Within the last month, I have run across more and more artists wondering what is the best way to shoot their artwork and products. What is so great about today’s technology is that there are many studio lighting options that are “good” and affordable. You don’t need expensive equipment to achieve great results. Depending on what types of products and art you are photographing will determine what photography equipment you need. This article is purely a high-level overview and to provide a starting point to get you going. I don’t endorse any of these sites or products; I provide them for you as a starting point to do your own research.
Note: For the artists that are only interested in shooting 2-d art, I would still recommend reading all of the product photography articles as there are tips and tricks that apply to photographing your artwork as well. For the artists shooting 3-d work, the product photography articles definitely apply to you.
As you read through the articles and look for photography equipment, keep in mind the following points:
- What is your budget?
- How much room do you have in your home or studio to accommodate photography equipment while shooting and for storage?
- Is it a 2-d or 3-dimensional piece?
- What is the size of the product or art you will be photographing?
- Type of surface; glossy or matte – will you have to compensate for unwanted glare?
- What are you using your art and product photography for? Is it for website images, or will you be using the images in print for marketing purposes? If it’s just for products on your website and small printed materials, chances are you can get away with using your phone camera. If the item is a large piece of artwork, you may want to use a digital camera with a larger sensor and image size.
- Future planning: Will I always be shooting the same type or size of piece? If you are always photographing small pieces then you won’t need to worry about a more “complex” lighting setup, but if you may be shooting varied sized piece now, or in the future, you may need a studio lighting setup that allows for more flexibility.
What camera will you be using to photograph your products and artwork?
Depending on what your needs are, you can photograph your work with a phone camera or a point-and-shoot and achieve great results. In this article from Pixc, “Essential 2017 Camera Buyer’s Guide for Professional Product Photography”, they walk you through the finer points of figuring out what will best fit your needs.
Introduction to Lighting & Photography
- This article, “Lighting 101: Introduction”, from Strobist, it gives a basic overview of light and photography.
- Extra credit – Want to geek out on lighting and understand how light works? Check this article out from Light Stalking, “What Can Billiards Teach You About Light & Photography?”.
- This article, “Understanding Aperture for Beginners – Photography Basics”, from Photography Life talks about aperture and how it affects your photos.
- Do you need Strobe or Continuous lighting? Read this article, “Continuous or Strobe Lighting?” from Adorama Camera. If you will be shooting with a phone camera or a point-and-shoot camera, you will need continuous lighting. Later in our article, you will read more about shooting with a camera phone and point-and-shoot camera.
Introduction to Photographing 2-d Artwork
Even if you are focusing on 3-d product photography this first article will be a great introduction to the basics of product photography and what to think about as you take photos.
- This article, “Tech Tips: Photographing 2d Work”, from the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Colorado Boulder and gives a great overview of the basics..
- More basics on photographing your artwork in this article, “How to Take Great Photos of Your Artwork”, from Agora Gallery.
- Photography and Dealing with Glare: Angle of Incidence to the Rescue – Glare is always an issue unless you happen to be lucky enough to be shooting a piece that has a matte finish and is not reflective. This article from SmugMug, “The Art of Copy Work: Photographing Artwork Accurately Without Glare”, introduces you to the Angle of Incidence and how to eliminate glare.
Introduction to Product Photography & 3-d Artwork.
- This article from product photographer David Butler, “5 Thoughts and Tips to Consider with Product Photography”, will get you in the mind of how you want your images to look and what to keep in mind as you take your photographs.
Tips & Tricks for Photographing Artwork & Products
- In this article from Fit Small Business, “Product Photography Made Easy: How to Take Great Shots with iPhone and Android”, it also offers solutions for a small budget, software, and things to consider for starting out.
- No budget? Do you have a camera phone or point-and-shoot camera and two lights with the same bulbs? This article, “The Zero-Budget Guide to Photographing Artwork”, from The Art League is for you!
- Limited budget? In this article from BigCommerce, it speaks to product photography basics and working with a small budget. “How to Master Product Photography on a Tight Budget (We Did It with Less Than $50)”.
- This article from Artsy Shark, “Avoid these 7 Mistakes when Photographing Art”, is focused on shooting artwork however there are good points to consider for product photography as well.
- This is a fun article, “5 Different Setups to Nail A 2 Lights Product Shot”, from DIY Photography explores some creative lighting techniques for product photography.
- Here is some more extra credit reading. This article from Dallas Arts Revue, “How to Photograph Art or Just About Anything Else”, goes into quite a bit of detail.
- Product photos with a phone camera? In this article from Pixelz, “How to Use your Smartphone to Capture High Quality Product Images”, it speaks to what you need and how to shoot photos with a phone camera.
How Do I Edit My Photos?
There are so many software solutions out there depending on your needs, budget and skillset it would be nearly impossible to wrangle them all together in one spot. This article from Shopify, “17 Best Online Photo Editor Software and Apps (Free and Paid)”, covers a few of them.
Photography Studio Lighting and Equipment
Small Product Photography and Artwork
Take a look at Amazon and see what they offer. I have a couple listed below to get you started.
- LimoStudio 16” x 16” Table Top Studio Lighting Kit.
- AmazonBasics Portable Photo Studio – AmazonBasics Portable Photo Studio.
Larger Product and Artwork
I would suggest calling or going to a camera store like Glazers in Seattle, WA or Kenmore Camera in Kenmore, WA that sells photography equipment and have a discussion of what your needs are. I like looking at a physical product before I buy it, as well as getting pros and cons, and feedback about alternative solutions.
- Neewer 700W Professional Photography 24”x24” Softboxes.
- Neewer 2.6M x 3M/8.5ft x 10ft Background Support System and 800W 5500K Umbrellas Softbox Continuous Lighting Kit for Photo Studio
- Bellevue Fine Art – Fine art scanning and printing for artists and fine art photographers in the Seattle area.
Please leave constructive comments about this article and the information I provided.
Cheers and happy shooting!