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Product photography lighting options are plentiful these days thanks to the freedom that digital cameras now provide.

studio-craft-photographyNatural light is the most important and powerful tool available for online sellers and it is free to everybody in the world. Understanding how natural light works and how to work with it effectively is one of the key ways in which all of us can improve our product photos without spending more money on fancy photographic equipment.

We’ll start with the simplest and cheapest and work up to the more complex and expensive product photography lighting – the daylight!

Check this video by Jody Dole to learn a few tips and tricks in taking a picture of your images using natural light:

Camera Settings

Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO are the three factors that determine your picture’s exposure. Finding the right balance between these three settings is key to getting the perfect shot. Here’s an overview of these three:

Aperture – A wider aperture means less of the photograph will be in focus, which is something that’s generally visually pleasing and isn’t seen as a downside. If you’ve seen photographs with a subject in focus and beautiful blurred backgrounds, this is often the effect of a wide aperture

Shutter Speed – Slow shutter speeds pose a problem when you’re shooting handheld and/or your subject is moving. This is why you wouldn’t want a shutter speed any slower than 1/30th of a second when photographing handheld (unless you’re known for your remarkably still hands!). In general, you want to use the fastest shutter speed you can.

ISO – ISO settings can be anywhere from 24 to 6,400 (or higher), and these numbers have a direct relationship with the device’s sensitivity, so a lower setting makes it less sensitive and a high setting makes it more so.
The advantage of a low ISO is that the light in a given exposure is more accurately represented. This works great in capturing your handmade products using natural light. If you’ve seen photos at night, the lights often look like they’re much brighter and bleeding into other areas of the photo. This is the result of a high ISO—a greater sensitivity to light. High ISOs are particularly useful for picking up more detail in a dark photograph without reducing the shutter speed or widening the aperture more than you want to, but it comes at a cost.

Post Processing

No matter how good our cameras are, we will not be able to capture the entire tonal range created by some of the more challenging lighting situations, without the aid of post-processing software such as using Photoshop.

Limitations

Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting. Natural light can be the best choice for some products. It’s soft and imparts color in a way that artificial lighting doesn’t. For some products, especially those with lots of detail, manipulating light sources may be a better option. Also, daylight can be variable and short lived depending on the time of year and your location.

But don’t worry, you can always create an indoor craft photography studio on a budget.

No matter how much you try to capture the best images of your handicrafts, nothing beats actually making photos. The best way of improving and bettering your understanding of natural light is to keep the above mentioned tips in mind and to photograph as much as you can, in as many different lighting scenarios and camera settings as possible.

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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