A Simple Setup for Cosmetic Product Photography

Getting a classic, high-key look in product photography doesn’t have to be expensive. In the video below, photographer Dustin Dolby of Workphlo demonstrates a simple, two-light setup that’s easy both on the budget and post-production time:

If you’re into product photography–particularly for cosmetics–you’ve probably seen a number of crazy setups using multiple lights, snoots, and reflectors to shape the light “just so.” Yet, as you can see from Dolby’s setup, you really don’t need much to turn out great in-camera shots. All he uses is a speedlight shot into a 47.2 inch umbrella (through diffusion) for a backlight, a striplight softbox as a key light, a white plexiglass table, and a few strategically placed black and white cards. The equipment he uses is all low-end (with the possible exception of his camera), with the most expensive piece being his Opteka 85mm f/1.8 lens, which retails for a whopping $100.

The backlight is a speedlight shooting into an umbrella

The light from the speedlight hits the umbrella’s reflector and then bounces back through the diffusion to form Dolby’s backlight.

One of the keys to using such a simple, low-cost setup is really understanding how to shape light. The black and white cards do a surprising amount of the work in this setup, with the black cards providing edge definition and the white cards providing needed fill light. Together they produce just the right amount of light and shadow, allowing Dolby to get extraordinary shots in-camera. And let’s face it, the less time we spend in post-production, the better pricing we can offer to our clients.

white backdrop product photography

One of the Final Images

The finished product has a high level of detail and the clean, high-key background that many clients love. All with a budget that even the most frugal of photographers could afford.

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