Product photography is about far more than just having a good camera and lenses. Product photography lighting matters a lot when you want the best results to attract a potential consumer to buy. Natural lighting and artificial studio lighting are common choices for illuminating the product. They come with their own advantages and disadvantages in product shooting. We will talk about it in this article and help you make a choice between them. You can also learn how to get quality lighting whether you are taking product images at home or in the studio.
Natural lighting for product photography
This is the light coming from the sun or moon. It is a soft, warm, and diffuse light source that evenly lights the product and produces an appealing natural, organic look. It will provide images that closely resemble how the product looks in real life. It is also free to photographers, making it a more cost-effective choice than artificial light sources.
Pros and cons
Natural lighting ensures natural looks for the products, costs less money and energy, and improves the image quality. The drawbacks are that the lighting will change as the weather and time change, offering inconsistent illumination for product shots and making it unpredictable to plan shots ahead.
Increased color accuracy: Natural light is generally color-correct, and it represents the color and texture of the product more accurately than artificial light sources. This is because the light from the sun or moon is not color-biased and does not generate any undesired color casts or reflections. This implies that the photograph captures the product's real hue, which might help attract more customers and enhance sales.
Higher image quality: This product photography lighting creates softer shadows and highlights, which serve to bring out the texture and details of the product in the shot. This produces higher-quality product photos that are more visually attractive and catch the object in its best light.
Improved energy efficiency: Artificial light sources, such as studio lights, consume a lot of energy and can be costly to run over time. Natural light, on the other hand, is a renewable resource that uses no energy. This makes it a more ecologically responsible solution, and it may assist to lower the overall cost of product photography.
Inconsistent lighting: Although natural lighting is simple to implement and utilize if you have a large window, it can be difficult to maintain because the illumination changes throughout the day. It is heavily influenced by the time of day, weather, location, seasons, and so on. On a cloudy day, this might result in dull, grainy product photos.
Unpredictable: The main disadvantage is that it is exceedingly unpredictable. You might desire a great twilight glow in your photos, but it's a cloudy day. If you're filming for an approaching launch, relying only on natural illumination might lead to delays and uncertainty.
Studio lighting for product photography
Unlike natural lighting, studio lighting is the artificial light source that gives you more control over the product photography lighting. Flashguns, strobes, and continuous lights are 3 commonly used types in studio photography.
- Flashguns: Flashguns, often known as speed lights, are lightweight and portable. When you take a shot, they fire for a fraction of a second and totally light the area. To soften the product photography lighting, you may always tilt and twist your flashgun and 'bounce' it.
- Strobes: A strobe can create dramatic effects and accentuate the texture of the cloth or fabric in a close-up. Strobe lights function similarly to flashguns, although they are more adaptable in their applications.
- Continuous light for product photography: It remains on during the shot. These are the lights that you can control by plugging them into a socket. You may also adjust the intensity to create a unique ambiance for your photo shoot. The most common continuous lights are LED studio lights, fluorescent bulbs, and tungsten.
Pros and cons
When using studio lighting for shooting products, you won’t be restricted by the weather and the time, get credibility to make the product appear more high-end, and have more control over lighting. However, it will cost you more, require a reliable power supply, and take your time to learn setup knowledge.
You are not required to work around the weather. The lighting in the studio is consistent and reliable. Indoor studios minimize the need for good weather, which is crucial if you live in a location where it rains or snows frequently. You never have to worry about a passing cloud destroying a batch of photographs when you work with professional lighting.
You can take photos at any time of the day. With this product photography lighting, you may photograph products whenever it is convenient for you – even late at night. Studio lighting would likely give the most flexibility for photoshoots if you're busy running your e-commerce business throughout the day.
You increase credibility and make your photos appear high-end. Professional-looking images taken under studio lighting assist in creating brand ethos by making you look more professional and polished. This also makes the products appear high-end, which helps you set a higher price point.
You have complete control over how product photos appear. Studio lighting allows for complete control. You get to choose how bright the light is, where it comes from, and what shape it is in. Cotinuous type also allows you to use studio light for video.
It can be costly. You'll need more than one studio light, and you could even need to invest in a full studio lighting setup. While this pays off in the long term, the initial outlay might be difficult to take if you're short on funds.
You must have a physical studio space. You'll need a studio area, whether permanent or temporary, to photograph your product shots using a studio lighting setup (another investment to consider). Even a short-term parking rental may soon add up, so unless you have a free (or almost free) location, you may need to explore another choice.
You'll need a reliable power supply. A power source is required. This may not be a problem if you plan to photograph all of your photos in a studio, but it does limit you to locations with plenty of outlets. If you want to film outside or on-site, you might need to invest in a battery pack or a generator. This not only adds to the expense but also adds extra equipment to transport back and forth to the filming location.
A learning curve exists. You were probably not born knowing how to set up studio lighting, so you'll need to spend some time understanding the fundamentals of soft vs harsh light, color saturation, and arranging your lights around your objects. This may take even longer to master if you want to become an expert in lighting and create a distinct style for your company.
So which is the best lighting for product photography?
The best product photography lighting is determined by your brand, budget, and time restrictions. Before deciding whether to employ typical studio lighting or natural light, examine what is most essential to your e-commerce business.
Remember that the lighting you choose will influence how your buyers view the products. Because customers cannot touch, try on, or test out the products before purchasing them in an online store, your product photography must display your products in their best light.
How to get product photography lighting at home and in studios?
You can follow the guide below to illuminate product photography according to what you have, where you are taking product photos, and what effects you want to achieve.
Use natural lighting for product photography at home
Here are three steps for you to follow:
- Take test shots to determine the optimum shooting time
- Diffuse the natural light to get soft lighting for product photography
- Add reflector to further reduce shadows
Read on to learn each step in details.
Take test shots to determine the optimum shooting time
Set up a simple setting and snap a shot every hour throughout the periods you're available to shoot to figure out when your light is optimal. Compare the product photos and select the moment when your whites are the whitest (i.e., without skewing blue or yellow) and you prefer the appearance of the shadows.
Diffuse the natural light to get soft lighting for product photography
You may "diffuse" the light to soften and decrease shadows. There are several methods for diffusing sunlight, but a simple white sheet draped over the light source may be all that is required. You may also use translucent white drapes or the sheer "scrim" included with a 5-in-1 reflector set.
Add reflector to further reduce shadows
Use a "reflector" to further minimize shadows and brighten your product photo. A reflector is anything white that you position opposite your light source to reflect light onto the opposite side of the area. You may use a white foam core, trifold poster board, or even a white-based surface. And it doesn't have to be completely white. If you have a white-based surface like White Marble or Subway Tile that isn't being used in your scenario, it makes an excellent reflector!
Use different lighting techniques for product photography in studio for various effects
The key to product photography lighting is to ensure that the product stands out from the backdrop and is sufficiently illuminated. You must explore and take your time to discover what works best for your specific product. The studio shot's goals differ. It may be for an eCommerce site like Amazon or eBay, or it could be for a website's editorial. Some lighting parameters will be determined by the showing platform. However, there are several common setups that always perform well.
Here are some popular studio lighting setups for product photography. These are also effective on human models.
Overhead lighting for moody shots
Many octagonal softboxes have an adjustable head. They enable you to adjust the light to point downwards. Combine this with a tall tripod to create the overhead lighting arrangement. This is excellent for melancholy product pictures. You may get an edgy or even ambiguous look. This is frequently used for high-end wine bottles.
Front direct lighting for flattering product look
This is the one light setup that practically everyone uses. When done correctly, it may be incredibly flattering. However, there are a few factors to consider regarding this setup.
The distinction between the product and the background will be minimal. Make sure your background isn't overly busy. If you have little control over your backdrop, consider using a fast lens with an extremely low aperture number.
When positioning the front light, keep it at eye level with the subject you're photographing. It may be a little too bright. Dim it and increase your exposure (ISO + shutter speed combo) by a step or two.
Even lighting for reflective products
Reflections might be an issue in the center. This may be fixed by this 2 light setup for product photography by placing two lights at a front angle to the product.
You can get even illumination coverage of the subject by employing two lamps. You may eliminate annoying reflections by positioning them at an angle to the sides.
This setup may require minor adjustments according to the size and shape of the product. It is advised to use continuous lighting for product photography so you can watch how movement impacts your frame.
Complete coverage to capture all product details
What if your non-reflective items require illumination from all sides? You could like this product photography lighting.
This is a pretty sensible application of three lights. It ensures the subject is well-lit from all sides. But use caution with this configuration. Some items may appear to be quite flat. Depending on the design of your product, you'll want all of your lights at the front or two on the side.
3 light setup for product photography to highlight form
The triangle configuration, as the name suggests, is structured in the shape of a triangle. Portrait studio photographers love using this style of lighting. It is also suitable for still life and product photography. You are equally illuminating your goods in the front.
Allow for some backlighting from the rear angle to help separate the subject from the background. This allows you to create a stunning three-dimensional effect. The arrangement guarantees that the items do not appear flat in any way. It is the most commonly used setup for all kinds of products.
Illuminate the backdrop for background separation
Do you find that the items blend in too much with the background? You may change the triangle setup to get a different setup.
The only difference is that the backlights are aimed at the wall rather than your product's back. This results in a good lighting cast that bounces your subject to the front.