Product photography lighting tips&tricks: working with reflective objects

This is my fourth post about photography we are doing for Anisa International. All the brushes we shot has highly reflective surface, and I was always using diffuser panels to build the lighting. However, each time lighting  setup was a little bit different: I was experimenting and learning at some degree, every time trying to improve the lighting.

Let me summarize  my previous shots posted here:

On the current shot  I’ve used a combination of a diffuser panel and strip box to create desired effect: Sharp reflection on one side and smooth gradient light on the opposite side of the brush. This is the most common, “classic” way to shoot reflective stuff. Sharp reflection shows the true gloss of the product’s surface while soft gradient preserves the shape of the product, emphasize its roundness.

product photography example cosmetic brush set by photigy

Let me show you how we did it this time.

The lighting setup:

product photography lighting setup reflective objects by atlanta photographer

product photography lighting setup for reflective objects by atlanta photographer

Same thing from top:

product photography lighting setup reflective objects by alex koloskov

product photography lighting setup reflective objects by alex koloskov

I hope the setup will be self-explainable enough, so I’ll be relatively (:-) brief in its description:

Number 1 and 2 is a foam and plastic reflector screen. Instead of putting the light on both sides of the set I’ve used these screens and light number 5 (10º honeycomb grid on the Einstein 640) to get areas in front and behind the set highlighted. Notice that foam screen (number 1) is also blocking direct light from the hi-intense spot light source (number 5), protecting the brush set from unwanted harsh reflection. Aimed slightly above, spot light hits curved reflector (number 2), spreading the reflected soft light back to the subject.

There is a diffuser panel on the right (Westcott Illuminator Reflector Kit 6-in-1 – 52″), highlighted from behind by WL X1600 (number 6) through 20º honeycomb grid. It was very easy to modulate the shape of the reflection it produced on the brushes by moving the number 6 from the diffuser panel: gradient gets sharper when we have light closer to a diffuser, and the opposite, softer gradient when spot is moved away from the panel.
that our spot hits diffuser at the sharp angle, creating strip-box like shape of the highlighted area.

Strip box on the left (number 4, on the Einstein 640) was there to produce that hard line on the left side of the brushes. This line is what helps to produce that glossy look I was trying to achieve.

I’ve utilized the same lighting setup (changed the power and ratio of the lights)  to shoot the pouch for the set, combining them together during PP. I’ve added gray reflector on the left to cover the area between strip box (number 4) and the camera. It was necessary to get even spread of light on the center of our pouch.

The final look:

final image product photography atlanta tutorial

final image of the brush set

Camera was directly on top, I’ve used Manfrotto Hot Shoe Double Bubble Level to make sure camera is horizontal. One more interesting tool I’ve utilized (first time) in this shot is canon precise focus, as a feature of the live view functionality.
Because the camera was about 6 feet high from the ground, it was hard to reach it and look through the viewfinder to set the focus. This is where EOS Utility with its live view and remote focus become very handy. Check out the video:

Camera gear:

Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F18, ISO 100

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About The Author: Alex Koloskov

The lighting magician, owner of AKELstudio, Inc.

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10 comments to Product photography lighting tips&tricks: working with reflective objects

  • Hey Alex,

    Thank you for the insightful post. I was looking around trying to find a source for the “plastic reflector screen” you used in this shoot. I can’t seem to find anything like it. Does it go by another name or might you have a link to your source?

  • Kirti Shah

    So, it looks like yes, using Nikon capture you can do the same

  • Vu Duc Thao

    Hi Alex,
    I am really like your all works. I am interested in Jewelry photography. I use Nikon D200 and 105mm Macro. Can I ask you does Nikon has Utility like Canon as you using?
    (im sorry to ask you that question, because im not a photographer, im a graphic designer, im just interested in jewelry photos.)
    Thank you very Alex :)

  • Can you expand on how you combined them in post for such a realistic look? I suspect it was more simple than I thought, and I am overthinking it. Did shooting on the white allow you to use a blend mode to knock out most of the bg in the top/overlaid image or was it all cut out?

    • Jason,
      It was all cut out, as we prefer it over a blending: this will ensure we won’t have any problems in a future with print production or further manipulation, as client may want to use these images somewhere else, with different background, etc.

  • Ah, I’ve been considering a pedastil… Right now I usually mount my camera on a backdrop cross bar using one of these:
    I also sometimes use this on a tripod:
    The “swizel” screen is just me being silly. I’m referring to the articulating LCD on the back of the new 60D. Very useful for product photography and for shooting video. ;)

    • Oh, I see. Did not know that 60D has such. nice!
      BTW, such studio stands is not expensive (used at ebay), I’ve got mine for $400 (about 10 times less from its original price). The only problem with the delivery:-)
      Thanks for the info.

  • Alex – great work as always. How are you supporting the camera for these shots? I can’t make out which camera pedastil you are using… Also, thanks for the focus adjustment demo in EOS Utility. I usually just manually focus using Live View in tethered mode, but your suggestion is a good one when I can’t get my laptop close enough to see the screen while I manually focus. I also have to say now with the swizel screen on my 60D I don’t need to shoot tethered as often. I can often just use the camera LCD rotated towards me for focus and composition.

    • Peter,
      For all in studio work use now this monster, Fatif camera stand:

      It weights about 150 pounds, and so much more convenient then any tripod I had.. I’ve got my laptop mounted on other side of horizontal beam, now the whole thing travels along with the camera:-)

      What is the swizel screen you mentioned? Have a link?
      Thank you!

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