Why to Apply Portraiture Lighting Techniques to Product Photography

Product photography lighting need not be a complicated process. Especially if you’re already adept at lighting subjects in portraiture, then the principles are similar. As with portraiture, you are trying to find the best angle and the best side of the product you are photographing.

More than being able to accurately depict the product, photographers also use lighting techniques to give drama and to tell a story. This is applicable both to portraiture and product photography.

Lighting Faces

There are two main things you have to concern yourself with in lighting portraits. The subject has to look flattering, and the lighting has to tell a story. There are several ways to light a portrait, but there are some lighting basics to start with.

Rarely are your subjects facing the camera directly; they will often be angled with one side of their face turned away from the camera. The side facing the camera is called the Broad Side, and the other side angled away is the Short Side. If you want your subject to appear bigger, then illuminate the Broad Side more. For a more chiseled effect and to create more shadows, light should come from the Short Side.

For a more dramatic and mysterious look, photographers might opt for the Rembrandt Lighting style, wherein there’s just one visible light source. Or, the Split Lighting could be applicable, where light is coming directly from the side.

Applying Techniques to Product Photography

Just like in photographing people, products are usually angled to create a more dynamic look. If you want the product to appear larger, then light up the Broad Side. For a slimmer and more dramatic effect, you may concentrate lighting on the Short Side of the product. There are times that you will be photographing products with no obvious Broad or Short side, such as a bottle. In this case, it’s still possible to employ Portraiture Lighting techniques.

Angle your light to hit the side that’s facing the camera for Broad Lighting. If you want more of a silhouette, then place the lighting further, and more on the side that the camera doesn’t see. For creating a more dramatic effect, you can use Side Lighting on the bottle. One half will be illuminated, while the other half will be completely in shadow. This will make your product appear mysterious. This is the same effect this technique has on portraits.

With portraiture, you can sometimes use head lighting to separate the subject from the background. This is when a hard light is angled to outline the subject’s hair. If you want to create more depth in your product photography, you can also manipulate a bright light to outline your product.

As with both portrait and product photography, it’s best to use soft light instead of hard light. Make sure that the shadows cast by your subjects are soft and diffused. If they are stark dark shadows, then your lighting is too hard. Soft lighting creates a glossier and more professional look, and it is more effective at making your product appear flawless.