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How to photograph your products yourself with little or no equiptment
Author: Rolf Hansen

Producing great catalog photographs is a snap so to speak, if your a photographer. If you're not great at graphic design I can help you there too. Firstly you have to consider your products. if they are small to medium in size. it's a lot easier to shoot small things. The bigger the object the bigger the challenge. Lets take the small and medium products first. The easiest way to shoot them would be to get two saw horses and a 4x4 or 8x8 sheet of half inch plywood, then go to your local art supply store and get a half roll of photographic background paper for about $20.They come in many colors but light gray or white is the easiest to use because they reflect more light back into the product. You just off an 8" length you can tape it to a wall or back of your house. Or just buy two large matt boards and stand one against the wall and the other on the table, and It would help to get one or two 150 watt daylight fluoresces screw in bulbs and couple of those cheap silver clamp lamps you see in the hardware store and a cheap light stand. Shooting with low wattage light bulb can work just fine but you have to have the light close to your subject. You'll also need a 4x4 white reflector. I use half inch silver foiled insulation board from the hardware store, they're great and you can slice one side half way through and fold and tape the cut to make little standing reflectors and put them near your product but just out or the cameras view to bring out more detail. That's all you really need. I have made plenty of make shift setups and they worked well.

Sunlight is wonderful an bright so you don't even need a tripod, but one would help.Soft cloudy hazy light is best so either shoot in the early morning or late afternoon so the sun is low in the sky. Noon is a no no. Of course you will need to figure out what times are best for you. you can always turn your table to improve your sun lighting. Direct sun is good too as long as it is low in the sky. low lighting equals drama. Use your big silver reflector to fill in the shadows by putting it on the opposite side of your product. The reflector is more important for dark objects than light ones. Move it around until it looks good, it sure would be nice if you had an assistant. If not, you can rig it up with duct tape. Now if you live up north this will be a problem in the winter months, rain and wind are also a drag. this can be set up indoors too. try to use a corner with white wall and ceiling, you only need light from one direction as the wall will act as a reflector. I like to use a big window and a reflector it always comes out soft and dreamy, it's the most romantic lighting of all, don't shoot facing the window make your setup so you're shooting side light from the window.

Before the shoot group your products in logical groups and then into size groups. Start shooting the largest ones first and work your way down in size. moving your light or reflector closer in as they get smaller. it's a lot quicker to photograph same size and styles like an assemble line. Place your product near the front of your makeshift shooting table usually at a 45 degree angle so you see a little bit of the front and side, I like to shoot at eye level to the table or slightly higher. First take a few test shots to get the exposure down. you can shoot everything on automatic especially if it has exposure control, most all digital cameras do. Just shoot a +1 and +2 and a normal exposure. the reason we don't shoot a -1 is because the light gray or white paper will fool the camera a little. take a few shots then experiment with different angles and lighting. remember it's always better to under expose than over expose.

The nice thing is you can see if the exposure in right by reviewing the pictures .Shoot tons of picture as it does not cost a thing. One of reasons I like to shoot on a light gray is the product or catalog page will always look very clean and professional. if you want more color add it to the graphics and page layout. Hiring a graphic designer will also improve your photos just by using a good layout for your catalog. And remember good photos help sell a product for sure but words are more important when it comes to making the sale. Good product descriptions and catchy headlines will do the trick.

Keywords: catalogs, photography, products

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About the Author
Rolf Hansen is a professional photographer and digital artist living in the beautiful Berkshires in Massachusetts.
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