Studio lighting
Proper exposure
Studio Flash
50 skills to take a good photo
Photographing children and people
Photo tips


Studio Lighting


Lighting is just as important to creating great photos as a digital camera.  You can spend lots of money on a sophisticated camera but if you don't have an adequate lighting setup, it will show in your photos. 


Studio lighting can be broken down into two categories, continuous and flash. Continuous lighting has many advantages when photographing products.

  • It's relatively inexpensive, and makes a good starting point for anyone on a small budget.

  • You can see what the light is doing and where the shadows and highlights are. What you see is what you get.

  • Some continuous light produce more heat than light, very uncomfortable!  Compact fluorescent bulb produce more light than heat.  They operate cool, energy efficient, long lasting, and some are daylight balanced with good color rendering.  Compact Studio Lights

There are several types of continuous lights that produce more heat than light such as tungsten, incandescent, or flood lamps.  These bulbs have a color temperature (the color of the light) around 2,700K-3,600K.  To your eyes, the light from a tungsten bulb looks white, but it isn't. Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, daylight is around 5,000K-5,500K and a tungsten bulb is more like 2,800K and therefore records on daylight balanced film as yellow.


The big issue with tungsten is the filament in the bulb burns and leaves a small residue on the inside of the glass bulb. This means that the color of the light gradually becomes more yellow as the bulb ages. Adjusting for tungsten color balance can be corrected through your camera or with software but can be complicated.


This brings us to flash. Studio strobe lights are great for portrait photography because they can produce a lot of light with less heat ?more comfortable for a model.  Studio strobe lights could work fine with product photography but requires more space and you donít see what you get.  With strobes, it may be difficult to get a long depth of field shot a sharp photograph but its great for quick, repetitious shots where depth-of-field is not critical such as school photography or portraits for ID cards.


In retrospect, we developed the D-Flector to provide the simplest way to get a quick photo without the hassle.  The D-Flectorís unique reflective background can provide great product shots without spending time setting up lighting, allocating dedicated space, or intricate knowledge of photo software tools to ready product images for marketing purposes.


Color Temperature

By convention, yellow-red colors (like the flames of a fire) are considered warm, and blue-green colors (like light from an overcast sky) are considered cool. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) temperature. Cool light is preferred for visual tasks because it produces higher contrast than warm light. Warm light is preferred for living spaces because it is more flattering to skin tones and clothing.


Household lights with a color temperature of 2700?600 K (left) is generally used for most indoor general and task lighting applications. Daylight color temperature (right) lighting is preferred for product photography and the film industry because it provides the best contrast with primary colors.


1700 K

Match flame

1850 K


2800 K

Tungsten lamps

3000 K

Household light bulbs

3400 K

Studio lamps, photofloods, etc...

4100 K

Clear flash bulbs

5000 K


5500 K

The sun at noon

6000 K

Bright sunshine on clear day

6420 K

Xenon arc lamp

7000 K

Slight overcast day

11000 K

Sunless blue skies


Color Rendition

Color rendering is how colors appear when illuminated by a light source and can be considered as important to light quality as color temperature. Most objects are not a single color, but a combination of many colors. Light sources that are deficient in certain colors may change the apparent color of an object. The Color Rendition Index (CRI) is a 1?00 scale that measures a light source's ability to render colors the same way sunlight does. The top value of the CRI scale (100) is based on illumination by a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. A light source with a CRI of 80 or higher is considered acceptable for most indoor residential applications.



The excessive brightness from a direct light source that makes it difficult to see what one wishes to see. A bright object in front of a dark background usually will cause glare. Bright lights reflecting off a television or computer screen or even a printed page produces glare. Intense light sources—such as bright incandescent lamps—are likely to produce more direct glare than fluorescent lamps. However, glare is primarily the result of relative placement of light sources and the objects being viewed.


Basic Studio Setup


A typical studio for product photography includes a background, lights, tripod and other accessories.  Most home business owners use their garage or small office for their studio setup.  These studios can take up a lot of space especially with a background hanging from the ceiling and light stands carrying high-powered lamps by make-shift electrical wiring.  If not done correctly, it will show in the pictures.



The ideal studio background for selling items over the internet is a clean, non-distractive background.  The D-Flector photo studio resembles a briefcase and unfolds into a tabletop background stand.  It contains a reflective background that "illuminates" when photographed with flash. The result is a pure white background image with a floating-on-air effect used in catalogs, publications, advertising materials and web sites.  It also includes a matte white background when soft lighting is more desirable and a black background for adding contrast to white of shiny items.


Using our Reflective Background

The D-Flector contains a unique reflective background that illuminates when photographed with flash or strobe lighting as the main light source. The background of the photograph is captured with a pure white background color. The object appears to be floating-on-air. Using the reflective background with an on-camera flash can be the easiest way to achieve a pure white background!  The D-Flector is very affordable, easy to use and produces great results very quickly.

Other white backdrop materials (like paper or muslin) can leave a grayish background tone.  The D-Flector contains fine glass particles under the photographic surface that redirects light back to the source to give you that even white background.  Because of this, the D-Flector background appears grayish until flash/strobe is applied and captured.


The D-Flector has a reflective background material. When used with flash lighting, the result is a virtual invisible background. The products' shape is revealed even in a smaller thumbnail view.

Here's an attempt to remove background distractions using a white backdrop. Most white background materials will leave a muddy gray or yellow appearance.


Flash Angle

The D-Flector's reflective background is designed to open at a right angle for a seamless background. Place your item directly on the reflective background and position your camera at a minimum angle of 30?above the reflective surface.  The camera will capture the background reflection from the flash as a pure white color.


To achieve good exposure for product photography

Cameras use a method called 'Evaluative Mode' or 'Multi-Matrix' metering for adjusting exposure.  The term may differ between camera models and manufacturer, but are generally similar variations on how the camera measures the scene for good exposure.  Evaluative Mode or Multi-Matrix metering takes several points in the scene and averages the grayness of these points to come out with an approximate 18% gray exposure.  All colors reflect light at a certain gray value and 18% gray is the standard in the photography industry for good exposure.


Adjust exposure by changing the Meter Mode

Other than evaluative metering, most cameras today have two other meter settings called, 'center-weighted' and 'spot' metering which narrows the exposure measurement to the center of the scene and ignore the surroundings.  Exposure can also be changed by simply zooming in on the subject minimizing the amount of white background in the scene to provide an approximate 18% gray value.



Adjust exposure with Shutter Speed and Aperture

In Auto or Program mode, the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture for you and generally the shutter speed setting is 1/60th of a second with the largest aperture setting (f/4-f/2).  This exposure setting may give you an underexposed or overexposed image depending on the camera's flash output.  Most point-and-shoot cameras tend to have a stronger flash output while DSLR tend to control exposure better with its wider range of settings.  The standard setting may be ok for general photography but for product photography you want the clearest picture possible.  An aperture setting of f/8 for a longer depth-of-field is a good setting for taking pictures of small products.  For good exposure at f/8 (small aperture opening), the shutter speed need to be adjusted with a longer time.  The shutter speed setting here may vary between cameras.  It is very important to use a tripod for long shutter speeds to eliminate blur.  Learn more about shutter speed and aperture in our Camera Features page.


There are also other factors to consider to fine tune the exposure.  ISO, EV and flash compensation can also be used to get the desired exposure.



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