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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Best Time To Do Product Photography

When you look up "best time to shoot product shots" everyone seems to have an opinion. Some say when it is bright and sunny, others on a overcast day, some say mornings some say afternoons. When honestly it really depends! There are SO many factors that go into selecting a time of day!

I feel the best time of day to shoot with natural light is...

That's the real key. Select a time of day that generally works well with your schedule. Nap time for the kids, early morning after they go to school... you want a time where you can work uninterrupted, constantly.  The more variables you take out of your photography the easier it will be to learn what to do and how to do it well. Just like when we talked about starting with one background that will work for all your products, be consistent with the time of day you choose!

First Select your location, look for:
  •  The ability to create a studio area that can be easily set up, or left up for multiple days (preferable without causing disruption in your household)
  • Your windows: If your shooting inside, and using natural light look for a window without panes, this will help eliminate distracting shadows. If you are using available light, meaning home lighting kits NOT sunlight... then you want to be FAR away from the windows so you don't have extra highlights or shadows to compensate for.

  • Space. Give yourself space to be able to lay out the products to shoot, a place to put them when your done, and keep them out of your way while your working. You also want some distance between the product and the background. The further your background is from your product the more "blurry" it will be when you are using a macro/aperture control mode, which in turn will draw more attention to your subject!
  • Easy background area. If you have a window close to a wall, you can use the wall for your background and the window for light (for natural light options). 

  •  Check the light at the time of day that works best for you. 

Now this is where choosing the best light vs. time of day gets tricky when using natural light. While your eye can not see the different colors of light your camera does. and its not just time of day to think about, but window placement and weather as well! (light 101)

So depending on the light coming into the window you may need to try different techniques in order to produce the best results with your photography.

If I shot out of my mastered room at 8 am that window is completely in the shade of early morning light and my images would be blue and underexposed because there isn't enough light, and the temperature of the light that is there up in the 7500K range. Where if I shoot next to my office window one side gets direct sun closer to 3000K, and another window on the other side gets a soft glow of filtered sun at the same time probably in the range of 5000K. So if 8 am is the best time for me to shoot, I have 3 different locations I could choose from that would "fit the bill".

Since I have a large window, and a wall close to it I selected that to be my "shoot" area for my natural light images for this post, and several others for this blog since I can set up easily and without interfering with other workspace in my office.  I choose to pick my battles dealing with the warm direct light and window panes. Because my smaller window is host to a second workspace, and too close to my prop closet for me to feel comfortable shooting in that space. So for me, it makes logistical sense to utilize a different option, where I won't be in my own way.

Do you see, its all a compromise and understanding what your choices are, what fits your life the best, and understanding the obstacles. We can work around most obstacles, but if you don't have a consistent day or time to shoot... you create more because your lighting (which is the MOST important part of good photography) will always be changing. Things that work for one person in their lighting situation wont work for you!

The more consistent you can be, with every choice, the easier it will be to get consistent quality images!  This is why professionals shoot with studio lights for products. Consistency! I can set my studio lights 1 time for a client with X product, and unless something drastically changes with that product size or shape I know I can recreate that same scenario every time for them.

So, to make sure we are all on the same page as we move forward. You should know have...
  1. One background to work with for all your products
  2. A location where you can create a studio space 
  3. A time of day where you can consistently shoot uninterrupted

Now, if the best time or location for you is really a horrible light situation say after 7pm or you don't have a window in the space you need to use, this poses a completely different set of issues. I do have help for you on creating your own studio, working home lighting, and so on... stick around, those posts are coming!

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