Q- I have the Nikon D300 and a 70-300mm lens or do I need a different lens? Would you buy a paper backdrop or invest in cloth backdrop? We want it to be big enough to cover the floor as well. Any sites that you use to buy backdrops? We want to buy locally, but they might not have the color that we need. – from an apparel retailer
The Nikon D300 is a BEAUTIFUL camera and more than sufficient! Wow. . . ! Nice choice. Use the 70-300mm lens. The crop factor on your camera sensor is 1.6 against a full frame sensor (35 mm). Then you multiply 70 x 1.6 and 300 x1.6 and that’s the real focal distance of your lens. Your 70-300 is really a 112-480 focal distance lens for your camera body. Perfect! That’s all you need.
Use manual settings on the camera with large jpeg format – not RAW – and buy a Mac for processing (if you want my advice on computers and if you’re going to buy one anyway). You won’t regret it. You probably won’t need Adobe Lightroom for product photography, but it’s AMAZING if you can manage it and want to spend the money. You have complete control over every aspect of the image, but who has that kind of time for product shots? You’re shooting down and dirty where volume is more important then accuracy. You’re going to process the images at 72 PPI so Photoshop is really good and probably all you need. I may rethink this for you because Lightroom truly is amazing.
I never used a tent for accessories like shoes, boot’s, handbags and jewelry, etc. Too cumbersome for me. I used some construction lighting with the natural light bulb from Home Depot on a stand next to a table where the product was sitting. Next I set the camera on a tripod – that was it. I used the same backdrop color taped to the wall about 6′ from the product.
Buy a 9′ roll of paper from a local camera store (they can usually order for you if they don’t have what you need in stock) or go online. Buy paper. . . it’s much better then a cloth backdrop for product photography. Cloth can be used for lookbooks if you’re so inclined. The 9′ roll is actually 9′ wide and there’s more than enough paper on the roll to last you a year. When it gets dirty and full of holes from the models standing on it with high heels, you can cut it away at the bottom and roll out another six feet or so. Have a nice soft curve at the bottom of the paper where it transitions from vertical to horizontal. You don’t want a 90 degree bend in the backdrop. That creates a hard shadow.
One more thing. Make sure you have a hard surface like a sheet of 4’x8′ plywood on the floor if the area you’re shooting on is carpet. As I noted in my last blog on Photography Q & A: Lights and Backdrops, your backdrop shouldn’t be your focal point, it is merely to provide consistency with your images so they look consistent throughout the site.
For more Photography Q & A, check back often as we will be featuring common questions that we hear regarding photography along with responses by one of our expert photographers.