As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Over the past year, you may have noticed a boom in content creators producing product videos in the comfort of their homes. These can be found all over TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. It isn’t hard to understand why more and more videographers are looking to make high quality product videos in their living rooms and kitchens. With modern cameras, from the wide selection of mirrorless, to smartphones like the Sony Xperia 1 III, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the iPhone 12 Pro, learning how to create a product video from home is a valuable and fun exercise worth experimenting with.
If you’re looking to get started with product videos, or for a few extra pointers, we have listed five tips below for shooting an engaging product video at home.
Tip 1: Set Design
There’s a reason I’m mentioning set design first. It’s going to be one of the more valuable aspects of your product video, and where you can really let your creativity shine. Hammering down on the specific look of your product video is going to impact every decision you make to follow.
Where do you even start?
First, get to know everything there is about your product, including what content has been made in the past. Knowing your product’s story is going to help you tell yours.
Shooting for a well-known brand? How can you incorporate their brand identity into the product video aside from featuring the product itself? Choosing specific color palettes, props, and other elements will go a long way to making a legitimate looking product ad.
Let’s use an example: you’re shooting a spec-ad for Coca-Cola, so you’ll likely want a red or black backdrop. This will keep your product ad consistent with what the brand has done in the past. If shooting for a lesser-known brand, do your best to research their website and social accounts to see what makes them and their product unique.
What you’ll want to do next is really think about how you want your set to look.
Using an infinite white or black backdrop is always a good place to start. If you want a different look, consider putting your product on plexiglass or something with a reflective surface. This can add a lot of visual flare and dimension to your product video. Just keep in mind, surfaces like plexiglass scratch easily and are a magnet for dust and other particles. This can become very noticeable on camera. In addition to shooting at home, you’ll also have to consider limited space and budget. Fortunately, background paper is relatively affordable, especially in smaller sizes. No matter the set design you decide on, the main goal is to be intentional about your choices.
Tip 2: Lighting
Once you have your set ready, it’s time to light it. I recommend a classic three point set up for your product video. Three lights may sound pricey, but decent lighting kits aren’t as hard to find these days. Having three lights ensures you’ll have your key, fill, and back light, the go-to set-up for many productions.
If you do decide to go with three lights for your product video, here is a brief description of the standard set-up.
Key Light – The key light is going to be your main source of light for the subject. You’ll want to use your strongest light for this.
Fill – Less intense, this light can be used to reduce any harsh shadows caused by your key.
Back Light – The back light is going to help separate your subject from the background. This light adds depth to the image.
If you can’t afford three lights, you can usually get away with a one light setup, especially for smaller products. With a one light set up, I recommend placing it directly overhead and as close as possible to your subject. This will help get the most bang out of your light’s buck. Just make sure you have some kind of diffusion on the light to avoid harsh shadows. For this you can use a softbox or go DIY with a shower curtain, t-shirt, or thin white towel.
Tip 3: Planning Your Shots
Of course, starting a shoot without a plan is rarely a good idea, although I know many filmmakers who do it anyway (you know who you are). Some may assume that because a product video usually only runs for 15-30 seconds, they can shoot whatever they want and make it look stunning in post. This is hardly ever true. In fact, it’s closer to the opposite. Because you only have 15-30 seconds, you likely only have 5-10 shots that are going to make the cut. This means every shot needs to be just as impactful as the one before.
Going into your shoot with a fully formed shot list and storyboard is going to save you time and help produce the best possible content. It’s key to know what details on the product you will need close ups of and what kind of transitions you’re going to shoot in camera. Trying to chop together a product’s story in post isn’t easy. More often than not you’ll find key components missing, causing a big headache. Do yourself a favor and go in with a plan.
Tip 4: Operating Your Camera
No matter what camera you have on hand, getting smooth footage is going to be imperative to creating a quality product video. Tools like sliders, tripods, and gimbals are all valuable assets to creating smooth looking footage. If these aren’t in the budget don’t worry, shooting handheld is possible, too.
There’s a lot that can be said for having a lightweight, mirrorless camera with a prime lens to shoot with. These cameras are often less bulky and less heavy than their DSLR counterparts, making smoother shots easier to capture. Smartphones are also an amazing tool for product videos because they are lightweight and small in size. They enable you to move the camera in ways that you simply can’t with other gear.
I recommend trying to shoot in either 60fps or 120fps. Make sure to double your shutter speed if shooting at these frame rates for natural looking motion blur. This will allow you to slow your footage down in post, helping with any shakiness. You can also create speed ramps in post, a great way to hide any moments that got a bit too bumpy or if you missed focus.
A lot of people want to use the best gear possible, often meaning a hefty price tag. But you don’t need a cinema camera to shoot an impactful product video. With mirrorless cameras becoming more affordable and more technically impressive, they’ve become great options for beginners and even advance shooters. Cameras in Sony’s Alpha line and in Fujifilm’s GFX-series are amazing options with their ability to shoot in 4K, lowlight, and at 120fps in 1080p. Even smartphones have a lot of upside, including the ability to shoot in slow motion.
At the end of the day, the camera will be a compliment to your own creativity.
Tip 5: Investing in a Macro Lens
If you’re going to make any significant investments here, I’d highly recommend a solid macro lens for product video ads. That is to say, your 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm are going to help you get a lot of the shots you need, but there’s nothing as impactful as getting close-up details of your product.
Most products–if you take a hard enough look–have so many intricate details that are worth pointing out. A bottle of whiskey, for example, could have an interesting cap, engravings in the glass, or mention of a unique ingredient on the bottle. These are all small details you’re going to want to capture with a macro lens.
Aside from capturing important details on your product, there’s nothing quite like extreme close ups of a product to make it pop. The water drops on a cold beer bottle, the glass shine of a glossy watch, the texture of a tasty cheeseburger–a macro lens is going to help these qualities appear larger than life.
Check out one of our earlier posts about macro lenses if you’re interesting!
If you take these five tips with you, you’ll be in a good position to shoot your first product video!