DIY product photography lighting setup on a budget

This was one of my first product shots ever from waaay back in time, but I want to put it here because it can inspire new photographers to experiment with very simple equipment and get started on a tight budget. I had just bought my first digital  DSLR – Canon EOS 300D aka Canon Digital Rebel with the kit lens.

I was pretty new to photography at the time. I had a some experience of shooting with analog film, and also shooting a lot with digital compact cameras, but not with a DSLR. So I didn’t shoot RAW at the time, which is absolutely necessary for professional digital photography.  I did many misstakes and lots of learning by doing.  This was not an assignment for a client, I was just experimenting at home in a very small apartment with DIY equipment and a tight budget.

The most experimental aspect of this product lighting setup is that I lit up the bottle with a flashlight from underneath. I put a sheet of acrylic glass (plexi glass) on a card board box. I made a small hole in the box, right under the bottle, so the flashlight could shine right through the stage of acrylic glass, and luminate the bottle. This specific product was frosty matte in its finish, which give a more even glowing effect.

You can use this technique for all kinds of bottles and product photography of other transparent objects. I have later on used it even for beer bottles made of colored glass and it gives a very warm glow.

For more inspiration of great product photography using a flashlight, check out Magnus Svenssons paint with light product photography.

The lighting setup

The background was lit up with a Canon Speedlight 550EX. I might have used a home made snoot for speed lights that I made of black straws and some black card board.

The speed light was placed next to the card board box, facing the backdrop (which was just a wrinkly sheet of paper). I don’t remember if I used a home made DIY snoot on my speed light or if i just had it as is.

The blue color tint is made from the different color temperatures of the flashlight and the speedlight flash. So no gel filter or equivalent is used.

I did also use the cameras built in flash from the front, mainly to trigger the speedlight, and not so much for exposure, because then the bottle would be overexposed and I would lose that glowing effect that I wanted to achieve.

I used a long shutter time to get a balance between the flashlight under the bottle and the speed light on the background.

I didn’t own a proper tripod at the time, so I put the camera on a bunch of books so it got the right height in relation to the height of the cardboard box with the pixie glass. As you can see on the unedited product photo the horizon is severely tilted, and the reflection of the bottle too.

There are so many things that could be improved in this product photography.

I didn’t put the bottle facing straight to the camera so the text is not symmetrically centered. The focus is on the high contrast circular logo, so the text on the front of the bottle got slightly out of focus. Since the whole product is basically back lit, the cap got a bit underexposed. 

Post processing

I have made some major post processing in Photoshop. I did mask in a more even backdrop, made with the gradient tool. I also sharpened the text on the bottle. I made the cap lighter. And finally rotated the photo a bit. Probably I did some more minor editing that I don’t remember, but these are the most obvious and prominent digital enhancements.

DIY product photography lighting diagram
Unedited version of the product photography with flashlight and speedlight

Fashion photography lighting setup with model ShellZ Zhu

This fashion photography lighting setup is from a session on location in Hong Kong, featuring ShellZ Zhu. ShellZ Zhu is a fashion model and actress in China, but she has also been seen i a few Hollywood productions.

Portable lighting setup

I didn’t have the possibility to bring my full arsenal of lighting equipment, so I had to find a lighting setup that was easy to travel with. I brought a hot shoe speedlight flash, a shoot through umbrella, a lightweight light stand and the Elinchrom Skyport radio trigger. The shoot through umbrella was actually a multifunction umbrella with one shoot through layer and one removable silverlayer that you can bounce the light in when needed, but for this photo session I used it only as a shoot through umbrella. This is really a minimalistic fashion photography lighting setup.

It was a bit cloudy that day so the daylight was soft and had no specific direction. I placed the umbrella in front of ShellZ Zhu about 45 degrees to the left. For the photo with the “catwoman stance”, the lighting setup was moved so the lighting direction came a bit closer to the camera direction. Since the models pose i lower, the light gets relatively more from above.

Portrait lighting setup with fashion model ShellZ Zhu.
Model lighting setup for almost full figure model photography with fashion model ShellZ Zhu.
Lighting diagram of portable lighting setup for model photography

Dramatic lighting

The hard light gives a dramatic look n feel

One light source is all that was used for this lighting setup.

Another great contribution from photographer Pedro Moreno.

The camera had a WB in Flash,  Canon 5D MK II, 24-70mm, Aperture F 5.6, shutter 1/125, ISO 400.  Main light Canon 580EXII with a grid. My assistant was up high and pointing down the speedlight on to my subject.

Fashion photography with one light source

One light source and a kick ass make up is all it takes to make fashion photos that are this awesome

Here's how the lighting is done. The make up might be trickier.

Photographer Pedro Moreno shares this lighting setup that only uses one light source.

Pedro: – The camera had a WB in Sun,  Canon 5D MK II, 100mm, Aperture 2.8, shutter 1/125, ISO 100 with. Main light Elinchrom Quadra RX with a Octave 1mt in silver and the sun was giving me a golden tone on the neck’s shadows. I triggered the light with an Skyport.

Low key fashion photography

An excellent lighting setup for low key photography. Playing with the white balance gives a dramatic nightish look and feel.

Low key photography lighting diagram

Photographer Pedro Moreno from Spain shares a low key lighting setup for fashion photography.

Pedro: – The camera had a WB in Tounsgten,  Canon 5D MK II, 100mm, Exposition 5.0, shutter 1/60, ISO 200 with.  Main light Elinchrom Quadra RX with a Octave 1mt in silver and 1 Canon 580EXII speedlite as a kicker light. I did trigger everything with an Skyport.

Outdoor fashion photography


Colorful and beautiful fashion photography

Outdoor fashion lighting diagram. The sun and a fill light is sometimes all you need to take impressive photos like this.

Photographer Hipolit Terpinsky from Poland gives us this great inspiration of what you can achieve with only a fill light and some mad skills. More photos from Hipolit is coming up in a near future. Stay tuned!

High fashion lighting setup

Beautiful lighting setup for high fashion. Click image for full size.

High fashion lighting diagram.

Lighting For Photo legend David Bicho is back with a great lighting setup for high fashion. This is a pretty advanced lighting setup, but the result shows us that it’s worth all the effort.

David is also sharing a PDF of the assignment brief he wrote to the wardrobe stylist. It explains the mood, the story behind the photo etc.

wardrobe-stylist-assignment-brief

Full figure portrait lighting setup, using speedlights and natural light

Full figure portrait of swedish singer Martin Stenmarck.

Lighting diagram for the full figure portait lighting setup

Here’s a nifty full figure portrait lighting setup provided by photographer Johan Marklund.

– “I’m have many assignments that has to be done quick with little or no time for planning in advance and sometimes even less time for the actual shot. In my bag I always carry 2-3 small flashguns and a radio transmitter. These often has a tendency to boost creativity instead of getting locked in to the correctness that big machines can create due to there physical dimension (where to place and the hell of replacing).

This shot with musical artist Martin Stenmarck is one of those shots. We had some minutes and the hotell was not to keen upon having their lobby turned into a studio. Small flash on tripod from an angle to the right of me and another small flash behind Martin from behind to put some shine on his bike and some rime on him did the job easy and good. Exisiting bulb light for the background.”