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How to start in studio product photography:

Questions and answers

One of Photigy students asked very good questions, and we decided to make the answer into a separate post. It will be useful for those photographers who just starting their way in product studio photography, and looking for inexpensive and effective solutions for camera, lenses and lighting.

The Question:

I have to say I am a big fan of Photigy and I really appreciate what you guys are doing. You are making years of advanced level and highly technical photography methods available to your students at very reasonable rates and your what you teach and your method is not equaled by anyone else out there that I have seen. Truly inspirational!

I have a couple of specific technical questions for you, and I would really appreciate it greatly if you can find the time to shoot me an answer. I have listed the questions below in an organized format, but I will quickly give you the background on why I am asking. I would like to purchase a kit composed entirely of:

– 4 yongnuo 560 III flash
– 6 DIY Savage DIffusers
– 4 DIY Utilitech LED light bulbs
– 2 Strip softboxes
– 6 stands
– some gels, honey combs and other little bits and bobs
– Used Manfrottoto 290 series tripod with ball head (or other cheap stable tripod)

I am evaluating the limits of this equipment. At this time I cannot afford to buy any lights or other components that are more expensive. The goal and use of this equipment is simple: 1) To make a portfolio and webpage to get clients 2) Do some paid shoots to generate income and move forward in this Product photography business. I am shooting in the bedroom, where many of you have started your careers and I wish to build this as a business. My camera is a Canon T4i (Crop sensor) 18MP with a 50mm F 1.4 lens. I know the camera does not matter much, but I am really at the lower limit. If it is absolutely necessary, I can sell mine and swap to a 5d mark ii, I have budget for this switch in the used market but would rather stick with what I have for now. Also I am not planning on buying another lens or anything else apart from the DIY material I mentioned above until I have found some paid work to cover the cost of it. Of course, I have budget allocated for the most important part of this business…Photigy COURSES….. the 3 from level 1 and a couple more [ so please, Alex, do an email discount program soon LOL ; ) ] but my goal is to build a portfolio and get some paid work without using anything other than what I mentioned above which is why I am asking the questions below.


The Camera/Lens

1) Depth of field: since you often need to shoot at F values of 11 , 16 , 22 or even higher, how can one overcome using cropped or full frame camera for professional commercial product shoots, without having to buy a medium format mega bucks camera. My main concern is that you are shooting with a VERY close subject to sensor distance which makes it very difficult to get the depth of field needed so that the entire subject is in sharp focus. Is this a deal breaker for shoots using full frame or cropped sensors or can it be worked around.

The Lighting/Modifiers

DIY lighting methods: There is 2 ways for “Cheap” lighting. The LED bulbs in ordinary lamp fixtures and the Yongnuo speed light Flashes. These get used in combination with modifiers like a strip boxes, honey combs to make spots (for flash), bouncing off flags/cards. I cannot afford anything more expensive than these 2 methods at this time. My main concern in this area is that, 2 stops of light are lost through the savage diffuser, 2 stops lost if bouncing flashes off a card for indirect lighting, strip boxes for creating gradients also cause a loss of light. So the challenge is getting enough light such that you can use an F slow enough to have entire subjects in sharp focus.

What I would like to know is below for Strobe lighting and Continuous lighting:

Strobe Lighting:

1) If using the flashes for lighting you can turn the power up, to avoid losing power when passing through modifiers but then do you lose the speed of the flash for liquid photography? I mean if you are relying on 4 speed lights yongnuo ONLY to light strip boxes, pass through modifiers, and everything else to make god light and also freeze motion. Does this keep one from doing successful liquid/product shoots, or can it be worked around using these just these tools?

1) Can the DIY LED bulbs through a strip box and DIY savage diffuser?

2) For continuos lighting with DIY LED Spot lights, if you lose your light power after passing through several layers of diffusers, you might need to move your F stop from 11 down to 5.6 or even 2.8 to make up for the loss in light and then risk losing your depth of field. Do you think that this becomes a limiting factor making it impossible to complete a shoot or can one work through it with 4 or more of such lights.

3 ) Is it possible to combine continuous lighting with the flash lighting. I suspect that this will not work when doing something that relies freezing motion, but for other product shoots. For example, if you do not have enough power in the DIY LED bulb spot light to pass through the stripbox and modifier since it loses much of its light, put a flash in the strip boxes and use the DIY LED Bulbs for the rest of the lighting. Or is the color of the different light so different that it will not work?

I know I have written a lot, but you input would be VERY helpful to me and if you can please take the time to read the post and answer me I would truly appreciate it. Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you whenever you have a chance guys. Thanks.



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