As I start to get more campaign work via Instagram for product photography, I've found that I need to use every bit of my creative mindset to get the shot I want. All the while I must also play to some of the iPhone's limitations. Tilo Gockel, a professional photographer and lighting expert, has created quite the tutorial for some outstanding product photography with nothing more than an iPhone and a few simple lights found around the house.
Armed with an iPhone 4s, desk lamp, and a couple light sources, he was able to compose and light this Smith & Wesson hunting knife to a stunning final image. The original idea of the shoot was to illustrate the simple task of taking great product shots for use of selling something online or promoting a new piece you may have made. The great eye-opener in this tutorial is the before shot taken with an obvious direct flash and little thought to the composition. This shows what a majority of product photos look like for small business owners who are selling online.
Tilo does a great job breaking down the list of lights used and illustrates in a behind-the-scenes photo how using paper can diffuse and reflect the light. Below is a little more explanation to each light source as he set it up.
LIGHT SOURCE NO. 1 (coming from the left): The blade needs a rim-light on the upper edge. That light should be oriented in a way, that each of the three different planes of the blade’s cut comes out in another brightness, to make the cut clearly visible. Furthermore the writing on the blade should be clear and readable.
LIGHT SOURCE NO.2 (coming from the backside): The second light helps to illuminate the upper edge of the grip and the curved little pattern in the grip plate.
LIGHT SOURCE NO. 3 (coming from the right): The third and last light serves as grazing light to show the emblem on the grip. It also gives a nice shadowing along the grip.
I tested different angles and also used translum foil (from Modulor) to get a nice gradation across the knife’s surfaces. For the warm-cold contrast I used a halogen light from the back and two cool white LED torchlights from the sides. Lamps and foil are fixated using little clamps from the hardware store.
Below is another fantastic shot with a very similar setup, but different product. Simply changing the lighting angles along with the textured background is all that's needed.
Be sure to check out more work by Tilo on his blog as he continues to push the limits of the iPhone!