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Product Photography Tips

How To Tackle Common Lighting Problems When Photographing Your Handmade Products

When you photograph your products, chances are you’re going to run into some problems when it comes to lighting.

Depending on the product you’re trying to photograph, it can be fairly easy to fix the lighting and get a great product photo.

But if you’re photographing a ceramic dish, a bottle of lotion, or another product that has a shiny surface, you may run into more challenges.

So let’s look at some common questions that come up when it comes to lighting and product photography.

Why do my product photos look flat?

If you’re taking product photos and you hardly have any shadows around your subject, your photos can look flat. A product that appears to just be floating against a background doesn’t look natural or real. 

This can happen when taking photos on overcast days, but not always depending on the time of day and how much cloud cover there is.

You can also get flat lighting if you’re using a light box. Since the light floods the box at all different angles, they can virtually eliminate any shadows. If you use ring lights or have the light source directly in front of your object where you are also with your camera, you can get flat lighting too.

But if you want to bring some dimension to your product in your photos, creating shadows will be your solution. To get some shadows, move your light source! Experiment with lighting placement to find what angle creates the best shadows for your product. Check out these exercises to help you learn more about lighting.

Why do my product photos look blue/orange/red/yellow? 

If you’re taking photos with mixed lighting (natural and artificial light, etc.) you can get weird color casting in your product photo. 

Your camera may not be able to accurately white balance your photo, so it’s always good to double-check this before taking product photos. Be sure to check your camera manual or if you’re using your phone to take product photos, check the camera app to see if it allows you to adjust the white balance settings. If not, you may want to download an app like Camera FV-5 or VSCO Photo & Video Editor which gives you more manual controls for your camera. You can also read my previous post on white balancing.

When it comes to editing your photos (always edit your product photos!), you can always try and correct the white balance in your editing software.

Why is my lighting uneven?

If you photograph your product in direct light such as with a bare lightbulb (no lampshade) or on a sunny day, you’re going to get harsh lighting. Direct light in product photography can create beautiful, dramatic photos, but it can also make it difficult to see your product, especially the details.

And when you’re selling your handmade products online, you want to make sure your customers can see the details of your products.

To learn more about how to deal with harsh lighting, click here to get my free PDF guide to learn how to get perfectly lit product photos.

Why do I have so much glare/reflection?

Photographing products with shiny surfaces can be challenging.

Sometimes the way light falls on your product can make glare or reflections unflattering or even obscure important information like the label. But it can also help your customer understand the texture and finish of your product so keep that in mind!

The thing about glare and reflections when it comes to product photos is you’ll have to experiment with positioning your product, your light source, and your camera. 

I know it’s not the answer you were probably looking for, but your setup will vary depending on your light, the look you want and the type of product you’re photographing. 

A few things you can try:

  • Placing your product at a 45-degree angle in relation to your light source. 
  • Black foam core boards can help to block unwanted light around your product too so don’t be afraid to try using them. 
  • Make sure you diffuse your light as it can help cut down the harshness of the light source.
  • Distance yourself (and camera) away from your product to reduce reflections.
  • Move around your subject and see what angles reduce glare or reflections.

Once you find your sweet spot, be sure to take a photo or sketch a drawing of the setup so you remember next time.

Remember that with practice, patience, and some creativity, you can learn to improve your product photos and show your handmade product in the best light for your customers.

If the thought of tackling these lighting challenges has you running for the hills, you don’t have to work on your product photos on your own! Click here to learn more about how you can work with me to create professional look photos of your handmade products in my 1:1 coaching program.