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Best Equipment For Product photography 2021: For Beginners, Amateur's & Pros

Best Equipment For Product photography 2021: For Beginners, Amateur's & Pros

Best equipment for product photography: not all is gold that glitters. Photo gear for amateurs, beginners, and pro levels.

Pylyp Sukhenko

Jun 27, 2021

The best equipment for product photography is not necessarily the most expensive professional gear. And this is one of the very few instances, when the words “professional product equipment” and “expensive” are separated by the negative particle “not”. So enjoy the rare moment.

Are you opening a professional photo studio?

Looking to DIY your first shoot as a starting ecommerce entrepreneur? – or:

Do you want to know some basics about product photography tools to kick off your career in the field?

Just give us 5 minutes for a 360-degree overview of the topic. We plan to spill the insider beans generously arming you with links, brands, and our crew’s personal favorites. 

Let’s make this article like a macro shot – whereby you get to see all the beauty and imperfections of the subject.

Must-have equipment for product photography: the helicopter overview

From the bird’s eye view, photo gear is best classified according to the functions it performs – as there are several interchangeable devices that do the same job. 

This is the top-level breakdown:

  • Core equipment that helps shoot: the camera and the lens. 
  • Lighting and all the relevant product photography accessories, like lighting, reflectors, diffusers.
  • Then there is equipment that helps to stabilize or fix the camera & other equipment: the tripod, grips, and the C stand.
  • Last but not least, there are miscellaneous devices that help to clean, mark, fix objects for the shoot, which are the basics on the pre-shoot checklist of any reputable photo studio – like scotch, clamps, nylon fishing line.

You cannot do without the first 2: the camera and the lens, the rest you can DIY somehow or get away with some used old items. Needless to say, product photography is fundamental to sales dynamics in ecommerce, so we suggest you get serious about buying professional photo equipment as a top priority.

Now let’s zoom in on each of the enumerated categories.

Camera for product photography:

The number of sponsored and genuine reviews on YouTube that explain the difference between the DSLR and mirrorless cameras is endless, so a quick YouTube search will give you a good understanding of the topic. Long story short: while DSLR cameras used to be the golden standard for many professional photographers, mirrorless camera technology is catching up rapidly.

If you choose a mirrorless lightweight Sony or Fuji or splash out onto a legendary DSLR Nikon 850, or a more affordable Canon EOS 5DS, there are a few things to look out for when choosing your first product photography camera:

  • Resolution: minimum 20 megapixels
  • Ability to attach the interchangeable lens
  • A hot shoe mount to attach a flash unit or a microphone
  • Option to tether a camera to computer at the time of the shoot

It's perfectly OK to buy a camera in the $500 range to start with, as a beginner is not versed enough to take full advantage of all the features of a $2-3K camera. The used camera market is bottomless, as people keep upgrading their devices all the time, so there is no problem in leveling up when your skills are on par.

As a rule of thumb, it’s worthwhile to consider a camera with a CMOS sensor to produce product images. Not only do these sensors hold the battery longer than their CCD counterparts, but they provide a better Depth of Field – meaning the larger plane of objects is in focus. The bonus part of the deal is that the CMOS sensors are found in the cameras on the lower price range of the spectrum.


Check out this Amazon top 8 Bestsellers in the DSLR camera category to get an idea about the popular brands, price range, and basic technical requirements popular in this class.

Here are Squareshot’s top favorites, that we are using or have used in the past to produce the top results for our clients:

Canon EOS Rebel T8i DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens [~$900]

Tech specifications:

  • Effective pixels: 24,1 MP 
  • Up to 7 fps continuous shooting
  • DIGIC 8 Image Processor
  • ISO sensitivity - 100 – 25600

Even though this affordable beast is designed for photography rookies, it’s advanced enough for when you evolve your skills.

Canon EOS 90D DSLR Camera with 18-135mm Lens [~$1600]

Tech specifications:

  • Effective pixels: 32,5 MP 
  • Up to 10 fps continuous shooting
  • DIGIC 8 Image Processor
  • ISO sensitivity - 100 – 25600

This mid-range versatile sleek camera will serve you well for shooting live objects as well as still life photography.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera with 18-135mm [~$1800]

Tech specifications:

  • Effective pixels: 20,2 MP 
  • Up to 10 fps continuous shooting
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processor
  • ISO sensitivity – native sensitivity up to16000 further extendable to 51200

Another favorite in the Canon line, this camera also performs amazing for both: dynamic sports and wildlife as well as studio product photography.

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 15-45mm Lens [~$650]

Tech specifications:

  • Effective pixels: 24,1 MP 
  • Up to 10 fps continuous shooting
  • DIGIC 8 Image Processor
  • ISO sensitivity - 100 – 25600

This low-budget camera is probably the best acquisition for anyone who is not ready for a hefty investment but is determined to make some amazing product photos.

Just as we promised, you don't have to sell your kidney to get your hands on professional photography equipment. There is a viable offering in the $500-$900 range.

If anything, remember the rule of the thumb we mentioned in the very first paragraph?

A quality lens produces a higher ROI than an expensive camera when it comes to the extent of the impact on the result. If you have to save, save on the camera, not the lens.

Best Camera Lenses: the luxury you can’t afford not to get

Now, that we put some pressure on you about the significance of lens in product photography, let us do our due and share a few tricks that will come in handy during the selection process [we feel responsible for all the weight we have mounted on your shoulders now]:

  1. Make sure the lens mount is designed for your camera. Not only do the brands have signature mounts, but they may have a few series – so triple check if the mount marries well with your camera.
  2. Pay attention to focal length, which is usually measured in mm – the ideal size for a perfect product photography lens is 80-100 mm, but the entire range of 50-150 mm may be considered depending on other multiple factors.
  3. When it comes to lenses, magnification of 0.5-1.2X is usually a golden medium for shooting objects, with macro lenses having the 1:1 ratio.
  4. Lens speed or aperture plays an important technical specification of any lens that signifies how much light can come into the lens, with recommended parameters for taking images of still life being in the higher range: f/8 – f/11.
  5. Prime lenses are preferred to zoom lens models in this segment, as they provide a sharper image and there is no risk of lens diffraction.

Even though we mention, that premium lenses do matter more so, than the pricey cameras, one can still get away with an inexpensive lens in the 18-135 mm range and one macro lens. 

Your average working focus distance ranges in the 50-120 mm and we recommend higher F-stop setting for your diaphragm opening [e.g. f8 - f11], so that less light comes through the lens and more of the product ends up in focus.

Best lenses to make product images that we use in our photo studio in LA and NY:

The Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro [~$900]

Tech specifications:

  • Focal length: 105 mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8
  • Format: FX/35mm
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Vibration Reduction (VR)

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro [~$1300]

Tech specifications:

  • Focal length: 100 mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8
  • EF-Mount Lens, Full frame format
  • Max magnification: 1
  • Ultra-Low Dispersion (UD)

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Lens for Canon EF [~$650]

Tech specifications:

  • Focal length: 90 mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8-f/32
  • Canon EF Mount/Full-Frame Format
  • Max magnification: 1:1

Best Tripods for professional steady results

Product photography tripods come in all shapes and sizes – as well as in many price ranges. Some rather OK specimens of this category start at just $30 and they relieve a lot of stress for a photographer.

If the professional lens is the luxury you can’t afford not to have, the tripod is just as fundamental to the process with options starting at a cost of a few lattes.

You need a sturdy, durable, tall enough tripod with all the arms and heads necessary for your mission. Not all of the models come with the same features, so check out a few options from this perspective. If it has a horizontal arm and central column – this will be of great use for taking product photos.

These are our recommended picks:

Joilcan 72-Inch Camera/Phone Tripod [just ~$40]

At just 40 dollars this tripod has garnered amazing reviews on Amazon. If you are only starting, it seems like a great investment.

Manfrotto 290 Xtra Aluminum 3-Section Tripod [~$150]

If you are seriously considering product photography, it’s time to check out one of the Italian-made Manfrotto tripods – that are lightweight, durable, and rock-sturdy.

Best product photography lighting equipment

Professional lighting equipment makes a world of difference in the resulting image – specifically when it comes to complex missions like watch product photography, making jewelry images, or even photographing bags.

While a beginner, you may opt for a continuous lighting source that needs less technical knowledge to employ and produces an OK result for immobile products. The more seasoned professional studios will employ strobe lighting to produce high-res product images for ecommerce.

These are our picks:

  • Continuous lighting kits:
  • Bescor LED 95DK2 LED Video Light Kit [~$140]
  • Interfit Stellar Tungsten Two-Light Twin Softbox Kit [~$250]
  • Strobe lighting kits:
  • Westcott 240 Strobelite 2 Monolight Kit [~$450]
  • Bowens Gemini 400Rx 2 Head Kit [~$850]

On top of the lighting kits, you will also require diffusers and reflectors, that disperse or direct your light where it belongs.

Product photography equipment: the miscellaneous that saves your shoot

C-stand with knuckle and extension helps to clamp on acrylic, mirrors, and even lights.

Clamps are a ubiquitous assistant on the shoot – there's always something that needs to be hanging, fixed, or attached to something.

A hot glue gun will attach things in place with clear glue that is nearly invisible and is easily removed.

A can of compressed air will reduce your post-production if used regularly on glossy pieces, like watches, rings, etc. just before the shoot to remove any specks of dust.

Acrylic rods can help hold something up in the air – when used in combination with a hot glue gun for example and due to their transparency – they require minimal editing after.

Black electrical tape is also omnipresent in the professional studios world over for its universal use: you can mark a spot on the table, fix and attach things with it.

Afterword

Equipment for product photography is indeed pricey. Yet, with cut-throat competition between top producers as well as mass-market Chinese manufacturers, there are plenty of options in every price range. Moreover, marketplaces like Amazon make genuine user reviews your best guide when choosing the gear for your studio.

We recommend you also watch a few YouTube reviews for your short-listed items to make sure you didn’t miss some critical technical information.

But if your product photography needs don’t exceed a few thousand shots per annum, your best ROI is to commission the job to a professional photo studio, like Squareshot. Check out our product images portfolio so you know this investment will bring you a worthwhile ROI.


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