DIY solutions for small product photography – part two, the “studio”.

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In the previous post I detailed a challenge on how I had to take white background shots using only stuff I had lying around the house.  Go read it if you haven’t, I’ll wait.

Back?  Good!

So  you see I have a lot of random stuff lying around.  So, what did we do with it?

The first thing is, I needed to “build a base” to shoot the products on.  In a professional world, I’d use black Perspex – that stuff is aces for product shots, but not everyone has Perspex just lying around. I needed something to put my products on, something that had a reflective surface that would allow me my white background.  I found a DVD with a clear white cover. INXS’ concert at Wembley.  (How can you NOT get goosies at the 1:02 mark of this video?  Na-na-na tad-dalalala! ) After watching the DVD and got nostalgic for powerful arena-rock when music was still amazing, I got back to work.  The first thing I did was to remove the paper cover, and slice off the clear plastic slider of the case.  I slipped in a piece of white paper into the DVD case to give me a reflective white “floor”.  For the Millennials: a DVD is an antiquated media storage device us old folks used to watch movies on before the internet existed.  Ask your granddad.


Slip out the cover….


Slice off the plastic bit – why on earth am I holding my hand as if I’m drinking tea with Queen Lizzy?


Size a piece of paper….



Slip said piece of paper into the DVD case


Hey! That actually friggin’ works!

The second thing I needed to build, was my backdrop.  For this, I used a beer carton.  And a brick.  The brick was used to keep the carton up.


“Gerry, what are you doing?” Nothing Sweetie, just doing some random product shots on the dining room table. “With a brick and a box? Are you high?”

I measured out a piece of A4 paper on the inside of the beer box, and cut a hole in it.  The box, not the paper.


About 200 by 280, I’d say.



This was once the proud vehicle for 24 bottles of amber bliss.

I taped the paper to the back of the box, and made sure the tape on the back did not “overlap” into the hole I cut in.  I also made sure the paper were slightly below the height of the brick, so when I put the DVD box on top of my brick, it would form a seamless “horizon” with the background.


In heaven there are only four celebrities: Jesus, Moses, and the inventors of beer and duct tape.

Took another brick, folded a piece of paper over it, and well, there you have it, a background and a floor to shoot on!


Second brick and a piece of paper…


Look at that! Damn I’m good!

Next up: Lights!

I positioned one of my lights to the back of this box, effectively backlighting my products.


Okay, no funny this time: backlighting is a very useful way to shoot white background products.

I used my “something black”, as “flags”.  This prevents light from “wrapping” around the object, giving me fuzzy edges.  In the studio, I’d use the black sides of 5-in-one reflectors, polyboards – and even V-flats if I can find some – but as said, no obscure or pro equipment, the “something black” I used were two old CD folders.  I wanted to use black cardboard, and I did not have any – how about that!?  And as an added, unforeseen, bonus, the CD folders, on top of the bricks, fit in nice and snugly underneath the lip of the beer box – as if it was made for it. It’s my lucky day, I need to play the lotto tonight!


CD folders as flags. The spirit of MacGyver is strong with this one!

At first, my light was just upright, as lights tend to be, but then I saw it was “too high” in relation to my product, so I put it down low.  This was a better solution, but not the optimal solution.  The optimal solution came a bit later – I knew I could sort out my background light, but now I needed to sort my “key” light.  My main light.  I knew from experience, simply “a light” would not work – it needed some diffusion.  And for that, I used a double-layer of wax paper.  (Sorry Sweetie, I know it’s for your cooking, I’ll buy you some more).  My proudest MacGyver moment of the entire morning was when I used the inner-tube cardboard core from the now-depleted roll of foil as an armature to support the wax paper on.  Why wasn’t I this ingenious during my schooldays – I may actually have passed something!  This diffused the light beautifully onto my bottle.


All I need now is a mullet and a Swiss army knife.

Now, we need to get back to that background!  The problem is I was not getting enough light on my background. Light bounces, and I think less than half the actual light, made it onto the paper – the rest just got bounced out of existence.  So I grabbed some bread boards, taped white paper to them, and made a “tunnel” for the light to go through – any light that was bounced away from my backdrop, would bounce back from the boards, and as such, I immediately got a lot “more” light on my background!  And here I thought using a cardboard core to support wax paper was ingenious!


Lesson here, kids: do not wash bread boards in the dishwasher, they tend to split!



The addition of the paper-and-planks made it possible for all light to be directed directly onto the piece of paper I used for my backdrop – this made the backdrop a lot brighter than not using them. I needed to squeeze out every last drop of light I could form those tiny little bulbs.

And that, Gentleladies and men – was it!

Next up: the principle and theory of light, and how I exposed for these photos.  but now, I think it’s time for that nap I was talking about!

» Uncategorized » DIY solutions for small product...
On Saturday September 10 2016

5 Responses to DIY solutions for small product photography – part two, the “studio”.

  1. Debbie Boettcher says:


  2. Carla De Bouchet says:

    So I’ve learned 4 things in a nutshell:
    1. A diffused key light to light up the product itself.
    2. Light up your background from behind well and bounce any lost light back to the background.
    3. Use black card on the sides to prevent your product edges from being too soft.
    4. Use black perspex if you want to create a “drop reflection.”

  3. […] third part in a series of DIY solutions for small products.  I explain how I set up the lighting in the previous post, here, but it ain’t gonna make no sense until you read the challenge in part one, […]

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