Now that you understand the difference between some of the devices you might have available, whether it's a phone or a camera, let's dive into some of the actual tips on taking better photos. Lighting is actually one of the most important elements in product photography and having good lighting is crucial to making your products look good. Now, when I say lighting, I don't necessarily mean big fancy studio lighting like you would see in Hollywood. I'm talking about everything from maybe the light on the back of your phone to the lights in your office, natural light, like I have coming in from the side here, window light coming in from the other side, or maybe it's like the lights that are in your house or lamps or, we'll get into it.
Light is going to be your best friend when it does come to product photography because the more light you have, the easier it is for your camera to see what's going on, see the details, and that means it's easier for you to be able to capture those details. How do you know if the lighting is good? Maybe the lighting is bad. There's no necessarily right or wrong answer for this. It is up to you and what you think looks best. There are a couple of guides and things that you can look for, though, to make sure that you're getting the best light that you can, or to steer you in the right direction to choosing the best light.
The correct or right lighting depends on the product you're shooting as well. Maybe you want to portray a different mood, so your lighting might have to be different. We're going to get into this a little bit more. Maybe if you're taking your photos to show off the details or intricacies of a product, having some darker, moodier lighting and a moodier set is not really going to work well for that product. You might want to have something nice and bright and light that's going to be able to show those fine details and the workings on that product. If you're trying to showcase the texture, or maybe the shapes that are on a product, something like this torch, is going to be very, very difficult to do that on in direct, harsh light.
As you can see, with all these bumps and everything on the torch, and the way that the material is shiny, it reflects that harsh light really, really badly. So you might want to use some softer light if you're trying to shoot something a little bit more like this. Same with everything else, trial and error, understanding, and practice is going to be your best friend with this. Once you get used to shooting different types of products and maybe different textures and colors using different lights, it's all going to start to make a bit more sense to you.
Trial and error is the key here. It's all practice until you get to understand how light works with different textures and objects. Ironically, this whole section on lighting is very challenging for me to film. As you can see, the light is constantly changing here. So I do apologize for that. It is kind of tricky to light a space like this. So you're lucky you don't have to work with that. Let's start with one of the cheapest, and in my opinion, one of the best forms of light that you can use: window light. Now, windows offer a unique ability to fill a space with light that's nice and diffused or kind of soft. As you can see here, there's no like crazy harsh direct lighting in this space.
Window light also happens to be one of the most easily accessible forms of light for you. When you are using window light, pay attention to where the sun is in the sky. Right now it's midday so the sun is directly above us. So the light isn't coming sideways through this window like it would do early in the day or later in the evening. Because it's like that, I don't have any harsh lines down here. It's beautiful, soft light. And the brighter it is outside will actually benefit you when it comes to using window light like this as long as it's not super reflective and pushing those harsh light in here. So when it does come time to using your window light, the softer the light is, the better.
So try and make sure you have a setting similar to this where you don't have harsh lines following in from the window itself. If you don't have beautiful, soft lighting like this coming through your window, it could be to do with the time of day, it could be to do with the angle that the window is at, which way it faces. For me, it's really easy. I just turned the van around. So we don't have to worry about the light being on the wrong side. So this is what it looks like when the light isn't ideal, the sun is coming directly in. It looks quite bad.
It's going to be very complicated to shoot something in this space and get the angles and the lighting that I want. Sometimes, the best time for window lighting can actually be midday when the sun is directly above and you don't have angled lighting coming in through the window. But sometimes, you might want to have a little bit of. A shadow so early morning or late afternoon light might actually be more beneficial to you. It just depends on what kind of lighting you are looking for. For example, let's have a look at the shadows of trees.
Early in the morning or late in the evening, their shadows are almost transparent and softer at the edges, where in the middle of the day, the shadows are very dark and have a distinct edge. This is the same as your window lighting. Try and take notice of your windows at home or office in the next few days and you're going to really notice a difference about this. Now my situation is going to be very different from yours unless you also happen to live in a van.
But I can just turn the van and change where the light is coming in. For example, I have the door open here right now, and there's lots and lots of light coming in. But if I had the light coming in from this side, it would be very, very harsh lines and it just wouldn't look as bright. What I typically do is I'll try and plan my photoshoots for a certain time in the day when I know the light is going to work to my advantage. Typically, I shoot early morning or late afternoon. That way, I get that beautiful, soft light, and it's also a really nice kind of golden color.
This is what we call "golden hour." Whereas the middle of the day, it is very tricky to be shooting photos of your products because the light is direct straight down. It's going to cause really odd shadows. This is obviously more relevant if you're taking your photos outside. If you're taking your photos inside, then sometimes window lighting, as I said, can be the best time in the middle of the day. And one of the most common types of lighting you're going to see in your home or office is direct artificial light AKA light bulbs, LEDs, those kinds of things. The light that you have in your house, basically.
This light is going to be the same as if you were holding a flashlight or maybe your phone light and shining it straight down. It's quite harsh and you're gonna be able to see basically the edges of where that light is. The closer you get to the light source, the harsher that light is going to appear. You can try this with a light that you might have just near you. I have one just here. So as you can see, my hand is very, very bright and the farther I get away, the less bright my hand is, but also how bright the edges are when I'm close.
As this light is so direct and so harsh, you can actually make your products look a little bit more angular, sharp, and geometric. Maybe this is the look you're going for, perfect. Use that light to your advantage. If it's not and your product is more round or smooth or kind of a softer texture, maybe a softer, more diffused light is going to be better for this situation. However, as I said, it's up to you and how you want to be showcasing your product.
These are just the tools and tricks that you can use to try out what's going to work best for you, your brand, and your product. These types of lights that point straight down, they're very direct, they can be very tricky to work with. They cast harsh shadows and sometimes they have a warmer color tinge to them. So here, this one has a really warm tinge to it, whereas maybe some other lights that you might have in your house might have almost a blue-ish color to them. They're a little bit cooler.
This will affect how your product looks as well. Depending on the color temperature of your light, it's going to affect the colors that you portray through your images. Where I have direct downward lights here, I can put baking paper over the top of these LEDs, and that'll really soften the light that I have coming in through here. The one thing to just take note of is depending on the light source that you were using, whether they're LEDs or light bulbs, these lights do get hot, they do give off heat.
So be careful what materials you put in front of them and for how long you leave that material there for. If it gets too hot, it could be a fire hazard. So just be smart about it. There's this spot that we take a lot of photos in the van because we have this beautiful kitchen counter. We have a nice backdrop and with the window light combined with the light that we have coming down from above, it makes a nice well-lit space for us to be able to take beautiful product photos. We also open the door as I have done on this side.
It lets in lots and lots of light this way. And because the sun is so high in the sky that light isn't direct coming into this counter space. So we have a nice soft light, kind of evenly lit from a ton of different directions, which is awesome. we've just spoken about lighting a lot and how to light your product and fill in all those dark spaces and show off the edges. But the absence of light is also really useful for telling stories through your photos.
Having shadows around your product and using those can be a really great way to add depth of field, show the shape and the size accurately of your product. It can also change the feel and the look of the image too. If you have more shadows and it's quite dark, it's going to be a very moody image. Whereas if you have it nice and bright without shadows, it's going to feel quite light and airy. Now both of these styles can actually be very, very useful and they're good to play around with to get a good understanding of how light works. So keep that in mind when you're practicing, taking your photos, and experimenting with the light.
Another method of lighting that you can use is something called fill lights, which essentially means filling in the shadows or filling in the scene with additional lighting. Some of the easiest ways you can do this is by adding an extra light source around your product or around your item. You might use fill lights in this kind of situation. Let's say, this is your desk. You've got your product sitting directly here on your desk and you have a light source like I have directly pointing down and it's a very, very harsh light source. By adding an additional light, maybe over to the side or at an angle to the product that's different from the light above, you can actually fill in some of the spaces around here and eliminate those shadows.
This can really help you to showcase your product better instead of having direct harsh light. A really easy form of this light that you'll be able to use would be a desk For example. If that light is too harsh, just remember you can throw a bedsheet or some baking paper over the front of that, just to keep in mind how warm that light is going to get the longer you use it. Other things you could use is maybe a smartphone flash, or you can use an additional light source. If you really want as well, you can use some kind of portable light source.
This is the one that I use all the time, and this is what I use for product photography. It looks pretty small. It's a beautiful little product. This thing is from a company called Aperture. Now, I don't expect you guys to go out and buy one of these. They're not particularly cheap, but this is what I use all the time to light my product photos. Take some of the common household items you might have laying around, or if you have your product, then that's even better. Grab that.
Just go for a walk around in your home or your office, wherever you are, and just try placing it in different lights and take notice of where the shadows are, or maybe how the light works on that product, if it's shiny or if it's not. Just get used to it, try and get a good understanding of it because it's really, really going to help you out when it comes to actually taking your photos. we're going to do a section now and I want you to just play around with a light that you have either at home or your office, wherever you are. To start, let's place your product about one foot or 30 centimeters away from the actual window itself.
Let's figure out maybe the angle that you want to take your photo of and then set your product down exactly there. Now, if you find the light is too harsh or too strong coming in from that window, maybe try putting something transparent here, like a bedsheet. You can hang that up over your window or maybe baking paper is also really good. Something that's thin and transparent that will allow light to travel through it still will really disperse and soften that light so you won't have those really, really harsh edges.
If you do find the light coming in from your window or your light source is way too bright, you can always add another layer of diffusion on top. So maybe another bedsheet or maybe another layer of baking paper, just a little bit of trial and error here as well.