Wanting to get into product photography? Then this quick guide will help you get your lighting right because at the end of the day it is your lighting and not your camera that is the most important thing when it comes to product photography, TRUST ME!
Here are the three best lighting set ups that you can use to get the best most consistent lighting for your images.
1.The first option would be to use a soft light box kit. You would then use this kit with 2 lights on both sides and 1 light at the top directing the light onto the product and using a white sweep background either cloth, paper or translucent acrylic for the backdrop.
Here is a good video showing this set up in action.
With softboxes you can manipulate the light in the exact way that you want.
Filler cards can also be used to reflect good like back into your scene and block unwanted light from messing up your product image. The good thing with these lights is that they can be used for other things as well and you aren’t just restricted to mini product images.. you can expand into other things if you want. Something that is worth noting is that setting up big lightboxes can take up a lot of room and isnt something you can always just do in your bedroom if you don’t have a lot of space.
There are lots of different lights some more expensive than others, but it is important to remember that sometimes when you are buying an expensive light.. you might just be buying the brand name rather than anything else (which may mean better build quality and life span of the light) this is because light is just photons and it makes no difference where the light is coming from it will interact with your scene is exactly the same way. However having said that you don’t want to go on ebay and buying the cheapest possible light because you might just end up getting scammed or buying an unsafe light.
When buying lights especially on ebay you should find a seller located in the uk so you wont have to wait months for your package to arrive and because they are a uk company it means if the light bursts into flames and burns down your house at least you can sue them.. whilst you cannot sue ting ting in china!
For your backdrop if you are having problems with paper or cloth you might want to buy a table instead made from translucent plexiglass like this one…
2.The next method would be to use a light tent. You use 2 or maybe 3 continuous lights outside of the light tent and the light tent will act like a soft light box by diffusing light and blocking unwanted light in the scene. Light tents are good however some say that these tents are restricting and the white cloth surrounding the product can cause it to washout your product image in some instances. Despite how basic light tents look light tents are a rip off money wise… and can cost £70 for what is essentially just a cloth tent :/ Some light tent kits do come with a pair of continues lights such as this one from ebay http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/90cm-Photography-Studio-Continuous-Lighting-Kit-3-Light-Tent-Cube-Photo-Softbox/
With a light tent you will have to buy a paper or acrylic sweep for the back ground because a lot of the light tents come with cloth sweeps with extremely ugly folded lines all over them which just look horrible when doing photography, you might be able to iron out these crease lines but it is not 100% guaranteed that this will work.
Here is a good video explaining more about light tents.
A good thing about using a light tent is that even though it may not give photos as good as using soft light boxes.. this method is requires a lot less space so is something that can be done even in the most “cosy” of houses.
3.Another method could be to use a new kind of light tent/ boxes which have inbuilt lights and reflective sides. Here is a good video explaining them in more detail.
The only problem I see with these boxes is that there is no altering of the lights.. you are stuck with one light setup forever.. which may not always be a bad thing if you are wanting consistency in your photos. Also these boxes look a little bit tricky and fiddly to set up.
HOWEVER, What ever method you choose it is important is making sure that what your product is placed on is surrounded by is not causing reflection or unwanted light from affecting your product.
All of these methods also will require a lot of hard work setting them up, although method 2 of using a light tent maybe the easiest setting up. Using soft boxes is the more professional approach to product photography and can create some really cool effects however it can be the hardest to learn whereas using a light tent does most of the work for you but at the price of limiting what you can do.
The decision is now up to you!
Sidenote: When doing research on where to buy lights I noticed something very worrying. It turns out there are next to non small business websites showing up on google. Photography is a very popular thing and is is ridiculous to think that the only people selling lighting equipment are just a handful of websites online which either means that google is censoring these small businesses from its search results to force them into buying adwords or that amazon aggressive monopoly has put lots of small photography company out of business either way something isnt right. Thus I implore you not to shop on amazon or click a google advert when looking for your lighting as this only worsens the situation and in the long term it is you the consumer who is hurt when there is no competition left and prices start to rise (We are already seeing the effects of this whereby once inexpensive lighting items are slowly getting more and more expensive as less and less retailers sell them).