Like with other forms of photography, product photography comes with its own set of challenges. What is the best way to light a product shoot with LED lights? In this video, Abba Shapiro discusses how LEDs work well with product photography, and demonstrates how to use LEDs on a product photo shoot.
- Product photography brings its own unique set of challenges to a photographer and LED lighting really helps us meet those challenges. It's really uniquely qualified to solve a lot of the problems that we have. First of all, because the lights are on constantly, it's really easy to see what your shadows are doing. And most of the time when I'm shooting a product, it's really close, and as a matter of fact, this shot I'm even using a macro lens because I want to really control a very narrow depth of field. So not only do I put it at an F2.8, but the macro will give me a much more shallow depth of field.
Now, on the flip side, while we're talking about depth of field, sometimes you want everything to be perfectly sharp, so you want to be able to shoot at something like 5.6, or maybe even F8, and you're thinking, "I need a lot of light." Well, not really because the beauty of shooting a product that doesn't move with these LED lights is you can use really long exposures. So, for instance, if I don't want any noise, I can put something at 100 ISO and I could set my shutter speed to maybe a half a second, and put it at F8, and I can get a beautifully lit scene.
So think about the opportunities you have when working with LED lights in your product photography. Now, let's take a look at the setup we have, and if you notice, I actually have a lot of small instruments, and that's another really nice thing about working with product photography is you can use very small LEDs. As a matter of fact, you probably want to. Unlike when you're shooting a portrait, or you're shooting outside, or a large group where you need lots of LEDs, lots of lights, you're really painting with very small instruments. So the way I designed this shot is I wanted a lot of specular highlights.
I wanted things to pop. So I used a lot of small, very pinpoint lights. I used a Lume Cube because it has a really hard light. I used an eye can light that I can mount in front, and then I wanted to be able to fill the space a little bit, and I used two other instruments. I used a small flat panel. You'll notice this flat panel, it's maybe about two inches by four inches. Again, I don't need a big light. I just want to be able to throw some light in this direction and I put a grid on it because I didn't want to have a lot of fall off. I really want my light to be in narrow beams.
Now, you'll notice that in the background I do have a one by one flat panel. I wanted some ambient light. I didn't want it to be all these hard shadows. So I had to kind of fill them in, and the beautiful thing is I could simply use the LED and dial up the brightness just so I washed out the shadows the exact amount that I want. So you'll notice I'm using four lights, I get something very precise, I now am ready to shoot my image. Now, I'm gonna go ahead, and when shooting something like this with such a narrow depth of field, I have to decide what is appropriate to be in focus.
So in this case I want to go ahead and switch my focus point instead of in the right spot I want to actually move it down a little bit. So let's go ahead and activate that. And what if I actually set my focus point here instead of on top? There's my focus point. Take the shot. When we look at the shot and we zoom in, this part is in focus but this feels a little bit soft, and that's why I like to go and focus on right on the top. So in this case, what I really wanted is the foam to be in focus.
What is the eye going to look at that's supposed to be sharp? If I had the line where the coffee meets the foam, you know, that's really not what's important in this shot, what people are looking at. They'll expect that to be a little bit soft. But if the top of the foam was soft, the whole shot would feel soft. And it's nice because the beans kind of fall off, the cookie can still read. So let's go ahead and take a shot, and I'm shooting this actually at an F200. It's pretty fast shutter speed. I could bring my ISO down to 200. That's going to be really clean and I can use it at 2.8, which helps me again with the depth of field, but ultimately the depth of field is really controlled by the fact that I'm using a macro lens.
I really like the way this shot looks. I really like controlling this depth of field. If I wanted this shot to, you know, everything to be in focus, I probably would switch the lens to a non-macro lens and maybe shoot it at F8 and let that shutter hang open for a longer period of time. Now, you may be asking why I have this little red thing on the table. This is actually a mister. I bring these a lot on location. I can use this to create sweat on a person if I want somebody to glisten. If I'm shooting food, especially like fruit, you want it to look really fresh, a little mist goes a long way.
So in this case, I want the beans to look really fresh, so I'm gonna go ahead and hit the beans with a little bit of a mist, just to make them shine a little bit, and I'm gonna protect the cup so I don't get some water on the cup. And then we know now these beans really look fresh, they look really moist. Let's go ahead and take a shot. So when you're working with product photography, when you're working with something very small, remember, these little lights are great and they're really portable.
You could very easily take these on location. Maybe you need to shoot something, a menu for a restaurant, you can bring just a small kit of lights and get some beautiful imagery.
In this course, photographer and educator Abba Shapiro details the why and how behind using LED panels and other continuous lighting sources for photography. He covers the pros and cons of shooting with continuous LED lights, reviews the different types of LED lights, explains how to tackle portraits and product photography with LEDs, and shows how to work with LEDs when you're outside.
- The pros and cons of LED lighting
- Reviewing key terms
- The types of LED lights
- Shaping and controlling LED lights
- Shooting portraits
- Shooting product photography
- Working with LEDs outside