The right camera & lens to photograph small website products

  ECS1957 14:16 10 Nov 2012

I am building our second new website for our four year old on-line business. We have employed a company to help us with this. I am going to take the product pictures and need advice on an SLR camera and lens. I have taken pictures for our website products to date with an old fixed lens digital camera which has been limited. I assume the lens is more important. I have always had an interest in photography and am technically minded. Can anyone help please? Martin.

  LastChip 23:49 10 Nov 2012

How long is a piece of string?

You haven't mentioned what you want to photograph, let alone if you need macro, or indeed a budget you want to spend.

Photographing products well is a highly skilled form of photography. But when you see amazing images in top quality magazines, I suspect you wouldn't want to know the fees the manufacturers spent, to get that level of perfection. (Tip; they're often multiple shots combined on top of one and other, each of which had a slightly different focal point}.

You can however get good photographs with entry level SLR's. Just don't expect too much, as it's not only the lenses to use, but the whole set-up and especially, how it's lit. Never-the-less, quality glass is a must.

Although I use Canon equipment, if I were starting from scratch and didn't have a significant investment in Canon, I would go with Nikon. In my view, they just have the edge on focus accuracy.

Modern digital cameras are good, but the bottom line still is, it's how you use it. If you don't fully understand photography, you'll never get the quality of images you may be looking for.

So ask yourself, do you have the time to really learn properly the skills you need to obtain your objective, before you spend (potentially) a lot of money.

  ECS1957 13:52 11 Nov 2012

Thanks for the reply. The majority of the products are small. This is our existing site to get an idea. I have a photography tent and lighting. If I purchased an entry level Nikon and perhaps a 90mm lens with macro, maybe Tamron if the Nikon lens is too expensive? Budget is £700-1000 excluding VAT. Because of the nature of the business and new products coming in monthly, it needs to be done in-house. Apart from the camera, lens and lighting set up, would I need any other equipment? Thanks- Martin.

  LastChip 17:01 11 Nov 2012

You could go for an entry level Nikon D3100 available from Amazon with a kit lens for around £300. Of course it's all uphill from there.

Whatever you do, do not go for anything but top quality glass and personally to me, that means nothing but Nikon lenses. I suspect you'd live to regret it if you didn't. I've been down that road in the past and been bitterly disappointed. I had a try with Sigma and persistently got soft focus results. In the end, I sold the lens at a loss (as you would expect). The point is, you can upgrade the body in due course, if it's limiting what you need to do. But if you've got substandard glass, you're going to be changing it.

I suspect at some point you'll need a macro lens for your smaller products, but maybe that could wait a while until your budget allowed for it.

You've got a reasonable start with a tent and lighting. You may want to consider (if you don't already have it) a remote wireless trigger for flash. This is an area you can save money and I've used successfully cheap ebay triggers that work well.

An alternative, may be to use a constant video light, which enables you to see exactly how the light is falling on the product. They can be picked up cheaply, but are normally battery powered. You can get over the battery cost problem to a point, by buying rechargeable batteries and a charger.

For what you're trying to achieve, a light meter is a must have, and go for quality. It's going to speed up your work and produce consistent results.

Finally, (for now!), you'll need a mini tripod and some sort of remote triggering. It is particularly important for small objects, but avoidance of camera shake is paramount for crisp clear images. They are available at varying quality, but for your set-up, you should be able to find something adequate at a reasonable price.

Hope that helps.

I'll leave you with this thought; a guy called Chase Jarvis, arguably one of the premier commercial photographers in the world, published some amazing photographs in a book taken with an iphone. So I go back to my previous post, it's not the equipment necessarily, but how you use it. Fully understanding what you're doing, is far ore important than spending (say) £10k on equipment.

  Forum Editor 22:56 11 Nov 2012

Don't spend a fortune on photographic equipment for the web, you'll be spending money unnecessarily, bearing in mind your product type.

The images that are currently on your site are just right in terms of quality. All that a potential customer needs to be able to see is a reasonable amount of detail, and your current images provide that. I've been designing web sites for a long time, and although I'm a keen photographer with a fair amount of Canon equipment I use a digital point and shoot for almost all web work. I have a brother who is a busy commercial photographer, and he gave me the tip to avoid over-investment for site design - it's simply not necessary.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

iMac Pro review

See iconic duo Smith and Foulkes' epic animation for the BBC's Winter Olympics coverage

iMac Pro review

Idées cadeaux pour geeks et tech addicts