Designers Roberto Blake and Jim Krause are on to something. They both passionately pursue photography as a side to their graphic design projects, and they advocate for other designers to pursue it as well. In fact, in Krause’s online course, Creative Exercises for Designers, he instructs students to experiment with photography as a way to re-energize creativity.
Experimenting with photography provides a variety of benefits to graphic designers. Not only does it stimulate creativity and originality, but it also complements graphic design as a career-enhancing tool.
Graphic designers with a trained eye for photography and a handiness with a camera will be able to cross over those skills into their design projects. Instead of hiring an expensive photographer, designers may opt to shoot their own product images for their print or web designs. Plus, there’s a relatively cheap way to build a practical photography studio that can be used time and time again for product shoots.
In this excerpt from the course, Digital Photography I, professor Taz Tally reveals how to build a budget-friendly studio for taking photos of products. He explains everything you need to create the perfect product shot setup.
Making a Photo Studio for Profesional Product Shoots
To really enhance your opportunities for success—and minimize hassles and post-capture retouching—you’ll be well served to set up your own mini photo studio. You can build your own mini studio, buy one, or—as is very common—use a combination of the two.
Your goal with a photo studio is to control your product positioning, background, and lighting. You want to create a simply composed image that focuses a viewer’s attention on the product. So you need simple backgrounds and diffuse lighting of over which you have directional control. Diffuse lighting is the light that is diffused either through fabric or frosted light surfaces. I emphasize diffuse lighting because direct lighting tends to be too harsh and is too likely to create unwanted reflections.
Below is an example of a typical mini photo studio or small lighting booth.
The Photo Studio’s Characteristics:
- Semi-transparent white fabric walls which serve as very effective light diffusers.
- Independent lights with frosted lens surfaces to create initial light diffusion. These allow for control of direction and intensity of your lighting.
- A minimum of two color balanced (typically 6500° Kelvin) lamps for controlling the indirect lighting of your product. A third light can be handy for controlling background lighting, but it’s not absolutely required.
- Creative product stands. If you look carefully you can see that I have designed a pair of overhead wands (created from Venetian blind controller rods) that I use for suspending products in space. I use these for shooting products like Christmas tree ornaments and stained glass hangings that don’t set up well on a flat surface. Don’t be afraid to be creative to come up with your own solutions for your own specific product shot challenges.
- Neutral gray fabrics for my backgrounds that work very well with a wide variety of products and colors. I have a couple of different tonal values of gray for when I need lighter or darker backgrounds depending on the lightness or darkness of my products. The neutral fabric also makes a handy target to use for quickly and easily neutralizing images for color correction.
- A bright blue fabric background that I use as a kind of “green screen” to capture products I intend to isolate later in Photoshop.
- Camera set up on a tripod. I use a cable shutter release to minimize camera shake, particularly when I’m using longer exposures.
Examples of Product Images from the DIY Photo Studio:
All the product photos below were shot using the simple lighting booth shown and explained above.
Be on your way to better photography by learning how to use your digital camera. You’ll master the camera settings and learn to how to use light to your advantage when you enroll in the online digital photography course.