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I am going to be doing some product photography but I am running into an issue. This issue is achieving the proper lighting. My ideal setup would be a light tent with a few lights and my issues would go away. However, I am in a situation where I do not have the luxury of setting up a light tent nor using extra lights. I have considered using a speedlight with a diffuser attached to help add more light to the photos.

I will be shooting products from books to glass artwork. Is there any advice on what I should try to get the best possible photos of these products if I cannot setup a light tent or access additional lights?

Note: I am using a Nikon D5100.

  • Mary Grum's answer is good, but bear in mind you can make an inpromptu light tent with a cardboard box and some thin white paper. – ElendilTheTall Feb 22 '13 at 21:25
  • I agree with Elendil. You can get take a cardboard box, cut a hole the top and sides and cover those with white paper. Put the box over the objects and you have a light tent. Bounce the flash off a wall and you can get some nice light with shadows to add definition to the objects. Also, you can avoid reflections from shiny objects. If you really can't do this and must use on camera flash get one of the many on flash devices to soften and spread the flash. – JerryKur Oct 2 '14 at 16:05
  • This is why every photographer should always wear a clean white undershirt. – Caleb Jan 29 '18 at 20:39
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Bouncing a zoomed out speedlight off the ceiling of a small white room will give you a very nice even light for product photography. You can even keep the flash on camera and make use of TTL if it has a swivel head.

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I would do a bump flash (bounce it off the ceiling like Matt Grum mentions) in a white room with a piece of white cardstock behind the flash to redirect a little of the light straight forward. The Speedlight 600EX has a little card for this purpose built right in and it does a fantastic job with bump lighting.

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Many objects can be photographed satisfactorily by putting them in a clean white bathtub and, if necessary, illuminating the bathtub with a simple multi-LED worklight (the kind you can find in a tool store for $10-15). The light reflects onto the object from around the bathtub and you have a uniform white background. Unlike a light tent or light table, many (or most ?) people have a bathtub. It takes a couple of minutes to set up and zero minutes to dismantle.

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It’s possible to take product shots without a tent. In my career, only for my one project, I have used it that was to oblige a greater amount of a sequential construction system way to deal with shooting over 2k items in a short period of time. The quality of the shots didn’t matter as much as they were scaled down very far in resolution and the products were by no means fancy or expensive. I never EVER use a tent otherwise. One can have much greater control over lighting using modifiers (softboxes, umbrella, bounce cards, homemade scrims) than a tent. The tent does give some nice, 360-degree softly-diffused lighting but ultimately makes it harder to refine the lighting. Also, the tent will greatly limit the space in which you can add bounce cards and other modifiers to work on your shadows and lighting angles. I’m not quite sure why so many people go straight to a tent...

I built a large diffuser out of scrim material, PVC pipes, PVC elbows, and some clamps. This was to provide some “bright window”-type lighting and it worked pretty well. With this, I use strobes, but one could use any other type of bright light source for the shot.

For other modifiers, I use simple foam core pieces in white and black. White to bounce light and black to reduce odd reflections or to tone downlight at certain angles.

It would be wise to invest in some small strobes or at the very least some continuous lighting.

For this situation, the camera body you're utilizing doesn't make a difference. Quality glass and time spent on lighting will take you farther than anything :)

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the trick i use when i do product photography in a client's place is i always carry with me few sheets of copy paper that defuses light really well. i would then shoot on a tripod and use a timer.

i then set the image and make sure everything is focused and set up right. when the timer is on i grab the copy paper sheet and hold it to mask and defuse the light in accordance of what the product demands.

you can check out my product photography work

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