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!

10 Essential Accesorries for any Studio Product Photgrapher

Besides my trusty camera, sturdy tripod and Strobe lights, I need to use a very specific set of tools to get my Still Life and Product photography completed in a professional and timely manner.  Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the accessories that I find essential to use in the studio.

Stripboxes - A beautiful strip of soft light.  It is the perfect tool for creating a narrow beam of light that helps to define shape, revealing the curves and contours of the product.  As you can see in this image of the Beard Trimmer, the 120cm x 30cm Stripbox was placed overhead and the soft highlight follows from the head, down the body of the item, accentuating the curved elegance of the beard trimmer.  They are also best used to highlight the shape of beverage and cosmetics bottles.

Stripbox light reflected on the top of the beard trimmer  Other highlights created by 'feathering' the grid spot

Stripbox light reflected on the top of the beard trimmer  Other highlights created by 'feathering' the grid spot

Grid Spots - If you want a focussed, controlled beam of light on your product, then a grid spot is a great choice.  The Honeycomb ‘cells’ keep the light controlled. A smaller angled grid (I used a 10 degree grid) creates a small spot of light and a larger angle grid creates the larger size. For this shot I ‘feathered’ the grid, so that the light skimmed past the front end of the Beard Trimmer head at a 45 degrees angle, which created the highlights that are visible on the head and down the silver body. 

J.P. Morgan at The Slanted Lens has a excellent tutorial on how Grid Sports can also be used for a portrait photography location shoot.

Light Stands & C-Stands - C-Stands are heavy and sturdy. Made of metal, they have retractable legs that spread out for stability. These can be made extra secure with sandbags laid over the leg. The central pole has two - four risers. They can be extended to the maximum height of the stand. A grip head attaches the long adjustable arm that also supports clamps or another grip head which can be used to attach accessories. C-Stands can support heavy strobes, flags, scrims, bounce cards, diffusion material and can even hang a Product with tough fishing line or wire. I used a C-Stand to attach the overhead Strobe with the 120cm x 30cm Stripbox.

Good quality light stands can support Speedlights, flags, bounce cards and light weighted props, if needed. However do not forget to use sandbags on the legs for extra stability.

A Clamps - These inexpensive springy devices are good to hold bounce cards and paper. You can clamp diffusion material to Stands or C-Stand arms with them, and they can support small props that need a little help standing up.  They come in various sizes and styles and can be purchased from your local DIY store. A must for Product photographers.


Bounce cards and Reflectors - Bounce the light back with a bounce card.  Utterly essential for Still Life photography.  Illuminate portions of the Product with a white, gold or silver card.  White card for a clean lighted tone.  Silver card for a stronger light and gold if you want a warmer tone. Use black cards (flags) to cut the light from a portion of the composition that has too much light.  Buy black and white foamcore and silver and gold card and cut into various sizes for various sized projects.

Here is a detailed FStoppers Jewellery photography tutorial using black and white card to bounce stripbox light into a watch.

Diffusion material - Soften your highlights.  A roll of tracing paper,or a bedsheet, white shower curtain, ripstop nylon or translum diffusion, hanging on a C-Stand arm, can do wonders for your stripbox lighting.

A shiny, glossy bottle that is illumainted with stripboxes on either side can reflect strong, harsh strips of light down the edges.  Place a roll of tracing paper in front of a stripbox, softbox or grid spot and that bright light on a glossy surface becomes softer and more pleasing to the eye. Gradients can be created on the object or background when the softbox and grid spot is angled correctly behind (or in front of a background) of the diffusion material.  In essence the diffusion material works like a flag, cutting the light’s intensity.  Diffusion material can be mounted on DIY scrims too. 

The awesome Product photographer, Alex Koloskov, reveals the benefits of using diffusion with softboxes material in making gradients.

Table - A black finished table is good for tabletop photography as it will not reflect unnecessary colour casts back into the products or scene.  For versatility, use a pair of sawhorses so that different surfaces can be mounted on top, i.e. glass, plexiglass, wood.

Gaffer tape and other sticky stuff - Black Gaffer tape will not leave a residue like other sticky tapes. It’s good for sticking Gels to honeycomb grids and mounting diffusion material on plastic piping or a wooden frame. Coloured blue and white sticky putty is great for holding props or products in place and marking an area where the hero bottle/product will be placed, once cleaned.

Cleaning materials - Canned air, anti-static cloths, microfibre cloths and cleaning fluids.  Use them as needed.  The more dust and smears that smother the product, the more time there is spent retouching in Photoshop. Some smears can create retouching headaches, so clean beforehand. Don’t go into the studio without them!

Wooden and metal blocks - Go to your local metal worker and wood worker and get them made in many different sizes.  They are fantastic for propping up items that are prone to falling over. I also use them for propping up large bounce cards.

If you want to work efficiently and calmly and create great Product and Still Life photography, in a professional environment, then do yourself a favour and add these accessories to your shopping list.