’d do it myself in my studio with my digital camera. I’ve got a pile of products over here I need to get on my site but don’t want to drop the $ for a pro photographer.

Any tips, links, or advice would be greatly appreciated!


Here’s a question; say a magazine or newspaper likes you products and wants to publish the images of them? Even with the top of the line consumer model digital camera, you will only be able to take a 6 meg/pix image, and thats not good enough for print, they will not publish images that low rez. I would suggest that if you are taking the images yourself use film.

think in terms of how you would sketch the same item…you’ll want a diffused light source overhead for ambient…a strong light source from the front and to one side (highlight)…a weaker light source from the front and the opposite side (to soften the shadows a bit)…and maybe a light behind the object to control contrast of the background. with digital it is easy to tweak your image with photoshop if needed…who among us can leave well enough alone?

if you’ve never been to a photo shoot, highly recommend it. learned more watching one than in any book i’ve read.

why not contact a client and ask if you can tag along? offer of a free lunch might convince them. and its a good chance to network too.

There is an added bonus to becoming experienced in studio photography. It helps you understand how to manipulate lights and shadows when you render 3-D models. The dynamics in most rendering software packages is similar to real life lighting. The only exception is the ability to eliminate ALL shadows in a virtual studio.

this page has some tips - free photographs for commercial use.

Sure they will! A 6 Megapixel (2848x2136) camera will give you almost 300dpi even at 8"x10." 6MP cameras are typically compared with Medium-Format film as they typically best 35mm film.

Glossy magazines are typically screened at 150-200 lpi. So obviously if your 6MP image was only part of the page, you’d far exceed the magazine’s quality.

Regarding tips for the original poster, make sure you take advantage of depth of field to create focus on the foreground product and blur the background.

I’ve got a DIY setup at home made from really high wattage tungsten bulbs and cheap hardware-store reflectors. Setup a “key” and “fill” light and experiment with gels for cool effect. The trick here is to color-balance your camera for tungsten bulbs (if digital.) If film, you need to buy Tungsten film. Amazon carries a bunch of “Smith Victor” lighting kits for as little as $150.

Buy a large roll of heavy white paper and tape it on the wall to create a seamless transition to the table surface.

For inspiration, why not browse around to some better known design firm websites and see how they present their work?

oh be nice

Size has nothing to do with it. Thumbnail or full-bleed, dpi is dpi.

Metropolis Magazine asks for 300 dpi

ID Magazine asks for 300 dpi

Conde Nast asks for between 200 and 400 dpi

well cg, I guess I may be wrong? but as the saying goes, arguing on the internet is like getting a gold medal at the special Olympics. Sure you may have won but you are still retarded.

oh be nice


The guest is not always right, or is it the ghost? Anyway, it’s late on a Friday and most people aren’t thinking more about booze than products.

If I were you, I would just take the photos with the best lighting you can using your digital camera. If you have a couple of spare flash units, get some slave triggers, they are cheap. As has been said, you would learn how to set up studio lighting and that will translate to better 3D renders.

If you need more resolution, try Genuine Fractals - my friends at the local pro shop swear by it. The magazine people will also likely have access to enlargement software. With digital printing, much of the previous lore regarding minimum LPI is now history. Newspapers are lucky to print at better than 75dpi.

If it were me and ID Magazine asked for a photo of one of my products to highlight in the n+n section, damn right I would get a real studio shot of it.


Thanks so much for all of the feedback. In case you haven’t checked it out, the link that Nerdtronic posted has some great cheap & simple tips.

Personally, for now, I’m just trying to achieve a consistent, simple look so I can update my website & portfolio. I don’t think I need to worry about getting into ID magazine anytime soon, but if I did I’d definitely go with a pro photographer. I’ve used them when I used to work for other firms that had budgets for that kind of thing, but now I’m working solo and need to keep the overhead WAY down!

optimistic, i’m glad you found the morguefile link helpful.

by the way, i just visited your webpage and saw the piggy banks done for little-tikes. they’re all pretty good but i have to admit that i’ve been totally crushing on one in particular. i always stop and take some time to admire the dinosaur bank whenever i’m in a toy store.

gotta love the edit function

Does anyone have any recommendations on a good digital SLR to get? I’m looking at the Canon Rebel right now.

Also, what sort of lens would you recommend? Most of my products are lunchbox-sized or smaller… Not sure if I’d need a Macro or not, and if so, what type is best?