Portray Your Close-Up Subject Accurately - dummies

By Thomas Clark

There’s no sense in providing a close-up photograph of a product if viewers can’t understand what the product is in the photograph. In the most basic sense of product photography, your job is to provide a literal representation of a subject.

The best way to do this is to produce a photograph that represents the product clearly, without any discolorations, distorting angles or lenses, size or shape distortion, or misrepresentations, and with few to no distractions.

Including details about a product is important because viewers want to know as much about what they’re looking at as possible. If you’re shopping online or out of a catalog, then the image is one of your only sources for making a decision about whether the product is right for you.

Artistic, blurry representations of a subject are great and all, but they don’t help anyone make purchasing decisions. A sharply focused image that reveals true texture, shape, form, and color is much more helpful.

However, if a product has been around for a while and has already established itself in the market, companies will allow it to be photographed in a more artistic manner because people are already familiar with its look and function. If you really want to get creative with a small product, feel free to do so, but it’s best to produce a shot that shows it for what it really is.

The closer your camera is to a subject, the shallower your depth of field becomes. In macro and close-up product photography, you often need to use small apertures (like f/22) in order to achieve focus on the entire subject. However, when your subject has a lot of depth, a small aperture isn’t always sufficient to produce sharpness throughout. A couple techniques help maximize sharpness when you’re using a small aperture:

  • Minimize the depth of your subject. If the product you’re photographing has a long side and a short side, be sure to position the long side to be parallel (or somewhat parallel) to your camera’s digital sensor. This causes it to be parallel with your plane of focus ensuring that your depth of field can cover the entire product and so reveal it in sharp focus.

    Notice how the button in the photograph appears clearer when it’s photo-graphed parallel to the camera (left) as opposed to when it’s photographed at an angle to the camera (right).

  • Use postproduction processes to maximize sharp detail in your images. Thanks to photo-editing software, you can now take multiple photographs of a subject with varying focal points, mash them together, and produce an image with sharp focus throughout.

  • Back up from the subject (reducing magnification) and crop your final image as desired. Showing your subject smaller in your frame will increase your depth of field and cause more of it to appear sharp. This method is best if you’re using a camera with very high resolution, and if your subject doesn’t have extremely fine details that you need to show.


100mm, 0.5 sec, f/5.6, 400    100mm, 0.5 sec, f/5.6, 400