Budget Product photography with the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4R
I’ve always had an interest in product photography from a technical point of view, asking myself how do the big brands like Apple and Tag Heuer get those crisp, sexy looking shots to show off their products. Well, it turns out that most of the time it takes a lot of effort and money. A quick google for "behind the scenes on a big brand product shoot" (or something like that!) and you're likely to find a pro tog with lots of expensive lighting, umbrellas, backdrops all within a posh studio environment.
My idea was to create some of these glamourous product photos in my own home with a very limited budget using light painting. In short; take a low cost LED flashlight, find a dark room and point or rather ‘paint’ my product with the light. My FujiFilm X-T1 would be on hand to capture the results. So, here's how I did it.
My Gear List
- Products (Apple Watch, Beats headphones, anything really)
- Camera (Fujifilm X-T1)
- Lens (Fujinon XF35mm F1.4R)
- Tripod (Light painting needs the shutter open for long periods so tripod was essential)
- Shutter release cable (To prevent wobble)
- Small LED flashlight (Cheap white LED bulb torch from Amazon for under £10)
- Backdrop (Small Piece of black cloth around 50cm square)
- Clean even surface (I used a dining place mat with wood finish)
- Dark Room (Bathroom with the lights off!)
Lens & Camera Settings
I knew from the start that I would be using my Fujinon XF35mm F1.4R, I love the crisp images I get from this lens. Also, it’s capable of a large apertures (Smaller f-stop) which is essential in creating a shallow depth of field. I experimented with a few different settings but settled on: f2.8, ISO 200 at 35mm with an exposure time of between 5 and 10 seconds (Camera in bulb mode). As mentioned earlier a tripod and cable release were essential as I did not want any camera movement when the shutter was open.
Setup & Technique
This was the fun part and I quickly learned that there are no hard and fast rules with this stuff. I dragged a small coffee table into my bathroom, got a few strange looks from the Mrs. Draping a small piece of black cloth I created my backdrop as I didn't want anything else in the bathroom catching the light. The products were placed on my wood effect dining mats. Once everything was in position I composed the shots to my liking and manually focused on my subjects.
Next, I turned off the bathroom lights, turned on my flashlight and hit my shutter release button. At this point I simply used the torch beam to ‘paint’ the light onto my subject in a sweeping motion. However, a quick review on the X-T1 histogram showed that I was overexposing the shot by a lot! I found the light coming from the torch was just too bright. A simple remedy to this was taping a small piece of tissue paper over the bulb. Now with my dimmed light source I repeated the process with much better results. Once I had taken enough shots that I was happy with, the RAW files were imported into Adobe Lightroom for processing. Side note; the ‘Spot Removal’ tool was really helpful in getting rid of annoying dust particles that had sneaked into shot.
I find these types of small projects are great for those bad weather days or cold nights. The whole process was very experimental but using the settings above gave me a good starting point. Overall I am fairly pleased with the results, it was a fun project which shows that you don't need a big budget and fancy studio lights to get decent product images. As ever the Fuji X-T1 and Fujinon XF35mm lens performed brilliantly. My future plan is to set up a similar shoot with more adventurous surfaces and products.