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Product photography lighting

Updated on February 5, 2013

Ideas to help you correctly light your product photos

Here we have the essential product photography lighting equipment reviewed and compared. Many people generate some additional income online by selling off unwanted items via online auction sites, such as eBay. If you want to maximise your online earnings and drive the most amount of people to your products you need a good photo of it. People like pictures and pictures attract people therefore if you want to get the most traffic to your product, and spark a bidding war a good photo is essential.

One of the most important aspects of product photography is the lighting. Product photography lighting is key in capturing good product photographs. So, if you want some help, advice and tips on product photography lighting to get the most out of your product photographs, please check out the rest of this article.

Product Photography Lighting Using Reflectors

If the ambient light levels are sufficient, and the sun is not too harsh it may be best to use natural light when taking photos of products. Even in these "ideal" conditions you are going to need to use some piece of photography equipment to make the most of the available light and reflectors are perfect for this.

As its name suggests, a reflector is used to reflect light back toward the subject to lift the shadows. You can use white paper or card as a reflector, however it is best to buy a specifically designed reflector, and fortunately these aren't expensive.

Reflectors are available in a variety of colours although the most useful are those that are white, silver and gold. Reflectors are also available in a variety of sizes, so there is something for the largest product down to the smallest products. Reflectors aren't expensive and they will soon pay for themselves in no time.

White refelctorsCHECK PRICE

Silver reflectorsCHECK PRICE

Gold reflectorsCHECK PRICE

Reflector kit

The most cost effective way to buy reflectors is to buy a kit, which comprises of a silver reflector, a white reflector and gold reflector. These kits are great and will suit all the conditions you are going to come across. When buying a reflector kit it is best to buy the largest you can afford since this allows you to capture images of large subjects. It is far better to have reflectors that are slightly too big than too

small. Besides, these large reflectors collapse down in to a neat package when they are not in use.

Product Photography Lighting Using Artificial Light

Using ambient is all well and good but what do you do on those dull and overcast days? What do you do if you aren't fortunate enough to live in a location where ambient light levels aren't that good? In these situations you are going to have to resort to artificial light for your product photography lighting.

If your camera has a built in flash you can use that to add some additional light but it is far from ideal. A built in flash is weak and produces harsh light, which causes hotspots and areas of high contrast. When using a built in flash you can't control the power, or the flash exposure, which is going to adversely affect your product images.

Rather than use your cameras' built in flash it is better to use an external flash gun. External flash guns are powerful (some have a range of 60m at ISO 100), fully controllable and are great for illuminating your products.

There are many different external flash guns available so getting one for your particular brand and model of digital slr camera should not create too many problems. As you would expect there are bottom end flash units, mid market flashes and top end flash guns. Some people are under the impression a top end flash gun is needed for the best product photos, but this is not always the case. In the majority of situations a mid market flash unit will be more than good enough, and there are even times when a small and less powerful flash is the best option. Before you go and spend your hard earned cash on a flash you need to think carefully about how you are going to use it.

Product Photography Lighting Equipment - Bottom end flash guns

Here we have the best bottom end external flash guns. Compared to the other level flash guns these flash guns are low powered (although they are far more powerful than any built in pop up flash) and cheap. They do not have the same amount of features, but then given the cost this is not surprising. If you need a basic flash to light your subjects a bottom end flash gun will be more than good enough.

Product Photography Lighting Equipment - Mid market flash guns

The mid market flash gun is the best flash gun to buy since they offer the best compromise between cost and features. The mid level flash units are powerful, offer full manual control over the exposure and are built to last. These flash guns will adequately illuminate large products effectively. Unless you have the need, and the budget for a really powerful flash gun any of the mid level flash guns below are superb for product photography.

Product Photography Lighting - Top end flash guns

The top end external flash guns are very powerful, jam packed full of advanced features and capable of correctly illuminating the largest products. The top end flash guns are impressive pieces of photographic equipment, and are exceptionally good, but they are very expensive. If you have the need, and the budget, for a top end flash gun, knock yourself out and get one. If, however, you want the most bang for your buck a mid level flash gun is the way forward.

For the best top end external flash guns currently available, check out the products below.

Further reading to improve your product photography lighting

If you need some further information on how to improve your product photography lighting, you are in luck. There are plenty of great books out there, all of which clearly explains the techniques, tips and advice needed to correctly light any product. Check out the products below for some of the best photography lighting books.

If you have any comments, rants or raves please note them here. Similarly, if you know of any other essential product photography lighting equipment or techniques please do share them. Thanks.

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