How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 15/31 - Photography Basics: Product Photography


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Photography Basics: Product Photography

- [Julia] Tabletop photography is what I call it. Now, granted keep in mind products can get ridiculous. I mean if you were to shoot a car, it's an entirely different animal. We're going to be in a huge set with enormous soft box and things that are just out of control scale wise. I want to talk to you about shooting things as products that are on a smaller scale, something that can be placed on top of a table. Again, we're going to be working with natural light today, so most commercial studios photographers work with strobes, they work with bounce cards, they work with a lot of different elements to influence light. But when you're first starting out, it's super important to just keep it simple. The most beautiful images are the ones that are just simple. One light source, maybe a bounce reflector in there, don't try to over think it too much. Every single image that you see that I'm shooting right now has been shot with one light. So like this ring shot right here, this is actually. husband's amazing, that's my wedding ring. And I shot it with a macro lens with one light on a table that, as you can see, was very dirty, but that's okay. Product photography is...we see it everyday in the outside world, we're bombarded with information about product photography. But it can be done very simply and with lighting that is just one light. Now, of course, this is my husband's drill set, he's a construction guy, but what I think is critical sometimes about product photography, and if you're working for somebody who needs something shot, the logo being prominently displayed is critical. Because that's their brand and that's what they want known to the world. So clearly this is a Dewalt drill set, the yellow color kind of gives it away, but because we're in Creative Live, we have to take the logo out and just let you know, "Hey, this is where the logo would go." But that's important to companies, they want to make sure their branding is put out there and known. And of course, Dewalt is famous for its yellow color, so we all know it's a Dewalt drill set, but important to do. Now, lighting a single light you can see the light was from the left. I want you to take into consideration a product shape when you shoot it and also its material. Products that are shiny are going to reflect a lot of light. Products that are matte won't, products that are square are going to bounce light and show shadows differently than products that are round. So the drill was a combination of round and a little bit of square, so you need to think about how the light is going to hit the product and how you can best show the product and the logo keeping the client happy, while at the same time making the product appeal to the consumer. Now, I'm just simply shooting a product on a simple background. You will see a lot of commercial photography where a product is being used, where you'll have a big burly guy using his Dewalt drill and, "Oh, this is so exciting," that makes the emotion with the product and the emotion is what sells. Do you see what I'm saying? So often times, product photography includes a person, but I want to focus on just photography that is a simple product, especially for those of you...I mean, this just works great for folks who have an online store of some kind or a catalog that you need to do a lot of imagery showcasing a product. Now, I want to hesitate. Now, clothing is one of those things that kind of needs a person. Now, we've seen it done without people. You can put it on a mannequin, that kind of thing. You can put clothing, you know how on Pinterest, you'll see all of these outfit ideas, and they just lay out the clothes and shoot it from above? That works, but especially since females, for the most part are the ones purchasing clothing, of course, males need to dress too, but you know what I'm saying? We love to shop for clothes, we need to see it on us. So when we see it beautiful on a model, we go, "Oh, I could look like that." It's that emotion of, and granted, who looks like that? Nobody. But the product seller wants to give you the emotion that yes you could look like this if you wore these clothes. Clothing is a little bit different, that's where we get into fashion photography, which we're not necessarily going to touch on today. But again, the same rules apply, directional light. Light that's coming from one side and shows shadows on the other. Remember how to look for light? Look for the shadows. Watch for those reflections, especially this is going to get huge in product photography, we're going to shoot some jewelry today, and we're going to actually hone in on those reflections and use them to our advantage and accentuate them rather easily. Backlighting can be extremely effective to highlight texture. If you have...and that's why food so much is backlit, because the light coming from the back puts the shadows in the front so it accentuates the texture in the food, because texture is so much a part of the culinary experience. Watch where those shadows fall and, of course, shoot to the company brand. You'll see a lot of images on here that are pink and purple, my brand colors for my education site are pink and purple. So I shoot a lot of my Mockups, a lot of my products in that color scheme because I want someone to know that that's a Jul Education image. So color is going to be extremely important as we look at shooting products. Negative space, you want negative space to be able to highlight the product and write about the product should you need to. This is particularly important in editorial work. When you shoot for a magazine and there's an article or whatever, they need to be able to put headlines or some kind of inset that describes something. So if you put lots of nice negative space over here, all of a sudden now the product can be highlighted with the words that go with it or not. When you use negative space well, it creates a focal point of interest, your eye immediately goes over there and then, of course, it allows for that product description and marketing text to be placed into the image should it need to be done. Now, not always. Sometimes, a magazine will just highlight an image and then the text will be surrounding it and the image will be squared off in a stroke box or something and then the text will be around it. So it just depends on the goals and whenever you go into a product shoot, you need to ask these questions. What kind of negative space do we want in the image? How is the layout going to be in the catalog or in the magazine? It's critical and sometimes with a website, if you're just highlighting products, you want all your images to be perhaps the same size. So often times, Shopify or Squarespace have these wonderful shopping cart sites and you don't want images that are all different sizes. Because then it's confusing and jarring to the viewer. Clean, simple, everything the same size. So make them all square, every image is square. So if you know that, then you're going to be shooting for a square cropping ratio in a square format image. If you know you're going to be shooting for a blog header or some kind of across the screen type format, it's going to be a horizontal long skinny with that almost one to two or greater ratio. Like a Facebook header's profile. Not profile... [Students] Cover. - Cover, yeah. Sorry, I'm like, "I know there's a word for it, what is the word?" The Facebook cover profile and it's different for a business page, versus a personal page, versus Twitter, versus Google+. It's crazy. But it all has that same long skinny format. I love that format. I'm addicted to it, I'm a horizontal shooter. So I have to be really careful when I go into editorial work or with a magazine because if they want a cover shot, I need to make sure that my product is low centered, so that the masthead can be put across the top and text about the articles that are within the magazine can be put around the edges of the subject. So always think about how the image is going to be published before you begin shooting.

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  



Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....