Shadow-Less Product Lighting

by William Lulow

Note: I am interrupting the flow of the “How Light Is Used To Create Images” series to publish this article. Third article in the series will continue with the next, scheduled blog article on Friday.

Whenever you have to make images of products with absolutely clean, white backgrounds, these kinds of shots call for using what is called a “light table.” I use two thicknesses of white, translucent plexiglass on top of my glass coffee table. I do this because I have a small studio with limited, nine-foot ceilings. The coffee table acts as a mounting place for my plexiglass background. If I had larger products to shoot, I would have to get a whole sheet of white plexiglass and, since it is flexible, use it as what’s called a “sweep” creating a shadow-less, white background that can be lit from underneath. Here’s what I’m talking about:

This is an example of a light table with a fairly large piece of white plexiglass mounted on it. This would be used when larger products were being photographed that needed a comparably larger area of white. This would be lit from underneath and from the back to create a completely shadowless “sweep.”

This was my setup for these smaller leather items:

There are the two pieces of white plexiglass on top of the coffee table. The light underneath can be adjusted back or forward depending on how bright you want the white background to be. In order to wash out all trace of shadows, I like to make the background as bright as I can without causing any flare on the objects being photographed. Here’s one image from this setup:

Here is another. You can see a bit of the light from the background beginning to creep up on the leather money clip. In this case, the client liked the effect, but I liked the deep blue color of the shot above. At any rate, there are absolutely no shadows on either shot.

Obviously, images like this have to be lit from the top as well. Here’s another view of the lighting setup:

At the top of this picture you can see my medium-sized soft box. Since these products were fairly small, this was all the light I needed to light them efficiently. Here is another example from this shoot:

Notice the even highlights on the product. A large enough mainlight on a small product like this will provide an even highlight and really make the product shine!

Note: I have also done shots like this on plain white no-seam paper, but then I’ve almost always had to retouch them a bit, in order to make the backgrounds perfectly white. Here, no need for retouching. All these effects are done “in the camera” with the light table.