Some help with lightning for product photography.


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Feb 22, 2012
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Raleigh, NC
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In my best attempt to avoid making a post I tried to do some searches and wasn't able to really come up with a solution to my question. I do graphic design for my employer. The company is looking to start doing some stuff "in house" and asked if I could try my hand at some product photography. I am not shooting anything difficult, solid color objects pretty much. I need to mainly get shots for the website and also forward shots to our suppliers for their websites.

I have a Canon T3I and to get my feet wet, I used some shop lights and a DIY light box.

While photography is clearly a work in progress for me I am looking to step-up my lightning situation to something better and more portable. I am going to purchase a light tent 30" and I am looking for suitable lightning for it. In addition to using a light tent I need to take images of some of the products being held. I wouldn't have the actual talent in the shot, only the product and their hands so I could focus light there. I think I want soft boxes for this? I would remove the diffusion panel when using the light box and re-add it when taking pictures against a backdrop. Based on my research I think this is a good direction to go?

There are so many manufacturers who make these soft boxes, I am having a hard time figuring out what is a good value.

I look at something like this - Cool Flo 2400 Watt - 4 Bank Dual Studio Lighting Kit by TubeTape and it seems very flexible with the ability to turn on each bulb. Is using this 30" light box and running the lights at a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio overkill? Can I overkill?

Then I look at something like this - Khl Lite<sup><font size="1">®</font></sup> 120 & 30 Softbox Combo Kit and while I save some money, it seems like a lot less power and you cannot control the bulbs individually nor does the device come with the ability to hold an umbrella.

I did read that your lightning is as only as good as your shutter-speed? Do I go with one of these options or can somebody point me in another direction?

I was on you tube and somebody said this was good lightning - QL 1000 - 2000watt Dual Softbox Kit by TubeTape and as well as this

tried to go to my local camera shop this afternoon but they were limited on this kind of stuff and was trying to sell me their lightning which was severely marked-up.

I would really appreciate some advice.

Thank you.
What was it that Obi Wan said to Luke?...."You have taken your first step into a larger world".

The type of lighting and modifiers that are best suited for a shot, are largely determined by the reflectance properties of the subject and (of course) your goals for the photo.

Some things would greatly benefit from being shot in a light tent, and with other things, it wouldn't matter at all.
I teach a lighting class that covers a lot of techniques for product photography, and part of the class is going from one product to another. The goal of the assignment is to have the students reevaluate their lighting based on the characteristics of the new product.
So, my point is...if you don't have a basic understanding of light and reflectance, it will be difficult to choose/use different lighting gear.
I'd recommend the book: "Light: Science & Magic."

I did read that your lightning is as only as good as your shutter-speed?
Shutter speed is one (of three) aspects that control exposure. It doesn't directly control or relate to the quality of light though.
For typical product photography, the product isn't moving, so if you put the camera onto a tripod (so it's not moving either), you can use any shutter speed and get a sharp shot. But if your subject (or your camera) are not perfectly still, then you'll likely have to use a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze the movement. In order to achieve that (while keeping the other exposure factors in control), may require a large amount of light.
So if you're just shooting still objects, it doesn't really matter how powerful your light are. But if you're going to shoot something that isn't still (product in someone's hand) then you may need more powerful lights (of flash/strobe).
So if you were going to mainly be shooting people, I'd recommend flash/strobe type lights, rather than the continuous type that you're looking at. But for still subjects, continuous lights are fine.

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