August 26, 2010

DIY Product Images: Lighting


Hostway Team

By Samantha Gluck

Photographing products for your ecommerce site yourself saves money and gives you the most control over the outcome. But keep in mind that a camera’s built-in flash alone will rarely produce product photos that sell. The purpose of product photography is to display the details of the products clearly. To achieve this, the photos must be clean with no hard shadows and no busy background to distract from the product itself. Professional photographers use a few simple tricks to ensure clean and detailed product photos every time.

Use Soft Lighting

To determine if lighting is soft or hard, hold one hand out flat and slightly in front of you. Place an index finger of the other hand a couple of inches above it. If the resulting shadow has sharply demarcated borders, the light is hard.

Soft light produces diffused shadows with soft borders. An overcast day is a source of soft light. However, your product photography will probably take place inside. To achieve soft lighting inside, you will need a light tent or soft box such as EZCube. It works by placing the product inside the box and directing the light up, which produces a diffused, soft light.

Tripod Support

Using a tripod ensures that the lighting setup is effective. For maximum sharpness in your photos, you must make certain the camera does not move during exposure -- when light is entering the camera aperture. The only way to kee the camera perfectly still is with a tripod.

Exposure Adjustment

Photographing products against a pure white background is the easiest way to bring out product details and photo clarity. However, sometimes the resulting photos come out with a dingy or gray-looking background rather than pure white. This doesn’t mean that you need more or bigger lights; it means the camera settings did not allow enough light to enter.

Every digital camera has an exposure compensation setting. To create the best exposure, adjust your camera's setting to slightly overexpose the image. Do this in tiny increments until the image appears correct.

Light Combinations

Some products require special lighting such as strobe or sparkle lights, but most only require two or three lights for optimum effects. If you decide to use two or more lights in combination, one rule of thumb is to never mix different color light sources. Light combinations must match in color temperature, which is a characteristic of visible light with applications in many industries. Mixing light temperatures leads to either one of the light sources appearing yellow or blue, skewing photo results. You can locate the color temperature on the box of the bulbs.

Experiment with Placement

Professional photographers often move lights around the object in order to achieve that perfect shot and you should as well. Remove lights, change out one color light source for your lighting with another, and try placing the light sources in different locations. The beauty of digital cameras is the instant gratification of seeing the result. This helps you learn-as-you-go.

Look at other websites that offer similar products and note the background color, angle of shot and product detail. Try to make your product photos as good or better than these. It will take some experimenting, but the more you do, the better your products will look.

About the Author:

Samantha Gluck has had over a decade of experience helping businesses better focus their Web sites to enhance ecommerce and Internet presence by utilizing Web analytics, relevant design elements and marketing campaigns.

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