Budget Product Photography with the Nissin Air 1 Commander and Di700A Flash for Fujifilm
Doing product photography on the cheap has never been easier. Editing tools like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop have made it easy to isolate objects, so there's no need to get that coveted white #ffffff catalog background in camera anymore–all a photographer needs to concentrate on is the strength of composition and appropriate lighting.
As an exercise, I employed a rather basic setup and picked up some items around the house to demonstrate. Here's what I had going on behind the lens:
My trusty Fujifilm X-T1 with the excellent multi-use Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 lens
A Nissin Di700A flash triggered by the Nissin Air 1 controller
A Yungnuo YN560IV flash triggered optically
The Westcott Rapid Box Octa Kit with beauty dish deflector plate as my key light modifier
The translucent frame of the Neewer 43-inch 5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector
The solid Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head for stabilizing my camera
A thick stack of white printer paper (more on this later)
My wife's jewelry proved to be challenging material to start out with, as the necklaces immediately put my arranging skills to the test.
I kept my aperture relatively narrow to get items sharp and in focus, hovering around the f/11 to f/16 range. Aiming the flash down from above made the jewelry pop while the diffuser aided in smoothing out the shadows and keeping hot spots at bay. For the background, I brainstormed for a few minutes and came up with perhaps the cheapest and most effective solution: a stack of printer paper!
I took a stack of about 20-30 pages and angled one end with two cans of sparkling water to achieve the seamless effect. Voila!
Having gotten some good results, I moved on to some more challenging objects, like my vintage Yashica Electro 35 CCN Wide rangefinder. What a beauty. Had to edit out a few dust spots, but otherwise the flattering light made this 40+ year-old camera look like new.
I also wanted to try out a technique I saw Dustin Dolby demonstrate on his excellent YouTube channel, workphlo. In this video, Dustin shows a few tricks for photographing glass on a white background, including achieving dark edges and a reflection.
I stacked a champagne coupe on top of a second, identical reversed glass and it worked a charm for the reflection. Since the stack of paper was too short to provide a backdrop, I optically triggered a second flash through the big diffuser to create an even white background.
For getting good dark edges, all I had to do is drape black t-shirts on either side of the diffuser behind the glass, leaving space for the white background to show up–it worked great! I actually went out and bought some inexpensive sheets of black and white foamboard to achieve the same effect for future projects.
Whether you've lined up a product photography job or just have some small items to list on eBay, I hope you'll keep these easy and affordable techniques in mind to achieve great results.