In this article I will share some techniques for shooting trinkets and accessories with a sparkly background. By simply using items found in any home, you too can take attractive photos full of bokeh circles! (Edited by studio9)
Create lots of bokeh circles in the background
Have you ever found your photos lacking a little something when taking shots of your favourite trinkets and accessories at home? While there might be various reasons that leave you unsatisfied with your photos, having a background that is lacking can certainly weaken the impact of your photos. Here I will introduce how to use a certain "something" available in any home that you can use to create a sparkly background that plays up the subject.
What’s that certain "something" you can use to create a sparkly background?
The subject of this photo is a rooster trinket. When you pop the trinket on the table and take a shot using the white wall as the background, it ends up looking like this.
While the photo is not a bad photo, it does lack some impact. Hence, the next step is to try making the background sparkle for a gorgeous photo. The way to do so would be to make use of bokeh circles. You will need a shiny source to create bokeh circles, which is where aluminium foil comes in. When aluminium foil has been crumpled up a little and then spread out, the light reflects irregularly off the surface of the foil, creating a sparkly effect. Next, defocus the sparkle to take your shot. Yes, the only item you need is aluminium foil, which you can find in almost any home! Combine this with a desk lamp and you can take even more impressive photos.
The photo below was taken using aluminium foil as the background.
The background has become considerably more impressive. This background should go well with accessories too!
Here’s how I took the shot:
Step 1: Items to prepare
I will start with the items you need to prepare. You essentially only need materials that are readily available at home.
Things you'll need
- Camera (DSLR or mirrorless would be advantageous)
- Lens (bright or telephoto lenses are good; a macro lens is even better)
- Aluminium foil
Things that would be good to have (but not essential)
- Desk lamp (fluorescent light)
- Coloured cellophane
The key to taking such shots is to defocus the background, so it is important to use a camera and lens that allow you to easily defocus the background. A compact camera or EOS DSLR with a large sensor would be great for the job. It might be slightly difficult to shoot using a smartphone camera.
For the lens, it is okay to use the EOS DSLR kit lens, but a telephoto lens will give a better bokeh effect. However, a macro lens is especially handy for capturing small items such as accessories.
Camera shake is especially noticeable when taking shots of small items, so a tripod would be ideal. Moreover, with a tripod, you can fix the camera in position while moving the trinket to make fine positional adjustments. Hence, it is a good idea to make full use of a tripod for still life photography.
With a desk lamp, you can achieve an even greater sparkly feel. It is best to use a bulb that is of the same colour (daylight or neutral) as the lighting used for the room. If you use a desk lamp with light that greatly differs from the room lighting, such as a tungsten light or a bluish white LED, the colours will become mixed (mixed light), which is not recommended.
With the coloured cellophane, you can add some variations to the colour of the sparkle.
Step 2: Set up & shoot
The actual set up is as shown, and is extremely simple.
Place the trinket that you want to shoot on the table, and position the crumpled aluminium foil in the background. If you want to create even more sparkle, aim the desk lamp toward the foil.
A key point is to keep the aluminium foil in the background a certain distance away from the trinket. You will not be able to blur the background successfully if the two are too close together. As for the camera settings, set the shooting mode to Av (A) mode, set the smallest f-number, and the focal length of the lens as far as possible to the telephoto end. In any case, it is okay to make the background very defocused.
This photo was first taken using only aluminium foil, without a desk lamp.
You can see that opening photo has been given a complete makeover, simply by putting some crumpled aluminium foil in the background!
Because the trinket I used for this shoot was rather small (3 to 4cm), I opted to use a macro lens.
To shoot slightly larger items, a standard lens should suffice. If you do not have a macro lens but still want to capture small items, you can also crop your images after shooting to arrange the composition accordingly.
Here, I used a desk lamp for the shoot. This made the sparkle in the background a little more distinct. Also, the way the light strikes the subject creates a backlit effect (note how the shadow is cast), making the photo more lively.
If you’re taking photos of items you want to sell online, a sparkly background created from aluminium foil is also more likely to attract attention than a cheap-looking light blue background.
Step 3: Try changing the background colour
While using aluminium foil alone is sufficient, combining it with coloured cellophane allows you to change the background colour while retaining the sparkle. In the photos below, I used the desk lamp that I introduced in Step 2, and combined the aluminium foil with coloured cellophane of 3 different colours: pink, green, and blue.
By simply placing a sheet of cellophane in front of the aluminium foil, the look of the photos is completely changed! It might be a good idea to change the colour of the background to match the trinket.
A point of note, however, is that placing a strong colour in the background may produce colour cast, which results in the subject being tinted the same colour as the background. If the subject’s original colour is important, such as when photographing a product, take care not to allow the product’s colour to be affected by colour cast.
The easiest way to avoid colour cast is to create distance between the subject and background. This alone can be quite effective in removing colour cast from your images. However, if you still have some unwanted colour cast even after placing a distance between the subject and the background, try using software such as Digital Photo Professional to adjust the white balance of your images after the shoot. You can set the white balance manually on your camera during the shoot, but it is easier to take the shots in RAW, and then make adjustments during post-processing.
That is how you can create a sparkly background simply by using aluminium foil. I hope you will give it a go yourself. If you are still trying to master how to create normal bokeh circles, it might be good to try the techniques I introduced here for practice!
If you have an EOS 5D Mark III, the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is recommended. A high-performance macro lens, it is equipped with Hybrid IS, which effectively compensates for camera shake.
EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
A photography website established in Japan in 2011. With the slogan “Bringing photography closer to you”, the site provides content that is useful for everyone who enjoys photography. Besides web content, studio9 also conducts seminars and workshops.