How to Shoot Product Photography With One Light

Are you looking to get into product photography but find yourself holding back because you don't have a studio or multiple lights? You probably don't need as much as you think you need; you can create some amazing work with just one light.

Don't get caught up in GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), thinking you need a lot of gear and studio lights, several different props, and a full studio and more just to create a product shot. With some planning, you can use just one light, and Skyler Burt from We Eat Together shows off how he does just that. The subject for this product shoot is a nice, new bottle of bourbon, but the same techniques can be applied to other products. 

While Burt does have some nice props to build his rustic set, you don't need those to get started. Since there is only one light, multiple shots have to be taken and merged later in post-production. If you don't already have one, a 5-in-1 reflector can come in handy, which can be used as the diffuser to help build the gradient. The gold side of the reflector can also be used if you don't have some golden paper to use. If you are not sure how to merge all your shots together once you are done, Burt does go over the basics and shows you how he puts them together.

Have you used this method before for product photography? If so, do you have any tips to share?

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18 Comments

John Dawson's picture

Sorry, but "one light" means one light. Reusing a single light means that he still used one light.

Jonathon Rusnak's picture

Here comes Johnny going on about software trickery again. John to create an image with one light that looks like many lights were used is a prime example of understanding the basics of lighting.

Spy Black's picture

I suppose we shouldn't even get into RE-LIGHTING in post... ;-)

Jonathon Rusnak's picture

You are a bit touched aren't you. He has one light. One physical flash. He moves it around. It is one light used more than one way. It doesn't matter how many exposures he blends in Photoshop. The fact remains that he used a single light.

I suppose you could be talking about the ambient light present in the room or the reflected light from his reflector. But you haven't made that clear.

The sun is one light. Tomorrow after we spin around it will still be one light, but can you believe that it shines on people and places other than you?

John the box isn't magic. It's called a computer. Many of us who learned on loose leaf paper know this.

We all know these techniques can be done in camera John. But that isn't the point. No one is arguing that. Bringing it up over and over is ridiculous. Your opinion has the weight of a feather.

Can you reply without your magic box John?

Jonathon Rusnak's picture

Definitely. There is no way I'd pass that up. Make it happen John. You can teach me the long forgotten ways of photography before magic boxes and their trickery.

Spy Black's picture

I guess you've never worked in studios with manic schedules where the photographic CREWS simply don't have the time to have hundreds of products a day perfectly lit, many times without all the shooting resources they could really use, have you? I guess you never had to deal with clients and art directors who re-purpose images, have you?

Spy Black's picture

As I suspected, a gnome in hole.

John Dawson's picture

Go check out Skyler's YT channel and you'll quickly see that he clearly knows lighting.

What if you're in a situation where you only have one light available?

John Dawson's picture

Oh please! I suppose that that means all natural light and landscape photographers are unprepared. #lame

John Dawson's picture

Food is a product and I've shot plenty of it in natural light.

I can't help you if you don't know the difference between natural and unnatural light. You might consult a dictionary.

Hint: The light emanating out of your screen as you read this is unnatural. 😉

The video editing and his effusive personality made it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying but I'm sure it would be entertaining for a lot of folks.

John Dawson's picture

I dig Skyler's work!

Arun Hegden's picture

Nice share.😄

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I think it works pretty well. My only concern with a single light would be to accidentally move the camera or product just enough to require re-shoot from the start or it could make alignments painful in post with all these gradiants. One single light makes it easier to move around for sure. I'd go with full set up and turn on the appropriate light for each part of the composite since I don't do composites that often.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

Nicely done and a very appealing shot. As someone who learned product photography using sheet film, I consider the digital compositing done here to be the magic we all wished for before it would become available. The important point here isn't the "One Light" business because even if using multiple lights, the real star here would the Photoshop work.
Interesting how many (younger?) photographers are eager to use Ektachrome again. This is the better way to go, in my opinion.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I think a lot of people are interested in shooting Ektachrome....most will shoot one or two rolls and realize it's not really as fun or satisfying as they thought and go back to digital.

Joe Black's picture

Great post. Thank you for sharing

Rahul Roy's picture

Great post.Very clear idea about product photography.