What is the best lighting for product photography? This is a question that is often asked and whilst different people have their own opinions on the subject of lighting for product photography, in my experience the best lighting is continuous lighting.
Whilst you can manipulate ambient lighting you can’t control it, and mixed lighting (i.e. ambient light and artificial light) can be a nightmare and is time consuming to sort out, so these methods are not the best for product photography. In my opinion, continuous lighting is the best lighting for product photography and there are specific reasons for this……
I have total control over continuous lighting
When using continuous lighting I have total control over the light. For example, if there is too much light and I can’t use the wide aperture I want I simply reduce the power. If there is not enough light to use a narrow aperture and keep the shutter speeds up I increase the power. Not only do I have total control over the intensity and power of continuous lights but I also have total control over the direction too.
Being in total control over the intensity and direction of the light is important to capture those awesome product photos.
Continuous lighting is uniform
Continuous lighting provides even and uniform light. In most types of photography the idea is to capture dramatic photos by intentionally creating shadows to bring out some texture. Shadows, texture and dramatic lighting is not suitable for product photography and, arguably, the most successful product photographs are of a well exposed and evenly lit product.
I can sort out any issues using continuous lighting
When using continuous lighting it is possible to see where the hotspots and the shadows are and take appropriate action before pressing the shutter button, which not only saves time but also a lot of frustration. When using speed lights you don’t get to see the effect of the light until after the photo is taken.
Continuous lighting is easy to use
If you want an easy and total idiot proof type of photography lighting continuous lighting is for you. Continuous lighting is either on or off, and single button does this. When using continuous lighting you don’t have to mess around with buttons and settings, like when using strobes and speed lights, so it makes for quick and hassle free photography.
Continuous lighting is cheap
First off I should point out that daylight balanced bulbs are more expensive than the standard lightbulb but compared to speed lights and strobe lights continuous lighting is cheap, cheerful, effective and other than a couple of light stands you don’t need anything else.
What type of lights can I use for continuous lighting?
You can use any type of continuous lighting for product photography however the best type has to be daylight balanced bulbs. Tungsten bulbs, LED lights and fluorescent tubes can be a nightmare to balance and the end photos can suffer from nasty colour casts. Okay, you may be able to get rid of the colour casts by shooting in RAW and using photo editing software however this process takes time and as “prevention is better than cure” it is better trying to sort out the balancing issues before pressing the shutter button and taking the photos.
Where to buy continuous lighting kits
Take a look on a popular online auction site and you will find loads of super cheap continuous lighting kits, and whilst these are reasonably priced the quality is awful. Trust me on this, I learned the hard way with the “all daylight balanced bulbs are the same” attitude and spent my had earned cash on utter rubbish. The lights were poor quality and didn’t fir on the stands very well, the lighting stands were weak, wobbly and the adjusters fell apart after a few short weeks.
Whilst you don’t have to spend a fortune on continuous lighting kits you do have to be prepared to spend a bit of money if you want to get something decent. I personally use a Newer branded continuous lighting set up and lighting stands, and I have to say I am more than happy with them. This kit wasn’t the cheapest out there, but it also wasn’t the most expensive, and given that I have owned and used it for the last few years I can vouch for the quality of it
If you want to capture the best product photos, and spending little money in the process, continuous lighting is the way forward.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.