Home Photography Ideas: Commercial Product Photos at Home

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Commercial product photography can often be seen as a stereotypical and boring genre of photography. This is a strange misconception, because high-end product shoots are incredibly creative and fun projects to work on.

In today’s climate, most of us work from home which adds an additional challenge when trying to take a studio style advertising image. What this situation requires is a little openness, as well as the ability to think outside the box.

Look for ways to create effects using only what you have on hand. For this shot, the brief was to produce an elegant image of a watch in an environment that demonstrated its durability and universal appeal.

• Best camera for product photography

With plenty of space for text or design elements, this eye-catching composite is easy to create without leaving your home and on a minimal budget (Image credit: Avenir)

An underwater effect followed the ‘Neptune’ theme of the product branding, but since space was tight and the photographer had only limited equipment – with no dedicated studio space – a small innovation was necessary.

The final image used a combination of practical and software techniques, and a simple lighting setup in a home studio. Here’s how it was done …

The establishment

(Image credit: Avenir)

There are a few key things you will need for this project. You will mainly need a telephoto lens – we used a 70-200mm, but anything between 100 and 300mm will work fine. You will also need a cordless flash gun with a modifier to soften the light, as well as flash triggers to trigger it. Finally, you will need a black material, Saran film or stretch film, and a reflective surface to shoot on.

Shooting steps

(Image credit: Avenir)

01 Position the camera

Since we are filming the product on a small area, with minimal surrounding space, lower the camera until it is level with the product. This will also ensure that the perspective on the watch and the surroundings will align with the final image, after composition.

(Image credit: Avenir)

02 Adjust focus and exposure

Take a meter reading from the product using spot metering to avoid confusion with the black background. Switch to manual mode and lock these settings to avoid unexpected changes. Focus on the subject, then switch to manual focus for fine adjustment and to avoid re-focusing between shots.

(Image credit: Avenir)

03 Switch on the product

Position the speed light on one side of the product and take a test photo. Then move the light around to try out various lighting effects, which can be mixed later if needed. Here, a single light was used to illuminate both sides and above the product.

(Image credit: Avenir)

04 Adjust the flash output

Start low and gradually increase the flash output until it dominates the ambient light in the room. Move the flash as close as possible to the subject to obtain enveloping light, and reduce it by rotating the light so that it only grazes the product, in order to better control the contrast.

(Image credit: Avenir)

05 Vary the light structure

Change the harshness of light by changing the distance between the flash and the subject and shooting with and without a diffuser. This can produce various shapes of shadow and highlight on different areas of the product, which can be combined during post processing.

(Image credit: Avenir)

06 Check depth of field

With product photography, sharpness is of paramount importance. To make sure the watch adapts to its surroundings in the final shot, it needs front-to-back sharpness. Stop at at least f / 11, zoom to 100%, and perform QC.

(Image credit: Avenir)

07 Simulate a water effect

For the final image, we want to create the appearance of being underwater and looking towards the surface. We will therefore have to take an image to use as a layer having this aspect (step 4 of the editing process below).

To achieve this effect, take a piece of plastic wrap in your kitchen, fold it several times to increase its opacity, and place it on the black background. Light it from behind using an LED torch and fill the frame with your zoom; the background can be easily removed later in the processing. Try to vary the number of folds to achieve different effects.

Changing the shot

(Image credit: Avenir)

01 Import images

Import your product images into Lightroom and display them all in a grid view to assess the lighting style in each frame. By changing the position of the light when shooting on a tripod, you will have the same composition but with multiple directions of light.

(Image credit: Avenir)

02 Touch up the product

Select a basic frame that has minimal reflections in essential areas, such as the watch face. Make tonal adjustments, then use the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom or the Spot Healing Tool in Photoshop to remove dust and scratches.

(Image credit: Avenir)

03 Composite lighting

Shooting with the ideal lighting for the top of the watch has too much light on the face. This area is therefore selected in another image using the Pen Tool (P) and composed over the base image, which has better reflection and a better tonal range.

(Image credit: Avenir)

04 Add water

Create a new Photoshop document, fill it with black, convert the image from the plastic wrap to monochrome, and drag it onto the new background. Change the blend mode to Screen. Use Warp (Image> Transform> Warp) to place the texture at the top of the frame.

(Image credit: Avenir)

05 Mix the effect of water

Color the plastic effect to make it appear like the surface of an ocean. Use Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue / Saturation. Check Colorize and select a blue color. Add a mask to the plastic layer and use a radial gradient to blur the edges.

(Image credit: Avenir)

06 Finish the composite

Drag the watch image onto the background document, add a layer mask, and erase any peripheral detail. Using a soft brush, add a colored water mist to fill the space. To simulate filtering light, click multiple times with a brush on a new layer and use Motion Blur.

Read more:

The best flash: the best strobe units for Canon, Nikon and more cameras
Best telephoto lens: the best zooms for your camera
The best flash diffusers, softboxes and modifiers for your flash

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