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Following up on last week’s post (Product Photography, Part 1 – Cameras), today we’re taking a closer look at the lighting and background set-up needed to get those perfect product pictures.
In my opinion this is actually the most important post in this product photography series and it’s something most sellers completely overlook. But with just a little education on the subject, you’ll be able to create a mini photo studio that helps you create stunning product pictures! So without further ado, let’s get started.
To create beautiful product pictures, you need to use some sort of background. Why? Well to get rid of distractions and background ‘noise’ and allow your product to be the only feature of your pictures. Okay, if you’re selling something like a car, you won’t need to put it on a white background, lol, but in most cases you’ll want to use it – be it for small, medium or large products.
If you take a look on eBay, you’ll find plenty of amateurish looking pictures of products on wrinkled bed sheets and while this may be okay if you’re just selling some unwanted items from around your house, business sellers should really take more care in how they present their products. And the key to this is a good background set up!
The first thing that comes to most people’s minds are so called Lightboxes – you can get them on eBay and online shops in various sizes and settings – with the cheapest starting at just £20 or so and the most expensive, super-sized versions costing several hundred pounds.
Lightbox from TableTopStudio.com
Here’s the thing – You DON’T NEED THEM!
That’s right; you don’t need to purchase a lightbox to take outstanding product pictures. I’d actually recommend you stay away from them as they will only complicate your life, seriously! Theoretically they work ok BUT only if you have very powerful lights to get the box well exposed. And even then, I can’t see any reason why you would want to use a lightbox at all.
I have purchased several of them in the past and after some trial and error, haven’t touched them.
Have you ever seen any professional photo studio that uses lightboxes? I haven’t either and there must be a reason why professionals don’t use them – they’re more harm than good with the wrinkles and shadows they create.
To create a seamless background for your product photography set-up, all you need is a large sheet of paper or fabric. That’s it!
In most cases paper will work best as it has no wrinkles and is very cheap to buy + you can get any colour you want. Fabric can also be used but only if you want to create some sort of special effect, like a textured background.
For small to medium sized items, simply get as big a sheet of white paper as you can find. Most craft shops carry these in sizes up to A0 (118.9 cm x 84.1 cm) and if you’re lucky you can even find 2A0 or 4A0 sheets, which are gigantic. But for most people A0 is all you really need.
And here’s what you need to do to create a quick studio set-up – use a chair, table (surface) with something behind it (books, DVDs, boxes – whatever) so you can lay down half of the sheet on the surface and align the other half vertically to create a seamless transition from front to back. Secure the top side of the paper with paper clips or clamps.
It should look something like this:
Background set-up for small items
There are special stands you can purchase online if you want but seriously, you don’t need them! If you put this little set-up together from stuff that’s already in your house, then you keep the cost down and most importantly; can then customise your set-up whenever it’s required.
That’s all there is to it really – this may look too simple to work well but trust me, you don’t need anything more to take superb product images for your eBay or eCommerce shop. The key elements are a pure white background, no hard corners/edges and a seamless transition behind the item.
Sample image taken with this small set-up
For larger and bulkier items, when A0 size paper is too small, you will want to buy a larger paper roll. This is the same thing used by professional photographers in their studios and can be freely purchased online. Expect to pay £40-£50 for a roll that will last you decades. Various sizes and colours are available from online shops like Photography-Backgrounds.co.uk and many others.
You’ll also find stand systems there which will make your life much easier when handling such large backgrounds. Or just search for them on eBay as prices will be cheaper. If you can’t afford to buy a stand, simply create one yourself. All you really need is some way to attach the paper to your ceiling and then you can simply roll it out onto the floor to create that curved angle.
Expandable curtain bars can be used for this, as showed in this guide!
There are also vinyl and fabric rolls available but they will be more expensive and suitable more for people photography rather than products. And again, you don’t really need them unless you want to create a specific effect.
Colour wise, the rules are pretty simple:
- For white goods and see through goods (like glass / crystal) use a black background
- For everything else – pure white
This is a set-up you can’t go wrong with. Obviously, you’re not obligated to stick with this and if you really feel that you must use PINK instead of a white background, use it! Just be careful not to overdo it. White still works best in 99% of cases so maybe it’s best to stick with what works?
In some niches though you may want to experiment a little bit to create a unique look for your images. This can be especially worthwhile on eBay – for gallery images. Since no text and graphics are allowed in gallery images, the background is something you can use to stand out from the crowd.
For example, you sell widget X with 30 competing listings – all using a white background. You could use a different colour/material background to make your pictures stand out in the search results. But be careful – you definitely don’t want your item to get lost in the background – the product should still be clearly visible and the focus of your pictures.
Here are some alternate background materials you can use:
Wood is perfect for emphasising the organic/natural feature of a product. This could be organic food (like in the example below) or handmade jewellery.
Tiles are perfect for creating an interesting reflection effect. For example, black gloss/shiny tiles are perfect for jewellery, watches and other metallic products as it will create a reflection in the images. All you need to achieve this is one large floor tile, with a gloss finish.
An even more interesting effect can be achieved with stone materials or gloss tiles with stone designs. These would be perfect for bathroom accessories and similar products.
So while white and black paper is your number one choice, using other materials and colours can be great way to create unique product images that will stand out in eBay’s search results as well as feature your item in the environment which suits it best.
So that’s the camera and background sorted. What else is needed to create stunning product pictures?
LIGHT! The more you can get the better (up to a certain degree).
Lighting is that one thing most newbie sellers don’t pay attention to AT ALL and it’s the reason their product pictures turn out dull, blurry and with lots of shadows. Not anymore! By following this guide you’ll be able to set-up your home studio in the same way professionals do, just without the high price tag.
You’ll need to invest some money though as unless you’re ready to go for the FREE option (taking pictures outside, which we’ll cover later), without buying some sort of equipment, it will be very hard to achieve decent results.
Most cameras come with a built in Flash. The bad news however is that they are not suitable for product photography at all, particularly with smaller items. Built in flash systems simply don’t deliver as much light as you need in product photography + it distributes light un-evenly, creating shadows around your item – which is something you definitely want to avoid.
So what options are there?
That depends on your budget really so I’ll cover several solutions:
1) Flash/Strobe kit (£150-£200+)
This is the best option if you can afford it. These are similar systems to ones used by professional photographers. Obviously, they use more expensive and more powerful branded kits but for product photography even these cheaper China made sets are perfectly fine.
The way these flash kits work is that you attach a receiver to your cameras flash mount shoe and it will “communicate” with all strobes simultaneously and fire them when needed.
This set-up will only work if you have a DSLR camera though as compact cameras usually don’t have hot shoe connectors for external flash units and even if they do (some models); chances are they won’t be able to communicate with such a complex set-up.
The best place to buy such a kit is on eBay – you can get starter packs for as cheap as £150 and more advanced kits for around £200.
What to look for in such a kit?
* How powerful is the flash output, in watts? The more the better really… 200-300w PER flash head is ideal. Don’t worry – there’s no such thing as too much as these flash heads have variable power adjustment which lets you manually adjust the output power (for close up pictures for example).
* How many flash heads there are in the kit? You’ll need 3 (right, left and top).
* Soft boxes/umbrellas. These help distribute the light evenly so are a MUST HAVE accessory. I like umbrellas more than soft boxes as they tend to give more light.
* Stands. Ideally stands for the flash heads and soft boxes/umbrellas should be included so you don’t have to buy them separately.
Perfect kit for product photography. Click Here for this eBay listing.
So this would be the perfect set-up for any online seller. This is a one-time investment in your business so think twice before opting for a cheaper alternative.
Obviously, for some people; even £150 is too much to spend on a lighting kit right now, so what to do?
2) Use regular lighting fixtures with powerful daylight bulbs!
It can be a desk lamp or a clamp-on lamp – either will work just fine. The bigger the reflective area of the lamp and the more powerful the bulb, the better!
With bulbs be careful though – you need the “DAYLIGHT” type of bulbs that produce 5500K (white light). If you use traditional bulbs, they’ll produce a yellowish colour light and many LED bulbs will produce a slightly blue-ish tint. Just tell the sales person that you need daylight bulbs, as powerful as you can get (just read the label and make sure your fixtures can accommodate what you’re buying!).
If you’re buying these online, most sites will have the colour temperature in the product descriptions.
In total you’ll need 3 units – right, left and top. You’ll also need to figure out how to position them properly – so a cheap tripod or other stand is a must have. We’ll talk more about positioning of lights in next week’s article.
If you shop smart, you should be able to get all this done for less than 50 quid, maybe even 30 quid if you already have some light fixtures you can use for this purpose. It can’t get any cheaper, right? Wrong! There’s one more, totally FREE option to explore…
3) The SUN!
Yep, the last option would be to simply take your product pictures outside and use natural lighting. You don’t even need a sunny day for this (plenty of them in the UK, right?) – as even on cloudy days there’s usually enough light outside to take good pictures and with a little editing you can get pretty decent results this way.
The downside to this is that you obviously have no control over your set-up – if it rains, you can’t take pictures. I also wouldn’t want to do this in winter…. but for some people this may work, especially if you live somewhere else other than the UK.
You can actually use natural daylight WITHOUT leaving your house. What you do is simply position your photo studio nearby a window, so that you get plenty of light from it. This will work best on sunny days when it’s bright outside but unfortunately on cloudy days you just won’t get enough light coming into your room.
We’ll talk about this more in the Editing lesson (Part 4 of this series)but for now, just so you know, you don’t have to get your images looking perfect on your camera. Lots of things can be adjusted afterwards using photo editing software. For example, your lighting set-up may create a slightly greyish look – that’s not a problem as in most cases that can be adjusted afterwards using Levels and White Balance functions.
Whatever you do, get lighting right as it will then be super easy to get good pictures even with cheaper cameras (possibly even smartphones!). A good lighting set-up means that the item is evenly lit, with NO shadows around it (hence why we use three light units – right side, left side and top) as it will be difficult to remove shadows later on.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at the actual product photography process, how to allocate lighting units, what settings to use, how to handle your camera and much more!
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The best lights for product photography are a combination of one or two high-quality continuous lights (they stay on all the time while you're styling your products for stills and video).What lighting should I use for product photography? ›
Continuous lighting is often the most popular solution when it comes to product photography. The best examples of continuous lighting include: LED video lights. Fluorescent mercury vapor tubes.Which background color is good for product photography? ›
A white background is a 'safe' choice but can come with some disadvantages, which we'll discuss below. A light or neutral color also works great for most products. “If the product you're shooting has a lot of warm tones, a cool color for the background could help the item really stand out.How do you get good background for product photography? ›
Keeping your background plain and simple will ensure the product you are trying to sell doesn't get lost in the shot. While other light colors like pale blue, pink, and yellow can often work well, white is always a great option to ensure your product is the star against a crisp and clean background.How many lumens do I need for product photography? ›
The ideal lumen intensity for photography is over 1,000 lumens. A high lumen output that mimics natural daylight gives the best photography results.How many watts do I need for product photography? ›
You need around 200-300 watts for studio lighting for a small commercial photographic shoot. For larger studios and more subjects, strobes around 400-500 watts will do the job.Can I use LED lights for product photography? ›
If you're a product photographer, LED lights may be suitable for your work, as long as you don't mind working in a darkened studio. However, you won't be able to shoot products with splashes or any other form of movement as easily.Is 4000K too bright? ›
While 4000K light isn't too bright and doesn't impose any blue light damage, it's certainly appropriate for rooms like living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens in residential spaces with an aesthetic setting.Where do you put lights in product photography? ›
A three-point lighting setup
This is the main light source pointing directly at your product from the front. Alone, this is going to create a very contrasted and unnatural image. A second “fill” light removes this contrast. The fill light is placed somewhere on the opposite side of the product to fill in the shadows.
Red is the color of power. It gets people's attention and it holds it, which is why it's the most popular color for marketing. The word SALE is always red, and you'll often find red a common tie color for professionals.
There is no right or wrong answer to choosing the color background. However, it is important to think about because the background does impact the subject it surrounds. Some artists may find the monochromatic appealing because it is calming. It is also a good strategy if you don't want the subject to pop.Do photos look better on white or black background? ›
If you really want to put the emphasis on the photos, pick a colorless background that will contrast with the photos. Black for random color photos or grayscale high-key; light gray/white for softer, lighter tone high key photos, white (or offwhite) for grayscale low-key photos.Which camera is best for product photography? ›
- 1.1 Nikon D850.
- 1.2 Canon EOS 6D Mark II.
- 1.3 Nikon D7500.
- 1.4 Fujifilm X-S10.
- 1.5 Sony Alpha A6100.
As mentioned, the intense power provided by a flash is the first choice for a pure white background, but second in line is two 100 watt daylight tungsten bulbs aimed at opposite corners of the frame. By using two lights, you can minimize shadows for Amazon-style product photography.What are the three types of product photography? ›
- The White Background Shot: Your product shot against a plain, white background.
- The Studio Shot: Your product shot against a plain background.
- The Mannequin Shot: Gives depth and shape to your clothes and accessories.
- The Lifestyle Shot: Showing your product in use.
2700-3000K is a soft warm light and suitable if you would like a healthy glow for photography and not make up application. 3500K-4100K is a neutral white light and its good for photography. 4800K-5000K is recommended for make up application and photography as it is not too warm or too cool.Which light bulb is best for photography? ›
LED. LED bulbs are quickly becoming a firm favorite with photographers, and it's no wonder why! They are affordable compared to other bulbs and last a long time, providing excellent money value. Unlike incandescent bulbs, they don't get hot when used, so that you can handle these better.What color light is best for food photography? ›
Know your food, know your light.
When shooting these foods, try a light source with a warm color temperature between 2,700 and 3,500K. Always use a light that has a CRI or Color Rendering Index of 82 or higher to maintain the food's natural coloration.
There are four ways you can pay for product photography: by the hour, day, image, or product. If you pay by the hour, expect the service to cost anywhere from $25 to more than $500, although average rates ranges from $94 to $262.How bright should studio lights be? ›
Most studios have strobes in the 300 to 600Ws range. You'll need a more powerful light if using a higher aperture as well as when using light modifiers, particularly softboxes. The light doesn't shine directly on your target, but rather is diffused in the softbox, using a lot of energy.
A ring light is perfect for product photography because you can set the light up at a certain distance away from the products and achieve beautiful lighting that matches up on every shot.Why are photography lights so expensive? ›
the bulbs are very expensive to make, the gas in the bulbs is expensive and top of the line technology that uses a lot of purification to achieve pure white light (day light).Are ring lights better than box lights? ›
Ring lights are a good option only for close-up photography and videos as the light can get overbearing on the eyes and may make you uncomfortable. On the other hand, softboxes flood your studio with natural light, making them apt for portrait or product photography.How do you use natural light for product photography? ›
The keys to using natural lighting
The key is to use the sunlight as an indirect light source so you brighten the whole photo as opposed to shining a direct light on the product. For the best possible photo, you should photograph your product near a window or in a shady outdoor area.
During the daylight hours, it's best to keep your monitor relatively cool with a default color temperature of 6,500K. At night, the color temperature should be warmer, and around 3,400K.Can you mix 3000K and 4000K lights? ›
Warm light will typically be anything that's 3000K and under. Cool white will be anything that's 4000K and above. Right in-between 3000K and 4000K is 3500K, which we often refer to as neutral. It's that perfect blend of the two.What is the best LED color temperature? ›
For a home office space or study, the recommended brightness will run between 3,000-6,000 lumens with an LED color temperature ranging somewhere between 3,000-5,000 K. These LED color temperatures will help keep you focused while allowing you to be able to wind down when you want to.How do you get rid of shadows in product photography? ›
- what is causing shadows?
- tip #1: use a lightbox.
- tip #2: replicate soft light.
- tip #3: avoid flash.
- tip #4: bounce light back toward light source.
- tip #5: utilize two light sources.
- tip #6: digitally eliminate with editing apps.
To set up artificial lights so they look like natural light is very simple: Make sure your lighting set up is diffused behind curtains, like the sheers I linked above. This will mimic windows, thus resulting in a natural light look. Lower lights via your stand so they're close to the ground.What is product photography called? ›
Product photography is any image of a good for sale. Also known as commercial photography, these images are meant to entice shoppers to purchase the photographed products. They feature product details and features, supplemental to written copy and product descriptions.
Red and orange seem to be the clear winner when it comes to eye-catching colors. These colors tend to stand out and are therefore used on many warning signs or safety equipment. Yellow is another color that comes in a close second to red and orange in popularity.What is the most attractive color on a woman? ›
The top 10 most attractive colors for women include purple, green, pink, orange, yellow, gray, brown (dark), black (dark), white, and silver. These colors make many women feel confident, sexy, and attractive.What is best background for photography? ›
White Seamless Background.
A white background is a great option for headshot photography, simple portraits, stock photos, and product photography. You'll need to pay special attention to lighting a white backdrop, or else your white seamless paper will appear shadowy or muddy in tone.
White is not only the best background color for websites, but is also one of the most common. It is neutral, so you can use it with anything. The primary concern with a white background is using darker colors for contrast. Don't use white and a soft yellow, for example, as the text will fade into the background.What is the best color for a photo booth backdrop? ›
Stick with White
For starters, a white canvas acts as a blank slate for users to dress up their photos on their own. It's clean and crisp, so you never have to worry about clothing or props clashing with the background.
There are seven basic elements of photographic art: line, shape, form, texture, color, size, and depth. As a photographic artist, your knowledge and awareness of these different elements can be vital to the success of your composition and help convey the meaning of your photograph.Which background is better for eyes? ›
Dark mode is intended to reduce blue light exposure and help with eye strain that comes with prolonged screen time.What colors show up best in black and white photos? ›
What colour looks best in black and white photos? If using darker colours, we suggest black, royal blue, burgundy, or hunter green colour clothing. Earthy colour tones work really well for black and white family photos.Is LED lighting good for product photography? ›
If you're a product photographer, LED lights may be suitable for your work, as long as you don't mind working in a darkened studio. However, you won't be able to shoot products with splashes or any other form of movement as easily.How many speedlights do I need? ›
if you are planning on regularly ganging up lights in a softbox or umbrella to match that much maximum light you'll need at least 6.
You should shoot directly next to your light source at a 90-degree angle, then reflect that light back onto the subject. This will give your image as much light as possible while also eliminating as much shadow as possible.Is a ring light good for product photography? ›
A ring light is perfect for product photography because you can set the light up at a certain distance away from the products and achieve beautiful lighting that matches up on every shot.Which light bulb is best for photography? ›
LED. LED bulbs are quickly becoming a firm favorite with photographers, and it's no wonder why! They are affordable compared to other bulbs and last a long time, providing excellent money value. Unlike incandescent bulbs, they don't get hot when used, so that you can handle these better.How do you do hard light in product photography? ›
How to use HARD LIGHT in food photography (ft. The Bite Shot)Why are photography lights so expensive? ›
the bulbs are very expensive to make, the gas in the bulbs is expensive and top of the line technology that uses a lot of purification to achieve pure white light (day light).How many studio flashes do you need? ›
Most people will need no more than 4, which will give you a key light (main light on the subject), fill (as its name suggests, just adds a bit of fill to remove excess shadows), a hair light and a background light – or you can use the hair and background light as both background lights in high key photos.How much do speedlights cost? ›
Prices seem to vary from $30 to over $400!What is the difference between a flash and a speedlight? ›
A flash uses a battery or an A/C outlet to power its LEDs, while a speedlight is powered by two AA batteries. Speedlights are portable flashes, they can be used as a standalone strobe lights without the camera, they are compact and generally smaller than standard flashes.How do you get perfect lighting? ›
In general, it's best to: Include at least three sources of light in each room: General lighting (overhead or pendant), Specific lighting (task or table), and Ambient lighting (sconces, candles, or decorative). Maximize natural light by keeping your windows clean—it's cheap, simple, and really does make a difference.How do you get the best lighting for photos? ›
- Use a broad light source. The broader the light source, the softer the light coming out of it. ...
- Place your light source close to your subject. ...
- Use front-lighting judiciously. ...
- Include shadows for a three-dimensional look. ...
- Keep color temperature in mind while shooting.
Natural light is – you guessed it – light from the sun. And diffused means there's no harsh dark and bright spots, just evenly-dispersed and soft light. Diffused natural light virtually erases imperfections, makes you look younger/healthier, and emphasizes your eyes.What size ring light is best for product photography? ›
A quick rule of thumb is that a ring light works well as key lighting if photographers need to snap a direct shot of an item. A 10-inch ring light is probably just enough to shoot average-sized products for most photographers.What size ring light is best for photography? ›
Large 18-inch ring lights are great for shooting portraits, photographing products, or capturing tiny details for macro photography. Many of these ring lights have a place to mount a camera or your smartphone inside the center of the ring light to create a nice shadow-free even light on your subject.