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I just started writing a new book this week, all about the Canon 70D, which will be my third camera-specific book I’ve written so far. One of the requirements for this series is to have a product photo of the camera, which I always photograph myself, and in the past I would turn to studio lights and an elaborate setup to get a nice white-background and well-lit image of the camera. Since my last camera book I’ve moved three times, my photography subjects have changed quite a bit and I tend to rely more on natural light to get the look I’m after, and so most of my off-camera lighting equipment is packed away. So when realizing I needed to create isolated on-white product photos of the camera, I had to figure something out (and definitely didn’t want to dig up all of my extra lighting gear)!

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One of the subjects I tend to photograph the most is food, and I do it all in the comfort of my own home. I don’t have a fancy studio, in fact, in the past four years all of the places I’ve lived (five different homes) I have had similar setups in each of them, usually somewhere in the living room near a large window. So I decided to use my food photography setup and see if I could make it work with product photography to photograph the camera. And, the good news is that yes, it did! Here is a photograph of my setup I used to photograph the camera at the top of this post:

Here is the gear, along with a short explanation of each item used to create this shot:

  • Tripod: This is a must with this type of work. When photographing with window light at low ISOs (I usually use ISO 100 to keep the noise levels down) your exposure can be upwards of several seconds, depending on your aperture (a wider aperture would mean a shorter exposure time).
  • Lots of window light: I have my shooting table set up against a patio window, so the light is really spread out. As you can see for this setup, however, all of my blinds were shut but there was still enough light coming in to light up my scene. I also have light coming in from other windows in the room, and because my overhead room light uses a daylight-balanced CFL bulb then it did not adversely affect the light for my shot and added a touch of fill light to the scene.
  • Diffuser: I don’t always have a white foam board up against the backdrop of my setup, but I almost always need to cut out some of the light coming through the window, especially when the blinds are opened. If you have harsh light coming in, then a large diffuser is a good solution to soften that light. The one I have in the background of this setup (and one I highly recommend) is a 4-ft by 6-ft Lastolite Panelight Collapsible Diffuser.
  • White foam board: Foam board is an excellent tool to use for setups like these. It’s also super cheap! You can pick it up at craft stores for around $1-2 each. I have gobs of it and am always throwing it around my scenes to block light and tame reflections. (BTW, black foam board is also good to have on-hand, just in case you need to cut light from an area instead of reflect it.)
  • White board (under the subject): For this scene I used a board I had lying around that had a white reflective surface on it. You can find items like this at home improvement stores (and if you want a large piece, look for tile board; you can get large pieces that are very inexpensive.)

The great thing about the setup I use is that it’s not only good for white background shots. It also works extremely well with other types of product images, which is perfect if you sell items on a website such as Etsy, eBay or Craigslist. For this image I photographed some of my recent wheel-thrown ceramics, and instead of doing it all on a white backdrop I added some cloth and hand-knit fabric underneath for color and texture.

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Disclaimer: This is just one way to achieve this kind of shot.

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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. Couple of scientific pointers regarding noise: noise is increased both by deviation from a camera/sensor specific optimal ISO setting (up and down) and by the length of exposure at any ISO setting. For most modern cameras optimal ISO (which can be found by searching pixelpeeper sites) is 200 or more. As long exposure always brings more noise, the optimal range for ISO is at the optimal value of ISO or slightly higher ISO. (Ex. if optimal value is 200, sensor properties will be similar at 100 or 400 but shorter exposure at 400 will bring additional benefit).

    Reply
  2. One inexpensive and handy material I’ve found for creating an impromtu white light box/background effect is vinyl. The kind of vinyl that has an adhesive backing to it that people use to make those stick people figures on the windows of cars, or that scrapbookers use to cut out designs in their cricut machines. My local craft store has it in several colors and it comes on large rolls that are about 24″ wide. They sell it for $1 a foot.
    I have three foot lengths of white, black, brown, and tan. When I want to use it I peel the backing paper off enough for me to attached the upper edge of the roll to the wall or door or whatever vertical surface I have, then I unroll it down onto my table/desk/floor/horizontal surface, no seams or angles, just like a professional background. It is very consistent in color and opaque, it has a sheen to it but isn’t full on reflective shiny. It gives you a nice background to shoot small to medium products on, then if I need blocking on the side I can use foam core board in addition.

    Reply
  3. That’s a great low-tech way to get nice clean photos of small objects. I have used sheets of wax paper taped to a cardboard box with holes cut on all sides…. It works well without the need of your diffuser next to the window. Great post!

    Reply
  4. Great points here and I like the use of the white board. Nice work and good luck on the book.

    Reply
  5. Professional photography is a superb career choice for anyone who wants to get paid for using their creative talents. It’s one of the few fields where age and college degrees aren’t as significant as a good eye, a quality product, and self discipline. Photography is a competitive field, however; so be prepared to start small, while you perfect your craft and build a portfolio of your best work.Above is the perfect example of the same.

    Reply

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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have written several how-to books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration. You can find more about me on my blog, online store, as well as on Google+ and Twitter.

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Commercial, Lighting, Photography, Shooting

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