Woodworking - Photographing Furniture and Interiors

Discussion in 'Commercial/Product photography' started by msanko1, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. msanko1

    msanko1 TPF Noob!

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    Hello all,

    I'm brand new to the page so forgive any naiveté. I own a small woodworking business in Broomfield, Colorado and I am hoping to bring the business to the next level through proper representation on social media. My photos thus far have been taken via smart phone and it is becoming increasingly irritating to watch my work look lack luster due to the photos produced by my incredibly expensive social media machine (let's be honest, that's all most use it for these days). Some research I've done has led me to understand that I should invest in lenses (in addition to a proper camera and some lighting for furniture display) that allow wide angle and detail among other aspects. Here's where the naiveté may come into play... I know nothing of the price realm I may be stepping into. It may be wishful thinking but I would like to stay under $1,000 to get this aspect of my business underway.

    My question then is as a beginner who is looking to photograph furniture and interior design (sliding barn doors, built in bookcases, mudrooms, etc.), what camera/lens/lighting would you suggest to ensure quality photographs for social media/advertising purposes? Is second-hand something to consider or can I potentially run into a "lemon" of sorts? As aforementioned, I would like to stay within a $1,000 budget if possible. Thank you in advance for your time spent in response to my potentially embarrassing rant!


     
  2. Frank F.

    Frank F. engineering art Supporting Member

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    Even with a 10.000 budget you will not be able to replace the knowledge you need to properly setup and light furniture. Wide angle for example seduces to perspective distortion if you are too near to the subject. Much better use 60mm or 90mm lenses and a rather big room. Plus you want realistic colors good textures and even lighting over a wide area.

    I guess if you invest 1000 US$ in good light and a course on product photography you get more value than if you invest in a camera system you cannot handle. With good light an iPhone is better than a DSLR with bad light.

    I once had to shoot a collection of coffins in high resolution. This was a challenge even to me a seasoned professional.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
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  3. JoeW

    JoeW Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You can certainly buy a brand new DSLR with a lens appropriate for this kind of product photography and some lighting and a modifier or two that will produce great results. The challenge is that just having a decent camera and lens isn't going to be sufficient.

    For starters, I'd look at one of the Nikon D3xxx series (D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400 etc.). You can get a used Nikon D3000 for as little as $150. These are all entry level DSLRs that will suit your purpose perfectly. I'd look at a Nikon DX 35mm f1.8 lens. I don't know what situation or setting you're shooting in but the human eye tends to "tune out" background clutter that you then notice in the resulting photo ("Man, look at those telephone wires, that discarded coke can, that pole sticking out of the back of his head" etc.). As Frank F. pointed out, lighting (and the nature of that light) is critical. Since you're dealing with furniture and also wood, then you're got several important lighting issues. For starters, it's easy for you to get glare (which in a photo will look like a hot spot or just a white over-exposed spot on the furniture....very ugly and distracting b/c the human eye is drawn to bright areas in any photo). So that means you want to try and light indirectly or by using a scrim or light modifier (like a reflector or soft box) so light is coming in to the scene in-directly. The tone of the light matters (I'd guess that you want a soft light rather than something that is hard or harsh which will produce lighting extremes--lots of shadows combined with lots of bright spots). Also, white balance matters (so you don't have furniture with fake colors...wood that looks green or yellow when it should be a rich red). I don't mention any of this to intimidate you, only to make the point that you can acquire a suitable camera and still produce crappy pictures b/c you're getting in to issues like...manipulating light and color which your iPhone isn't capable of doing (and a DSLR is...but you need to know how to manipulate light and color).

    The simplest setup would be one of the Nikon D3XXX series with the DX 35mm f1.8, a couple of good reflectors (these could be as simple as a 4ft. x 3 ft. piece of foam core--2 reflectors), a large backdrop that allows you to cover up background clutter and tools and dust and crap in your workshop, a honking big window with some nice soft light (usually indirect or filtered by a cloud) and then a rock solid trip (don't even think of looking at anything less than $150). Set your camera up on that tripod and then shoot a 2 second exposure with an aperture setting just wide enough to keep all of the piece of furniture in focus but put the foreground and background in blur. You could easily acquire all of those things and spend less than $1,000. Or...if you don't have the honking big window or you get a lot of cloudless, bright, direct-sun days (or alternately, your shop is full of artificial light that might be fluorescent), you're going to have to invest in a speed light or two and you'll need to learn how to operate those.

    You don't need to learn how to be a pro, how to shoot sports, how to pose models...you've got a very specific need and niche to focus on (no pun intended). But you're going to (at a minimum) need to learn how to operate your camera (this does not mean: "insert the battery, take the lens cap off"). You're going to need to learn about light, how to manipulate it, how to change the tone and nature of light (make it soft, minimize shadows by bouncing light off of ceilings, use angles to remove hotspots and glare), and how to use aperture (to keep our item in focus but blurring the foreground and background so the viewer's eyes are focusing on the product and not the background).
     
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  4. msanko1

    msanko1 TPF Noob!

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    -Thank you for the information Frank. That coffin job sounds killer.
     
  5. msanko1

    msanko1 TPF Noob!

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    -Wonderful insight Joe! Thank for the time you put into your response, the information was very helpful. I know YouTube is an incredible resource and learning tool, do you know of any channels that may be a good starting point to cut my teeth on lighting?
     
  6. Frank F.

    Frank F. engineering art Supporting Member

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    I guess it is possible to do it better, esp on the post production side. But this is what I could do in 2008 with the knowledge & tools at hand at the time. I guess I can still make them shine more if I just take the RAW or the TIFF and polish them in Photoshop CC 2017.

    This is a set up with two diffuse lights in an otherwise fully dark room´. Shot with my Nikon D3 and a 60mm Macro at f/13 IIRC

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    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Consider that photos with attractive people in them will create hugely more interest than photos of furniture,or mud rooms,or bookcases, filled with books with their spines showing. Look at advertising photos from other high-end businesses in your field. Look at advertising images-- they do not focus on the goods, as much as they do the people who own those goods.

    Can you IMAGINE how freaking great life would be if it were like a Coors Light commercial?

    We forgive the naivete, since you are a first-time posted; yet, it's akin to coming to a woodworking group and asking what $1,000 worth of shop tools will make us into successful cabinet makers. It's not the tools nearly as much as it is the craftsman, and his knowledfe of his field, that creates good pictures.

    If you want more LOOKS on social media...you will want to work some good-looking people into the promotional photos. I am not kidding you either.

    Last: you need to understand lighting strategies, and the tools used to modify light. And keep this in mind, as a beginner. While incidence equals reflection, that also has to be placed within the context of a FIXED camera point of view. In other words...decide on the camera POV, and have an ASSISTANT move the lighting through an arc, whle you look, continuously, at the image the camera LENS sees. If you do this, you will be miles ahead from the get-go. WORK WITH AN ASSISTANT, while you look at what the camera sees. For the beginner, lighting is not a one-man job.
     
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  8. Frank F.

    Frank F. engineering art Supporting Member

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    That is the point. No tool can replace craftsmanship and experience.
     
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  9. manishsoni

    manishsoni TPF Noob!

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    Hello Your Product will show online and you need to take Quality images with wide angles. Product Photography will Not Easy you need set proper Leans better use 60mm or 90mm lenses in your Product Photography and Capture Quality Images that will Improve your online business sale because your product photograph will say every things about your product quality and more
     

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