my lighting set up, with hopefully helpful captions

A couple weeks ago I started an Etsy shop (Crotchety Mama) with my mom. She makes most (but not all) of the stuff, and I do the photography and most (but not all) of the shop management stuff. This means that close to 100% of the photography I’ve done since the shop opened has been product photography. I like it. It’s very close to still life photography, which I always liked, and it lets me work on my lighting, which is about 70% of what makes any photograph. (It goes something like this, in my opinion: 70% lighting + 20% composition + 10% content = awesome.)

I have a little “set” on my dining room table, by a window, which is where I’m getting all my light. I do have off camera flash, but since my¬†cheap wireless triggerbroke (not dissing it; it lasted about as long as you could reasonably expect) I have no way to fire it until I get a PC cord. Natural light is a lot easier to work with anyway. Unless it’s raining. Or night time. Er. Anyway!

The plexiglass is for reflections. I’m not totally sure whether this actually makes the photos look better, but I think we’re all so used to seeing it in product photography that we somehow associate it with professional photography. Or maybe it’s just me? I looked at my first versions that had no plexiglass underneath and had a sort of kneejerk “NEEDS MORE REFLECTION” reaction. Here’s another view, more straight on:

another view

When I started out taking this kind of photo (small things that don’t move, if that can be called a category of photography), I didn’t honestly believe that reflectors would make that much difference. I was wrong. They make all the difference!

series of photos showing different lighting setups

(if you click to embiggen the differences will be more obvious)

Last one looks a bit dark, right? I’ve found that if I underexpose a tiny bit and then brighten it in Lightroom, the colors stay truer. Flash: I use the pop up flash on my camera for front fill, with the power dialed down as far as it goes, which is 1/128th power on mine, and I hold a piece of parchment paper in front of it to diffuse it.

finished product

brightened and with the blacks pulled up

Looks a bit over-saturated? Yeah. The way Etsy compresses photos when you upload them really dulls them down, so I tend to over-saturate in compensation. When it’s uploaded hopefully it will look more like this:

more or less finished version

I’ll probably mess with it more before I have a final version I’m totally happy with, and I’m always trying to find ways to do it better, but this is my general process. I’m not an expert, clearly. I’d love to hear what other people do. :)