DIY Light Box Product Photography

One thing that is most important with an online business is product photography. If you start of with bad pictures you will turn off potential customers early on and they might not come back, so how do you get it right with out breaking the bank? Here is my journey as an amateur photographer.

First I must confess, I have a very nice ~$500 camera which I got for mother’s day one year. I love my Canon Rebel.  I use it and the preset setting for the most part (the food setting is the money shot). OK that covers the camera part up front, but what is truly more important is the lighting.  We’ll start off with Owen’s Adventures. Here our photography is mostly on the green grass in our back yard or on our large wood furniture  providing a  continuous background (the furniture we made and is all stained red chestnut). All of these pictures were taken outside.

In these two examples above you can see the effect of the partial shade on the Tee-pee and the nice cloudy day even lighting effect on the egg ornament.  I try to take outdoor photos on bright but cloudy days as much as possible or I look for the shadiest part of our yard. Even lighting is what you want, try for  as few sun spots as possible in order for the details to show.

Now, when we started our Noteworthy shop, we wanted a modern feel to it. So tried out a few backgrounds, and a few types of lighting techniques. (Note I have yet to purchase any lighting equipment at this point).

Our products are generally bright (even the red chestnut stain used for wooden products has red tones which really pop) therefore, we picked white as our background.

The first round of photos were taken using a “light box”. This was created by stapling parchment paper to a wooden frame. Then I used our standard garage clip lights to illuminate the product.  Yes, I did not mistype, I mean standard parchment paper you bake cookies on.

This is what the set up looked like.DIY_light_box

We used poster board to create a smooth transition with white canvas under it. Now that worked for smaller products but then we got bigger ideas. So the set up evolved: same “light diffusing” panels but just further apart using a roll of white butcher paper as a continuous backdrop.

Love this picture Luke took (by the way I’m 9 month pregnant with Michael and working it!).DIY_lightbox.jpg

Sorry I digress. Now that was a huge upgrade in picture quality! Our Noteworthy pictures were consistent they rocked but sometimes the color of our product was just not true.  Now, these are all taken indoors, and I was not getting that same true to life colors to pop.

The issue was my light bulbs were standard light bulbs which, we don’t notice, but they have a yellow tint to them.  At this point baby Michael was born and our photographer was soooooo kind as to give me some pointers, not to mention borrow her lighting equipment to try it out!

Next step, I purchased lighting equipment 2 lights to be exact.  That combined with the camera “food setting” has been the ticket!

What a difference! The light was so white, the products popped! So what has my set up evolved to now for our very large products? First, I use both white paper and a backdrop fabric both purchased at a teacher supply store. The white fabric is translucent and the reason I use it is the paper gets creases in it. The paper creases really show up on pictures. So first the paper then the fabric over it. Gives a very continuous soft effect.


Next, I need space to work in. My back drops are at least 1.5 times the product height and 2 times the product length. That allows for me to take pictures from multiple angles.

The lights are positioned opposite each other to cancel each other out. This reduces shadows. I always use both lights, even if you think there are no shadows, they are there!

And yes still post process. One thing that drives me crazy is when you can see my backdrop meet the floor. I try to edit that line out and small changes like that really make your product photography focus the eye on the actual product.

I have not yet purchased a backdrop set that I use. Instead we have PVC erector set from other random projects I do with the kids. I use it to create a frame and attach the backdrop with clips. That might be something I look in to down the road but for now this is my set up.

Photography Essentials

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