Product Photography with the Sigma DP3 Merrill and a Smartphone as the ONLY light source


Recently, I’ve read this post on the DIYPhotography website, which has a video tutorial on how to take good product pictures with a smartphone or tablet as a single source of light. Because you usually need either several flash units or expensive studio lighting, for this kind of photography, I have been teased by the article and I’ve decided to give it a try.

In the video, the shutter of the camera is released in BULB mode and the product is “painted” slowly and carefully with the light of the tablet’s display. Because I had no tablet on hand, I decided to use my smartphone. Unfortunately I realized very quickly that it is necessary to “paint” the motive for several minutes due to the small and faint smartphone display. Not forgetting: you have to close the aperture all the way down in order to get sufficiently “deep” depth of field. In addition you have to set the lowest ISO value, because image quality is very important in product photography.

To save time – you inevitably lose a huge amounts of time because you work by “trial & error” – I’ve used the flash (actually it is a continuous shining LED) of my smartphone instead of the display.

I’ve needed definitely ten or twenty attempts until I’ve managed to take these two pictures:

Sigma DP3 Merrill (volle Auflösung - full resolution)

Sigma DP3 Merrill (volle Auflösung - full resolution)

This was my setup:

  • The motif is the external/optional viewfinder VF-41 for the DP2 Quattro.
  • I’ve put the viewfinder on the upper side of my laptop. The black lacquered and brushed aluminum is IMO the perfect background for the black viewfinder. If I had chosen something brighter, the motif would have been either underexposed or the picture would have had insufficient contrast. Besides, the aluminum looks really beautiful.
  • I had to switch of the light in the room where I took the pictures. This also means that you have to switch to M mode, because the camera’s intern light meter could act up if you don’t.
  •  The DP3 Merrill was located on a tripod and was positioned a little bit higher than the motif. You have to experiment a bit until you get the correct position or angle and the right crop.
  • After various attempts I’ve arrived at the following exposure values:ISO100, because as I’ve said before, image quality is very important when doing product photography; aperture f/11, for the deepest depth of field, but without losing sharpness due to diffraction, which would have been the case with f/16; exposure time of 30 sec, in order to have enough time for “painting”.
  • Afterwards I’ve adjusted exposure, shadows, contrast et cetera on the PC. I’ve spend clearly more time removing all (?) dust particles, than doing the rest of post processing. It doesn’t matter how thoroughly you clean it with a microfiber cloth, there are always many dust particles in the picture.

The biggest disadvantage about this technique is the missing reproducibility. Sometimes you get very close to the “perfect” result, just to make it worse with following attempts. Therefore I can only recommend it to those of you who have nerves of steel 😉

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