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A Peek Behind the Scenes at My Product Photography Set-Up

How I shoot all my product photography - behind the scenes at Shiny Happy World

Remember that survey at the end of last year? A lot of people asked how I do all my product photography. People asked about how I get those seamless colored backgrounds, what kind of lights I have, what kind of camera I use and more.

So here’s the scoop!

My product photography set-up is amazingly uncomplicated. Paper. Foam core. A window.

I’m not kidding.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldThere it is. My window. I don’t have any lights so this is it.

Early in the morning the sun shines right in there – which is not so good for photography. Too much glare. That means I shoot all my photos in the afternoon – or I have to tape a piece of plain white tissue paper over the window to filter the light a bit.

That’s my big Ikea-hack ironing board I use as a table. I’ve got a piece of foam core sitting on it for a stable surface. On top of that I’ve got a backdrop of two pieces of foam core that are taped together (hinge-like) with masking tape. It’s easy to fold up and store away, and easy to set-up for a quick shoot.

My backgrounds are big sheets of paper in my favorite colors. See how this one is pinned low to the hinged foam core so that it covers part of the “floor” too? That’s how I get a seamless background.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldThis is what I looks like from the inside. That white board to the right bounces all kinds of sunlight back onto whatever I’m shooting and fills in the shadows nicely. I can often lean in and use my elbows as a tripod, but I also have a little tripod that I set up sometimes.

This is how I shoot almost all of my cover images.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldFor most of my step-by-step photos and photos of finished objects that don’t need to stand up, I use this shorter set-up.

It’s pretty much the same as the first set-up, but the foam core sheets I use for the frame are about half the height, and the background paper doesn’t wrap up the side.

With this set-up and a step stool (or sometimes a small ladder) I can shoot straight down onto whatever I’m photographing.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldHere’s what it looks like from above.

Look at the amount of light inside the box, compared to the light outside the box. It’s amazing what just two white surfaces can do! Sometimes I’ll box in that third side too (I just prop up another sheet of foam core) but usually it doesn’t need it.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldI like the way this set-up gives me just a little bit of soft shadow on each object- nothing harsh or distracting.

That’s it! Dead-simple and dirt-cheap product photography.

Oh – and my camera is a Fuji FinePix S700 – nothing too fancy or expensive. I like the grip on it – I can shoot one-handed when necessary. I think it has a manual setting – but I’ve never used it. I like to just point and shoot. πŸ™‚

Do you have any more questions? Just ask in the comments here and I’ll answer them.

edited – Abby asked a question in the comments about why I use colored backgrounds instead of white. You can read my answer in the comments, but I actually have a photo of Byron against a white background that I can show here side by side with the green.

A Peek at My Photography Set-Up - Shiny Happy WorldI don’t think the white looks bad – but the green background is more shiny and happy. πŸ™‚

Happy Thursday!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi_Gratz_Shiny_Happy_World

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Could you talk about your decision to always use a solid, brightly colored backdrop? I feel like the blog world is full of white. Why green?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Oooh! That’s a great question. It’s something I don’t even think about anymore, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. I started using colored background because I love color. Simple as that. I love the way color pops against color. In retrospect, this was NOT a smart decision. Click over to Etsy right now and there’s a 99% chance that every photo on the front page is shot against either a white background or some kind of neutral texture (sisal, weathered grey barn wood, etc.) My photos with their bright backgrounds do not fit into those curated collections. I think that has cost me a lot of promotional opportunities. At one point I even started to reshoot all my items against white backgrounds – but ultimately I was unhappy with the way they looked so I didn’t use them. I just really like the color. And I love the way my shop looks with all those bright squares of color. I think it signals right away that this is a happy place where you can learn to make happy things. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad decision after all. πŸ™‚

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I just updated the post to show a side-by-side photos of Byron shot against green and Byron shot against white.

  2. Cynthia Bonnell SAYS...

    Thanks so much for this post. I have a bunch of softies and dolls that I have made to give away. Since I’ll never see must of them again, I’d like to have some good pictures of them. This was very helpful.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m glad it was helpful. πŸ™‚

  3. Cheryl SAYS...

    Really awesome post. I love color too. So it’s no wonder I love the website. Lol. And honestly, the white backgrounds really bother my eyes. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m really over the artsy shooting of everything on stark white back grounds. Ugh! Janome makes me crazy on their website. Stark white machines with a stark white background. I don’t want to see in an sanitary environment! I want COLOR!! And maybe some animal DNA or an actual cat “helping” me quilt. Lol. Annnnd What I really really really want to know how to do is…paint my metal challenged, sad, boring white sewing machines. Lol. But now I’m rambling lol. Suffice it to say, YAY color!!!!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      YAY color indeed! πŸ™‚

  4. Sully's Softies SAYS...

    Thank you! I do similar, but I think I’ll have to try using some color now!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Try it! The worst that will happen is that you have some photos you don’t want to use. πŸ™‚

  5. Your photos always look very professional – and I can see why now! What a great set up!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much!

  6. Wonderful set up! I feel like I’ve been way over thinking how I take photos and my setup is awkward so I’m going to try this. I really like the colored backgrounds but I wonder if they change the accuracy of an items color. I notice that Byron looks purple with the green background and blue with the white…is this a typical result of the colored background do you think, or just a random occurrence?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I think the color difference you see is that I decided to use the one on green so that’s the one I edited and made sure had accurate color. The one on white looks like I just did a quick auto white-balance which doesn’t usually result in very accurate colors.

      If I were shooting white or very pale colors on the colored backgrounds I would worry more about the background affecting the color of the finished item, but I’m usually shooting bright colors that can hold their own against the background.

  7. I’m still confused about the paper background. Where do you buy such large sheets of paper? I’ve seen the tagboard/poster board but they don’t curve well. Do you tape it up so it doesn’t slide down? Thanks for showing this set-up. It’s so doable.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      The sheets I use aren’t that big – just 18″ x 24″ – and I think I got them at Michael’s or Joann’s. I bought a big pack of lots of colors. You could also just use a piece of gift wrap. I pin it to the foam core so it doesn’t slide down – no tape because I reuse the sheets over and over again.

      • Thanks. The craft stores here aren’t much on paper goods. I’ll have to look around. I miss my Michael’s and JoAnn’s. πŸ™‚ Those shops are chock full of goodies. Beautiful set-up.

  8. Great post – it’s good to see what really happens in a photography shoot! Your photos do look so professional and yet the setup is really so simple – a great idea. Love the colour background too. I shoot my pattern covers outside – using grass, trees, decking, bricks and the kids cubby house as backgrounds. I think it’s been as it is the best light for me and I prefer some colour in the background. This setup would be great for my step by step photos. Thanks for the post!

  9. Sheryll Seidel SAYS...

    I totally agree with color! Especially in this genre. It screams that this is a happy place to be. I think it’s a wonderful way to look at things!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  10. Great info! I am so crazy jealous of your window!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I love when the weather is warmer and I can have it open when I iron. It overlooks my garden and our chickens.

  11. Wendi, thank you for this great tutorial blog. Your photos always are so appealing. I will have to try this and see if mine turn out better.
    Thanks for all that you give us.
    β™₯