Lighting Magic: How to Style Your Photos with Lighting
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We’ve covered some lighting techniques to make photos look professional, and now let’s dive into more on how lighting can create moods and support your branding!
Product photos look great because they are vivid, and photos look vivid when shadows are given their part. By mastering lighting, you can create shadows that make a photo come alive.
In this post, we will demonstrate four lighting setups for four different visual styles, all done in the one same room! Let’s take a look.
1. Relaxed leafy shadows
Flowers and branches are popular props to create a woodland style. But what if you just couldn’t find the right piece of flora? Instead of forcing withered yellow leaves into the set, we can use them in another way: use their shadows! With leafy shadows dropping down beside the product, we can almost hear the rustle of leaves, as if enjoying a lazy afternoon in the park.
This is how we did it:
a) Collect some twigs or stems. While withered branches might not look good in a photo, they’re perfect for creating shadows.
b) Have one light source. We used this basic desk lamp, and since we want to preserve the shape of the leaves in their shadows, we don’t need to diffuse the light with vellum paper. Therefore, you can also see the drop shadow of the book had a clear contour too.
c) Hold the branch in place with something (Tape them to a wine bottle, for example) next to your product (the book). Then, pull the desk lamp high above everything. The further the light source is away from the leaves, the crisper their shadows are. Find the best angle to drop the shadows. Done!
2. Sharp and crystal clear
Usually we wouldn’t recommend shooting against the light because it alters the product color and gives wrong impression about the material. But here’s an exception: If your product is transparent, shooting against the light is exactly the way to make it shine.
Here’s how we did it:
a) Use two light sources. We used 2 LED lights, a bigger one as main light in the back, behind the product (the perfume), and the second, a smaller light placed at the side to create a reflection on the cap.
b) Place a slightly reflective material under the bottle. We used a foamboard, but most reflective papers such as bristol boards will work. To diffuse the light and to keep the light itself from showing up in the background, we placed a PP plastic sheet between the main light and the bottle. Vellum paper also works.
c) Randomly, it occurred to us that maybe we don’t need to hide the light. Since the LED light is made up of many small bulbs, it might actually create a dramatic background. So we took away the PP board, and took another shot.
d) Now we have a different feeling! Lesson learned: go with our feelings and try ideas that randomly pops up!
3. Neutral and clean
To create a minimalistic style without falling into being bland, try working with lighting. For example, this could have been a simple product photo with a clean, white background and natural sunlight as light source. But with another light, it gives an impression of sunlight coming in through the window, making the product more vivid without diverting from the minimalistic style.
This is how we did it:
a) Cut out a simple shape on a piece of cardboard.
b) Put the light behind the cardboard and adjust the position so it shines onto the wall behind the product. Take a black cardboard and block the rest of the light, so that it’s only shining on the wall.
c) Except for the small block of light on the wall, the rest of the lighting in this photo all comes from the natural daylight outside of the window on the right side. The daylight lights up the right side of the candle, while the left side bathes in a shadow which brings out the details of the carvings.
4. Moody surrealism
Do you recognize this candle? With this eerie lighting, the candle seems to have a totally different personality! Since it drastically alters the color, this technique won’t work as your Pinkoi shop product photo, but it definitely makes a unique styled photo.
This is how we did it:
a) Prepare cellophane sheets in two colors of different temperature.
b) Prepare two lightings, one on each side, and cover them with cellophane sheets. Using two lighting is the same concept as in the last example—to create shadows and emphasize the carvings on the candle. To make sure the light only goes onto the product, we blocked the wall with two black cardboards. Give it a try!
Lighting is an important skill in photography, and there are endless techniques to explore and experiment. That’s why we’ve picked out these creative approaches to product photography, other than the traditional, serious type—so we can share ideas and try new things. Do you also have a few lighting tricks up your sleeves? Comment below and share with the community!
How to set up for a successful photo shoot
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