Product lighting fundamentals

This is a translation of an entry written by Masatsugu Murakami.

Hello everyone,

I’m the photographer and photography consultant for Glams, Masatsugu.

Today I am going to explain about the importance of your lighting setup when it comes to product photos.

When shooting product photos, it’s important to use higher scale lighting setups to get the perfect final result, which looks clean and professional. The common understanding that lighting is difficult is commonly misconstrued due to webshop merchants using only indoor lighting, when in contrast the results of a semi to professional set up are completely different. In turn, people assume that those with great product photos are or have professional photographers - which is not the case.

Although knowledge about lighting setup can go quite into detail and become complicated, this does not mean that it is exclusive for professional photographers only.

So let’s shoot some beautiful product photos.


1. Lighting types and recommendations

2. If you’re gonna shoot product photos, standard lighting is recommended.

3. Reflection method and outcome

4. Top-centre light position is the best for product photos, and why.

1. Lighting types and recommendations

There are two types of light setups you can use when shooting your product photos.

The first type is strobe lighting. I think that all standard point-and-click cameras, including your favourite at home, has got strobe lighting inbuilt. While your camera may say ‘flash’, this in reality is strobe lighting.

This monolight or monoblock strobe light is also often used in photography, you often see these lights in photo studios. The monoblock strobe light instantly flashes a burst of light, which is recommended in photography.

To put it simply with monoblock strobe lighting you can expect the following:

Large bursts of light

You can increase the shutter speed, therefore the chance of a blurred shot lowers

Since the flash is instant, it’s hard to guess the result of the photo (which is a bit of a problem for beginners)

It’s expensive

A lot of monoblock strobe lights are usually not compatible with compact cameras, and even with SLR/DSLR cameras you have to double check if it is compatible.

The alternate option is the standard stationary lighting. This type of lighting is what we also use in the office.

Lately LED lighting has become quite popular, and the following reasons are what I think are why:

1. Envisioning how the photo will turn out becomes easier

2. It is compatible with any type of camera

3. For what it is and what it can achieve, it’s pretty cheap.

Here is one I recommend that you buy:

2. If you’re gonna shoot product photos, standard lighting is recommended.

If you asked a professional photographer what they use, almost all of them would respond that they use strobe lighting. However, if you have a webshop most of the time you don’t have a team of professional photographers. You could be a beginner photographer, or have maybe a few staff shooting for you, thus standard LED lighting is perfect, as it suits any photographer at any level.

Even I have made the move to standard LED lighting, as it is just so easy and compatible with any camera and any environment.

3. Light reflection methods and outcomes

Now let’s move onto how to perfectly reflect light onto our product photos.

Central front focus

The photo subject below has completely even lighting. Although it may be hard to notice, but the product’s shadow just shows behind it. The edges remain soft, resulting in a bit of a blurry look.

Left, set at a 45 degree angle

With the light reflecting from only one side, the focus is brought to the left, with it’s right side cast in shadow. This way the shadow onto the backdrop becomes visible, and gives a sharp line to the right side, whilst the left is well lit but soft.

Right, set at a 45 degree angle

Same as left, but opposite directions.

Directly above

The photo subject is completely lit, with a shadow cast just slightly at the bottom of the item. The softness of the edges also change to a sharper, professional look.

Now I’ll quickly show you what photo subjects may look like with or without a deflector in use.

Without the deflector in use, the item’s shadows are presented sharply in the photo.

With the deflector, the shadows are softened.

Of course, what you may choose in the end is according to what you prefer, but we recommend the deflector in use.

4. Top-centre light positioning is the best for product photos, and why.

So what kind of lighting is best to use when shooting products for your online store? Well, of course this changes depending if the size of your products are quite big. But if that is not the case, then I highly recommend…

1. Centre-top lighting, and

2. Use of a deflector.

Placing your product in front of a white background and processing the photo is also essential. When using a top-centre lighting method, it removes most shadows, and with most shadows gone the deflector will soften them, making the shadows practically invisible.

With what is left behind, the image below shows the before and after with the help of ZenFotomatic.

So, what do you think? Following the recommendations given above, anybody can shoot and process beautiful product photos.

Why don’t you give it a try?

Thanks Masatsugu!

Original article found here

ZenFotomatic Blog



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