Essential Product Photography Tips | L’Oréal Lighting Breakdown
There are many concepts you need to get your head around to understand product photography. By taking you through some behind the scenes images of this L’Oreal Age Perfect shot, I’ll give you some essential product photography tips which will help you advance your skills. Product photography lighting can be very complex, but I’ll do my best to keep it simple.
Product Photography Tip 1 | Angle Of Reflection
Initially, this may sound complicated but I assure you it’s not. When we talk about angle of reflection in terms of product photography, we’re referring to the way that light will reflect off our subject. Light will always travel in straight lines. It will go from your light source to your subject and then bounce off again in a straight line. Imagine a ball bouncing around a pool table.
When photographing a subject which is glossy, what we’re actually capturing is the reflection from that glossy surface. For example, if a person were standing in the right place we’d see them. Glossy surfaces behave very much like a mirror. If you can combine this principle with the angle of reflection, then you’ll begin to understand this indispensable product photography tip.
If we apply the pool table analogy to the BTS photo above, the placement of my lights begins to make sense. I always imagine a line coming out from my lens and hitting my subject. I then think where that line would bounce off; just like the pool table. If you use that theory then you should be able to work out; why the black card is there, why the scrim is on the left side, and why the scrim is on the right side. If it doesn’t make sense, feel free to comment and I’ll explain again.
Product Photography Tip 2 | The Surface Of The Object
Once you understand the angle of reflection, you’ll find photographing glossy objects a breeze. This next tip is about the surface of the object itself. Most materials will reflect light in some way. You have the extremes on either end; mirror-like glossy objects (think chrome) and matte surfaces (think cotton). In-between those two examples there are hundreds of different materials which will reflect light in a variety of ways.
The L’Oréal bottle has four different surfaces; the rubber cap, glossy (chrome-like) top, glass bottle and label material. Each one reflected the light in a slightly different way due to its composition and shape. In the photo above you can see a few ways I have utilised this information. The Stripbox on the right side has created a gradient on the scrim which is reflected in the glossy top (remember, angle of reflection). That same scrim has also created a highlight on the side of the bottle and cap. Each one of those highlights differing due to the materials (rubber, glass, chrome). Another Stripbox is used on the opposite side to highlight the same surfaces in a slightly different way. Finally, the gridded light at the bottom adds a small amount of light to the label and a nice glow at the bottom of the bottle.
Product Photography Tip 3 | Use The Right Modifiers
My final product photography tip is to use the right modifiers. Many people go into product photography from portraiture or some other genre. They may have an array of modifiers, but I imagine most won’t be of use.
Within product photography, you’ll usually find that you’re photographing small objects. Therefore, the modifiers you use should reflect this. It’s no use using a 5-foot Octabox to light a small L’Oréal bottle. You’ll find that with product photography, you’re always trying to find small, precise modifiers which will give you the maximum amount of control; grids, stripboxes, optical snoots, scrims, flags, and so on.
I’ve never liked the phrase a bad workman blames his tools. Instead, I prefer “a good workman knows what tool to use”. You don’t have to be using the most expensive things to achieve a good result; you just need the appropriate tool. A prime example is contained in my last article which was about lighting painting a Nike Shoe; you can find it here. In that, I used a car inspection lamp of all things.
The above photo shows the unedited SOOC shot which was achieved using the lighting setup I have explained. As you can tell, the addition of the splash photography here was all done in post, as I imagine you expected. Sadly, it would take a very long time to explain that process. Instead, I’d like to recommend the Photigy Advanced Splash Photography Course, find it here. That course covers everything you need to know about creating splashes yourself.
These product photography tips will assist you in getting the lighting right for many objects. However, lighting is only one aspect. Arguably far more important is your imagination, determination and skill. You need imagination to inspire your images, determination to put in the LONG hours necessary to pull it off, and finally, the skills to make it all happen. Thankfully, I firmly believe that every one of those can be learnt. In fact, I recently wrote an article about how to come up with unique still life photography ideas, which you can find here.
If you have any questions, add a comment below.