Product notes

When we quote for product photography, the client often asks “why so much? It takes just a moment to take a photo, surely?”.

But as you can probably imagine, it is not as simple as that. There is more expertise and work involved than you may think. Let me show you.

First, there is the setup you require. At a minimum, this:

That is, a light setup of some sort – at a minimum, a light box and a nice reflective surface, but often extra “kicker” lights, special reflectors, and more. And a high-definition camera (that is a Canon 5D-SR, a special 50 Megapixel camera), and a 100mm f/2.8L macro lens.

So then the photo: this involves cleaning and then positioning the subject carefully, adjusting lights, and positioning reflectors and backgrounds. This can mean a lot of work, because each type of product has its own specific needs – and challenges. For jewellery, that includes things like desired and unwanted reflections; colours; and simply how to hold the jewellery. For industrial products, the need is often more “mechanical” (show every detail) than artistic or sales-related. And so on.

Then take photos until you are happy. Done!

Eh… no, not done. Most of the work is still ahead.

Because once you put the photo into Lightroom and make basic adjustments (crop, white balance, and so on), you must then put the photo into Photoshop, and make detailed adjustments. And 99% of those detailed adjustments mean “remove dust and other imperfections”.

You see, when you get a rough photo like this:

…it looks fine, but when you zoom in…:

…which of course is unacceptable. And this occurs all over every photo, however well you have cleaned the object prior to photographing it. It is almost a law of nature: “there will be dust”.

And when you look closely enough, you will also see scratches, imperfections, perhaps unwanted shadows, signs of wear, and so on. It is not uncommon to spend four hours – or for a professional jewellery photo even more, sometimes well over a day, for one photo.

After all that has been fixed, there is still more – sharpening, using specialized sharpening software, and quite possibly also upscaling for publication.

Click on this image below to see a “pretty much finished” image: even that partial finishing took me two hours.

And that is why product photography is not cheap – but if you want it done well, spending the time is the only way to do it.

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