One of the most important aspects of product photography, regardless of your budget or operation size, is the lighting. Having well lit photographs can make all the difference between your items attracting the attention of visitors and potential buyers and converting those potentials into actual buyers.


Many sellers tend to make the mistake of not investing any time, effort or even money into ensuring their product photographs are as good as they possibly can. As it is not as simple as merely pointing your camera at the object and snapping away, we felt it was important to put together some top tips for lighting your product photography so the subject shines.


Choose between Artificial Light and Natural Light


It is important not to take for granted how different lighting sources can affect your product photography. When buyers visit a physical store, they get a chance to see the product up close and personal, which influences their decision to make a purchase or not.


With the right lighting setup you can recreate this aspect in photo form and help your customers to make their minds up whether your product is worth investing in or not.


While a stripped back and minimal lighting setup may work for some products, it won't necessarily work for others. There are two main choices of lighting you have - Natural Light and Artificial Light


Natural Light is used to describe sunlight. Often it is known as soft light as it consists of a softer and larger range of light than a lamp . Natural light is ideal for product photography in a number of scenarios:


  • The product is designed for use outdoors or is being shot outdoors
  • The product is being shot with, worn by or used by a person.
  • You want to emphasize the surroundings of the product, instead of its attributes.


Take a look, as a good example, at the picture below which was taken in a natural light setting. The sunlight shining into the image from the left, highlights the product perfectly.


Artificial light can come from anything, including fire and candles; but is most commonly produced by light bulbs. Often this is known as hard light because of the more focused and smaller light beam. This is the best form of lighting to use when you need to highlight the physical details to entice and impress an interested shopper.


Look at the picture below and how the artificial light has highlighted key details with the design and texture of the item.


Can you use both in one picture? The short answer is no, and most photographers use one or the other.


Invest in A Light Box


If the products you are taking photographs of, are relatively small, you should consider making use of a light box. Light boxes are a great way to control the amount of light that floods your photographs. You can also experiment to find the best angles to direct the light onto your products that will make them more appealing to your customers.


You can either make your own DIY light box, following one of the many great tutorials online or buy a professional light box such as the Foldio 3 from Orange Monkie.


Consider Using a Photography Studio Umbrella


You may have seen in fancier, large scale photography operations, that they use umbrellas. What do these umbrellas do to help take better pictures? They are often used to soften or dampen the effects of a flash.


Flashes are normally used to give a subject and the surrounding area the right amount of lighting, but as they are very bright, they can create harsh and unsightly shadowing. An umbrella can actually soften the light and prevent those harsh shadows.


Use a Fill Light To Lessen the Intensity of Your Main Light


Another way to control the light hitting your subject, as well as softening the the shadows produced by your main light source is by using what is known as a fill light.


This is usually another source, with a less intense beam of light that can be used to counterbalance against the main light. You can do this by placing it to the opposite side of your main light, with the product in between the two sources of light.


Bounce The Light Using a Flashbulb or Standalone


Another great way you can control the light and help to soften shadows is by bouncing or reflecting it back against the surface behind the product. If you have a professional camera there are some bounce cards that can be attached directly onto the flashbulb. These diffuse the light produced by the flash and directs a much softer light onto your subject from above the set, instead of directly towards it. This helps to avoid there being a long trailing shadow behind the item you are shooting.


Obviously if you are not using a professional camera or are just using your smartphone, a flashbulb bounce card is not really a viable option. However, you can create your own DIY standalone version of a bounce card and position it opposite the main source of light you are using. The interesting thing that beginners should note is that this bounce card can effectively negate the need for a fill light, as it more or less provides the same function.


It can be frustrating and more than a little overwhelming when you realize what is actually involved in taking professional product photographs that are actually going to get you sales.


Hopefully we have helped to take some of the mystery and fear surrounding this aspect of photography that may be more than a little alien to most newbies. By following the 5 top tips we have highlighted above, you should be well on the way to setting up and taking those professional images of your goods that will make people want to part with their cash in double quick time.


Published by Emily Rose