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Product photography

 

I once photographed an entire cookbook with the use of white card, natural light and two speed lights. The cook and I also did the styling. Wowsa. This image is backlit by a speed light and white card bouncing the light back into the front. Selective lightening of shadowy areas was also done in Photoshop. 

I once photographed an entire cookbook with the use of white card, natural light and two speed lights. The cook and I also did the styling. Wowsa. This image is backlit by a speed light and white card bouncing the light back into the front. Selective lightening of shadowy areas was also done in Photoshop. 

 

 

 

Now we get to narrow down on things... mostly we photograph people, things and places. Lets talk about photographing things. 

I want to focus on how we can get nicer looking photos without fancy equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

Wine bottle/glass/shiny objects - the hardest objects to photograph (this is where a pro photographer is worth their weight in gold:))

 

Angle - parallel. If you shoot from an angle, the object/bottle will look skewed. Bigger closer to the lens, and smaller further away from the lens. You could end up with a schooner-shaped looking bottle instead of the even cylinder that is typical of a wine bottle. 

Light modifiers - black/white card, white box
Black card is nice for red wine bottles - adds depth and stops reflections on front of bottle
The White card will make things shine by bouncing light off shiny surfaces - i.e., trim on labels, etc. It will also give three-dimensional qualities by adding tone. 

How
Light rims on the side of the bottle give shape and three-dimensional look. Do this by adding a white card to reflect light into both sides. 
Try lighting from behind to open up shadows and light liquid in bottle or show glass texture.
White wine - shoot through white reflector boards (of any sort), angle them at 45 degrees to the object - minimises reflections. 
Drape the entire area in front of the bottle/object with black fabric to minimise reflections. Or at least, a large black card with a whole to shoot through. Use the white card/white scrim to reflect/add light to the sides of the bottle.

Tips
Removing the back label on wine bottles - this will give a cleaner look to the bottle.
Using a white box to photograph in will virtually eliminate all reflections. Perfect. 

If you don't have enough natural light, use diffused artificial light with a white and black card to direct it where you want it to go. 

 

An example of a wine bottle photo hack: 


Place a bottle of white wine on a white-clothed tabled near a window which has a fair amount of light filtering through. Get as much white in front of the bottle as possible, as it will be reflected in the surface. 


Check the background is ok.


Hold up the cloth on each side of the bottle including arching it over the top. Try and bring the edges as close as possible in front of the bottle.


Squeeze your camera between the cloth and take a photo. 

 

Following are some examples of the difference a reflector can make. They aren't pretty photos that I'd use for anything but showing you exactly what a reflector does. 

No reflector use

No reflector use

Black reflector on right hand side of bottle. Stops the reflections but also makes the label look grey from being darker. Good for moody images. 

Black reflector on right hand side of bottle. Stops the reflections but also makes the label look grey from being darker. Good for moody images. 

White card on left, black card on right. If this card wrapped around the top also, you would have a near reflection free bottle. 

White card on left, black card on right. If this card wrapped around the top also, you would have a near reflection free bottle. 

Two white cards (one bending over the top of the bottle) and slit for camera down the middle. You can see where the card is bent (that's what you get when you enlist your 5yo to help :)) so keep looking and adjust where required.

Two white cards (one bending over the top of the bottle) and slit for camera down the middle. You can see where the card is bent (that's what you get when you enlist your 5yo to help :)) so keep looking and adjust where required.

White card on right. Notice how the marks and imperfections show up, but it is still nicer than the window light and it's reflections on the left side.

White card on right. Notice how the marks and imperfections show up, but it is still nicer than the window light and it's reflections on the left side.

 


Products


Angle - parallel for bottles and keeping perspective. Flat lays are good for objects that don't have much height or are more interesting seen from above. If it's important to keep lines straight (ie, books or square objects, make sure you are parallel from above. 

Photograph the object in multiple ways, from different angles and viewpoints.

  • Product alone
  • Product together


Pay extra attention to details - straight lines, marks, dents will be emphasised.


Light can be directional and atmsopheric with shadows or light and bright with flat, soft lighting.


Think about what props can be added to help tell the story.

 


Food


Angle - from above, side on, 2/3 view looking down. Get the shot you think you want, then photograph it from different angles. 

Use white card/napkin/tablecloth to bounce light back into the food

Choose a location next to a window or door. Or outdoors in open shade (under trees, umbrella, verandah). Soft, even light is what you are looking for.

Back light or side light is best. A reflector to add light to the shadows is added to the opposite side of the light source.

Avoid direct flash.

Look at your background and get rid of distractions or overpowering sized bits.

Make sure plates and cutlery are clean. Wipe up crumbs and excess juice (unless you are going for the half eaten look).

Take a pic quickly. Food starts to 'melt' quick and won't look fresh. A chef who has been involved with photography shoots before will only par cook the food - helping to maintain colour and plumpness. Consider red meat - does it look better brown and well done, or with slight pinkness and juice?

Also, if it's someone else's food, they will want to eat it when it's hot. And the fun quickly wears off if you take too long at every meal service. 

Props could include
cutlery
folded napkin
ingredients
associated products
garnish
multiple plates/bowls/cutlery stacked
half ate/serving/used cutlery/crumpled napkin lifestyle look

 

 

Simple Light Hacks for anything

Natural window light with no reflectors

Natural window light with no reflectors

White card on right but there are distractions in the spoon from not having a reflector over the top

White card on right but there are distractions in the spoon from not having a reflector over the top

White card on right and top to minimise reflections in spoon

White card on right and top to minimise reflections in spoon

Black card on right to minimise the amount of light being reflected back into the dish

Black card on right to minimise the amount of light being reflected back into the dish

 


White napkins/paper/cardboard/wood/wall/sheet - use as a reflector


Filtered light - soft light falling through a window, white sheet/lace/netting in front of a light/speed light


Car windscreen shield for a silver reflector


If at a table, lift up the sides of the tablecloth and use as a reflector in front of your food.

 


Backgrounds


Blur out the background with an aperture of up to f5.6 (f2.8 is my fave) and keeping as close as possible to the subject. Make sure you focus (tap on the screen of an iPhone) where the main point of interest is. 


Consider the colours and food on the dish. If it's a busy dish, keep the background simple. If it's a dark dish, perhaps break it up with white crockery and a splash of green. White cloth, black (but be careful, it can quickly turn the photo dark and sinister), hessian, cloth, rustic wood.


Metal sheet or gloss card useful for reflecting product beneath.

 


Tips for photographing liquids


Glasses of liquid will ‘come alive’ with back or side lighting. 


Make it freshly poured, especially for bubbles. 


Make sure beer has a head.


Be extra vigilant with unwanted marks on glasses and crockery.


Spray bottle with water and gelatin will help give nice 'icy cold' water droplets on the outside of the bottle or glass.

 

 


HOMEWORK:

Photograph something with and without reflectors and upload to Facebook. 

- try different lighting set ups and different backgrounds to test out how it changes the feel of your images.

 


UP NEXT:

People photos

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