Hey there, Matt Reed here from Perth Product Photography. I have another tip for you… this one is about using the wrong lighting setup.
This was a happy accident discovery a few years ago so I've stuck with it and it's led to some interesting new lighting techniques that I never would have found.
In the studio here we do a really broad range of photography. We were photographing lots of food one day. Now with food photography, you typically fairly heavily back-light the photo and I thought, hmmm, interesting… we haven't really done a lot of back-lighting with other types of photos we take. We also do a lot of commercial business portraits, and so I thought, what if I lit a person's head like I would a pizza. This is a crazy thing to say I know, but bear with me. It was a pretty fascinating experiment and it has led to some interesting experimentation.
So here is where it gets a little more practical.
We are often photographing a number of different types of products in the studio. You might do the same at home, especially if you're trying to build up a portfolio or just trying to practice with different products. Now here's the trap…. As we get more competent, we start to get a bit of an idea about how a product should be lit. Like, here's a wine bottle, it should be lit this kind of way. Here's a plate of food, it should be lit this kind of way. Here's a sneaker, this is how it should be lit.
Typically, what we found was you put the sneaker on the table, you start with how you think it should be lit, setup the lights and then you take the photo. After the first shot, refine the light until it’s perfected. Then the next photo might be a bottle of wine. So clearly you’re not going to light a bottle like a sneaker, so you change the lighting setup, get the setup to a point where you think it should be a good place to start for a bottle, and then start from there.
What we started doing is whenever we've got a lighting setup for a particular product, when switching to a different product, before automatically changing the lighting to how we think it should be, we take a shot with that exact same wrong setup.
Now sometimes the photo might look completely rubbish, so clearly it's the wrong setup. Change it up and move on. However, often it will either surprise you and actually look really nice, or in more cases there might be one particular little reflection or effect that's caused by a light in a certain position that you never would have thought to put there. Excellent! So you keep that light which is giving you that cool effect and then start improving the other areas of the product so they look their best.
So even as you get competent, resist the urge to get too predetermined about how the lighting setup should be in theory. By taking a quick shot using the setup from your last project shot, you'll probably stumble across some pretty happy accidents.
Over time, this will build out your skillset and give you much more experience in more intricate lighting setups.
Try it and please let me know if you stumble across any weird and wonderful unexpected results.
Look forward to hearing from you
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