The following is a list of basic tips for the crafter, small business owner, or home cook on how to photograph your crafts, products, or food on a white background. Once you get the hang of it you can then begin to play around with other backgrounds and props to really make your images come alive. Just remember that when taking a photo to sell a product; less is more. You want your subject to stand on it’s own as much as you can!
What you’ll need:
- A camera. For this it doesn’t have to be a top of the line pro-camera; a decent digital will work as long as you take care to set things up properly from the beginning. Just use the best camera you have!
- A tripod. Again it doesn’t have to be top on the line; just nice and sturdy. If you don’t have a tripod you can try setting your camera on a table raised up on a stack of books and studied with a beanbag under the lens. As long as it is sturdy and doesn’t move!
- A shutter release cable, wireless remote shutter release, or a self timer setting on your camera.
- A white background. This could be a light tent [purchased or homemade], a white sheet, foam board, or even poster board. As long as it is big enough for your product to sit on and in front of. Ideally you want a nice curve; starting at the front edge of your table [or on the floor- wherever you are working] and going up the wall [or side of a box] behind your product. If you just can’t get a nice curve don’t stress a sharp corner will work if that’s all you got!
- Light! Soft natural light from a window works wonders if you don’t have “studio” lighting. You could even move the whole thing outdoors on an overcast day.
- Something to reflect that light. Yes actual photographic reflectors are awesome but you can use just about any clean white surface or even that silver sun shade from your car!
- Your camera flash. You don’t want the harsh pop-up flash pointing directly at your product; you’ll get some harsh shadows. Use a defuser of some kind or something to bounce your flash around a bit. I’m still liking my old trusty Professor Kobre’s Lightscoop and a plan ol’ sheet of heavy white cardstock to bounce the light.
- Photoshop, or any of a number of other photo editing software programs out there. Many of which are free to download; some even come free with your camera.
The Set Up:
- Place your table near the window or your “studio” lights on either side of the table. If using lights you want one pointed mostly at the background and the other more towards your subject in the center. If using light from the window place your reflector on the opposite side of the table from the window to bounce the light back onto your subject. You can also try setting your table at a 45 degree angle to your light source.
- Set up your background or sweep. If using a tent simply place it on the table. If using a paper or fabric background for your sweep you might need to tape it to the wall or the outside of a box to hold it in place.
- Place your subject on the flat part of the sweep near the center of your table.
Set Up Your Camera:
- Set your white balance to auto.
- Turn off your flash unless you have something to defuse or bounce the light.
- Use your camera’s highest quality setting. Shooting in RAW gives you the best ability to edit later if needed. If RAW is not an option use your best quality jpeg.
- Set your ISO to the lowest number it will go to eliminate as much noise as possible.
- The settings… option a) shoot in full manual mode and control everything yourself as you see fit, or, option b) shoot in aperture priority mode and choose an f-stop setting of 6 to 10 while allowing the camera to choose the rest. If your image is a bit too dark adjust your exposure compensation to +1 or +2.
- Study your camera on the tripod and trigger the shutter with a release cable or the timer setting.
- Take a shot. [using the shutter release cable or timer]
- Re-arrange your subject. Adjust your lights as needed.
- Take another shot.
- Repeat until you are happy with what you see on your LCD screen.
- Your finished image should have a background that is pale pale pale grey to perfectly white. Adjust your levels and or white balance if needed.
- Crop if necessary.
- Straighten your images if needed.
- If you have shot in RAW convert your final image to jpeg.
- Resize for uploading to your web page. A good place to start for online viewing is with a resolution of 150 and the wide side of your images at around 800 pix. Adjust this to a size you like.
And that’s it! Now show your customers, clients, and blog readers just how awesome your creativity really is!