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A DSLR Cheat Sheet – Shooting Product Photography in Manual Mode

Learn how to use your cameras Manual Shooting Mode (ISO, Aperture, & Shutter Speed) when shooting product photography!

At Iconasys, we love product photography! We have been developing specialized product photography software designed to enable users of any skill level to easily capture better quality images while significantly increasing workflow efficiencies. Many of our customers are first timers and often have questions about shooting product photography in their cameras manual mode. This article is designed to provide a little more insight into camera setting variables and how to optimize them for your in house product photography.

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Shutter Speed

We’ve all heard the name, what does it mean?!

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The basic definition: the amount of time the shutter stays open.

This is the length of time your image sensor is able to “See” the scene you are attempting to capture. Think of your shutter speed as your eyelids. The number you assign to the shutter speed, defines the speed of the ‘Blink’. ex. 1/10 = shutter staying open for 1/10th of a second.

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When you shutter speed is slowed down, your camera is blinking slowly. This allows more light to pass through. When your shutter speed is sped up you are essentially blinking faster. This filters out the light and limits what passes through your lens. 

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Shutter Speeds will vary by camera but some of the more common options are 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, and 1/8.  Some uses for adjusting your Shutter Speed would be; capturing waves at the ocean, headlights from moving cars on a highway and the speed of a waterfall. When adjusting to a longer Shutter Speed, use a tripod. For product photography, users will want to use Shutter Speed as the primary variable for setting correct exposure.

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ISO

The ISO is a light regulator!

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The ISO is a light regulator, just as blinds are in your home.

When blinds are opened, light from outside will enter the room. When blinds are closed, the light entering the room will be minimal. The lower the ISO the less light. The higher the ISO the more light.

ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor.  Typically, higher ISO settings are used in darker environments to help obtain a faster shutter speed. Though, the higher the ISO you use, the “grainer” or “noisier” your photos will be. A low ISO of 100 will generally have a cleaner shot with little to no noise. A high ISO of 3500 will be a lot grainer. 

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Why use a higher ISO?

No flash zones! Museums, galleries, and aquariums may prevent guests from using the flash on their cameras. If you need to adjust for a brighter photo you would turn up your ISO. Maybe you’d like a grainer photo to add to the scene. An example of this would be taking a picture of a headstone in a cemetery. Turing up your ISO would add more noise thus adding a spookier element to your image. When shooting product images with camera on a tripod, it is strongly suggested to use the lowest ISO value.

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Aperture:

How does it work?

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Aperture refers to the diaphragm on your camera.

The diaphragm on your camera is where light passes through. The diaphragm is calculated in f/stops and is measured in numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The larger the f/stop number the less light that will pass through the cameras diaphragm. The smaller the f/stop number the more light is provided.

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An easy way to remember this , your pupils. This might sound a bit contradictory, but hear me out. A large pupil is our body’s reaction to less light such as a dark room. If someone shines a light in your eyes, your pupils will get a lot smaller. 

A large f/stop number will provide less light. The smaller the f/stop number the more light is provided. When you are adjusting your cameras f/stop, think about your own eyes. Want less light? Is the environment, you’re in bright? Your pupils are tiny, large f/stop number.

Why is this important?

Your depth of field. Depth of field is defined as “The zone of acceptable sharpness in front of and behind the subject on which the lens is focused.” The larger your f/stop number the greater depth of field. If you want to solely focus on your subject and blur out the background, try adjusting your aperture a bit and increasing your f/stop number. Try playing around with this setting and watch your background either disappear or come into focus.

Shooting Product Photography in Cameras Manual Mode: A DSLR Cheat Sheet

Interested in 360 Product Photography?! Read our blog, “ “Why it’s Time to Move on 360°  Product Photography”

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