Excellent product photography lighting is the key behind all excellent shots. And without excellent captures of your product, it will be quite difficult to promote or sell them. According to a study conducted by Big Commerce, 78% of online shoppers want photographs to bring products to life. Bland photographs do not really excite the purchase decision of a viewer.
Good product photography can increase your conversion rate by 30%, Splento states. This further solidifies the importance of a perfect lighting setup.
However, with so many variations and equipment available, it can feel incredibly confusing to choose the appropriate photography lighting kit. Do not worry, as this article will give you all the tips you need to know about creating up a perfect studio setup, along with a list of the top lighting brands in the world today.
What you’ll learn in this article
- 1 Using Proper Studio Light for Product Photography
- 2 How do you Set Up Lighting for Product Photography?
- 3 Proper Lighting Arrangement to Get Perfect Result
- 4 Find the Ideal Lighting Arrangement
- 4.1 Use Ring Light for Bright Front Lighting
- 4.2 Use Overhead Light for Moody Shots
- 4.3 Even Light Setup for Reflective Products
- 4.4 Full Coverage to Capture all the Details
- 4.5 Using The Triangle Setup to Emphasize Form
- 4.6 Use Natural Lighting for Product Photography
- 4.7 Continuous lighting vs Strobe for product photography
- 4.8 Top 5 Brands for Product Photography Lighting
- 5 FAQs on Product Photography Lighting
- 6 Final Thoughts
Using Proper Studio Light for Product Photography
There are several benefits to using a proper studio setup for product photography. Most professional photographers have decent product photography lighting. More often than not, it is a necessity to take professional shots. Additionally, you need a proper studio lighting setup for –
Human beings are naturally inclined and fascinated towards polished things. Car retailers polish their vehicles to perfection in order to attract customers. Consequently, your photographs should be as polished and perfectionized as possible.
Utilizing a good lighting setup will help you capture these top-notch, professional shots. A polished shot will also help you justify a product’s price point
In the photograph above, you can see how evident a polished shot is. Proper studio lighting will help you achieve these shots and sometimes even bump up the selling price of your products.
Control your Shots
Many photographers depend on post-production for balancing their shots. Post-production is definitely an essential process, regardless of how great your shots are. But it shouldn’t be a shortcut for photographers to be satisfied with capturing average shots.
67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing the product, according to a study by mdgadvertising.com.
Thus, it is critical to have control over your product photos. With proper product photography lighting, you can control the shadows and reflections of your shots. It can help to create higher contrast and better texture of your products whilst eliminating unnecessary distractions. The more controlled your shots are, the better it will turn out during post-production.
Similar to the point mentioned above, controlling your shots can be done creatively. Being able to control the lighting will help you angle the shadows to several different directions, which can completely change the “vibe” of the image. You can also highlight a specific portion of the product and darken other portions to add some variation to the photograph.
Some products look better when a sense of depth is added to the photo. For example, a shoe may look better when the lighting is adjusted to portray it’s creases, curves and folds on all sides. It makes the viewer feel that the product is 3 dimensional without having to touch it.
Conversely, some products look better when there is no depth, and the product looks flat. Adding too much depth to a smartphone or accessory photographs can actually make it look cheaper. But that depends from product to product, hence do always experiment to find the best result.
Proper lighting will help you be as creative as you want and capture fully customizable shots for each and every product.
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency.” – Dwayne Johnson
Consistency is key to establishing your business, whether it be ecommerce, product photography, or both. Without proper product photography lighting, your images will be dependent on several factors other than the lighting itself.
A top-notch lighting setup will help you to capture professional photos consistently. Not only that, your photos will only get better as you improve your photography skills with a good lighting setup.
90% of online buyers say that photo quality is the most crucial factor in an online sale, according to Etsy and Justuno. Whether you work for clients or customers, your work needs to be consistent. Thus, a good lighting setup is a must to achieve consistent shots throughout your entire career.
The following points show how you achieve consistency through a great studio lighting setup.
No Weather Dependency
When you depend on natural lighting, you completely depend on the weather. Sometimes it may be sunny, sometimes it may not be. Even if you schedule your photography sessions according to the weather forecast, the 1% chance that the forecast may be incorrect is enough to delay your session times.
Let’s say you live in a sunny climate for most of the year, like Australia. It’s still a bad choice to depend on the weather, as the luminosity of the sun is not the same every day due to clouds. A mild cloud can be enough to exponentially reduce the quality of your photograph.
You won’t also have the level of control and customizability, which you can achieve with decent studio lighting, but not with natural light.
Being completely independent of the weather helps you take shots in rain, hail, snow, sun – everything! You’re only dependent on your light and your photography studio, which is a thousand times more dependable than the weather.
Photograph at Any Time
With a lighting setup, you can take professional shots at any time of the day. You could run into an emergency during the day for which you have to delay your photography session. But there’s a deadline for your client tomorrow? No problem. With a proper lighting setup, you can come back at night or even midnight and capture those photographs effortlessly.
How do you Set Up Lighting for Product Photography?
Now that we understand why it’s so critical to have a good lighting setup for product photography let’s learn how to set it up! The following section outlines the tools and techniques that you can utilize to achieve an amazing setup.
Simple Tools to Make Your Product Photography Perfect
Other than the lights themselves, there are several tools which are a must-have for product photographers. They are –
- Tripod : This is definitely a no-brainer but still should be emphasized as many photographers choose handheld photography over a tripod. Handheld photography is great for spontaneous, outdoor shooting.
But for professional product photographs, a tripod is a must. Tripod will help your photo appear as sharp as possible whilst maintaining consistency as your camera will stay fixed into one position.
- Backdrops : You’ll need a wide variety of backdrops. Typically, product photographs only require white backdrops. It won’t hurt to keep other colors though. Luckily, backdrops are inexpensive and readily found.
- Stands : You will need c-stands to hang your backdrop. The brands which we mentioned below have included stands in the lighting kits. If for any reason you can’t use or purchase c-stands, you can tape your backdrop to a wall or place it on a table. However, for lights, you must use stands.
- Tape: To mark the position of your camera, lights and product, tape should be used. It also helps in attaching backdrops, tightening fabric for clothing, and a wide variety of purposes.
- White cards or boards : White boards or cards made of styrofoam are used to bounce the light from one direction to the other. This is done to add more luminosity without adding more lights and overexposing the photograph.
Although this isn’t necessary, if you find that you need to add more lights to illuminate certain portions of the image, a white bounce card may perform better than adding another light
Alternatively, you can use back colored cards or boards to have the opposite effect – absorb too much light.
Proper Lighting Arrangement to Get Perfect Result
Now that you know the basic tools, you’ll need to know the basics of arranging lights. Product photography lighting basics typically consist of 4 types of lights. They are –
Key lights : These are the main lights which directly illuminate the product. Key lights are typically pointed directly at the product, with varying distances and angles.
Fill lights : The fill lights are used to “fill” the space, i.e. gently illuminate the areas around the product without illuminating the product too much. Fill flights are typically placed at a perpendicular angle from the key light and much farther away from all the light sources.
Back light : This light is pointed at the product from the back to enhance contrast, definition, and sharpness of the photograph. A back light’s position is similar to that of a key light except that it’s placed on the opposite side of the key light.
Background light : If there are backgrounds or backdrops in the distance, then a background light may be used to add depth of field to the photo.
For all of these lights, there are no hard or fast rules. The only thing for certain is their purpose. For example, the purpose of key lights is to directly illuminate the product, which should not be done with just fill light.
Other factors like the angle, distance, luminosity, etc., of each light, depending on the type of product you’re shooting and the type of photograph you’re looking for. We will discuss those in the following sections below.
Find the Ideal Lighting Arrangement
Different scenarios will require you to take different shots. Thus, each ideal lighting arrangement will vary. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll be much easier and quicker for you to switch between arrangements.
Use Ring Light for Bright Front Lighting
Ring lights are a great choice for key lights. They were invented in beauty photography for a reason – even illumination of the model with minimal side-effects.
These lights reduce glare and can have greater brightness without overexposing the shot. You can place ring lights very close to the product and still find the light to appear soft with high luminosity.
Use Overhead Light for Moody Shots
Overhead lighting technique is a good way to create the “mood” of the product. This works better when you don’t use any other lights.
Place a light on a stand directly above the product. Point it towards the product and keep it as close as possible without eliminating all the shadows. For these shots, having more shadows actually looks better. It creates a moody ambiance which highlights the upper portions of the product and keeps the lower portions hidden.
Even Light Setup for Reflective Products
A product may have reflective surfaces or be made of reflective materials entirely. These products are the hardest to shoot. Don’t w orry; once you know the correct lighting strategies, capturing reflective products will be a breeze.
The first rule of shooting reflective products is – always use diffusers. Never point your light directly at the product without any diffusers in between. Secondly, point the lights at a 45-degree angle from the camera. It doesn’t have to be that exact number, but somewhere around that angle will do.
A good trick is to keep the diffusers separate from the light and bring it as close to the product without letting it get into the camera’s frame. This will help achieve a luminous image with minimal reflections.
Using dark backgrounds is an excellent trick to reduce reflection. It absorbs all of the light reflected from the product and environment, creating a balanced image. However, if white backgrounds are a must, try to use a non-shiny, matte backdrop.
You will achieve a great shot for reflective products once you abide by these lighting rules. However, a bit of post-production work will still be needed to eliminate miniscule reflections and lighting inconsistencies.
Full Coverage to Capture all the Details
Most products look better when you use an all around product photography lighting setup. This is a safe method of shooting product photographs and can be used to capture all kinds of photos.
As discussed in the section above, use at least one key light, fill light, back light, and background light to get a shot with full coverage. Sometimes you can use 2 of each and place them at varying angles.
However, setting up so many lights may be a hassle, and using white styrofoam boards to bounce the light is a better solution.
Using The Triangle Setup to Emphasize Form
A triangle lighting is exactly what the name suggests – a triangular placement of your lights. It helps the product look completely even. You can place the lights like the setup shown in the picture below. 3 lights pointed directly at the product but at triangular angles.
There is no rule either for the distance or position of the lights, as long as they’re triangular. You can even place one light as an overhead light like the picture below.
Just ensure that you don’t point your camera directly at the light, and that the product is placed very close to the backdrop.
Use Natural Lighting for Product Photography
Though we focused on the benefits of studio lighting, natural light shouldn’t be completely negated. Natural lighting can help bump some of your images. For example, a natural light source can be used as the fill light. It can also be used as a key light by placing the product close to the window.
A diffuser can also be used in the windows to help spread out the light evenly. However, you shouldn’t depend on natural light to get consistent photos, but rather as an opportunity to get creative.
Continuous lighting vs Strobe for product photography
Continuous lights are lights which stay turned on when they’re on. Basically they’re what we typically think when we hear “lights”. Strobe lights are lights which flash a beam of light when the photo is captured. Both of these lights have advantages and disadvantages for product photography. We’ll discuss them below.
Pros of Continuous Lighting
Easy to modify, whether it be adding softboxes or diffusers.
Allows you to see the lighting instantaneously as you take the shot
Cons of Continuous Lighting
Lower power output compared to strobe lights
Required a dark studio to prevent ambient light contamination
Pros of Strobe Lights
An incredibly high power, comparable to direct sunlight
Eliminates ambient light even if it’s present in the shot
Cons of Strobe Lights
Can’t view the light as you prepare the shot
Because strobe lights are more suitable for moving objects, it is not really helpful for product photography. Unless you want to capture an incredibly sharp image, using continuous lighting is a good choice.
Top 5 Brands for Product Photography Lighting
Feel like you’re ready to purchase some lights? The following brands can promise you excellent quality lighting kits at reasonable prices.
This brand is one of the leaders in the photography equipment business. It was founded in 1993, China, with one goal in mind – to deliver excellent photography equipment and lighting at a competitive price point. It’s a good brand if you’re looking for photography lighting kits for beginners.
Another Chinese company in the list. Neewer was founded in 2010, climbing the photography market quite quickly. They are known for making high-end photography equipment.
Fovitec is a California based photography lighting equipment manufacturer. IT was founded in 2012, and manufactures quite decent product photography lighting kits.
A brand with an interesting name, just as interesting as their products. Mount dog is headquartered in California, USA, and makes a wide variety of lighting products.
Linco is a premium photography equipment brand. Their lighting products are high-quality and unique. They even have patents for their lighting designs.
FAQs on Product Photography Lighting
What type of lighting is best for product photography?
Continuous lighting is the best lighting for product photography, hands down.
What light should I use for product photography?
Fluorescent or LED lights are good options for product photography lighting, as they do not heat much.
Are LED lights good for product photography?
LED lighting for product photography is certainly good and can be used easily.
How many watts do I need for product photography?
For general product photography, a combined wattage of 200-300 watts is enough. To capture professional shots, it’s best to use a higher wattage like 400-500 watts.
Where should lights be placed in product photography?
There are various arrangements of lights and different experiments will give you different results. However, for a rule of thumb, it’s best to place the lighting in such a way that it evenly illuminates the product. And never, ever point a camera directly at the light.
What Types of Lights Can You Use for DIY Product Photography?
Sunlight is a completely free DIY solution. However, you can also use the bulbs that you use at home with a self made or commercially bought softbox.
There we have it. A complete tips guide about product photography lighting setup. Now, you can be the master photographer you wanted to be, or just take your e-commerce business to the next level. If this article has helped you, do share it with your friends and family!
Amy Grace has been engaged in commercial photography for a long time.
She has enough proficiency and skill set in photography and has nailed the task up to the mark and has helped a lot of entrepreneurs create a brand.
Aside from photography, Amy has passion for travelling.