Product Photography Tutorial: Combining Natural Light with a Flash for the Perfect Shot

Guest post by Via U (a great resource for quality, affordable product photography).

Light is the most meaningful control you have when photographing your product. Here is how combining light from the sun with the light from a flash you can create pictures with brilliant, richly saturated colors.

I use an inexpensive flash with the simplest of controls. To make the light softer I tape a piece of tracing paper in front of the reflector. What its indispensable is that the flash you use can be set in “manual” so it puts the same amount of light each time it goes and that it has a plug for a PC cable to connect it with a camera.

Many cameras dont have a PC socket. If yours is like mine and it doesnt have one you can use a “Hot Shoe Adapter” to provide the terminal needed to connect it with a flash.

Normally the PC cord that comes with a flash is only a few inches long. You can get a “Flash Sync Extension Cable” to be able to use the flash away from the camera. The extension cord I use is 8 feet long and it costs $12.

To diffuse the light I used a piece of translucent acrylic (plexiglas). I like the one that is less dense, it lets more light go through. I also used a spring clamp to hold it.

To find a place where to take the picture I put my equipment in a backpack and went hiking.

To carry a lighter pack I planned to take with me only what was absolutely necessary and use whatever I would find around to put the picture together.

The closer you put the acrylic to what you are photographing the softer the light becomes – further away and the light will have more contrast.

I used a plastic container as a light stand and a wooden stick to hold it in place.

Connect the PC cord and the extension cable to the flash.

Because one needs to move the flash around to adjust the light I find it easier to put the camera on tripod. However, holding the camera in the hands makes it easier to try different angles.

Connect the PC extension cord to the to socket of the “Hot Shoe”…

… and we are ready to boogie.

Because a flash gives a lot of light in a very brief burst you can then use the shutter speed to make the background darker. A flash lets you change day into night!

When using only one light, the sun, the only control it is to make the whole picture darker, or lighter.

The flash makes, for an instant, the purse to be lighter than the background. A background that is slightly dark will show richly saturated colors, if you make the background even darker it will help to make your product more prominent.

Where should I put the flash?
Well… it could be anywhere. The right place is whatever direction the light makes things look best. Controlling light is a fantastic creative tool. Try anything you think it might work, dont be afraid of making mistakes.

To control the amount of light on your product move the flash closer or further way. The acrylic sheet is an option, I used it in this picture but most often I dont.

The lovely red purse a loan from:
Thirtyfive Flowers
Hertfordshire, UK
Thank you for loaning us your baby Louise.

Via U! was founded by advertising photographer Mariano Pastor. Mariano has created photography for the launch of new product campaigns for Lancome, Givenchy, Revlon and LOreal among others. He has been the recipient of the “Best Photography”award from the Art Directors Club of New York. Mariano also creates the photography tutorials published in the Via Ublog. About Via U! Created with the small business in mind Via U! makes advertising photography available to small business budgets. The studio collaborates online with clients from around the world to create pictures that help increase sales and foster brands.

5 comments | Click here to reply

Wow! Great tutorial Mariano! It seems like finding product photography tutorials are a bit more difficult than other photography tutorials. I’m always looking for new things to learn when it comes to taking photos of my products! Thanks again!

Meagan

Thanks for stopping by Megan. Glad you enjoyed this tutorial.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Great tutorial Mariano! and thanks for taking care of my baby 🙂

louise @ThirtyfiveFlowers

That is an intense but great tutorial! And it’s nice to hear/see someone use flash in a positive way!

Lindsey

is this genius or what?! i NEVER EVER considered taking my products with me into the woods to shoot them. what a superb idea. i have major difficulties when i do my “shootings” at home as we really really have crappy light there and since i have this day job i’m forced to do the shooting either in the evening or i have to find time at weekends to go outside on the terrace so i have decent light. maybe – just a thought – you can post a tutorial on how to make a shooting at home (ok… i will instantly type this into the search bar to check if you had one already i don’t remember). anyway. that was awesome inspiration. thank you so much!

lou
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