Product photography can be quite expensive since it requires a lot of special equipment.
But you don’t need to have all the latest product photography equipment and accessories to get started. We’ll show you the essential tools to create professional-level results.
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Choosing a Camera for Product Photography
Photographers often use high-resolution cameras to create product photos for posters and billboards. In most cases, it requires using resolutions between 50 to 100 megapixels or more.
Thankfully, you don’t need to have an expensive camera for product photography in the beginning. Why? Because you’re most likely starting with photography for products online.
If you use high-resolution files, it will take a while to load them on the web. So it’s preferable to use small-sized product photos, instead.
For online product photos, a 24-megapixel DSLR or mirrorless camera is more than enough to do the job. It provides you with adequate resolution without having to deal with large files.
Don’t know which option to choose? Feel free to check out our top entry-level cameras in 2020.
Of course, as you grow as a product photographer, it will be essential to upgrade to a full-frame or even a medium-format camera. After all, a crop-sensor camera isn’t going to be enough once you start getting big projects that require high-resolution files.
If that’s the case, then the Canon 5D Mk IV offers a great value for you. It’s relatively affordable for a professional camera, and it offers plenty of lens options.
Choosing the Right Lens
When you’re just starting doing photography for product, using the kit lens that came with your camera will do the job. Although it may not be the sharpest, the quality it produces is enough for online use. It also allows you to zoom in and out to let you capture full shots as well as close-ups.
If you’re ready for an upgrade, we recommend that you buy a lens that is compatible with a full-frame camera. That way you don’t have to get rid of optics that won’t work with a professional camera body.
The first lens you’ll want to get is one with a macro function. That way, you can easily photograph the minute details of any product.
There are different types of macro lenses. But we recommend getting either the 85mm or 100mm macro. These options are not only sharp, but they also don’t cause image distortions, unlike other focal lengths.
If you want more bang for your buck, consider buying zoom lenses with a macro function. Since it combines both a regular zoom lens and a macro lens, you get the best of both worlds.
Not every camera brand offers a zoom lens with macro. But if you’re a Canon user, you’re in luck because you have the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens. And if you’re a Nikon user, you have the Nikkor AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D.
Tripods for Product Photography
Apart from the usual eye-level angle, doing a lot of flat lays is also common in product photography. That means you need to get a tripod that allows you to do overhead shots.
Unfortunately, entry-level tripods don’t let you take pictures from above. Fortunately, you can buy relatively affordable options, such as the Vanguard AltaPro. It has an adjustable central column, which you can swivel horizontally to take overhead shots.
If you have a bigger budget, we recommend the Manfrotto 055 3-section tripod.
Apart from the horizontal column, you also get a 3-way head, which allows you to make precise adjustments.
Use a Speedlight for Great Lighting on a Small Budget
If you want to get the best product photography equipment without breaking the bank, Speedlights are your best option. They don’t cost as much as studio strobes, and they are brighter than LED lights.
There are tons of choices when it comes to Speedlights as well. Major brands such as Nikon, Canon, and Sony have their line of Speedlights. But they tend to be expensive.
If you want a low-cost option, you can go with the Neewer Speedlight. It comes with a remote trigger so you can set it off wirelessly. If you have the budget, consider buying the Yongnuo YN-560IV 3-flash kit.
It not only comes with a trigger, but it also has three Speedlights. This lets you do 3-lighting set-ups that are typical in product photography.
Remember that your Speedlight doesn’t need to be a Canon or a Nikon. You can use any brand as long as it fits your camera’s hot shoe.
Must-Have Accessory: Light Stands
The light stand is one of the most crucial product photography equipment on this list.
People use light stands for supporting lighting kits. But did you know that you can also use them to hold all sorts of rigs and reflectors?
Light stands differ in prices, mostly depending on the brand and build quality. You can get one for as cheap as 20 dollars. But we recommend that you consider investing in high-quality options. Since you’ll be using them to hold expensive equipment, you need to make sure they won’t break easily.
We recommend the Neewer heavy-duty light stand. It’s not only affordable, but it can also hold up to 8 kilograms worth of equipment. That’s more than enough to support your flashgun and a light modifier.
Use a Speedlight Bracket to Hold Lighting Modifiers in Place
This essential accessory allows you to install your Speedlight on a light stand. It also has a mount that lets you put on all sorts of lighting modifiers such as umbrellas and softboxes.
There are different types of Speedlight brackets. We recommend getting one that has a Bowens mount. That way, you can install a wide variety of Bowens-compatible lighting modifiers.
The most dependable Speedlight bracket in our experience is the Godox S-Type bracket. It has a robust construction, and it securely holds your flash unit in place. Apart from that, it has a mount for both Bowens modifiers as well as studio umbrellas.
Choose the Right Softbox for the Type of Product Photography
Types of softboxes vary a lot. They all have specific functions depending on the type of product photography you do.
For instance, strip boxes are often better for photographing bottles. Meanwhile, rectangular ones are suitable for general product photography.
At 120 centimetres, it’s also large enough to let you photograph a larger product. And did we mention it has a grid that allows you to stop light from spilling out everywhere?
Of course, there are also other options out there that are either smaller or larger than the Godox model we recommend. You can use them as long as they have a Bowens mount.
Achieve Perfect Lighting With Reflectors
Lighting is one of the most crucial elements in product photography. To achieve the perfect lighting set-up, you’ll need to use a V-flat in conjunction with your light source.
Its primary function is to reflect light on your subject to create even illumination.
A V-flat is essentially foldable cardboard with two to three surfaces. The first one is white, which you can use to bounce back light and kill the shadows on your product. The second is black, which absorbs light and increases the shadows. Sometimes, there’s a surface made of silver material which you can choose when you need to reflect more light.
The Meking cardboard reflector is an excellent option for product photography. You can quickly prop it up next to your product without the need for support. It’s also compact that you can carry it around for location shoots. The downside is that it’s too small for oversized objects.
If you want a larger option, you can opt for a 5-in-1 reflector, instead. It has five sides that give you different lighting effects.
Apart from the traditional white reflector, you also get gold and silver. Then you have a black surface that you can use as a “flag” to prevent reflections and increase shadows on your subject. In the middle, you have a scrim that softens the light that hits your product.
We recommend the Neewer 5-in-1 reflector because it’s large and it folds down into a small carrying case.
But you don’t even really need to buy a V-flat or 5-in-1 reflector for product photography. You can always use black and white foam boards to create the same results.
They’re not only cheaper, but you can use them for larger products as well.
Use an Air Blaster to Remove Specks of Dirt From Your Shot
The air blaster is probably one of the most overlooked photography products. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most crucial, in our opinion.
So what is the air blaster? It’s essentially a rubber bulb that blows out a jet of air. You can use it to clean a product without having to touch it at all.
The air blaster is perfect for cleaning products since it doesn’t leave any residues. In contrast, using microfibre cloths can sometimes leave some lint or even smudges on the surface.
There are plenty of options for air blasters, and they all work the same. But we recommend the Giottos Air Blaster the most for its durability.
Don’t be obsessed with acquiring the latest and greatest product photography equipment, yet. Start slow and only choose what’s essential. All you need are the ten items on our list to start your business.
As you get more clients, you’ll have the opportunity to acquire even more tools.