How to set up Photo Boards
Photo Boards are true-to-scale replicas of my own collection of wood, plaster and marble backdrops that I collected while freelancing as a commercial photographer.
When I started to teach product photography techniques, great backdrops and where to find them was the hottest topic of conversation and led to the creation of Photo Boards.
Photo Boards® are now renowned for being the perfect grab and go solution for capturing quick and easy table top shots, thanks to being lightweight and easy to set up.
Here’s my simple step-by-step guide for creating a table top photo set using Photo Boards.
Find the light
You can create all sorts of natural lighting styles with just one window light, which is great news for anyone looking to capture high quality photos from a home office or kitchen.
Ideally, your window will be located at a similar level to the table or floor so that the light can flood across your work surface, so if shooting directly down onto the floor then look to work near a glass door where the light is at floor level.
Position your Photo Boards®
Before this step, you’ll need an idea of the angle that you hope to capture your subject. Are you looking down at the subject from above, or looking forward into the scene?
Overhead/higher angled shots looking down to your subject will need just one Photo Board positioned flat on the surface, but as your camera angle lowers and you look forward into your scene, you might decide to use two Photo Boards® giving the illusion of a table and wall beyond like above, or a combination of a real table used alongside a Photo Board ‘wall’.
Pro Tip: If using two surfaces, leave a small gap between the table and wall surfaces which will cast a soft shadow onto the vertical wall surface, resulting in a more realistic appearance as shown below right.
Rotate your set
For a natural looking light, I recommend positioning your Photo Boards® set so that the light is falling forward towards the camera from the left or right side. This gives the illusion of life beyond the set and a sense of place, but also highlights texture by adding more natural shadows and highlights to the scene. If the light casts harsh shadows, try diffusing it with a voile curtain or photography diffuser.
The beauty of using Photo Boards® is that you can rotate everything until you are happy with the angle of light.
Pro Tip: Switch off your overhead room lights to prevent colour casts in your photos from varying light sources.
Set up your camera
With your product/subject in the light and your chosen Photo Board flat on the table/floor, set up your camera to ensure that your subject is in view and looking great, with the edges of your Photo Boards out of shot.
Pro Tip: Once happy with your camera angle, I highly recommend using a tripod for keeping your camera/smartphone in the same position while you make changes to your styling. It is also a great way of ensuring you get professional-looking straight horizons and not the slightly wonky appearance of a quick snap.
I know it seems a lot of effort to set up a tripod, but when we set up product shots this way we typically only need to make a small adjustment before capturing the perfect shot. We can then reuse the same photo set and lighting for multiple products, resulting in lots of great photos, one after the other!
Less is more when it comes to props, but a few well placed props can help to give the viewer a sense of place, show the scale of your subject and add texture and interest to the scene. You can also use them in clever ways to mask the edges of your Photo Boards®, we’ll cover this in another post.
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