We decided to write this article for two specific scenarios: your successful e-commerce business is picking up speed and you’re looking to invest in a higher quality studio, or you’re generally fine with your studio but there’s just one or two elements you’d like to find a better version of.
This piece is an answer to our previous article on outfitting your studio for less, to give you more premium options for the necessities (with a few new additions) that are still 2-day shipping enabled.
The next step up from a paper backdrop taped to the wall would be a heavier roll of paper with a sturdy stand. These are best bought separately as one company usually doesn't produce the best of both. We suggest buying a stand first, then finding a paper roll that fits well. White is our go-to for product photography, but you could use any color depending on the look you want. We stay away from other colors since they may reflect onto your product and change the look of it.
Unroll the paper over the bar and use the included clamps to secure it. The benefit of using paper as your backdrop as opposed to a more 'professional' material like vinyl or felt is that there is no washing involved. If your background gets dirty or damaged, just roll out a new piece.
We're going to go ahead and recommend our best friends, clamps, yet again. In researching this piece, we sought to find better alternatives to each of our suggestions in the previous article, Outfitting your Photo Studio for under $100. This practice was dismantled solely by the fact that we couldn't find a better alternative to clamps as propping materials. Seems we hit it out of the park on the first pitch. Use this second link as an opportunity to re-up your inventory, you can always use more (note: this is not a paid advertisement for clamps, we're just very passionate people).
Get the clamps that we've liked here.
Softboxes with LED bulbs are the professional answer to producing a lot of great soft neutral light. These will allow you to light pretty much any product, both large and small and produce great product photos.
This kit comes with fluorescent light bulbs — which work — but we would recommend using LED bulbs instead. These are 5000K daylight bulbs and give you a lovely neutral hue. These LEDs produce a great neutral light and have decently high CRI (Color Rendering Index, which affects how correctly your colors appear), and they're better for both your energy bill and your pocketbook.
Light boxes are really great for reflective objects. It allows you to easily remove most reflections and have better control on what reflections are visible on the object. This one piece will replace both a white backdrop and diffusers for small objects. Using a light box is great for small reflective pieces, but not necessarily needed for other objects if you already have a diffuse light source.
Here's a lightbox available on Amazon; this isn't the one we used in our setup but have seen good reviews for it.
This tool is like a one-stop shop in lighting customization. This model includes white, gold, silver, and black treatments as well as a large diffuser. Past white and silver, gold is normally used in tandem with warm lighting on faces, and the black overlay can be used to potentially subtract light from a subject. Given its versatility, it's a welcome addition to any studio to get the colors correct right from the start.
Get the large reflector that we used here.
There are many tripods on the market upwards of the $100, even $200 mark; but in our experience, much of that price comes from the brand name or unnecessary bells and whistles. At the end of the day, you need something made of good materials that moves well, but you can trust to hold your camera. This model, well under the $100 mark, will do the job just fine. We haven't tested it personally, but it's one of the highest-rated models of its kind so it's worth a look. This tripod is compact enough for a spartanized workspace, but undoubtedly sturdy enough for long sessions of shooting.
Get the tripod here.
If you take a lot of flat lays, you may want to invest in an overhead support to work with your tripod. This will eliminate the need for finessing an angle to stand and shoot over your subject, as we all know how much of a pain that can be. This model includes an adjusting mount for you to place your camera directly above the flat lay for a perfect shot. It screws onto any tripod with a ¼ inch diameter screw. Just make sure you test the stability of your tripod when using it; you might need to use a counterbalance or weigh down your tripod with some sandbags.
A second option for flat lay photography would be a completely different tripod with overhead capability. If flat lays make up the majority of your product photography, or you believe your current tripod to not be sturdy enough to hold an overhead adapter, this sort of convertible tripod may be the best option for you. Again, we haven't tested it personally, but it's one of the highest-rated models of its kind so it's worth a look.
If you do your own modeling, or otherwise find yourself somewhere else than behind the camera when you're shooting, a remote shutter would add a lot of value to your studio.
There are two options in this realm: wired and non-wired. A wired model, while not always convenient, is very reliable for a guaranteed shot when you press the button. Wireless allows all movement and angles, not to mention no cord to clip out, but may suffer connectivity issues. If your DSLR includes a flip-screen, a remote shutter would make perfecting your shot in real time possible. You can adjust your lighting without losing the perfect shot while walking back and forth from the lens.
We found remote shutters to be very useful for when we modeled clothes ourselves. Here's an example of that:
Both models also include settings for timed shots and long exposure shots in addition to a basic shutter. This will come in handy for images needing multiple ranges of focus or complicated shots in general. Remote shutters also allow for lower shutter speeds without compromising stability.
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