Choosing the Best 360 Product Photography Equipment

The Complete Guide to 360 Product Photography Equipment

Are you looking to shoot 360 product photography and interested in finding out about what equipment is needed to get started? This guide will provide readers an overview and important considerations to consider when deciding upon the best 360 product photography equipment.

The complete guide to 360 product photography equipment

Why do I need 360-Degree Product Photography

It is imperative for brands and retailers to display high quality visuals online when showcasing their products online. The difference between a good and bad product photo can lead to a missed sale, a product return or even a lost customer. eCommerce limits the ability to physically interact with goods as we traditionally have grown accustom to with in-store shopping. As a result, there have been many new technologies introduced to help the online shopping experience such as 360-degree product photography, virtual try-on and immersive technologies such as augmented reality. 360-degree product photography is arguably one of the most widely adopted and effective technologies to enhance eCommerce product photography. The ease of creation and integration with existing camera(s) and studio lighting equipment make 360 degree product spins an attractive low cost option that will yield significant return through increased online sales. Let’s dive into equipment needed for 360 degree product photography.

360-Degree Product Photography Equipment

Many brands and retailers already have existing studio lighting, cameras, jibs and accessories for shooting product photography in-house. This typically makes up the bulk of the 360 product photography equipment expense. A 360 degree photography turntable is the other piece of the puzzle – this will be used to maneuver the product over a 360 rotation during the image capture sequence. Below we take a look at the requirements for an in-house 360 product photography studio.

360 Degree Photography Turntables

360 degree product photography equipment

360 Photography Turntables are available in various forms ranging from manual to continuous spin motorized turntables to stop motion photography turntables and even computer-controlled automated 360 photography turntables. Turntable pricing varies and is largely dependent on the size and weight capacity of the turntable and the level of automation the turntable will provide when shooting 360 degree product photography.  When deciding on the best photography turntable for your needs, it is important to consider:

  • Size of products you plan to photograph: A good rule of thumb is to purchase a turntable based on the largest size object you’ll need to shoot in 360. Smaller objects will typically shoot just fine on larger turntables (although it can be a little more challenging to correctly center the item in the center of the turntable when the object is much smaller than the turntable surface). It is also important to have some tolerance between the sides of the object and turntable surface – we typically suggest about 2 inch clearance from the turntable edge. For instance, if your largest object is 11 x 11 inches, we would suggest a photography turntable with a 15+ inch diameter platform. This will help to ensure you are not photographing the side (or circumference) of the turntable when shooting 360 product photography (or editing it out in post-production image editing).
  • Weight of products you plan to photograph: This goes without saying, be sure the 360 turntable has enough weight capacity to be able to rotate your object. To compound this, you may want to consider torque. More specifically if you are shooting a wide or long item, and the 360 degree turntable is controlled via a center mounted motor, it will take more effort to turn the object. In this case, to be safe, you may want to overshoot on the weight capacity required.
  • Number of products you plan to photograph: This point really comes down to streamlining the 360 product photography process. If you have a lot of products you need to photograph, you will likely benefit from an photography turntable that automates 360 image capture through integrated camera snap with turntable start and stop.

Types of 360-Degree Photography Turntables

Manual Photography Turntables

A manual photography turntable is the most affordable option and ideal for those with a limited budget and small number of products to photograph in 360. These can be found pre-made or can be constructed easily using a lazy susan bearing and platform mounted to it (ex. round piece of wood painted white). The 360 degree product imaging process will require the user manually adjusting turntable position to each shooting angle.

Pro tip – add pre-defined angle markers (can be done using a measuring tape) around the circumference of the turntable platform to achieve consistent shooting angles

Motorized ‘Continuous Spin’ Photography Turntables

Another low-cost 360 product photography turntable option is a motorized turntable. These are available from many different vendors and will operate by turning the on-switch – after which the turntable will rotate at a continuous pre-set speed in a single direction. Motorized 360 turntables can be challenging to work with when shooting 360 product images as they do not support stop-motion (pausing at each angle to let the camera shoot an image). If looking for a motorized turntable, consider the rotation speed – we’d suggest <0.75 RPM, which should be slow enough (providing you have enough lighting) to capture an image with no motion effects. In addition, a slower motorized turntable should allow users to capture more frames (we suggest using a minimum of 48 frames per 360 product view).

Pro tip – Consider the size of your cameras image buffer and SD card write speed (test how many frames you can shoot in a burst mode (continuous capture)). This will help you understand if you can work with a motorized 360 photography turntable.

Shutter Release Photography Turntables

Shutter release 360 degree photography turntable

A form of a motorized turntable, Shutter Release Turntables include additional electronics (sensor) that will auto trigger camera snap (connect camera to turntable via Shutter Release Cable) at each angle. These turntables can be in the form of stop motion (turntable comes to a stop before camera capture is triggered) or continuous spin and allow users to pre-define the number of frames to capture per 360 rotation and the rotation direction (CW/CCW).
Pro tip: Low cost options will typically limit maximum number of frames so if considering a Shutter Release Turntable, try to find one with minimum 48 steps per 360 rotation (ability to stop at <7.5-degrees).

Pro tip – Consider the size of your cameras image buffer and SD card write speed (test how many frames you can shoot in a burst mode (continuous capture)). This will help you understand if you can work with a motorized 360 photography turntable.

Computer-Controlled Automated Turntables

Typically the most expensive turntable option, computer-controlled 360 Photography Turntables can be the best investment to ensure for high quality 360 product images. These turntables are controlled via software (ex. Windows, Mac OSX, Linux) through USB or wireless control (ex. Bluetooth), support high resolution and accuracy (higher frame counts) and will trigger camera snap via Shutter Release Cable or a dedicated 360 product photography software that integrates camera control with turntable movement. Although a larger up front cost, this type of photography turntable can often pay for itself through savings in time and effort.

Pro tip: Check out Iconasys industry-leading 360 Degree Photography Turntables which have the lowest cost of ownership in the industry.

360 Product Photography Lighting

Choosing the best 360 Product Photography Equipment

If you’ve ever shot product photography, you understand lighting is the most important variable related to image quality. We cannot stress enough the importance of good quality, high CRI, flicker-free lighting when shooting 360 degree product photography –especially for the fact one bad frame in a 360 product image set can mean a complete re-shoot!

Studio lighting comes in many forms – the easiest way to break this down is between strobe lighting and continuous light source. Both types of lighting will work for shooting 360 product images (although if using strobes, consider a stop-motion photography turntable). If you already have lighting and are comfortable with it and getting good results, great! This will work as well as it does for still imaging as it will for 360 photography.

Having the correct lighting can also minimize time spent image editing (which can become quite timely when editing a 360 product image set of say 48 frames). This holds especially true if your need 360 Product Photography for Amazon – when white backgrounds are a requirement. If product photography with white backgrounds is a requirement, consider a high key lighting technique (in which you will place a lot of light focused solely on the background) and a clear acrylic riser that will sit on top of turntable to eliminate harsh shadows.

Lightboxes can prove beneficial in 360 product photography if shooting highly reflective objects however can also prove to be a burden as placing objects on a turntable inside a box can be hard. Learn more about When to use a Light Box in Product Photography.

For a backdrop, use a material that matches the surface color on the turntable (ex. if using white paper backdrop, use a white acrylic top or cut out a piece of the white backdrop in a circle and place it over the photography turntable surface.

Pro tip: If you’re new to studio photography and looking to source lighting, we would suggest continuous lighting – as it’s typically easier to work with (especially when using the cameras live view + exposure simulation for 360 product image composition). Check out Iconasys 360 product photography lighting

What Camera for 360 Degree Product Photography?

When considering a camera for 360 product photography, you have many options – these range from mirrorless cameras to DSLR’s to mobile phone cameras and even point and shoot cameras. Assuming your 360 product photography will be for use in eCommerce and helping you sell more online, we strongly advise not to use a mobile phone camera. Mobile phones include very small camera sensors and although their images can look great when displaying at low resolution, the images are not designed for viewing at higher resolutions (learn more about Smart Phone Cameras vs. Professional DSLR’s and Mirrorless Cameras).

If you already have a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, this will likely be perfect for your 360 product photography. If looking to source a new camera, you won’t need to break the bank. Entry level DSLR and Mirrorless cameras start at about $400 with a lens and will yield great image quality. The best value in our opinion is Canon’s entry level cameras more specifically the Rebel DSLR line or its entry level M series Mirrorless cameras. An extra $100 to $300 on a better lens (vs. the standard kit lens) is also a worth consideration!

Pro tip: Canon refurbished cameras often start for under $300 with lens!

Summary on the Best 360 Product Photography Equipment

As you have read above, the best 360 product photography equipment for your requirements is based on many variables. Likely you already have existing photography studio equipment and a camera that can be used for getting started with 360 product images – and that is half the battle and the bulk of the expense! If you only have a few products you wish to shoot in 360 or if you’re just looking to test the waters and explore how 360 product photography will help your online sales efforts, a manual 360 photography turntable is a worthy consideration. For those looking to shoot upwards of 50 products, you will likely benefit from 360 product photography equipment that will automate workflows. These computer-controlled turntables and included software can streamline 360 imaging efficiencies and have users creating professional quality, web-ready 360 product views in just minutes (learn about Choosing the Best 360 Product Photography Software) – meaning the investment will likely be recouped easily through time and money savings in the long run. No matter what you decide, we wish you luck in your 360 Product Photography!

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