Natural Lighting for Product Photography

When it comes to product photography, natural lighting can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Get it right, and the results speak for themselves. Get it wrong, however, and you’ll find it difficult to correct the image. Having a solid understanding of how lighting works can make a huge difference in the quality of your shots. In this article, we’ll be discussing a few key tips that you can apply to your product photography so you can take advantage of natural lighting as much as possible.

1. Find the right lighting conditions

The most important part of every photography setup is lighting. Different products will require different lighting conditions which is a matter of trial and error for the most part. The ideal solution is to have natural lighting through a window. Because it shines in a single direction, the lighting creates a 3D effect on your products which adds texture to your subject.

When shooting near a window, you want to take advantage of it by shooting when it’s brightest. This means taking into account the time, the weather conditions, and other factors that can affect how bright natural lighting can be. Shooting with natural lighting can make a huge difference in the highlights and shadows of your photo so find the most optimal lighting conditions to make your products stand out.

2. Harnessing natural lighting

One thing you need to know about natural lighting is that it’s unpredictable. It changes from one minute to the next depending on a number of variables and this can affect your product photography. Keep an eye on how the light changes throughout the day to find that perfect sweet spot for shooting your products.

If the sun is particularly strong, you may end up with an overexposed image. But don’t let this discourage you. Instead, use a thin white sheet known as a diffuser to soften the natural lighting and create a more balanced saturation to your photos. Avoid hard lighting at all costs since it can amplify even the most insignificant flaws and oversaturate the images.

3. Set up your product background properly

Setting up the ideal background for product photography requires a white backdrop and a reasonably open space. A white backdrop helps create an evenly lit photo and can make the editing process much easier in terms of removing the background.

When shooting small products, you want to shoot on a table with a sheet of white paper taped on the wall. For larger objects, you can tape a few long strips of white paper to the wall or just by a large sheet altogether and tape it down so nothing moves during the photography process.

You want to keep an even distance from the product to capture the right amount of detail. Shooting too far will make the product look small and shooting too close can make the product look disproportionate. For small products, the camera should be at least 30 centimeters away and 60-100 centimeters for larger items.

4. Explore a variety of camera angles

Product photos can help answer any questions that your product descriptions might not fully explain. This is why using a variety of camera angles is important to give consumers a better idea of your products.

Take for example a shoe. You want your customers to see not just the sides of the shoe, but also the toe, the soles, and the heel. You can also do an up-close shot of the product to highlight any particular features such as the material used, the lacing system, etc. To do this you may need to have a macro lens attached to your camera.

We recommend keeping the camera steady and just rotate the product in different positions. That way your final shots will all be framed the same, thus making the images look more consistent. Providing an all-around view of your products can make them even more visually engaging and offer extra information that your customers might be interested in.

5. Tweak the camera’s settings

If you want to achieve the best results, you should definitely tweak your camera’s settings. Shooting in manual mode gives you more control over the final image output and allows you to make the most out of natural lighting. Some of the things you’ll need to adjust on your camera’s settings are:

  • Aperture – When shooting your products, you want to use a high f-stop as it keeps every detail of the object in focus. An f-stop of around f/8-f/14 should be ideal for most products out there.
  • ISO – The ISO setting is what controls the camera’s reaction to natural lighting. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera is to light. If you already have adequate lighting, then you don’t need to bump up the ISO as this can result in grainy or pixelated images.
  • White balance – White balance basically adjusts the colour of your subject according to the lighting conditions. Beginners may feel more comfortable leaving the setting in auto, but if you want to further tweak your images, you may want to adjust the white balance. The goal here is simple; get a close match on what you see with your eyes and what your camera displays on the viewfinder.

Shutter speed – Once you’ve set your ISO and white balance, you can now adjust the shutter speed. Shutter speed determines how long the shutter opens when taking a photo. If you want a beautifully crisp photo, make the shutter speed longer so that the camera can pick up more light.

Clients will often contact a commercial product photographer in Perth if they have had a good go at using natural light and are now either too busy to keep photographing their own products, or they are finding the natural light gives them inconsistent lighting which often results in extra post-production work.  In commercial studios products are most often photographed using large and powerful flash or strobe lights.  These lights give out much more consistent power and colour balance output.  This means the process of photographing your products is easier and quicker.