The Sony 6000 is a very versatile camera and performs quite well for a wide range of niches. It has a nice, portable body that is quite comfortable to hold, and it has a wide range of features like hybrid autofocus and continuous shooting mode.
For product photography, the thing you want to focus on is the perfect setup. If you know how to find the perfect angle to showcase a product, as well as the perfect tools to photograph that angle perfectly, you will perform well as a product photographer.
The key is to understand the products that you are shooting, and how the a6000’s feature set can help you snap a perfect photo of those products. There are a few general tips for this, but in general, you want to inform yourself as much as possible and keep a keen eye for highlighting the things the client wants.
Another important thing to remember is that you’re not shooting for yourself. Generally, with product photography, you will be shooting according to a specification provided by your client. Being able to efficiently and accurately comply with these specifications is the essence of professional product photography.
Get Yourself A Decent Tripod
Product photography is probably the one niche where the tripod is the most important tool in your arsenal. You will probably be spending a lot of time setting up detailed shots of subjects with various dimensions, so having a decent tripod that can help you take stable and consistent shots of all kinds of products will go a long way.
Since you’ll generally be working in a studio, portability is less important than in other niches. That being said, nobody wants to wait around while you set up three metric tonnes of equipment, so finding a balanced option for your tripod is a good idea. The best tripod will allow you to set up a wide range of different shots, and change them frequently, while retaining stiffness and being able to return to earlier configurations easily.
Other important features are things like inverted mounting. Some tripods allow you to attach the center column horizontally or upside-down, which gives you a lot of control over the different angles you can get using the tripod.
Get Control Of Your Lighting
Product photography, like any other kind of studio photography, is big in terms of lighting requirements. Not only will you generally be shooting in a studio (and therefore with less access to natural lighting), but you will typically be shooting very different subjects for different sessions. Sometimes you may be taking photos of something as big as a car, while other times it could be a microchip the size of your fingernail.
In general, you will want to have a wide variety of lighting solutions. In general, it’s good to go with LED options, because they don’t get hot, and give you a lot of control over things like brightness and color. They are also more robust than glass bulbs.
That being said, if you want to go with a cheaper option, CFL is a good alternative. Just be aware that any bulb that generates heat could potentially damage the products that you are photographing. Having a few speedlights on hand for flash photography is a good idea, too.
Diversify Your Lens Options
Since the products you are photographing will always be different (along with the things that you will want to highlight for each product), you will likely need a wide range of lenses. If you’re taking shots of a tiny little part for a computer, you will practically be doing macro photography.
For this reason, having a diverse set of lenses can help you be prepared for the job. Of course, if price is a factor, you will want to have as many of your bases covered by a single lens as possible. This can be tricky since there is no “best” lens for product photography.
If you do know the types of products that you will be shooting, it becomes easier to limit yourself to a single lens. Look into a few options, and even try and see what other product photographers are doing with their lenses.
There’s also the question of zoom lenses or prime lenses. In general, zoom lenses will be more versatile and faster, but prime lenses will give you a sharper image with better bokeh.
Take Lots Of Photos
Just like when you’re shooting models in a studio, shooting products can be tricky. Although your lighting and angles will generally be more consistent than when shooting living subjects, there can still be a lot of differences between photos taken some time apart in a session.
Taking lots of different angles, with different lighting solutions will not only teach you more about the tools at your disposal, but it will also give you lots of options to choose from at the end of the day. Your client will also be more satisfied if you have a more diverse portfolio of results to show them.
Taking lots of photos also gives you more to play with in post-processing. If you only take a handful of photographs, you might have to choose between some less-than-inspiring options. You always want to be as inspiring as possible.
Play Around With Your Camera
The a6000 is a powerful camera. It has a lot of different features to accommodate almost any niche of photography. For product photography, there are a few cool things that the a6000 can do. One thing is a grid overlay.
The grid overlay puts a customizable grid onto the electronic viewfinder screen. This helps you compose your shots by matching up your subject with different divisions in the field-of-view. There are plenty of other things that the a6000 can do, and experimenting with the camera is the best way to figure out what works best.
If you have the time, and you know what kinds of products you will generally be working with, then try testing out your camera on a subject of similar proportions. This will allow you to experiment with all kinds of angles, focal lengths, aperture sizes, shutter speeds, and examine how they end up making your subject look in your photographs. Since there is no real “best” setup for product photography, figuring out what works for you can help you along the way.
Do Some Heavy Reading
The a6000 has a lot of features. Knowing how to properly use them is the first step to taking truly awesome photographs. Even if you think you know everything there is to know, there’s more than a slight chance that you’re missing some of the more subtle tools and settings on the a6000.
The first step is to read the manual. This will tell you all of the different controls and features that you have at your disposal. Once you’ve acquainted yourself with the camera, you can move on to an independent guide that will give you more practical tips on how to use the a6000 effectively. There are plenty of these guides in print available on Amazon if you do some digging.
Lastly, you will want to educate yourself a bit about the science behind photography. It’s not necessary to become a genius in the field of optics, but having some practical knowledge about how things like apertures and focal lengths affect photography will give you a much more well-rounded understanding of what you’re doing.
Prime Lenses Versus Zoom Lenses
Like we said above, zoom lenses tend to fit a variety of situations quite easily. They also allow you to set up and focus your shot at a moment’s notice. Although this kind of thing is less essential for product photography, you will still want to have at least one zoom lens at your disposal just in case.
Prime lenses tend to produce sharper photographs and feature a better bokeh effect typically than zoom lenses. Bokeh is the blur around the subject in photos with a shallow depth-of-field. Having a good bokeh is great because it gives you control over how the subject is highlighted in the photograph.
Generally, for product photography, since you generally have plenty of time to set up all your shots, you will be going with prime lenses. That being said, having a zoom lens at your disposal as a kind of catch-all option is always a good idea. Remember that having a wide range of photos will allow your client to choose how they want their product to look in your photographs.
Learn To Shoot Raw Most Of The Time
Taking your photographs in the raw format means that you will get more visual information compared to formats like JPEG. Using compressed formats like JPEG can take up less space, but it also causes the loss of lots of visual information. Having less data means you have less to play with in post-processing.
For product photography, you always want to make the product look as spiffy as possible, and shooting in a compressed format can make it difficult to do this. To enable raw format shooting with the a6000, navigate to the “Quality” subsection of the “Image Size” menu. Here, you can select the “Raw” format and hit the soft key C to save the changes.
Playing with other formats can give you some more control over things like how much space is taken up by your photographs. Since you should have plenty of memory cards handy in your studio, it’s generally recommended that you shoot in the raw format, to get as much visual information as possible.
Know The Market For Your Subject
Photographing food is hugely different from photographing bicycles. The types of people who buy the product will want to see different things based on the type of product you’re shooting. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you educate yourself on the actual marketing theory behind the products you will photograph.
Being a car photographer who doesn’t know the hottest angles for car photography won’t get you much money. Likewise, taking poor quality photos of camera hardware for a client is beyond poor taste. The key is to know your niche.
If you’re a specialized product photographer, this can be easier to achieve. If you’re in a pinch and you don’t know what to focus on, don’t be afraid to ask your client for tips on what their customers might want.
Pay Attention To Energy Usage
Although since most of your work will generally be done in a studio, you will have to use a wide range of lighting solutions for long periods to get the perfect shots of your client’s product. This means that you can end up with some pretty hefty energy bills at the end of the day.
The best way to deal with this is to educate yourself on the electricity usage of all your equipment. Keep plenty of charged batteries on hand to avoid having to charge your camera during a shoot. Make sure to try and work with energy-efficient lighting solutions (like LED).
If you know exactly what you will need, you can also avoid having to do trial-and-error with your lighting and such during a shoot. Less time spent shooting means less energy used up by your equipment, so it’s always a good idea to stay efficient and plan ahead.
Communicate With Your Client
It’s essential to remember that you’re shooting for somebody else, not yourself. Communicate with your client about their product, about the marketing for their product, about what they intend to use the photographs for, and anything else you might think of.
Besides making it easier for you to get the shots you need, this will also help you build a good rapport with your clients. Happy clients pay well, so you must make these connections. Leaving a client hanging, or asking them too few questions can raise some red flags for them, which is what you don’t want.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to fire away in the comments section!