Beginner Product photography - lighting and best time of day

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Pootle
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Hi everyone, I've been reading some articles and it appears to me that the perceived wisdom is that when dealing in product photography (with natural light only) one should choose a south-facing window - early morning being bluer light, before dusk a more golden light. But the idea is to photograph on a cloudy day or just after sunrise or just before sunset. If that's not right, please feel free to correct me! I'm working from memory and it's not what it used to be!

I dislike photographing my subject (jewellery) in cloudy conditions and prefer sunny days.

I also prefer a colder, bluer light - for my products and the colours I use in my jewellery as it suits them better - and was getting excellent photographs in the late winter / early springtime at around 2pm (the perfect time of day for me!)

I've since been unable to replicate it. I appreciate that the sun moves around! And so at 2pm it's not ideal same position. Between 5pm and 6pm just now it's very close but still so bright that I get a sort of a 'Vaseline haze' on the lens (before you ask, my lens is clean!) Hopefully someone can advise why this happens - too bright though I'm guessing and the light is just getting blown around all over the place making it look romantic - lovely if you like that sort of thing but I need clear, crisp images! And also yes, I am using a tripod so it's nothing to do with camera shake or anything. I also at this time of the day get the goldeny light I dislike for this particular project.

The next closest I have gotten is in the morning, but it's still not ideal. Obviously this is preferable to later in the day though as I get a bluer light.

What can I do? Any suggestions. If I go outside, it's hard to find a spot. Ideally, I would like to stay indoors. My window is southwest facing. I also have an unusually high structural window design in my kitchen which lets in a lot of light - it's northeast facing. Could I use this at any time of the day? When would be best?

I may have answered my own question here, which is to photograph in the southwest facing window in the morning - but what time would be ideal right now at this time of year to get the cleanest crispest photos in the best possible cool blue light? I am otherwise quite busy and haven't been keeping an eye on the light etc. It would be great to replicate the winter/early spring light of 2pm in the morning now in late spring/early summer if possible? Not possible? Or closest match! I'll stop rambling now.

Help?!

TIA
PF
 
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4,882
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Ian
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Might also get a bit more traction in the Lighting forum rather than Projects - even if it is natural light we're talking about... Not sure if @Garry Edwards can help...
 

sirch

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Chris
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Welcome to TP by the way, I think Ian is correct so I have asked that this be moved to Talk Lighting
 
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Garry Edwards
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First of all, welcome to TP. We have a fair bit of collective expertise here and can usually answer most of the questions.

But, my personal view on this is that you're starting from the wrong place, because there are so many challenges with using daylight for product photography that it would need an incredible level of both knowledge and skill to get even halfway acceptable results, and that's before we even think about the colour of the light, which can vary wildly.

Accurate colour reproduction requires flash.
Ease of working requires the flash to be studio, rather than flashguns.
LED lighting is also usuable, but cannot produce 100% accurate colour reproduction.

I'm gathering from your post that you want to shoot jewellery, but as you know there are many different types of jewellery, so any specific lighting advice will need more information from you.

I'm one of those "single light" advocates, but what this actually means in practice is that every single shot that I light starts off with just one light, placed in the right position and with the right modifier to create the right result, but in the vast majority of cases one or more extra lights need to be added, either to mitigate problems caused by the first (key) light or to emphasise a part of the product, and this is literally impossible when only daylight is available.

So, I feel that a good starting point here is to ask you why you want to use daylight in the first place.
 
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Hi everyone, I've been reading some articles and it appears to me that the perceived wisdom is that when dealing in product photography (with natural light only) one should choose a south-facing window - early morning being bluer light, before dusk a more golden light. But the idea is to photograph on a cloudy day or just after sunrise or just before sunset.
Traditionally northern hemisphere portrait studios used North light but it was more consistent and therefore not direct and harsh

I am going to go all out here and say if you want consistent results you need consistent lighting, virtually impossible with what you describe and flash is the normal and consistent approach

Mike
 
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Pootle
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First of all, welcome to TP. We have a fair bit of collective expertise here and can usually answer most of the questions.

But, my personal view on this is that you're starting from the wrong place, because there are so many challenges with using daylight for product photography that it would need an incredible level of both knowledge and skill to get even halfway acceptable results, and that's before we even think about the colour of the light, which can vary wildly.

Accurate colour reproduction requires flash.
Ease of working requires the flash to be studio, rather than flashguns.
LED lighting is also usuable, but cannot produce 100% accurate colour reproduction.

I'm gathering from your post that you want to shoot jewellery, but as you know there are many different types of jewellery, so any specific lighting advice will need more information from you.

I'm one of those "single light" advocates, but what this actually means in practice is that every single shot that I light starts off with just one light, placed in the right position and with the right modifier to create the right result, but in the vast majority of cases one or more extra lights need to be added, either to mitigate problems caused by the first (key) light or to emphasise a part of the product, and this is literally impossible when only daylight is available.

So, I feel that a good starting point here is to ask you why you want to use daylight in the first place.
Thanks Garry for taking the time to explain! I really do want to stick to natural light though.
 
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Pootle
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Traditionally northern hemisphere portrait studios used North light but it was more consistent and therefore not direct and harsh

I am going to go all out here and say if you want consistent results you need consistent lighting, virtually impossible with what you describe and flash is the normal and consistent approach

Mike
Hi Mike, I do like the north light in the mornings here but it's obviously not as sunny! So then Ineed to edit some brightness into the photos, but it's worth rethinking. Thanks
 
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Hi Mike, I do like the north light in the mornings here but it's obviously not as sunny! So then Ineed to edit some brightness into the photos, but it's worth rethinking. Thanks
Brightness as in under exposed?

I think it would benefit you greatly if you could post what you currently have achieved and also an example of what you want to achieve

Mike
 
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Jonathan
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Thanks Garry for taking the time to explain! I really do want to stick to natural light though.
To help folks like @Garry Edwards and others help you, can you explain WHY you feel natural light is the best solution for your needs?

As you mentioned, you were getting results you liked at a particular time of day, at a particular part of the year, but as the days move on the light changes, and you are finding the results less satisfactory.
And that's the big problem with using natural light - it may be fantastic one day, and terrible the next (for a given shot).
For some types of photography that's fine, different lighting conditions give variety to your shots, but for product photography you need the light that suits the product and the look you want - which is where using studio lights / flash is an advantage, as you can create whatever light you want for the shot - then come back tomorrow and get exactly the same light again, time and time again.
 
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Richard King
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Natural light is a royal pain in the butt for this sort of thing. Even in Cyprus where I live, I cant get the same conditions one miniute to the next, in the UK it won't happen.


Go down the flash lighting route... Its repeatable, controllable, measurable, reliable.

You can write down notes, and repeat the same shoot for the updated product next year, and the photographs of your new products won't look out of place next to your other products.
 
OP
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Pootle
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Hey everyone, thanks for your comments - sorry it's been a while since I responded. I think you're all right - I need lighting. I do still love the natural lighting for my jewellery shots but there's just not enough of it, particularly this summer.

I'm not initially keen on flash (no real reason why, probably just reminding me of bad pictures from the 80s!) I'd like to try a studio light - my friend has this one (see link below), but's it's about double my budget right now. I'd have around £60 to spend on something - if anyone recommend something similar to this but for like half the price that'd be really handy?! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01G6URY3I/?tag=httpwwwyo0971-21

If anyone has a studio light vs. flash arguments I'm all ears!

Thanks everyone ;) TIA

PF
 
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Phil
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If anyone has a studio light vs. flash arguments I'm all ears!
Well most of us hear ‘studio light’ and think it means mains powered flash... so your question makes no sense to us that shoot in ‘studios’.

you probably mean ‘continuous light vs flash’ though, so here goes.

as flash has been the de facto standard for many years it’s easy to buy a range of different modifiers (the important bit) to fit your light source. Flash is also the closest thing you’ll find to daylight in colour and is ridiculously consistent. It’s also usually much brighter than the ambient indoors, meaning you don’t have to worry about balancing with that (either to control shadows or for colour consistency.
The downside is that it’s thought to be ‘expensive’*

Continuous light gives the impression of being easy to use as it’s WISYWIG, but that ignores the fact that our eyes are amazing tools designed to make our life easy, not designed to show colour variations in light sources or precise depth of shadows. It’s also very cheap**

*its actually ridiculously cheap if you measure it in power terms, and look at how consistent it is.

** only the cheapest continuous lights are actually inexpensive, by the time you get the ability to use different modifiers and have good colour reproduction it’s more expensive than flash and you’ve got a lot less power.

in short, LED continuous is getting better, but there’s a reason the vast majority of professional studios are mostly full of flash gear, it just works.
 
OP
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I've tried using the inbuilt flash on my camera but I don't like the results. So I'd be looking to get another type of flash probably - but then how does it all work and how is it any different from the flash on my camera already? Obviously starting from total beginner here! My camera is a Panasonic Lumix TZ93.
 

TheBigYin

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Thank you! Is there a link for this? I am new here and a bit bumbly :)
No, you're not missing anything, its a staff only function - if you need something moving, go to the first post in the thread and click on the "report" link and someone on the staff will move it to the most appropriate place...
 
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I've tried using the inbuilt flash on my camera but I don't like the results. So I'd be looking to get another type of flash probably - but then how does it all work and how is it any different from the flash on my camera already? Obviously starting from total beginner here! My camera is a Panasonic Lumix TZ93.
Lighting is about controlling the size and direction of your light source, that controls not only the nature of the highlights but importantly the shape and depth of the shadows.

so the flash on your camera; it’s tiny, and it’s an inch to the side of the lens. That means that if you use that, you have only a horrible frontal light, but the only shadow is a very hard shadow below left of your subject.
I’ll research your camera now.
 
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Obviously starting from total beginner here! My camera is a Panasonic Lumix TZ93.
Your camera doesn’t appear to have an easy way of triggering off camera flash. :(

so in this instance you’re likely to want to go down the continuous lighting route, but you’ll probably need a tripod too.

personally I’d buy an old dslr and cheap telephoto lens to use with flash rather than try to use your super duper camera and continuous light.
 
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Paul
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But, my personal view on this is that you're starting from the wrong place, because there are so many challenges with using daylight for product photography that it would need an incredible level of both knowledge and skill to get even halfway acceptable results.
Totally. Though I'd disagree with the skill and knowledge bit, because if you had skill and knowledge of product photography you'd absolutely know that this not the way to go.
Just everything is wrong, you have no control. What you do need is an incredible amount of luck.

But even if you do get the perfect light coming through the perfect window, that does not mean it will be like that in a months time as the light moves through the sky.
And even if you do have that perfect light at that particular point of the day you'll still come across lots of issues as you can't move the sun. Yes, you can move your product, yes you can swivel your table and yes you can bounce the light, but it would be so problematic its a disaster.

Really simple things. You setup and get the perfect light and angle, but then how do you add an accent? How do you light up the side that is dark? Or remove or add shadows?
How do you change between hard and soft light? - These are all extremely important for product photography.
 
OP
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Pootle
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Your camera doesn’t appear to have an easy way of triggering off camera flash. :(

so in this instance you’re likely to want to go down the continuous lighting route, but you’ll probably need a tripod too.

personally I’d buy an old dslr and cheap telephoto lens to use with flash rather than try to use your super duper camera and continuous light.
Thanks - this is really useful to know. I do have an old DSLR, just needs a simple repair. Interesting. I'll give it a go. What sort of flash would I need to buy?

If I did want to give it a go with a continuous light, are there any options you'd recommend? I do like the idea of trying it out, as well as the flash route. Maybe not all at once due to expense but some recommendations for products - both flash and continuous light - would be great (on a budget of course!) - anyone?
 
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Garry Edwards
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You've had great answers, and it must be clear that studio flash is the way to go. It's just a shame that your camera has just about every useless feature on it but lacks the basic essential - a hotshoe - that would allow it to be used with flash.

So, my advice is a repeat of what Phil said - get a cheap DSLR, available secondhand for very little money, and then get a studio flash - you'll then be able to move forward and get the quality you're looking for, reliably and consistently.

Continuous lighting is great for video, it gets promoted heavily by sellers because they're in business to make money, and many beginners go for it possibly because the cheapest ones appear to be good value for money until they actually try using them and possibly because they seem to be easier to use because of WYSIWYG. But studio flash is so much better in every way, so please consider that route, with a DSLR.. I'm guessing that what's been holding you back is the fear factor - the fear of venturing into the unknown - but it really is easy:)

Just one word of warning though . . . get something like this (other makes are available) https://www.lencarta.com/all-products/flash-heads/lencarta-smartflash-4-fla035 and don't get one of the "Ebay specials" that have a low powered modelling lamp and a reflector that can't be removed, they're cheap for a reason.
Thanks - this is really useful to know. I do have an old DSLR, just needs a simple repair. Interesting. I'll give it a go. What sort of flash would I need to buy?

If I did want to give it a go with a continuous light, are there any options you'd recommend? I do like the idea of trying it out, as well as the flash route. Maybe not all at once due to expense but some recommendations for products - both flash and continuous light - would be great (on a budget of course!) - anyone?
Saw your reply as I was typing this.
I've answered your question on suitable flashes. As for suitable continuous lights, I'm tempted to say "none" but if you do decide to go that route then get one that has a removable reflector, because it will be even worse without it. This one is less bad than many https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/UK-Godox...667234?hash=item3d5c20eee2:g:ExgAAOSwJZVeu5Dw
 
OP
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Pootle
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You've had great answers, and it must be clear that studio flash is the way to go. It's just a shame that your camera has just about every useless feature on it but lacks the basic essential - a hotshoe - that would allow it to be used with flash.

So, my advice is a repeat of what Phil said - get a cheap DSLR, available secondhand for very little money, and then get a studio flash - you'll then be able to move forward and get the quality you're looking for, reliably and consistently.

Continuous lighting is great for video, it gets promoted heavily by sellers because they're in business to make money, and many beginners go for it possibly because the cheapest ones appear to be good value for money until they actually try using them and possibly because they seem to be easier to use because of WYSIWYG. But studio flash is so much better in every way, so please consider that route, with a DSLR.. I'm guessing that what's been holding you back is the fear factor - the fear of venturing into the unknown - but it really is easy:)

Just one word of warning though . . . get something like this (other makes are available) https://www.lencarta.com/all-products/flash-heads/lencarta-smartflash-4-fla035 and don't get one of the "Ebay specials" that have a low powered modelling lamp and a reflector that can't be removed, they're cheap for a reason.

Saw your reply as I was typing this.
I've answered your question on suitable flashes. As for suitable continuous lights, I'm tempted to say "none" but if you do decide to go that route then get one that has a removable reflector, because it will be even worse without it. This one is less bad than many https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/UK-Godox...667234?hash=item3d5c20eee2:g:ExgAAOSwJZVeu5Dw
Amazing, thank you :) I'm not sold on the continuous lighting anymore! (The one you recommended looks like the same one my friend has that I linked earlier above!)

I do have an old DSLR all I'd need would be a lens, and obviously the flash, so thanks for the recommendation on the flash. I'm looking to photo jewellery items I've made (silver and the odd colourful piece with gems), often small with detailing - which lens is best for this? Macro? Someone recommended a telephoto lens above. Not sure what I need. I am quite looking forward to everything now - really good advice, thank you everyone!

PS Garry - I'm on a budget - is there anything a bit more affordable than the Lencarta you've recommended? It's a stretch right now! However, I appreciate it's maybe not worth it to get something cheaper.
 
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Garry Edwards
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Telephoto . . . Up to a point, yes. Something like a 75mm if your DSLR has an APS sensor, longer or shorter if you have a larger or smaller sensor camera. A longer lens will give you more working space, and sometimes this is needed and it's always useful.

True macro lenses (which allow you to photograph life size or larger on the sensor) are very expensive, but will allow you to fill the frame. But you can also fill the frame simply by using an extension tube (which goes between the camera body and the lens) and these are relatively cheap. I have a set of them and from memory, I think that I've only used the thinnest one in the studio.

But you may not even need to fill the frame. If you need the kind of image quality that's needed for massive prints then you need to fill the frame and make use of all the pixels you have, but if all that you need is tiny images for a website you don't, and can use an "ordinary" lens and crop the image to suit.

And you don't need a top quality lens either, because flash has plenty of power and you'll be able to shoot at a small aperture (which you'll need to do to get enough depth of field, unless you use focus stacking) and even cheap lenses are generally OK at small apertures. f/11 is the smallest you should generally use on an APS sensor camera, of f/16 on a full-frame camera.

As for a cheaper flash option there's this one, not quite the same but much cheaper and should be OK https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Godox-SK...222806?hash=item59484ef296:g:tPUAAOSwQv1e4xf2 but bear in mind that the warranty, if offered, may not be real - most Chinese sellers give zero customer support. By contrast, Lencarta is the opposite.

This thread may be helpful to you, it's going a bit ahead of what you're trying to do at the moment but I think it's still relevant https://www.talkphotography.co.uk/threads/necklace.714326/
 
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