Creative studio lighting is an integral part of our work and we take great pride in producing beautifully lit images. However, sometimes a nicely lit product is great but can be too common to the thousands of images we are exposed to daily Therefore, for some shoots, we have to think outside the box and use light in more creative ways.

Over the years we’ve created lots of images with dappled lighting effects, particularly within food and lifestyle and cosmetic product photography. This simple but effective technique can really enhance the overall look and feel of an image, producing a delicate touch. It can also help to visually identify a brand’s signature image or style. The Body Shop believes in realism, therefore using light we can achieve this aesthetic, whether through natural window light or artificial lighting and props inside a studio.

Creating lighting Effects with Natural Light

Dappled light can be achieved in a variety of ways by using natural and artificial light (in-studio). It just takes a little creativity and imagination for a concept to be turned into a lovely image.

The process of creating dappled lighting in our work can sometimes be as simple as shining natural window light through a blind onto a set, as seen below. This subtle element really makes this shot, as it adds a sense of shape and direction throughout the image. The varying heights of products help to mix up the natural shadows and highlights.

Natural dappled light can also be created by mother nature and a little bit of clever styling! Technically if the right type of plant is used in a set, then all we have to do is frame up the shot and press the shutter! Furthermore, we often assess the different colour temperatures of light and dark areas and expose them optimally both for shadows and highlights. The example below shows how we pass light through leaves, to cast interesting shadows across the set. This creates a soft touch to the image and helps to remove any large areas of negative space. This shot has a calm mood, that reflects and helps advertises the products.

Creative Studio Lighting Techniques

Alternatively, there are many techniques to achieve dappled light within a studio. As commercial photographers, we try our best to be as versatile and flexible as possible… even if budgets are tight! For example, if a client decides they want us to create a bedroom set with light beaming through a window – then be sure we will make this happen! In our prop store, we have collected a range of useful props such as blinds, windows, glass, perspex, light modifiers, shapes and stencils, which can all be used to pass light through. The image was taken in a studio, which created lovely lighting on the products but gave the impression that it had been taken at home. We achieved this by using a blind to cast a shadow onto the wall.

In our professional space, props allow us to achieve creative studio lighting with product photography. We like to work collaboratively with our creative team, to ensure the overall purpose of the shoot is fulfilled. Sometimes this means experimenting with different types of props to achieve a certain visual style. For example, if the theme is tropical, then we would use a palm plant to help shape the light. The image below shows how we used a plant shadow to mimic the product’s graphic design packaging. This is a creative and powerful way of directing the viewer towards the branding, logo and product: our fundamental role as commercial photographers!

The second image is another example of how we use glass objects to pass light through and create abstract shapes and patterns onto a backdrop. As you can see the more props we use, the more complex the shadows become as there are more surfaces for the light to diffuse through.

Reflective materials are always good to bounce light and create interesting lighting effects. In the image below we used a disco ball to create streaks of light across the set and match the design of the products. Super pleased with the final outcome!

From reading this blog you might have noticed that we really enjoy being creative when it comes to lighting! We particularly love the endless options lighting can give us. We generally like to have control over the light, which is why we fall within the commercial photography industry, with the majority of  our work studio based. Lighting for commerical shoots has to be precise to meet the client’s expectations, often with less creative freedom. Although thats not to say that sometimes experimentation and ‘happy accidents’ are what make an image so unique and successful. Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to look beyond the usual lighting set-up and get creative, whether it’s for a personal shoot or for a client. Lighting can be experimented and explored in multiple ways, it’s just having the ability and knowledge to create the exact kind of light that you want and explore the endless possibilities.

  • Get creative using light modifiers
  • Experiment making your own dappled light using everyday materials such as perspex, cardboard and glass.
  • Use foliage to help shape light whether in studio or on location

Images in this blog have appeared online for Neal’s Yard and The Body Shop.

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