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How to Use Natural Light for Your Product Photography

Lesson 4 from: Craft Photography Fundamentals

Candice Stringham

How to Use Natural Light for Your Product Photography

Lesson 4 from: Craft Photography Fundamentals

Candice Stringham

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Lesson Info

4. How to Use Natural Light for Your Product Photography


Class Trailer

Session 1


Introduction to Craft Photography Fundamentals


What Your Visuals Say About Your Brand


How to Become a Photographic Author


How to Use Natural Light for Your Product Photography


Setting Up Your Photo: The Basic Rules


Becoming the Viewer to Take Better Photos


Shooting 3 Setups: Creating the Backstory with Images


Lesson Info

How to Use Natural Light for Your Product Photography

When it comes down to it all, photography is just a recording of light. So, yeah, lighting's super important. But, does that mean you need to go out and buy five studio lights and have a whole studio set up to create beautiful images? You don't, okay. Everything that I shoot and everything that you're going to see in this, is natural light. And it's all in my house. So, you're going to see exactly, messy house pictures of real life and what it's like. Yes. We have so many people, by the way, we have people joining us from Spain, San Diego, all over the world, which is always fantastic to see. And we have so many questions that are coming in, and thanks for your questions everyone, about how to photograph this particular type of thing, and reflections, but one of the big ones is the lighting is so beautiful in so many of your images, how do you get the backlight, that one where you had the window? People were kind of getting, like okay, if the lights coming this way, but how do you ac...

complish it when the window is in the background? We are gonna, I'm gonna show that right now. Excellent. So, that was a perfect question. I wanna talk about light because it's just so important. And it will really make a difference in the mood of your image. So, we're gonna talk about the different directions of light first, and as we go throughout all the class, we'll be showing you tricky lighting situations and how to deal with those. This is front light. It's boring. Let's be honest. Front light is fantastic if you are a portrait photographer. And you want that glamor light, and you want nice even, so when you're getting your headshot done for your business, front light it up, right? I mean we want that Beyoncé, wind in the hair, even lighting, front cover of a magazine glamor, when we're photographing a portrait. Okay, we don't want depth and texture. I don't want depth on my portrait. And that's what side lighting gives us. But, when I'm photographing a product, I want people to feel like they can touch it, and feel it, and see how big it is, and the light helps me to do that. So, when I light up front and its completely flat the image of my product feels flat, and we disconnect. And I think what happens a lot of times when people are photographing at home, is they put their stuff right in front of their window and they stand in front of the window, and they take the picture, and it doesn't feel right. And it's because they are using that flat, front light. Now, let's just look side lights. So, literally all we're doing is turning it, towards the window, or kind of away from the window. And you can see here, now, we're getting like really amazing highlights and shadows. So we get a lot more depth and dimension. Do you see the difference in the crust right there? That looks so much more appetizing and appealing. And we're showing food here, but this is gonna work with any product you're presenting. We want them to see the texture of it. Do I want people to see the texture of my skin? No. Front light awesome. Do I want people to see the texture of my party fan, or my banner, or my quilt? Absolutely. So, I'm gonna use side light. Now, back lighting used to not be a thing, and now it's one of the biggest ways to light in commercial photography. It gives it, you can see, we're now highlighting the overall outline of the shape, and it also gives it a brightness. And high key right now, it's just huge in photography trends, in commercial trends, and magazines. That back lit, really bright, airy feel is just really popular. So, all three of those images next to each other. Which one would you want to eat? Which one would you buy? Somebody, anybody? Mic? Anybody? (Chatter And Giggles) The middle one. The middle. The side lighting. And I get different answers. I've gotten a lot of side light, I've gotten a lot of back light, but no one ever says front light because it's not as appealing. So, the way that we light things, and we will be presenting this over and over, is generally using side light or back lighting to give us a nice texture and depth and dimension to our images. That's my living room and that's where those pictures were taken. So for back lighting, I'm standing right here and my object is right here and the window is what you see behind it. For side lighting, I'm standing here and photographing the item right there. Okay so here's another example of my messy office. This is where I shoot the majority of my Mind's Eye images on a piece of marble, which we'll talk about how I got that. And just using my linin omniberg background that I made. It's a pin board. And then you can see my window is right here. I've got my light coming in and then I have a reflector filling the shadows to make them softer, and we're gonna talk all about that in great detail. Okay, so the next part I call style telling because whatever we put within that images, those supportive characters within the image, are really what helps us tell the story about the main character, so we wanna choose props that support that and never take away. So, this was something we had for "Handmade Mood." We wanted to photograph, this like, it was suppose to be for like a Christmas party. It's baked Brei in a puff pastry. And, eh. But, then we add in a little bit of cedar, a little bit of greenery, we add in a little plaid napkin and some silver and it feels very different now, right? When we look at it there, it's kind of bland. When we just add that in, now its festive. And, styling for seasons and styling for holiday is really important in your social media. You don't necessarily need to change your whole shop for seasonal things but in your social media, if your like "Look at this for Christmas its amazing you should buy it!" That's gonna help, it just will. People need to be told how they will use it. So again, at Christmas, or at Easter, or at Halloween, here's how I would use my product now. Versus at a different time. Again, I'm selling card stock here. If I just laid card stock on white, it's not gonna look that great so I add in different elements of the person I think would be using this card stock. And, peonies. If you add peonies to anything that's like putting a bird on it a few years ago. People on Instagram love peonies. So if you don't have have any idea of where to start, then just a simple place to start is by whatever you are using to create the item you are selling. So, here this is for a party again. It was a Freida inspired party, so we made these headpieces. This is the product we just saw earlier used at a party completely differently, but I'm going to use the elements that I used on the headband to show people exactly what it is we're making and that helps tell that story and that helps style it without distracting. So just a good place to start if you feel like I don't know what to do. It doesn't have to be complicated. It can be just a little simple branch and some twine. In the middle image you can see that there are baking things on that wrapping paper so now we're adding in a spoon or cinnamon sticks and then in the next we added a little Christmas tree topper and some pom poms. So just really simple. We don't want to take away from items. We only want to enhance what they're about. Okay, so this is a bigger example. This was in a book for Design Mom, I think it's called "Living with Kids," and I photographed, she asked if I would photograph my office for her book. I sent in this first image. It looked clean to me, it was nice. I was like, it'll be perfect! And the editor came back to me and said it does not look like you are living with kids in that room. Right? It doesn't, because that is not what it looks like living with kids in that room! So, she suggested, can you add something if they're doing homework next to you, what do they have out? And we added in an algebra book and a calculator and a pencil and its just like one tiny little set up but it makes a huge difference in the story that the image tells. So, adding little details like that. So this is another image for that book, and you can see that here we've added in a tiny pair of shoes and we've added in blocks, and I've let my dog sit on the couch. Because the comment I always get is there's no way you have kids and a white couch, right?. I do. It's not that white anymore, but I do have a white couch. And I do let my dog and kids on it. And this is that back lighting again which we'll talk about how to expose for back lighting.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Creating Visuals For Your Brand Assignment
Slide Presentation for Lessons Part 1
Slide Presentation for Lessons Part 2
Prop List

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class taught by Candice was amazing. She teaches in such a step-by-step, easy to understand pace. She shares so much of her own tips and tricks she uses to create beautiful images without spending a fortune or having all kinds of expensive equipment. Having the DSLR lessons included was really great for anyone who wants to do more than the camera phones are capable of. Learning the basics of how to use a DSLR is confusing for most people, but Candice broke it down in the simplest way possible. Social media is all about imagery, so if you want to put out the most beautiful eye-catching photos, then you want to learn how to use more than the camera phone. I don't have a business where I need to take photos of things I sell and I still enjoyed her class so much. As a photographer, I am going to use her ideas and insight when I photograph things for fun. There is so much to gain from this class. I would highly recommend taking her class. She is a wealth of great ideas and information and has that friendly personality of someone you'd want to sit and have coffee with.


A wonderful class to get you going with craft/product photography. Candice provides (and shows) fantastic examples and it's really fun to watch her work through a shoot, moving items, etc. to create the final image. She also covers some basic photography tips which is very helpful. Great class! I definitely recommend to others!

Melinda Malamoco

I loved this class! Candice is so personable, clear and relatable. I would want to hang out with her and be creative! I have been taking pictures for YEARS, and for my Etsy store for over two years, and I still learned a lot in her class. The lessons are set up in a way that you can follow, take what you want and don't worry about what you don't need. I will say that I got a TON of ideas for how to better display my brand, what my personal style is and how to be consistent with it. I so recommend this class for anyone who has small business or just wants to be able to take better pictures of their products. Okay, off to build a prop kit!

Student Work