What is commercial digital photography? And how can you take stunning commercial photos?
In this article, I explain everything you need to know for top-notch commercial shots, including:
- The gear every commercial shooter should own
- How to light your own commercial photos for incredible results
- Key steps for processing your files
- Much more!
When you’re ready to become a commercial photography expert, then let’s dive right in!
What is commercial picture taking?
Commercial digital photography refers to photos taken intended for commercial use, including images for ad space, web sites, product placement, and web commerce listings. These photos usually feature products, but they can also include food, people, style models, street scenes, and even landscapes.
For instance, an insurance company might create an ad campaign that relies on images of the Appalachian mountains – and any kind of images taken specifically for this type of campaign would be considered industrial images.
These days, commercial photos are more in-demand than ever, thanks to the explosion of product listings on personal websites, Etsy stores, and eBay listings.
5 tips for stunning commercial photos
Below, I share my top five tips for nailing commercial work. I discuss lighting, gear, item preparing, and post-processing, starting with my first piece of advice:
1 . Make sure you buy the right equipment
Commercial photography is a gear-heavy genre, and if you want to generate the best images in a good amount of time, you need a few recording studio accessories to help you out. Fortunately, these aren’t too pricey!
First, make sure you get some kind of artificial lighting kit. Many professional commercial photographers use recording studio strobes , but if you’re just starting out, or if you only need to create high-key e-commerce-type images, you can get away with an easy lightbox or even light tent .
I like to use a lightbox, which usually folds and snaps jointly using magnets for simpler setup, takedown, and travel. When you’re working, you’ll need to first assemble your lightbox. Then you’ll have to add in your second key item: a backdrop.
You can find backdrops all over the internet, some of them handpainted and very expensive. However , as a beginner, I’d recommend just grabbing a whitened and a black backdrop; these will be perfect for standard e-commerce setups as well as more advanced low-key images . Many lightboxes will come with several backdrops, but if yours will not, or if you don’t like what your lightbox kit offers, then you can always grab regular posterboard from the store.
A sturdy tripod will also come in handy. It’ll help you maintain your composition from shot to shot, which is specifically useful if you’re working with a higher volume of products. And it’ll keep your photos sharp even though your lighting setup is not especially powerful.
Finally, consider grabbing a little stand. You can use it in order to prop up the product while you take (though be sure to remove it within post-processing or – even better – hide it behind the product).
2 . Use a close-focusing lens
The camera that you use meant for commercial photography isn’t specifically important as long as it offers a manual exposure mode, compatible lenses, and plenty of quality. However , the lens can make a huge difference.
If you are planning to shoot small items – or even large items – grabbing a macro lens is a good idea. These lenses are super sharp, and they also can focus up close pertaining to beautiful detail shots. I’d recommend working with a focal length of 90-110mm, though so long as you don’t go wider compared to 50mm, you’ll get strong results. (My all-time preferred lens for commercial work is the Nikon 105mm f/2. 8 Macro , which I used to catch all of the images in this article. )
If you can not afford a macro zoom lens, purchase a lens that can focus relatively close, such as a 50mm f/1. eight .
Unfortunately, the closer you focus (and the sharper the lens), the more you’ll start to see unwanted details in your images. Dust, scratches, and fingerprints are all enemies of the commercial photographer, so you’ll need to spend extra time cleaning the product at the beginning, and also extra time post-processing the product after the shoot is over.
3. Carefully light the topic for the best results
Lighting is a huge part of commercial photography, so if you want great shots, you must learn to manipulate the light.
As I mentioned in the previous tip, high-end commercial photographers use studio strobes. If you’re serious about becoming a well-rounded shooter, this is a skill worth learning. You can start by dealing with a single light, then add within a fill light or a mirror to deal with unwanted shadows. Be sure you modify your strobes with softboxes , stripboxes, scrims, or umbrellas to get a softer effect, as hard light is rarely flattering in commercial situations.
If you prefer to use a lightbox, then ensure that you position the item you’re taking photos of so it’s lit inside a flattering and dynamic way. Simply rotate the item watching as the light changes. After that, when you find an angle you want, take your photos.
One tip: When positioning your items, be careful to avoid reflections and glare. You can deal with these problems in post-processing, yet it’s a major headache; if at all possible, you should use your lighting abilities to get a perfect (or near-perfect) result during the actual photoshoot.
4. Prepare the product and your camera for action
Before you actually begin a shoot – yet after you determine the appropriate lighting setup – you should spend time cleaning the product. Wipe away any fingerprints, plus use compressed air in order to blast dust and grime off the product surface.
If you haven’t currently, put your camera at the tripod, then dial within the proper publicity settings . I generally shoot at narrow apertures to keep the scenes since sharp and in focus as possible, but it can be nice to widen the aperture to get a shallow depth of field effect . Note that there is a delicate balance between adding artistry and distracting the viewer, therefore be sure to keep the client’s intent in mind when shooting.
It’s not essential, but consider grabbing a
five. Don’t forget to do in-depth post-processing
Pretty much every commercial image requires in-depth post-processing! Yes, this will take time, but it makes a huge difference, so you must always block out a few hours (or days) after each shoot to deal with the necessary editing.
The commercial retouching process can generally be performed in a basic editing program like Lightroom or Catch One, but for high-level industrial work – including any work that involves compositing – you’ll need to use a layer-based program like Photoshop.
Below, I describe my standard editing workflow using Lightroom and Photoshop.
Editing commercial work in Lightroom
If you’re after a high-key e-commerce-type image, boost the Highlights plus Whites to blow out the background and create a nice glow to the product. You may wish to boost the exposure on the subject, but make sure not to clip the highlights. (Here, the histogram can assist you out. )
This image featured the gray background:
But after modifying the Highlights and Whites, I got this result:
Be sure to eliminate any color casts simply by white balancing your image. To save time, you can do white balancing in camera you can also use a grey card .
Consider adding a bit of Clearness and contrast for extra put, then right-click and select Edit in Photoshop .
Modifying commercial work in Photoshop
You should always clean your product before shooting, but you’ll never have the ability to remove all of the of the dirt. Luckily, you can select Filter> Noise> Dust and Scratches . Then select the radius in -pixels to target the dust specks. The filter isn’t perfect, so you may lose some sharpness, but the result is worth it.
And if you feel like the picture is too soft, you can always undo the changes, select – using the Lasso tool – any areas that require dirt removal, put them on a new coating, and only then apply the particular Dust and Scratches filtration system. Here, you can see that I selected the screen of the telephone, created a new layer, after that removed the dust plus scratches.
That way, I was able to remove dust from the screen while leaving sharper areas, such as the edges, untouched.
If there are any kind of blemishes that the Dust plus Scratches filter cannot handle, you can then bring out the Clone Stamp device or try out Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill option.
And once all the problem areas have been dealt with, include a bit of sharpening – you can test a high-pass sharpening technique – and export the as a JPEG!
Commercial photography tips: last words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you are ready to take some stunning commercial photos – therefore remember the tips that will I’ve shared, pay careful attention to the details, and have enjoyable!
And if you don’t own a fancy lighting setup, that’s okay. You can get great results using only a small lightbox.
What subjects will you photograph first? What type of industrial photography do you plan to perform? Share your thoughts in the remarks below!