Product photography

I get lots of requests for help from people who run website or small Ebay Internet businesses.

They basically want to know what equipment they need to get to do better product photography. There is a lot of competition. The big firms are able to afford to pay the prices asked by the most successful photographers. Smaller outfits try to find ways of conserving capital by doing work for themselves..

What is meant by product photography? Consumer magazines are full of photos ranging from large objects like cars, boats, houses, interior furnishings, electronic gadgets, power tools, gardening equipment, and on a smaller scale, phones, watches, clothes and bottles of perfume. There are many other categories that I’ve missed form this list. Trying to find one photographer who is a master at photographing all of these categories would be very difficult indeed. Photographers tend to specialise in a narrow range of activities for which they become known.

If you want to investigate whether its feasible to do some of your own photographic work I think its best to spend some time thinking about some very practical problems. Do you have enough space to devote to photographic work? Obviously its hard to generalise here but the man that sold signage for directing drivers around public car parks will need a lot bigger space than a man who sold antique Japanese swords. Space can be an expensive commodity if its underused.

Another type of customer has done some holiday photography and thinks skills can be acquired merely by spending a lot on the proper equipment. Sometimes, this may be true. I have a pen that is better than anything Shakespeare ever had but I still can’t write as well. Equipment isn’t everything. Throwing money at a problem isn’t always going to make the skills of image building that were hard won from long years of study and experience. It is also true that technology can change radically (from analogue to digital) rendering some past experience worthless almost overnight. Often salesmen have recommended photographic gear that isn’t really suitable at all for the job they want to do with it. On one occasion that equipment was very good the user had changed his product range to such a degree that the soft light of fluorescent tubes wasn’t incisive enough for the new products he was photographing. These were simply sheets of rough textured paper. Light tents from Ebay or trade fairs are bought enthusiastially to solve all sorts of photographic problems.They work okay for some very small objects though they are far from the answer to all simple photographic lighting problems.

Interior of David Turner’s Stokenchurch studio where one -to -one photography courses are run

A better way to proceed would be to strengthen you knowledge base prior to investing a lot of cash in new equipment. Spend a day finding and doing practical work in the studio on one of my photographic courses. You will normally be the only student and can find out exactly what you need to know. If you book an on sight photographic course you will get a written report on the kind of things you need to do your work and the likely cost involved.