DIY: Streamlined product photography with back-lit slope backdrop

[Updated] Now used to do 360 degree photography

Going away from the WWW in this post.

I will tell you how I streamlined product photography at my workplace, saved my employer some money and saved myself from getting repetitive strain injury of my right wrist.

You see, among other jobs I get to do at The Golden Boot is product photography for the online store. It comes down to taking hundreds of pictures when the stock for Spring—Summer or Autumn—Winter ranges comes in.

Before I had this great backdrop, I was spending 7 minutes on average to process a photograph (and there are usually two or three for each product.) This involved going around the outline of the item with a photoshop lasso to get rid of the shadow.
You really start to feel the way it affects your wrist if you do this for several days in a row.

Hit the jump for the full post
__________________

Now, that’s what I get after merely cropping and adjusting the contrast of the raw image taken using the new softbox:

The idea of lit-up background first struck me way back in 2008.

I shared the idea with my manager and he consented to build it.
He welded the frame and mounted the lights.

There are 16 lights and 4 switches. First two switch are for every odd light from 1 to 14, and the other 2 switches are for the lights at the top which can be switched on when photographing larger items. This lets me control the brightness of the background. (But I usually have it on full blast to keep my skin tanned up ;)

I wasn’t sure about the white balance we’d get from the backdrop but I knew that I would have to colour balance the backdrop and the flash (Thanks Strobist!) so I bought a set of 16 colour filters (also called flash gels).
They are just cheap bits of coloured plastic.

We’ve now got a fully working professional backdrop parked at the back of the shop. It was cheap as we’ve had most of the stuff lying about, and it works a treat:

Note:
Balancing backlight colour with flash is easy — set your camera’s white balance to flash, snap an underexposed shot of the backdrop to see what gel colour you need, fit one on to the flash and do a custom white balance on the background.

Another trick to get a good shot from a setup like this is to make sure that the actual backdrop is over-exposed. And you need another source of light to light up the product. You’ll get a black shape without one.

Update:
The cost to build the frame was 15 pounds for the metal and we paid about 10 pounds for the plexiglass. The rest was built from the stuff we had.
Plexiglass was fixed to the frame with screws. The curve’s large radius allowed it to be bent without any heat applied.

2 Responses

  1. Extremely well done job. Any chance you can update with some other tidbits?

    !: Total cost/time to build?
    2: What material was used for the panel? If plexi, did you have to custom form it with heat to get the slope?
    3: How was it secured to the frame?

  2. Nice!
    Excellent results.
    Has given me lots of ideas about building my own.