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I am planning to get a camera for some product photography. I have a tripod and white cardboard area. I think I will not require a high-end camera for this. I am simply planning to get photos of gift items such as toys, flowers, chocolates, and cards. The main purpose is to update my website with images.

  1. Do I really need a DSLR camera for this?
  2. If not, what kind of compact cameras would be ideal?
  3. If yes, what range of DSLR camera and lens would be good for this?
  4. Probably I will take photos during the daytime, do I still need to consider a flash?
  5. Should I get a macro lens or zoom lens for this?
8
  1. Do I really need a DSLR camera for this?

No. The smaller the objects you want to photograph get, the more difficult it is sometimes to use a dSLR, because of the more expensive lens requirements that go along with a bigger sensor to get close enough to frame. In addition, the larger sensors on dSLRs will actually create a thinner DoF when working in close on macro-sized subjects. Most compact cameras have small enough sensors that they don't require a specialized macro lens to focus close, because they have a very deep depth of field.

  1. If not, what kind of compact cameras would be ideal?

Ideally, in my opinion, you need a compact camera that has three features: full Manual mode (to have control over exposure), a flash hotshoe, and RAW capability (so you'll have the most latitude for post-processing), and probably a sensor size between 1/2.3"-format to 1" format. The newer the camera, the better the sensor performance is likely to be and the higher the resolution. I would not go for a very old compact camera that has less than 8MP output. But as long as your intended delivery is going to be at websizes, and not very large prints, your needs are modest in this regard.

  1. If yes, what range of DSLR camera and lens would be good for this?

Any dSLR should be good for this, but the lens is where you may run into issues with smaller subjects (see point 5). A macro lens is probably going to be the tool of choice here. Just like the ideal compact camera, a dSLR is liable to have full Manual Mode, RAW capability, and a flash hotshoe.

  1. Probably I will take photos during the daytime, do I still need to consider a flash?

Absolutely.

Flash, for a more advanced photographer, isn't about getting more light. It's about controlling light. Getting an all-white or all-black background is about how you light the scene. Product photography, like portrait photography, is often heavily reliant upon doing a good lighting set-up more than anything else. (See a Strobist blog article on lighting some tomatoes and using the then-new Canon Powershot G9).

A flash hotshoe makes things infinitely easier when it comes to setting up studio-type lighting. And this type of lighting doesn't necessarily cost a large amount of money, either in these post-Strobist days. A few manual speedlights and radio triggers, and you can begin to learn this stuff.

In addition, a compact fixed-lens camera tends to have issues with low light because of the sensor size and lens maximum aperture restrictions. Being able to add light with a flash means you can use the lower ISO settings, as well as smaller aperture settings and still get good shots that aren't motion-blurred.

  1. Should I get a macro lens or zoom lens for this?

If you do go with a dSLR, I'd recommend a macro lens and if you get a true macro lens, it won't zoom. A zoom lens actually isn't very descriptive, zoom just means the lens can change its focal length. But most of the telephoto 70-300 "macro" lenses you see aren't actually "true" macro lenses.

Whether you get a lens or a fixed-lens compact, the specs you want to be interested in when shooting smaller objects, are going to be the minimum focus distance (which is how close you can get to your subject and still maintain focus on it), and the magnification ratio (i.e., the size of the image on the sensor vs. the size of the object). A "true" macro lens has a 1:1 magnification ratio. Most of the 70-300 so-called macro zooms are more like 1:2 or 1:3.

2

A useful additional feature a camera can have for product photography is tethered shooting. That means you can see a preview of the image on an external monitor and also click the shutter release remotely. Sometimes this works by connecting a USB cable, sometimes a wireless connection can be established.

This allows to position the camera in arbitrary locations that are not easy to access. The camera could be mounted above the products to give a bird's eye view for example, which is useful to display an overview of several products. This makes it hard to access the viewfinder or display, especially while arranging the products. A remote monitor and shutter release help tremendously in that kind of situation.

2

The camera doesn't really matter that much. With product photography it is all about the lighting and the materials you use to project and/or reflect that light onto your products. The more control you have over the lighting, the more you can make the products and background appear the way you wish. For various scenarios and different products the ideal setup will be different, but it is always about the lighting. There is no single correct lighting setup for product photography in general, only for a specific use case.

What camera/sensor size/lens focal length one might choose is then governed by the Field of View needed for a specific perspective of an object of a particular size, lighting, and possibly by such things as reflectivity of the items being photographed (the further the camera is from the product, the smaller the reflection and the dimmer the spill light). There is no single correct camera/focal length for product photography in general, only for a specific use case.

For specific shooting scenarios, please see:
What are the best resources for Indoor Product Photography?
Shooting glass product with embossment
How to shoot Clear Liquid Gel for a product shot?
How to improve my product photo shoot to look like Apple's Mac Pro product site?
Taking pictures of rugs for online use
Silver Bracelet Photography with 100% pure white Background
How to create product photos that seem to pop out from the background
How can I deal with uneven highlights in product photography with a mannequin?
How can I capture product photography with the entire product in focus?
How can I get more of this macro photo in focus?
What are some good reflecting undergrounds for product photography?
What's the best way to take photos of a clear plastic bottle for product shots?
How do I create product photos with a black background and reflections?
How can I blow out the background when shooting down for clothing on the ground?
How were these "harsh light" photos of objects on a white background taken?
How to photograph a tire tread without getting a bulge effect?
How can I remove brightness from the bottom of a concave plate?
Do I need clear or opaque plexiglass for my product photography?
How can I avoid these colored shadows in my product photos?
How do I eliminate this shadow from my product photography?
How to get more clarity and less shadow when photographing jewelry?
How can I improve my clothing photography with a limited budget?
How do I improve the quality of lowlight back-lit bottle photographs with a point and shoot camera?
How to photograph sparkly objects?
Product Photography: White object on white background producing white halo
How do I get a consistent White Balance when shooting different color products?
What is "dark field lighting" and why is it used?
What equipment is needed for a basic product shoot studio?
How can I get consistent backgrounds when shooting white objects on white background?
How can I photograph a reflective convex cylindrical trophy without reflections?
How can I improve the dull colors in my product photography?
Why hasn't buying powerful lights improved my lightbox images?
Setup for shoe photography
What must I buy to take amazing product photos?
Having difficulty lighting various reflective product packaging- use dulling spray?
How do I make a package look "heroic and important" in a advertising shoot?
What type of lighting would provide slightly more contrast than a softbox for product photography?
Fluorescent/neon clothing
Product shot of a vase with decals: reflections obscuring decals
How to photograph an ice cube with a piece of lemon inside?
How can I improve these photos of porcelain tiles?
How can I improve my smartphone photos of a product for eBay?
How to photograph glass without reflections and shadows?
How to do lighting for product photography of scrapbooking stuff?
How to set up a diamond for photography?
What are the best techniques for making great photographs of LEGO creations?
How do I photograph coins with a glossy surface?
How do I work with ice and a glass bottle for a product shoot?
How do I properly do shadowless product photos?
What is the best approch to photographing a mirror or other highly reflective surface?
What are the key things to think about when photographing jewelry?
What are the best resources for Indoor Product Photography?

  • 1
    The link:text ratio makes your answer effectively a link-only answer. Could you provide summaries or context for your links? =D – scottbb Jun 28 '16 at 3:16
  • You can link to tags such as product-photography instead of listing every question in the tag currently. – dpollitt Jun 28 '16 at 3:56
  • I considered that, but felt that the visual impact of such an extended list of highlights (which is far from all of the [product-photography] tagged questions, by the way) was worth the effort. I think it says effectively that it really does matter exactly what type of product you are photographing and what you want the product to look like. – Michael C Jun 28 '16 at 8:25

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