Product Photography Lighting Explained

ProShot Media Product Photography Blog

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Lighting is the most important part of product photography. Your lighting technique can make or break your photos. In this article we’ll go over a few lighting options and get you started with some basic lighting setups that you can expand on or change to fit your needs!

Woman shooting a product photo with softbox lighting

 
How many lights?
 

Most standard lighting setups have at least three lights: 

Key light – that sits near the front of your setup and is usually the strongest light.

Fill light -that sits to the side of your setup and corrects some of the shadows created by the key light.

Backlight – highlights the silhouette of your products by shining from behind.

While it’s recommended that you have three lights, it is possible to just have one or two lights alongside a reflector if budget is an issue. 

 

What kind of lights?

 

Photography lights fall under one of two categories: strobe and continuous. Strobe lights sync up with your camera’s shutter and flash when you take a photo. Continuous lights emit light as long as they’re on. Both types of lighting have their pros and cons.

For example, strobe lights are much brighter than continuous lights, which means that the ambient lighting is not as impactful on the photo. On the other hand, continuous lights are easier to use since you can see what your lighting setup looks like before you take the shot. Both options can create high-quality photos, so it’s best to choose what fits your particular needs.

For more creative uses, consider using fluorescent lights, ring lights, or colored lights. These can add unique dimensions to your product photography by changing the natural softness, shape, and color of your lights. While they won’t be useful in every setup, you might want to experiment with them to find unique looks for your photos.

 

 

What about softboxes, reflectors, and diffusers?

 

You can change the characteristics of our lighting with some accessories.

Softboxes – attach to the front of your lights and evenly diffuse the light to create a more pleasing look.

Reflectors –  screens that can redirect light to different areas of your scene. These can be useful as substitutes for fill lights in one or two-light setups or in natural lighting.

Diffusers – fold-out translucent screens that act similarly to softboxes and can be useful to further soften studio lighting or harsh natural light.

Photography umbrellas – another way to both diffuse and bounce light. You may need an additional mount to attach them to your light stands, but they can be cheap and effective way to achieve similar effects.

 

What about natural lighting?

 

Some of the best looks can be achieved just by using the lighting from outside! If you are indoors, you can use windows where sunlight shines through.

If you are outdoors, golden hour during sunrise and sunset can give you soft light to work that can make for some interesting photos. Shade can also give you easy-to-work-with light. If you do decide to work outside, we recommend having a reflector and diffuser on hand to help make harsh lighting easier to manage.

 

 

Lighting Setup Examples

 

Below we’ve given you some basic lighting setups you can try with one, two, or three lights. Use these as starting points to build out your setup in more creative ways!

  • One Light – Place your light at the side of your setup, creating a 60 to 90 degree angle between your camera, product, and light. Play around with its height to change the amount of shadow you want to have. This will be your key light. You can also add a reflector on the opposite side of the light to even out the image.

  • Two Lights –  Adding a second light to your setup can open your photography to a variety of options. By placing it on the opposite side of your key light at a farther distance or at a lower power, this second light can be your fill light. By placing it behind your setup, pointed either at the background or back at your product, it can be your background light or backlight.

  • Three Lights – The third light completes our three-point lighting by adding the fill or backlight to our two lights setup. Balance out the three lights by adjusting distance between the lights, height of their stands, and level of diffusion. Make sure your key light is the strongest in the setup to create contrast and depth in your photo. You can also match the two sidelights for better balance and even lighting at the cost of a more dramatic-looking image.

As you get used to lighting your products, don’t be afraid to experiment with positioning your lights in different ways. Lighting is complex, and it will take some trial-and-error to get a result that you are completely satisfied with. Furthermore, every product is different and requires different lighting techniques.

If you’d like professional-level results right away, we at ProShot Media offer a multitude of services that cater to whatever your needs are, from solid-color background to lifestyle. Click the link below to schedule a consultation with our project manager and see how we can help fulfill your needs!

 

FAQs

 

What lighting should I use for product photography?

For product photography, it’s often best to use soft, diffused lighting to minimize harsh shadows and create even illumination. This can be achieved with studio strobes, continuous LED lights, or natural light diffused through a softbox or umbrella.

 

How do you light up a product shoot?

A common setup involves using multiple light sources positioned strategically around the product to eliminate shadows and highlight details. This could include a key light to illuminate the main subject, fill lights to soften shadows, and backlighting to add dimension.

 

What wattage light for product photography?

The wattage of the light depends on various factors such as the size of the product, the desired level of brightness, and the distance between the light source and the subject. Generally, for small to medium-sized products, lights ranging from 100 to 500 watts are commonly used.

 

Should I use a light box for product photography?

Light boxes, also known as softboxes or light tents, can be beneficial for product photography as they help diffuse light evenly around the subject, reducing harsh shadows and reflections. They are particularly useful for smaller products or when shooting highly reflective surfaces.

 

Is flash or continuous lighting better for product photography?

Both flash and continuous lighting have their advantages. Flash provides short bursts of powerful light, making it ideal for freezing motion and capturing crisp details. Continuous lighting, on the other hand, allows you to see the lighting effect in real-time, making it easier to adjust and control.

 

What is the best lighting for photo shoots?

The best lighting for photo shoots depends on the desired outcome and the specific requirements of the subject. Generally, soft, diffused lighting is preferred for most subjects as it produces flattering results with minimal shadows and highlights details effectively.

 

What is the best lighting angle for photography?

The best lighting angle varies depending on the subject and the desired effect. However, a common technique is to position the light source at a 45-degree angle to the subject, slightly above eye level. This helps create dimensionality and depth while minimizing harsh shadows. Experimenting with different angles can yield unique and creative results. Lighting angle should not be confused with camera angles

 
 

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Gabe Tabari Bio Picture

Gabe Tabari

Meet Gabe Tabari, the go-to project manager at ProShot Media. With a knack for keeping things organized and projects on track, Gabe is the man behind most projects. In his blog posts, Gabe shares practical tips on how businesses can succeed with product photography.

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