13 Awesomely Inexpensive Still Life & Product Photography Lighting Techniques From Around the Web

It is known that 13 is unlucky, but I’d say that you just got lucky!  

From across the Web, here are 13 simple, easy to get to grips with, beginner Product & Still Life Photography tips and techniques for aspiring photographers, that you can try from the comfort of your own home, using inexpensive equipment.


EL Bokeh Wall

For my latest photo, the ‘Kodak Brownie Vecta Camera’, the background was created with just a sheet of black plexiglass and a few sheets of crunched up silver foil, hanging with from a light stand with some clamps. With a low powered strobe and a gridspot, shining on the foil, whilst using a wide Aperture using a Prime lens which blurred out the foil background, it is possible to create some fabulous bokeh.  Laya Gerlock, writing for DIY Photography outlines the simple steps in these two excellent tutorials.  No.1  No 2.  

Kodak Brownie Vecta Camera

Kodak Brownie Vecta Camera


Simple Product Photography Tips: 5 Min Portrait

Simple, window lit, product photography is what the awesome Jared Polin shows you in this video, where he reveals basic techniques, such as changing camera angles, using different backgrounds and filling the frame with the subject, to produce effective and attractive Product photos of a Canon zoom lens.


3 Lighting Setups (And 2 Tips) For Tasty Beverage Lighting

Laya Gerlock is at it again. This time with a simple way to light beverages, that will give you great easy to follow learning skills and make your beer bottle and soft drink can photography look great. He outlines three methods, shooting on a white background, black background and a shot of a bottle with a gelled background. Speedlights and diffusion material will be needed for this technique.


Still Life Photography:  How to Light your Crafting Photos

If you want to speedily put your homemade Jewellery photos on Etsy, ebay or anywhere else on the Web and just want some inexpensive lighting and composition tips, then this article by Jeff Mayer from Digital Camera World, will help you achieve that goal. All you need is some window light, coloured cards and a reflector or two. This comes without the complex lighting and sweat inducing challenge of taking a High end Jewellery shot.


An Introduction To Smoke Photography

Smoking is bad for your health. But not this kind of smoking! Taking mysterious and pretty photographs of smoke could NOT be simpler in this article by Amar Ramesh, over at Digital Photography School.  A flash is needed, so it is not the cheapest tip on the list, but quality Flashes can be bought relatively inexpensively these days. Get your tripod out, grab yourself some incense sticks, a table lamp, a black cloth, and get smoking and shooting.


The Still Life Photographers’ Guide to Lighting: 4 Techniques, 4 Different Effects

If you are just starting out and want to learn the ropes in becoming a Still Life & Product photographer, then learning with simple tools is great to way to build your skills. With your DSLR, a Remote Release, a desk lamp, torch, black velvet, SOME paper and some other very easily and cheaply bought items, you can produce some amazing results that will definitely build your confidence as a photographer. In this tutorial you will be shooting fruit, flowers, leaning about stock photography and taking images to put on ebay. Jeff Meyer strikes again at Digital Camera World.


Light Painting with idevices for Unique Product Photography

Why not paint with your phone or a torch, or a tablet, instead of a brush. Light painting is a great, new way to creatively experiment with Lighting in photography and it can leave you with some jaw droppingly, beautiful results. A slow Shutter Speed is needed of at least 10 secs. The great Laya Gerlock is back shooting various product with this technique, this time at Picture Correct.


How to Photograph Shoes

Using continuous lighting is a great way to start learning how light behaves and reflects on your products. In this video on photographing shoes, Robert Grant uses cheaply bought clamp lamps and bounce cards, with a wooden background to bring out the texture in a pair of old shoes. Impressive.

Impressive Product Photograph Captured with a Smartphone, a Lamp and a Few Flashlights

In this great article at PetaPixel, Tilo Gockel impressively lights an elegant looking knife with just a smartphone, a few flashlights, a lamp and some translum diffusion (tracing paper or parchment can be used instead). With nicely, informative detail of the shooting process and the post processing, this is one you can try on the antique desk at home. Just be careful with the knife!


How to Use Inexpensive Lights To Create Amazing Ring Shots and Macro Images

Here is another inexpensive way in lighting and shooting Jewellery. The subject this time is Rings, that are lit with cheap LED Lights. Pye at SLR Lounge also uses incredibly simple ideas for the background, such as the sofa, and it just goes to show that the simplest home found props can be the best. An excellent, must see tutorial.

How to Get Professional Product Photographs with a Single Light Source

A professional lipstick shot with just a pop up flash and some A4 Paper?  They said it couldn’t be done, but Dzvonko Petrovski does exactly this, at Light Stalking.

Splash Photography Technique - No Flash Needed

Splash photography can seem daunting when working out the flash power and getting your head around flash duration; yet Robert Grant makes this fun technique so easy and simple without using a flash. He uses just a simple clamp lamp and a fast Shutter Speed to capture blue dyed water splashing around a wine glass. If you try this at home, remember to have a mop and some towels as the shooting space can get pretty wet. Do not forget to protect your equipment around water.


Photographing Glass

Glass photography can be some of the most difficult product shooting because of the reflections that are everywhere on a glass. There are countless articles and videos on the web that look at glass photography in detail with some excellent tips. Phillip McCordall, using basic equipment, shows you the fundamental process in lighting a wine glass. He first explains what is known as the Bright Field technique with the glass reflecting the dark edges of black card, on a white background. He then explain the Dark Field technique, white edges from white card on a black background. Which do you prefer?


These are just some of the many techniques found on the Web, that beginners can use to help improve their Still Life & Product photography skills.  The path to photographic experience is both exciting and mind blowing.  Enjoy!

Context & Flair in Product Photography

Pick up your mobile phone and look at it.  What do you see?  If you have one of the latest, ‘trendy’ models, it’s probably made out of aluminium, polycarbonate or plastic, with a glass frontage.  Most mobiles today have a sleek design and are generally aesthetically     pleasing.  

A Product Photographer would take this attractive looking product and make it look beautiful, sexy and dazzling.  They will light the mobile phone (or any other product for that matter), to show off it’s elegant design, the curves and the screen.  It can be shot at a low angle, pointing slightly upward, to give the product it’s ‘hero’ appeal, making it look big or bold. Or depending on the product and advertisement, they may blend the product into the scene, such as an advertisement of a woman applying make-up, etc.

A wine bottle can be lit to enhance the bottle's curves, revealing it's elegance, or beer bottles can have a light shining behind it to make the drink look golden, with the beer head frothed up making it more inviting.

The lighting and post processing methods at the photographer’s disposal can transform the product which can wow the viewer, stir up memories, make them feel a whole array of emotions, or simply reinforce the branding in the mind of the prospective purchaser. A Product photograph can remind them to buy the particular product for a loved one, or just keep the brand registered in the back of their mind.

The excitement and satisfaction in making the ordinary look extraordinary, or just making the ordinary ‘pop’, is what drives me as a photographer. I like to tell a story through my work and hopefully stir a few emotions along the way. I can also just make the ordinary look ordinary, if necessary.

My recent project involved two very beautiful crafted bike models.  

The first, a carved wooden motorbike, to me, started off with the wow factor. It was lighting it with the grid spot and the post work in Lightroom & Photoshop that gave it the extra punch.  I used three different lighting set-ups with a 12 degree, 18cm Honeycomb grid spot and three different post processing methods to get the looks that you can see. I could have also left the bike alone and it still would have been beautiful and that would have been fine.  But the final three images were my vision, to give that bike the enhanced wow factor that I felt it deserved.

Below are the final three photos, plus the bike untouched.

The second bike was described to me as ‘Hell on Wheels’, (fab name), when I picked it up from the antique shop.  Apparently it was part of a series, (I would love to find the others). This bike came with what I can only describe as ‘ some serious oomph’.  It’s distorted, enlarged design, caught my eye and I felt that it had to be photographed.

The lighting was similar to that of the wooden bike, there was only a change in the grid spot angles.  However the post processing differed considerably from the previous bike.  As you can see the bike has a slightly different colour in one photo from the next.  In the ‘Wheel Appeal’ photo, I chose to darken the greens to offset and enhance the red & yellow on the bike and the tone and detail of the wooden foreground, which I wanted to stand out. In the other photo I added some graffiti effects to the background.

For these photos I added certain detail in and lit them in such a way to bring the viewers attention to certain aspects of the bike or to the whole scene.  In the former, I revealed the wooden bikes beauty under different lighting conditions with different styles.  The latter, it was the fun, grungy aspect..

It is the vision of the Product photographer or the client as to what they want to reveal to the viewer.  The story behind the scene, the enticing food or the must have beautiful product.  

The stunning colours in the landscape, the moody portrait and elegant still life photograph. These are the choices the photographer can make, or not, to portray a certain theme or style that will hopefully affect the viewer to feel, to purchase, share, or to think.

Every creative decision, every artistic choice, camera angle and lighting set-up, serves to give context and flair to the ordinary everyday item, or to the stylish and beautiful too.