Product photography need some advice please?!

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Smashatom, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. Smashatom

    Smashatom Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 24, 2013
    Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
    I work for an audio visual company, their plan is to have good quality photos of all our equipment on our website. The guy that has been put in charge of the photos isn't a photographer, they've been sending him to college once a week to learn. He had now stopped taking the photos all together and the owners have asked me to take over, if I can fit it in with my normal work.

    Now this opportunity definitely excites me BUT I have never tried product photography! Any tips or advice? The previous guy has completely blacked out a room, set up a roll of white material for back drops, bought a couple of LED lights and has also been bought a Nikon D800, now that's a big question, is it worth me even trying to use my EM-5? Can it compete? I hate using the Nikon, it doesn't feel natural to me. He only has a 60mm macro lens, where as I have the p14, p20, o45, o40-150.

    Any tips, advice or info would be massively appreciated!
  2. Paddy

    Paddy New to Mu-43

    Oct 16, 2013
    Em5 Kicks Butt

    Hey Tom,

    I recently sold my Canon 5D in favour of Panasonic's new GH3 M43. Like you, my glass for the GH3 is already quite a bit nicer (faster, sharper) than the lens I had for the bigger camera.

    I think your articulated screen will give you a more comfy workflow too.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    With complete lack of experience in the field, I will give you my opinion (isn't that what most people do, anyway)?

    I don't see why the EM5 can't be used for product photography.
    Depending on what your shooting, a macro lens could be useful.
    A tripod might help if you want really sharp shots.
  4. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    1 If they're providing the d800. Use it. If it gets broken, it's on them.

    2nd. What are the size of the items. What are they made of, and how many different materials are they made of. Will they fit in a light box, if not you may need some scrims, flags, gobos, diffusion, or not.

    3rd. If 2 sounds foreign get Light Science and Magic 4th edition. get it yesterday.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Ming Thein uses the E-M5 and Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 macro along with his D800E 60 mm f/2.8 macro and finds it perfectly adequate:

    So, the E-M5 will work fine, but your lenses may not ideal if macro is required. Given your lenses (which have low magnification ratios), I would lean towards the D800 kit if you have actual macro subjects, otherwise you could try the O45/P20. With this kind of stuff, it's best to use a tripod and MF. The E-M5 is nice as you can use the touch screen to select a focus point and prefocus using AF, then fine tune MF with magnification. You can of course pick one kit or the other depending on the subject and take advantage of the studio lighting setup. Lighting is very important - but I'm no expert in this area.

    Some side things to consider:
    • Are you doing this as a proper part of your job or to develop your photography skills? What will the deadlines be like? Being able to experiment and use your favourite kit is nice but what's being provided is pretty ideal, so it might be prudent to just use that if you're not willing to potentially put your own money/time into it. If I was doing it for personal reasons I would consider getting an O60 macro - it's a really great lens that works for portraits as well, and isn't too expensive.
    • What is the level of expected quality/desired style of the images? Are you interested in hefty post-processing, or have a designer to do it? I say this because up at macro distances, pretty much all man-made objects are imperfect, scratched, have dust, etc (even polished jewelry), and require post processing and touch up to look awesome. If what is desired is flawless looking product photography, there's more to it than taking the photo.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    You may want to look at this thread I posted earlier this year

    Just some experiments with the em5 and a couple of flash guns.. For web stuff the control of lighting will be what makes or breaks an image. D800 is overkill it seems to me for the job spec

    • Like Like x 1
  7. Smashatom

    Smashatom Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 24, 2013
    Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
    Most of the equipment is quite large, there's a lot of rack mounted units which is pretty close to the dimensions of an old VHS player, but then there are larger items like projectors, projector lenses, camcorders and studio cameras etc. So I don't think macro would be that important especially with the o60, I think I would have to knock a wall down to fit most of the kit in the shot!

    The majority of equipment is black and usually plastic or metal.

    I would definitely be using a tripod, we have those in our stock so that's not an issue. It's mainly the lighting that I'm worried about, I don't own a flash, apart from the one that comes with the EM-5, so I don't really have any experience with using it and I'm not really sure what is best to do with the LED lights.

    That light science book looks like it could be a help, I'm going to see if I can get my hands on a copy from a library.

    The pictures are used on the website, a small picture is put up with a 'hover over' magnification to see more detail. Mainly it is used to see what inputs and outputs equipment has.

    I agree that the D800 is overkill, I was very surprised when they bought it for this purpose! I would much rather use my EM-5 as I know it really well, I find it easy and comfortable to use and I'm used to using the RAWs on aperture. I'm just worried that there will be a huge gulf between the quality with the D800. I'm also unsure wether it's better to get up close with the p20 or keep some distance with the o45...?
    • Like Like x 1
  8. DeoreDX

    DeoreDX Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 13, 2013
    Lighting and setup is way more important than the camera body in product photography. Knowing how you want to present it and what look you want will determine the setup. Lighting and a tripod makes your life easier with product photography. I would lean towards the EM-5 because personally I like using live view on the real LCD with the camera on a tripod so I can manipulate the object to get it framed correctly rather than trying to move the camera to get the object framed correctly. If you don't have a soft box or several off camera flashes or proper lights to illuminate the object the sun makes a great light source if you learn to control it. If you can find a fully shaded area outside during a sunny day, with your white roll you can make a nice easy setup that works pretty good.

    This shows you want you can do in about 1 minute of your time. I used printer paper and shaded area outside for this setup, hand held. I would suggest paying more attention to DoF and exposure than I did as I just snapped a few quick pictures.



    • Like Like x 1
  9. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    If it's just going on a website, the output of the D800 is complete overkill - the E-M5 is fine. The sizes of your subject are also fine for your E-M5 kit, and it also means you won't need to mess around much with touching up afterwards either :) The 45 mm is probably the best place to start since it gives you an easier working distance - less problems with blocking the lighting with more distance. If you need to go tighter just crop a bit - it's only going up on a website after all.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. HappyFish

    HappyFish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 8, 2012
    I did a shoot for a cell phone company OMD and 60 macro web use only if it was print would have used the D600 or something else
    but that little oly 60 is very good !

    IMHO use the D800 and Macro lens ? great combo and its there like mentioned if anything happens no biggy

    ditto its all about lightning and setup of it at least you have instant feedback :) get a good book and learn a bit more you will be happy you did
    • Like Like x 1
  11. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    • Like Like x 1
  12. It-Is-All-In-The-Lighting...

    Note how much PS goes into what seems like a simple product photo....

    When you have a quality studio setup when the light is absolutely and meticulously controlled, the importance of the camera and lens is reduced. Absolutely, the E-M5 and proper choice of optic can deliver. One thing I noticed in most product photos is that the entire product is always in focus.... from near to far. Shallow DOF that does not encoumpass the entire product is considered distracting and unfinished. The few times I've seen a shallow DOF is when item is surrounded by other items of lesser importance; the item itself is still completely in focus (even for macro shots) AND the items that are out of focus are done so that it is absolutely obvious that it was intentional.
  13. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    What products are you photographing?
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    I do product photography for both my wife's Etsy and Ebay site and use my G3 on a tripod with a cheap Vela shutter release. The lens is one of my Sigmas (usually the 30mm) depending on size of item or my Minolta Rokkor 50mm. The Etsy items are all shot in my dining room with an Interfit backdrop stand and CFS daylight bulbs mounted in reflectors on light stands - very lo tech, but it works well. The Ebay stuff is in my basement with roll paper back drop and the same lights (just now starting to experiment with off camera flash). It is just a matter of getting the lights right and doing some test shots till you get'em right. Oh, and shoot in RAW.

    Oh, and Kevin, I love your thread on the flash set up to shoot your lenses. Just saving now for a couple slave flashes, soft boxes and an umbrella.

    Here's a so-so example from my "low tech" approach.

    Attached Files:

    • Like Like x 1

    BAXTING Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Los Angeles SFV, CA
    Your EM-5 is actually more than you need for online stuff and will work just fine for magazine size print as well.

    Although I shoot plenty of random photos and once in a while I do get a nice one (maybe). I do a lot of product photography that ends up on the web and magazines. Not that I'm great at it, but I've learned to have fun with it and I have some experience now. I'd say shoot with whatever camera you are most comfortable with, you will produce the best results with that camera.

    Here are some tips I'd recommend

    1. Read a book on lighting:
    In most cases softbox lighting is more than enough if the items you are shooting are not "too big" themselves. Even more important is understanding how light reflects and how you can manipulate it to show the features that are most important to you.

    2. Learn to shoot RAW:
    If you don't already do this, I'd suggest you start immediately at least for product photos. It will also help you to develop a "style" with your processing. Being consistent is important for product photos.

    3. Brush up on PS masking skills:
    While a perfectly clean background can give you the look your going for. Being able to change or fix things after the shoot is equally if not more important. Actually the better I have become at PS the better my shoot goes. You will see things that need to be fixed in post before you even press the shutter and this will help you to take better photos.

    4. Circular Polarizer:
    If you dont have a polarizer, get one. Product with a black or dark reflective finish will especially benefit the most from using a polarizer. You can really decide where to highlight the product between the lighting and the filter. This is actually becomes fun to play with once you understand how it all works.

    5. Shoot with intent:
    Visualize the shot you want before you get started and be willing to outside your comfort zone. I usually plan at least 3 different angles of any given shot and try even more once Im shooting. Think about where the image will be displayed and what you can do to get the best result. A great thumbnail and full size image are not always the same shot.

    6. Be consistent:
    I've found this to be the most important rule of all. You really want all of the images on one website to look like they belong together. Go for a theme and stick to it. Ive shot a lot of product photos without realizing that these images would be downloaded, and copied and pasted all over the web. Once you release that photo or put it on your website this is how the whole world will view that product. Be consistent and aim for a shot you will be happy with a year from now. It doesn't have to be over the top, just consistent and clean and usually shot at smaller apertures.

    Tripod, remote shutter release, different background options, all these things will not only help you produce great product photos, but make you a better photog as well. These are only the thing I have found that help me create successful photos. Oh yeah, and have fun :thumbup:

    • Like Like x 3
  16. Smashatom

    Smashatom Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 24, 2013
    Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
    I managed to get a digital version of Light Science and magic, I've read about the first 5 chapters so far but it is a great book for someone with no idea on lighting! Thanks Jim!

    I decided after reading some of this book to have a little experiment at home, using my EM-5, O45mm, a standard desk lamp, a sheet of A3 white paper and three sheets of white A4 paper. I'm quite pleased for a first attempt.

    Olympus Trip by Smashatom, on Flickr

    SE2000 by Smashatom, on Flickr

    I at least feel a bit more confident with giving it a go at work! So thanks for all the help and advice, it's all very appreciated!

    • Like Like x 1
  17. Smashatom

    Smashatom Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 24, 2013
    Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
    That's a great article, thanks for that.

    And cheers for the advice!
    • Like Like x 1
  18. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    Great work. I used a black tablecloth on a folding table in front of a white wall, a skylight and the EM-5 with 17/1.8. Great results for simple objects with simple tools are not hard, especially if they're not highly reflective and you're not trying for a special effect.
  19. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    Looks great . . .
  20. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Two thoughts... not sure if they've been mentioned.

    With the FF camera you will need to stop down very heavily to get deep enough depth of field with a large product, so much so that diffraction may rear it's head. Using slightly wider lenses and the smaller sensor m4/3 you will more easily get deep depth of field without having to stop down so much.

    Shallow depth of field images can be used to great effect, for drama, as creative beauty shots. But for accurate depiction of products, deep depth of field will be needed.

    Also, while you are only shooting for the web, keep IQ and resolution high so that if in the future any of these images might be needed to print catalogs, posters, etc. you won't have to re-shoot. Use RAW capture for sure and keep the original RAW files.

    You'll be fine with the EM5 for this application providing your skills, technique, composition, set design, and lighting are very well executed.
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