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How to Use Natural Lighting for Product Photography (A Quick Guide)

natural lighting product photography

Photographing products is ideally conducted with natural lighting which is the premier choice due to the soft, genuine lustre it imparts. This enlightens the visual appeal of the merchandise and as a result, the resulting pictures exude a more innate and natural vibe, reflecting how they are seen in reality by the naked eye.

The best part is that natural light is free. If you’re on a tight budget, you can take advantage of natural light to get great product photos. Not only will you get the same effect as the ones shot in a professional studio, you also don’t have to stretch your budget purchasing or renting lighting equipment that costs a fortune.

But the thing is, it is a bit tricky to use. Obviously, you can’t control the weather, so you’ll need to be patient and wait for a sunny day. It requires a lot of planning and checking the weather forecast in advance so you can be prepared.

When you do have a sunny day, take advantage of it and set up your product photography shoot outdoors. Find a spot with diffused sunlight, such as under a tree or next to a building. You don’t want direct sunlight, as it will create harsh shadows.

If you can’t find diffused sunlight, you can create your own diffused light by using a sheer curtain or white bedsheet. Hang the fabric over your product so that the sun shines through it and creates a soft, even light.

In this guide, our creative product photo editors share some valuable tips on how to use natural light for product photography. By following these tips, you can take advantage of the free and beautiful light source to create stunning product photos.

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What is Product Photography Lighting?

Product photography lighting is the process of using light to create great photographs of products. The right lighting can make a product look more appealing, making it more likely to sell. Product photography lighting can be done in a studio or on location.

There are three main types of lighting used in product photography:


  • Natural light

This is the light from the sun or moon. It is the most common type of lighting used in product photography as it is free and creates a soft, natural-looking light.

When taking a photo using natural light, you can expect the end product to look like how you would see the product in real life. This is because the light source (the sun or moon) is very close to us, so it casts a soft and diffused light.

The only downside to it, as we’ve mentioned, is that you cannot control it. You’ll need to wait for a sunny day to get the best natural light.


  • Artificial light

This is light that is created by man-made sources, such as lamps, flashlights, and studio lights. The main benefit of artificial light is that you can control the direction, intensity, and color of the light. This means you can create any type of lighting to make your product photos look more appealing.

The downside to using artificial light is that it can be expensive to set up. You’ll need to purchase or rent studio lights, which can cost a fortune.


  • Mixed light

This is a combination of natural and artificial light. Mixed light is often used in on-location shoots where you take advantage of the natural light available, supplemented with artificial light.

This is the most versatile type of lighting as you can control the overall light, as well as create specific areas of light and shadow. The only downside is that it can be tricky to set up, as you’ll need to balance the two light sources.

When taking product photos, you’ll need to consider the following factors:


  • The product itself

Size, shape, and color all influence how you light your product. You’ll need to take these factors into account to create the best possible photo.


  • The type of light

As we’ve mentioned, there are three main types of light: natural, artificial, and mixed. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so you’ll need to choose the right one for your needs.


  • The location

This includes both indoor and outdoor settings. The location will affect the type of light available, as well as the background of your photo.


  • The time of day

This is particularly important when using natural light. The time of day will determine the intensity and direction of the light, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

When it comes to product photography, lighting is everything. Therefore, it is one of the crucial things you need to prepare ahead if you’re planning a product photoshoot soon—especially if you’re looking to do it DIY style.

lighting product photography

How to Set Up Natural Lighting for Product Photography

Now that you know the basics of product photography lighting, it’s time to learn how to set it up. Here are the most important notes you should remember:

Indoor Product Photoshoot Lighting Setup

Now that you know how to set up natural lighting for product photography, let’s look at an indoor setup. This is a great option if you can’t shoot outdoors or if the weather isn’t cooperating.

1. Find your light source

The first step is to set up your light source. If you’re using natural light, set up your product near a window. Make sure the blinds are open, or use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light.

You want to place your product where the light is coming from the side. This will create shadows that give your image dimension and depth. Avoid placing your product directly in front of the window, as this will cause flat, one-dimensional photos.

2. Use a reflector

As we mentioned earlier, reflectors are a great way to fill in any dark or shadowed areas. If you’re using natural light indoors, your reflector should be placed on the opposite side of the light source.

3. Use diffusers

To use a diffuser with natural light, you need to place it between the light source and your product. This will help soften the light and avoid overexposed photos.

4. Experiment with different angles

If you’re shooting indoors, try moving your product around to different angles. This will help you find the best possible light for your photos.

5. Take advantage of natural light at different times of day

Remember, the time of day will affect the quality of light coming through your window. So, if you’re looking for softer, warmer light, shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

6. Shoot in manual mode

For the best results, we recommend shooting in manual mode. This gives you complete control over the camera settings, so you can adjust them to get the perfect photo.

If you’re new to photography, manual mode can seem daunting. But don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it seems. There are plenty of tutorials and resources online that can help you learn the basics.

7. Use a tripod

A tripod is an essential piece of equipment for product photography. It helps keep your camera steady, so you can avoid blurry or unusable images.

If you don’t have a tripod, you can try using a stack of books or anything else that’s sturdy and stable. Just make sure the surface is level, so your camera doesn’t topple over.

Outdoor Product Photoshoot Lighting Setup

Outdoor product photography is a bit different from indoor photography. The main difference is that you have to deal with changing light conditions. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of natural light outdoors.

1. Plan ahead

The key to any successful photoshoot is planning. This includes figuring out the location, time of day, type of light, and other factors. Again, we couldn’t stress enough the unpredictability of natural light. So, you must have a backup plan if the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of your shoot.

Make sure you check on weather reports a few days leading up to your photoshoot. This way, you can adjust your schedule accordingly.

2. Shoot during the golden hour

The golden hour is the time just after sunrise or before sunset. This is when the light is soft and warm, making it perfect for photography.

If you can, try to schedule your photoshoot during the golden hour. This will help you get the most beautiful and flattering light for your product photos.

2. Use a reflector

If you can’t shoot during the golden hour, don’t worry. You can still get great photos by using a reflector.

A reflector is a piece of white or silver cardboard that reflects light back onto your subject. This helps to brighten up the photo and avoid overexposed areas. Without a reflector, your images may look flat and one-dimensional.

3. Shoot in the shade

If you’re shooting outdoors, it’s best to find a spot in the shade. This will help avoid harsh shadows and overexposed areas in your photos.

When the sunlight is too harsh, it can create unwelcome shadows on your product. This is why shooting in the shade is a good idea to get a more even and flattering light for your photos.

4. Use a diffuser

If you’re using a flash outdoors, we recommend using a diffuser. This will help to soften the light and avoid overexposing your product.

A diffuser is a piece of semi-transparent material that you place over the flash. This helps to diffuse the light and create a more natural look. If you’re on a budget, you can even use a white sheet of paper or cloth as a diffuser.

5. Experiment with different angles

When shooting outdoors, you can try different angles to get the best shot. For example, you can shoot from above or below your product. You can also try different perspectives, such as shooting from the side or behind your subject.

The key is to experiment and see what works best for your product. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. So, have fun and see what looks best!

product photography lighting techniques

Product Photography Lighting Techniques

At the end of the day, it’s all about manipulating the light. And there are a few ways you can do that to get the perfect shot. Here are some lighting techniques that you can try for your product photography.

1. Backlighting

Backlighting is when you place the light behind your subject. This creates a halo or silhouette effect around the product. It’s a great way to make your product stand out from the background.

To set up backlighting, you’ll need to position your product so that the light is behind it. Then, use a reflector in front of the product to bounce some light back onto it. This will help to soften the shadows and create a more even exposure.

2. Side lighting

Side lighting is when you place the light to the side of your subject. This creates more contrast in the photo and can help to highlight the texture.

To set up side lighting, position your product so the light is coming from the side. Then, use a reflector on the opposite side to bounce some light back onto the product. This will help to soften the shadows and create a more even exposure.

3. Front-lighting

Front lighting is when you place the light in front of your subject. This is the most common type of lighting for product photography. It’s flattering and can help to avoid harsh shadows.

To set up front lighting, position your product so the light is coming from the front. Then, use a reflector on the opposite side to bounce some light back onto the product. This will help to soften the shadows and create a more even exposure.

4. Top lighting

Top lighting is when you place the light above your subject. This can help to highlight texture and create interesting shadows.

To set up top lighting, position your product, so the light is coming from above. Then, use a reflector on the opposite side to bounce some light back onto the product. This will help to soften the shadows and create a more even exposure.


Additional Lighting Tips

Take your time and learn how to understand lighting. Many photographers are unwilling to devote the necessary amount of time to learning about it. All they want to do is snap picture after picture, which shouldn’t be the case. Before moving on, you need to be patient, take your time, and understand what lighting can do for you.

The light, as you may guess, can make or break a photograph. It’s easy to believe that post-production lighting changes are the way to go—but it’s not. You must get the lighting correct from the beginning for your pictures to be of high quality.

The size of the light you use will directly impact the quality and softness of shadows in your photograph. Harder shadows are created using a small light, whereas softer shadows result from using a larger light source.
You must know the difference between soft and hard light. You should use hard light to demonstrate a product’s texture if you want to show it. The disadvantage is that it might create reflections on items with glossy surfaces.

Another significant element to consider is the light’s position. Should you direct the light upward, downward, behind, or side? This is something that you discover over time through trial and error.

Not only does the brightness of light affect a photo, but also how close or far away the light is. A lightbulb placed further from the subject will appear dimmer than one that is close. When taking a photo, frontal lighting creates fewer shadows, whereas side lighting produces more shadows.

Product photography also requires a specific type of lighting. When it comes to texture, side and lower light are the greatest methods to add it.

Product Photography Editing Service

At Pixel by Hand, we’ve been helping businesses improve their product photography for years. We know how to make your products look their best, no matter what you sell.

We’ve built a reputation as being one of the most trusted product photography editing services for our dedication to quality and customer service. When you work with us, you can be sure that your photos will be edited by a team of experienced professionals who understand the importance of getting it right.

If you need help getting started, our editing services can give you a hand. We can edit your photos to bring out the best in them, whether it’s improving the lighting or retouching the product itself.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our product photography services. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have—say hello using the chatbox below.

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