I was using various softboxes for most of our product photography, but about a half a year ago I discovered a perfect use of translucent diffuser panels in product photography. I am talking about usually small product with glossy reflective surface with inevitable reflection form the lights on it.
The main difference between softbox and diffuser panel is how the light is spread on the “working” surface: good softbox is suppose to produce even flat light on its front screen while diffuser may have very different pattern, depending on how we highlight it. What does it mean for me when I shoot some glossy, especially dark glossy object? The reflection from that light.
Reflection will be very different: softbox always gives sharp-edged square while diffuser panel can produce very uneven, gradient filling. Gradient is the key: it can be round, square or linear, whatever I need to show on the object.
Below is the example images I’ve got while shooting line of cosmetic brushes for Anisa International. Managed by Anisa Tewlar, company makes high-quality cosmetic brushes and accessories, I am really glad to work with them.
Top-down shot of the black glossy brush, done with two softboxes on each side of the brush:
Do you see? Both softboxes is completely visible on the brush, and while it is not looking bad, the whole picture can be misleading: It is not quite understandable is it a reflection on brush or brush has such white inserts? Also, this is not the best way to show the shape of the brush handle… Think how this image will look on a small catalog insert or on the package.
Now, let’s add a translucent diffuser panels between the brush and softboxes ( I was using both panels from Westcott Illuminator Reflector Kit 6-in-1 – 52″, but any other will work just fine). I’ve lowered the lights and moved them away from the table, knowing it will be more spread on the diffuser:
Now we have an additional media to project our light, and this way it is very easy to get a nice gradient light on the diffuser. This is exactly what I want to see on the brush: a smooth gradient reflection:
Gradient light gives us a very good idea of a cylindrical shape of the brush handle, a very nice dark edge around glowing panels makes image even more appealing to the eye.
This technique can be used with or without sofboxes, for any relatively small object. On the video below I’ve switched from sofboxes to a spot lights (original 7” Paul C. Buff reflector with a honeycomb grid) aimed to a diffusers with a sharp angle, creating a linear spots on it.
Here are few more brush sets from the same lighting setup (with diffusers):
A little video tutorial from the photoshot:
Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:
All shots were done with: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F13, ISO 100