When it comes to photography, the professionals have a few hacks that anyone can reproduce at home. As a designer looking to create the best possible photography within a budget, you’ve already learned how to take feature-worthy photos even with your smartphone; Today, let’s learn how to think like a professional photographer and take better photos with these 5 hacks that require little more than your usual art supplies!
1. DIY light box with waste carton
Every product needs a sharp and clean photo to stand out, and a light box is great for that. Although photos taken under natural light are the best, the reality is that we usually have to do without it. That’s why making your own light box might be worthwhile if you want to have consistent lighting and tone to all your photos.
What you need: a cardboard box, vellum paper, white paper, and lightings.
1. Find a cardboard box that’ll comfortably fit your product, and still have plenty of space. Cut off the top, and carve out two sides and the front as shown above. The border space on the two sides should be wide enough to fix vellum paper on it.
2. Trace and cut 2 pieces of vellum paper that entirely cover the sides.
3. Affix the vellum papers on the outside of the box.
4. Cut a piece of white paper as wide as your box, and clip one end firmly on the back of your box on the top. This little roll of paper is the background in your light box.
5. Let the white paper form a natural curve from the back to the front of the box.
6. Next, cut a piece of vellum paper and fixate it on the top of the box. (In this photo we’re using a transparent PP plastic sheet instead.)
7. Set up lighting at the sides and the top of your box.
8. The vellum papers distributes the light evenly across the entire space, bringing out the details and colors of your product.
9. Play with the composition, and on your computer, crop out where the light box is showing. Thanks to the soft, diffused light, your product is looking sharp!
2. DIY shimmering background with foil
One of the challenges of taking styled photos is not letting the product get lost in the background. That’s when a large aperture and a shallow focus come in: they create the lovely bokeh—blurry, out-of-focus background—that makes the product stand out in the foreground. And you know what? A simple piece of foil from the kitchen will produce a beautiful, shimmering background.
What you need: aluminum foil, lightings.
1. Depending on your product size, crumple a piece of aluminum foil and flatten it. Be careful not to crumple it too much or it might get torn as you unwrap! (Yes, it happened to us.)
2. Fixate the flattened foil on the wall as background, then set up two lights: one for lighting the product, another for lighting the foil. Set your camera to a wider aperture and focus in on your product. play around for maximum blur of the background.
3. The light reflecting off the foil falls outside of the depth of field, and turns into luminous round spots in the background. That is the beautiful bokeh we’re looking for!
4. Even your smartphone can capture this effect! *Fist bump*
3. DIY color-popping background with foamboards
Color contrast is a quick and simple way to catch eyeballs. Here we’re demonstrating with colored foamboards, which are thick and stand on their own, but colored papers will work well too.
What you need: several colored foamboards, vellum paper, lighting.
1. Cut foamboards into various sizes and shapes.
2. Create a corner by fixating 3 boards with glue or tape, which will be the background. Cover the lighting source with vellum paper to diffuse the light, so it will spread out evenly on the product.
3. Such a vibrant color combination adds a lot of character to the product!
4. Now try it with two colors—a cheerful combination of silver and pink!
5. Since the deer candle is in blue, we threw in some yellow to create more contrast. How do you like it?
4. Create afternoon sunshine with cardboards
The image of sunshine falling in through the blinds immediately transport people to the perfect Sunday afternoon. But what if the sun’s been hiding? This trick will replicate that lazy afternoon sunshine.
What you need: one piece of cardboard, vellum paper, lighting.
1. Cut out equal-width blocks on the cardboard (here we’re using foamboard instead).
2. Place the cardboard between lighting and your product. The effect is the best when there’s enough distance between the board and the product.
3. Again, soften the light source with vellum paper.
4. Now, do you see the (artificial) sunlight falling through the (artificial) blinds? This kind of imagery really helps tell a story.
5. DIY good lighting with a smartphone
If you don’t have studio-quality lighting, but do have a tripod and manual mode on your camera, this hack will help you achieve good quality lighting.
What you need: smartphone, tripod.
1. Set a very slow shutter speed (we’re using 15 seconds here), and manually focus on your product, and then turn off the lights. (You can see everything in the photo here but in reality it should be pitch black!) Press the shutter button, launch the flashlight app on your phone, and point the light towards your product.
2. Bad example! Only direct your light towards the subject, not the camera.
3. Ta-da! After the wait, you’ll have a beautiful image in front of you! Not bad for a photo with DIY lighting, don’t you think?
Try your hands on these five fabulous hacks! Get comfortable with these methods, and you’ll not only stick to the budget, but also learn advanced photography skills, which will help you develop your style and put your products out there for more people to discover!