Product Photography

Jul 8, 2003
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Hi everyone! I am just getting into product photography for my company, and we are interested in buying a camera. We do mostly web photos, but we also do a small amount of magazine ads. We will probably need to buy 2 cameras, but I haven't a clue as to what we will need. Anyone out there do product photography? This would be small shiny objects (12 inches X 4 X 2). I could really use some advice, there are so many options out there. The Nikon Cool Pix 5700 was suggested to me. Any comment? It was also suggested that we use a 5 Mega Pixel camera. Closeups are important!

I also have a Minolta X7000i (an oldie but goodie) for film, that we may try to use for the printed magazines.

Any help would be awesome!

By all accounts the Nikon CP-5700 has a problem with the auto-focus in low light and closeups, word is that the manual focus leaves something to be desired on the Nikon as well.
My suggestion is to look seriously at the Sony DSC-F717, it too is 5Mp but the optical zoom is only 5x unlike the Nikons 8x. For what you're looking to use it for it shouldn't make any difference.
Negatives with the Sony are that some people think it's awkward to use with that big lump of a lens (albeit a Zeiss lens!) sticking out in front but the main objection is the memory stick. You're "stuck" with having to use the stick but even that's no big deal.
One other thing, the Sony is about $150 cheaper!
Just my 2 cents worth.
From the research I did on cameras in that range I would agree with mrsid99. That Zeiss lens is so sharp.
...the best advice any one could give you would be to hire a professional shooter

I don't mean to sound flippant - it's simply good advice

Shining (metallic?) objects, especially if they are curved, are one of the most difficult subjects to photograph and require special skills

However, having said that, and assuming your company intends going the DIY route - i suggest your choice of lens is more important than the camera

Purchase the *best* glass you can afford

Also important will be your lighting set up - another can of worms for the amateur

But, hey! everyone has to start somewhere: it's a whole heap of fun and i wish you all the best

With regards a choice of camera, Nikon or Canon would be fine (i'm not familiar with your Minolta)

Don't hesitate to post back if you require assistance/answers with the "technical" stuff, i'd be happy to help...


Wow, thanks guys! It sounds like we should be looking more into what type of lens they have. We were thinking we should pay more attention to the amount of Pix and whether or not it shoots RAW footage. Yes, they are metallic objects and I am glad it is not just me that has trouble with them! We hired a photographer last year, and it was ridiculously expensive. ($1500 for one photo that we did not get rights to). We definitely want to give it a try in the DIY aspect. How hard can it be :wink:

We did buy some lights, Photoflex Med Starlight with 500 and 1000 W bulbs. Now it's just the camera choice.... The most important is the detail. We need it to look clear in the front of the piece as well as the back - so hard to do (especially when you don't fully understand Aperature...)

You guys are suggesting the Sony DSC F717 (with the horribly ugly lens), but it only has a 5X Digital Zoom, while the Nikon has a 8X. Is it better to have more or less?

PS I will take you up on the advice for tech help once I start trying to shoot... Thanks!
For what you are doing I doubt the 8x is going matter.

If you really want to take good product photos for print, it would be best to go buy a 4x5 view camera. There is going to be a steep learning curve but the image detail and quality will be 2nd to none. It also gives you far more control with the angle.
i dont know what im talking about (but my hubby was looking over my shoulder as i read this.. plus he does some product shots) ... he suggest taking a closer look at a light dome ... in this way, u have soft continuos light all around. :)
Your question: "Is it better (with regards zoom) to have more or less?"

The simplistic answer would be that "less" is better

Reason being - using plain language - that "more" zoom means more glass elements in the case of a variable aperture analog lens (fixed aperture zooms are a horrendous cost!) or, more noise/distortion with longer digital zoom ... which translates into your image being of lower quality

Of course, being a "simplistic" answer this may not apply across the board in every case: different makes of digital zoom compare better than others but i'm not able to advise you on specific digital zooms (i use a D-SLR when shooting digitally)

Please post back and keep us informed of what you discover - i for one would be pleased to learn


Dew said:
i dont know what im talking about (but my hubby was looking over my shoulder as i read this.. plus he does some product shots) ... he suggest taking a closer look at a light dome ... in this way, u have soft continuos light all around. :)
That what I was going to mention too. I saw a link posted on another forum. I'll see if I can dig it up.
Please note the difference between optical and digital zoom, optical is literally that, the lenses give the zoom so no detail is lost. With digital zoom you're simply expanding electronically the pixels you've captured and if carried to extremes produces the effect called "pixellation", the image seems to be composed of blocks.
Optical is therefore the one you want and generally more is better.
Since you're not going to be taking shots from far away the zoom shouldn't matter but just for reference even 5x is quite a lot.
5Mp will give you all the detail you need for even large prints, please note the Sony saves the uncompressed (RAW) as TIFF files but should be no bother.
One big plus for starting with digital is the "instant gratification" so you can see immediately if it's good or not and helps when working with "real" cameras.
Thanks for your suggestions and the explanation about the zoom. I now understand the difference. Seems like digital zoom would only be a hinderance, I can't understand what you would use that for.

In reference to lighting, I have heard about suspending objects with such as fishing wire, to oliminate shadows. Otherwise, I have heard that using a black velvet cloth for a backdrop and under the object is very helpful in reducing reflections. Any comments?
Hello again, Clue velvet cloth is used to "absorb" light - either stop light bouncing/reflecting onto a subject, or, effecting a black area into an image (creating a black background, for example) by not reflecting light onto the film or digital chip

One could say that it is "helpful in reducing reflection" - but this would only be correct insofar as light is not bouncing off the velvet material

Black velvet cloth, when placed under or behind your shiny subject, will still be "reflected" in its surface - as will any material

With regards wires, suspending objects, eliminating shadows, etc, etc, these are all tricks of the trade for any product/commercial shooter

Maybe if you posted back some details - such as what your subject is, size and other relevant information - someone could offer more advice or some suggestions




EDIT: go back a few posts and read Dew's post where her husband suggests a light dome (or light tent, as they're sometimes called)

You might like to do some research; depending on the particular situation and requirements, one of these may very well be your solution

They can be purchased - or build your own to measure
my hubby works for a design and printing firm that does "beauty versions" ... sometimes they need product shots for presentations to present to the client or for a magazine ad ...

i've seen him shoot products, and what he does is put light all around the object ... he has two slave lights with umbrella and one large softbox, that usually does the trick...

depending on the object, he has to move the lights around to reduce or eliminate shawdows... sometimes he feels shadows are necessary to make the product "more real" ... i would also consider that as well

*my experience watching him shoot*

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