My Go-to Product Photography Equipment

My Go-To Product Photography Equipment

The product photography equipment I use for my business is a collection I’ve built over years, acquiring kit to solve problems as they arise. By doing this, I’ve avoided spending money on superfluous equipment. There’s plenty of exciting purchases to be made in the photography world, and few are kind to your profit margin. It’s tough to pin down the “best” equipment for any kind of photography; it’s how you use what you have. The most photographers can do is to advise you on equipment they use, and why they use it. I often reflect on how equipment can improve processes and outputs, and I go into more detail here.

 

“The best camera is the one that you have with you.” as the saying goes. But I’d amend that to “The best camera is the one you know best.”. There’s a time and place for testing new equipment, and it’s not on a photoshoot. There’s enough going on without needing to troubleshoot your camera too. Here’s a great comparison: In the golden years of Top Gear, one of the trio attempts to drive a Formula One car, and soon discovers he can’t travel a foot without stalling. He has a top tier vehicle at his disposal, yet he’d be making more progress with a tricycle. You could spend your budget on the shiniest professional kit that all the brand ambassadors are shouting about. Or, you can reflect on the capabilities you need and the features you will use. Here’s the Top Gear Formula One clip to give my rambling context.

 

What Equipment do you Need for Product Photography?

As a quick overview, here’s a list of the essential kit I would prioritise acquiring if I ever needed to start over from scratch:

  • Camera – I’m trying to keep things top level here, but something 30+ megapixels, tethered shooting capability, interchangeable lenses. I started off shooting with a Canon 5D Mk III, and have since graduated to the Canon 5D Mk IV.
  • Camera Lens – If I could only have one, I would opt for a variable focal length option to maximise it’s usefulness. This option, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens while not the cheapest, is a great option for my current default camera body (the Canon 5D Mk IV).
  • Constant LED Lights x4 – These don’t need to be especially powerful, as I go on to explain I use 4x COLBOR CL100X lights for all of my studio projects).
  • Softboxes x4 – Four should cover a wide range of set-ups. These COLBOR BP45 softboxes are serving me very well.
  • Backdrops – Club Backdrops for affordable, versatile printed vinyl backdrops. If starting from scratch, I’d get a light/dark version of popular colours to cover the basics)
  • Laptop – Shooting tethered and learning how to maximise the quality of your images via a better screen than the display on your camera is a must. And of course, editing/retouching. Apple products remain the industry standard, and for good reason!
  • Reflectors – These can take many forms, and personally I like to use white foam board that I can then cut down to size if needed. These A1 White Foam Boards from Hobbycraft are a perfect cost-effective option!
  • Diffusers – Again, these can take many forms, and they have become essential to my process. I make great use of a few of these Foldable Diffuser Panels to help take the harshness out of strong light sources, perfect for reducing the shine of reflective subjects.

 

Which Camera is the Best for Product Photography?

I favour my Canon 5D Mk IV DSLR for a camera body. I then switch between my 100mm (Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM) and 16mm-35mm (Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM) lenses. The 5D range is a long-standing industry standard for photographers, and for good reason: These beauties really do stand the test of time. Admittedly in recent years they have been left behind by newer, faster, better mirrorless upgrades, but there’s nothing to make my trusty 5D truly obsolete just yet. The lack of specialist features relative to newer professional models makes for a kinder learning curve for those still exploring the capabilities of the camera without putting limits on the quality of work you can produce with it.

Edit: I take that back. I’d upgrade my camera for an automatic focus-stacking feature. I’ve ended up using this technique much more consistently than I thought I would.

 

If a camera upgrade did become a serious consideration then there is the cost to consider. I could justify upgrading my 5D to something like the mirrorless Canon EOS R5 (around £4K just for the body), but then I’m aware of how much of that cost is for the – admittedly interesting – 8K video capturing capabilities. I’m confident I wouldn’t utilise this feature in any commercial capacity at the present. Then there’s the changing lens mount type, meaning new lenses (yes, I know they have adapters for this specific transition, but that’s not always the case. And it’s still more equipment to buy!). Eventually the reasons ‘for’ will tip the scales, but until then I could do worse than my trusty 5D.

 

Which Camera Lens is the Best for Product Photography?

My 100mm (Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM) is the best and most consistently useful lens I’ve owned. 90% of my professional work is shot with this lens and I’ll cling onto it until it falls apart. This focal length lets me keep my distance from my subject when needed, but still achieve the sharp quality of focus of close-up which should always be a top priority. It also effectively ‘flattens’ my shots, removing the distortion you see at shorter focal lengths. And when space is tight, I can still focus on my subject from mere centimetres away! It really takes a lot for me to detach this lens from my camera these days.

On the rare occasion my 100mm doesn’t do the trick, I’ll switch to either my 50mm to give me more room, or 16mm-35mm to start playing with the effects of a wide-angle lens.

 

What are the Best Backdrops for Product Photography?

I am absolutely committed to using printed vinyl photography backdrops from Club Backdrops. Use hex codes for specific colours, upload imagery, or choose from their wide range of printed textures, patterns and designs. They wipe clean, are hard-wearing, and come in two practical sizes. Lucky for you, I have a referral link that will get you a FREE backdrop with your first order!

 

What Are the Best Lights for Product Photography?

I strongly recommend constant lights over flash for product photography, and a great all-rounder for beginners through to professionals are the COLBOR CL100X studio lights. Four of these surprisingly compact and thoroughly dependable lights are all I used in my studio work, combined with various stands, softboxes, snoots and sss–reflectors. They all connect to/can be controlled effortlessly via a dedicated app. Usually I disregard any sidecar apps, but this one is kept simple, clear and functional, saving me time and energy.

There’s plenty of fully customisable colour lighting available, which I am not advising anyone to avoid by any means! but personally I’ve found it useful to keep things basic with my lighting choices so far. I use the warmth balance to accurately capture my product’s colours, and beyond that it’s all down to Photoshop!

 

Get In Touch.

If you’d like to discuss a project, you can drop me an email or complete the form below.

Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Menu