Novice attempting product photography

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by gossamer, Jun 26, 2017.

  1. gossamer

    gossamer TPF Noob!

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    Hi, I'm not a complete novice, but I've never done product photography in a professional setting before.

    I have a D500 with a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm, and one SB700 and have been referred by a friend to a pet products company to update their product line. This means taking pictures of dog collars, plastic bones, fish supplies, etc.

    The location is in their warehouse. I don't have all the details yet, but they apparently have an existing set-up from their previous effort at doing this. They now want to get someone with more experience, yikes. I'm going to get a few pictures of what the environment looks like, although I don't expect they have much on site.

    Of course there's so much that's subjective here - level of experience, I believe I have the ability to do this, but have a few questions.

    - Is it appropriate to ask for a budget first? I realize this is often times tough, but it would be good to have an idea of how to frame this whole thing - are they looking to just get something done, or do they want a more thorough job? Do you charge by the picture? How do you charge?

    - Is the 24-70mm suitable for this? It's a warehouse setting, with "just straightforward product shots on white background", I'm told. There's a Tamron 90mm macro that I thought might be helpful, but I don't imagine it's necessary.

    - Any youtube videos you can recommend for product photography tips? They're existing product shots are really quite basic. No shadows, just a picture taken straight on.

    - Should I invest in a lightbox and some additional SB700s? Maybe some contractor lights with LED "daylight" bulbs would suffice?

    - How long would you expect it to take for 150 products? Of course it depends on experience, etc, but as a general guide, would it be best to allocate a full day?

    - There will also be post-processing involved, to make sure the white balance, color, size, etc, are correct. Do you charge by the picture?

    - Do you have a contract? Do you get a deposit? Do you make them sign something other than an agreement to pay for the work? Would you try to get involved in an agreement for ongoing work to update the photos?

    I'd really appreciate your input.


     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    These days, I would ALWAYS ask for a budget before anything else. If you're expecting $10 and item, and they're planning on $2, it's best to know before hand and save yourself a LOT of time and trouble setting up the shoot.

    I would charge straight time on this, and estimate it at two full days.

    The 24-70 might not be my first choice, but it's certainly adequate for the task.

    There are thousands; watch a bunch of 'em.

    Do you mean a light tent or a soft box (two VERY different animals)? For lighting I would want four lights, two medium umbrellas for the background and two small (24") soft boxes for the product. Of course you'll need triggers, light stands, etc.

    I would plan on five minutes per item; some will take a <1 minute, some, especially if they're highly reflective, irregularly shaped, etc, might take 10-15 minutes.

    Post-processing should be included in your price; you're charging (or should be) for a finished product.

    I would definitely have an agreement signed in advance that confirmed the price, usage limitation, etc. I would hope that my work would be all that was needed for follow-on work.
     
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  3. DGMPhotography

    DGMPhotography Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    ^ what John said.

    Always have a contract. Deposit is up to you. I usually do 10% or $75, whichever is higher, for stuff like this. You should have at least two lights. When I do product shots, I use three lights. One above filling the scene, one key, and one fill. But four would be ever better to make sure the background is even.
     
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  4. gossamer

    gossamer TPF Noob!

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    Do you have any suggestions for a contract? Do you know where I can find a boilerplate to start?

    Do you have a lens recommendation, at least to give me something to think about?

    I have a budget for lights. This will definitely be a trial by fire for me, but I know I can do it.

    The products are very small - dog toys, collars, etc. I was assuming the products would be laying on a white table with the camera on a tripod above.

    I was otherwise thinking the products could be placed in a lightbox, maybe something like this, then shoot with an on-camera flash:
    http://magazine3.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/lightbox.jpg
     
  5. DGMPhotography

    DGMPhotography Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Look online and there are plenty of contract templates available.

    I generally use my 50mm f/1.8 for just about everything. You're shooting on a crop sensor, so I think around 50mm would be good for you. Around 80 is the sweet spot to avoid distortion. Though it depends on the lens.

    For lights, I'd recommend Yongnuo. They're cheap and work great. I think the Nikon lights are way overpriced. Or at least, unnecessary for most things.
     
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  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Nope. Uh-uh. Wrong. Incorrect. No-way, no-how. In short... No!

    You need to make a product table. All you really need is a 4' folding trestle table, a roll of white seamless, and a way to suspend to it horizontally at one end about 3' above the table. Bring the paper down so it forms an arc or sweep (no sharp edges/corners) and then laying flat on the table. You want the table to be long enough to have at least 2-3' between the product and the back.

    The other key point is that the product does not lay on the table (in most cases). It' suspended ABOVE; not far; 6-12" is plenty. A small white block that you can clone out in post will work well. If it's small enough use a length of mono filament from above.
     
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  7. benhasajeep

    benhasajeep No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Since it's product shots, cheaper hot lights can be used and will be easier to use for inexperienced. As others said you want your product away from the background and off the table. You want to light the background, and the product. Gives you that floating effect (item not part of the background). These are product shots, not ebay sellers. Don't fall for the product picture tents or anything like that.

    With hot lights you will not need triggers, or slaves. Just stands, light modifiers (umbrellas, soft boxes, barn doors, etc).

    As others have said, do not place the items directly on your background. That's for ebay. You want the product to stand out from the background. You light the background as well as the product. No shadows and you get that floating effect of the item. I think your 24-70 would be just fine. Get a grey card. Use it to meter for exposure, and white balance. Then leave the setting alone in the camera. Good tripod, head, and remote release. Or use self timer!
     
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  8. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    don't be afraid of being further back and using your longer lens. That will help your object's DOF. With wireless triggers you don't have to worry about that, assuming you have them.

    Also, don't expect their "setup" to actually be functional, or clean. or even useable.
     
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  9. DGMPhotography

    DGMPhotography Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Another cheapo option is to get a white trifold and white poster paper. You can use the poster paper as your seamless and tape or clamp it to the trifold. But I think John's way will look better, and more professional. Just giving you options.
     
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  10. gossamer

    gossamer TPF Noob!

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    I've now spoken with the owner, and she wants it very simple. I definitely don't want to expect anything from their existing setup - she told me they have a table with a white foam board to put on top of it. She wants it to match their existing pictures, and from what I've seen, they have no depth. They're completely flat. I've included one of their existing pictures.

    I have some money in the budget for lights, and was anticipating buying a few speedlights for portraits. Would you consider two SB700s with my existing on-camera SB700 along with wireless triggers. However, I stopped because I wasn't sure if they would work successfully when in umbrellas or an ezbox?

    I also had an opportunity to purchase two used SB700s for $500, but didn't know if that was a good deal - what do people think about buying used flashes? There's no way to tell how long they've been in use. I've also considered Yongnuo, but isn't Nikon's CLS better?

    I was previously looking to purchase the following:
    - Manfrotto 1004BAC 144-Inch Air Cushioned Aluminum Master Light Stand with 4 Sections and 3 Risers, 3-Pack
    - 2 Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter
    - 2 Lastolite LL LS2462M2 Ezybox M2 Hotshoe Kit-24-Inch X 24-Inch

    This also looked to be an amazing deal to get started.
    Amazon.com : Emart 600W Photography Photo Video Portrait Studio Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit : Camera & Photo

    Please do not post images to which you do not hold rights. You may post links.
     
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  11. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You get what you pay for... just sayin'
     
  12. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    There's many threads about continuous bulbs littering dead TPF threads.

    put their image on Flickr or something and link to it, so we can see it.
    Then you can chimp away to get their look ... maybe.
     

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