Besides my trusty camera, sturdy tripod and Strobe lights, I need to use a very specific set of tools to get my Still Life and Product photography completed in a professional and timely manner. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the accessories that I find essential to use in the studio.
Stripboxes - A beautiful strip of soft light. It is the perfect tool for creating a narrow beam of light that helps to define shape, revealing the curves and contours of the product. As you can see in this image of the Beard Trimmer, the 120cm x 30cm Stripbox was placed overhead and the soft highlight follows from the head, down the body of the item, accentuating the curved elegance of the beard trimmer. They are also best used to highlight the shape of beverage and cosmetics bottles.
Grid Spots - If you want a focussed, controlled beam of light on your product, then a grid spot is a great choice. The Honeycomb ‘cells’ keep the light controlled. A smaller angled grid (I used a 10 degree grid) creates a small spot of light and a larger angle grid creates the larger size. For this shot I ‘feathered’ the grid, so that the light skimmed past the front end of the Beard Trimmer head at a 45 degrees angle, which created the highlights that are visible on the head and down the silver body.
Light Stands & C-Stands - C-Stands are heavy and sturdy. Made of metal, they have retractable legs that spread out for stability. These can be made extra secure with sandbags laid over the leg. The central pole has two - four risers. They can be extended to the maximum height of the stand. A grip head attaches the long adjustable arm that also supports clamps or another grip head which can be used to attach accessories. C-Stands can support heavy strobes, flags, scrims, bounce cards, diffusion material and can even hang a Product with tough fishing line or wire. I used a C-Stand to attach the overhead Strobe with the 120cm x 30cm Stripbox.
Good quality light stands can support Speedlights, flags, bounce cards and light weighted props, if needed. However do not forget to use sandbags on the legs for extra stability.
A Clamps - These inexpensive springy devices are good to hold bounce cards and paper. You can clamp diffusion material to Stands or C-Stand arms with them, and they can support small props that need a little help standing up. They come in various sizes and styles and can be purchased from your local DIY store. A must for Product photographers.
Bounce cards and Reflectors - Bounce the light back with a bounce card. Utterly essential for Still Life photography. Illuminate portions of the Product with a white, gold or silver card. White card for a clean lighted tone. Silver card for a stronger light and gold if you want a warmer tone. Use black cards (flags) to cut the light from a portion of the composition that has too much light. Buy black and white foamcore and silver and gold card and cut into various sizes for various sized projects.
Diffusion material - Soften your highlights. A roll of tracing paper,or a bedsheet, white shower curtain, ripstop nylon or translum diffusion, hanging on a C-Stand arm, can do wonders for your stripbox lighting.
A shiny, glossy bottle that is illumainted with stripboxes on either side can reflect strong, harsh strips of light down the edges. Place a roll of tracing paper in front of a stripbox, softbox or grid spot and that bright light on a glossy surface becomes softer and more pleasing to the eye. Gradients can be created on the object or background when the softbox and grid spot is angled correctly behind (or in front of a background) of the diffusion material. In essence the diffusion material works like a flag, cutting the light’s intensity. Diffusion material can be mounted on DIY scrims too.
Table - A black finished table is good for tabletop photography as it will not reflect unnecessary colour casts back into the products or scene. For versatility, use a pair of sawhorses so that different surfaces can be mounted on top, i.e. glass, plexiglass, wood.
Gaffer tape and other sticky stuff - Black Gaffer tape will not leave a residue like other sticky tapes. It’s good for sticking Gels to honeycomb grids and mounting diffusion material on plastic piping or a wooden frame. Coloured blue and white sticky putty is great for holding props or products in place and marking an area where the hero bottle/product will be placed, once cleaned.
Cleaning materials - Canned air, anti-static cloths, microfibre cloths and cleaning fluids. Use them as needed. The more dust and smears that smother the product, the more time there is spent retouching in Photoshop. Some smears can create retouching headaches, so clean beforehand. Don’t go into the studio without them!
Wooden and metal blocks - Go to your local metal worker and wood worker and get them made in many different sizes. They are fantastic for propping up items that are prone to falling over. I also use them for propping up large bounce cards.
If you want to work efficiently and calmly and create great Product and Still Life photography, in a professional environment, then do yourself a favour and add these accessories to your shopping list.