Mixing Hard and Soft Light for Pleasing Tabletop Product Photography

Tabletop product images, especially those shot top down, are very popular in recent years. They can give a clean and minimal design esthetic while still clearly showcasing all components of a product. It's no wonder these types of images flood many company social media pages. This video from Cinematography Database offers a good look at how to achieve a pleasing light setup for such work that mixes both hard and soft light.

There are many ways to successfully light a tabletop photo, but Matt from Cinematography Database and Greg from LensProToGo have teamed up to bring you this great video which showcases one very simple and effective light setup. They use a mix of soft fill light and a hard key light to create a natural effect inspired by sunlight. This effect gives a clean crisp shadow that works well for modern design esthetics. Furthermore the video goes on to explain how you can kick the images up a notch by adding color to your lights through the use of gels to enhance the "sunlight" feel.

Could be something to try on your next product shoot!

[via DIYPhotography]

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Del Robertson's picture

Nice work guys! I actually prefer the image with just the fill light minus the bare bulb and drop shadows. Just personal preference.

Chris McCullum's picture

Funny, while I don't particularly care for the "drop shadow" type effect, I was thinking the opposite. I think the fill only setup is too flat. Maybe with some post contrast, I'd like it better though

Adam T's picture

I cringe seeing someone bare foot in a studio with a jib.

Jason Vinson's picture

definitely giving this a go next time the opportunity comes up.

Jeff Morris's picture

You can accomplish a similar effect with a single light if your diffusion material is thin enough. But of course you lose the control that you have with a 3-light setup. I learned about this "look" by accident the first time I lit a subject through a DIY scrim (white ripstop nylon). :)

Del Robertson's picture

Nice tip if time is an issue!

Peter Mueller's picture

We did something similar a while ago. It is a nice effect which is commonly used in stills photography.
Although not in such a crappy "studio" like we did. ;)

We also did it again in a decent studio for a client. But you don't need much fancy lighting. Just one "bare" strobe and one bounced against the wall. And a little bit of heating insulation reflectors from the DIY store....