Natural Light is Fickle
I went a couple of years without proper lighting for my furniture staging. It proved to be very difficult to catch natural light and eliminate distracting shadows. I would often have to fix any lighting errors on Photoshop before I was able to post my projects. Frustrating didn’t cover it. It made me crazy to spend hours trying to create a quality representation of my piece.
The worst moment was when I needed to get my post out and I hadn’t taken pictures yet and the sun was fading. Ugh. It wasn’t pretty.
Choosing the Right Light Kit
My DH finally decided to just go on ahead and buy me a light kit, the (aff link) Fancierstudio FL9060S4 3800 Watt Softbox Light Kit after I told him about one that I heard about on a webinar from James Wedmore. My DH is such a good doobie.
He found the kit and ordered it using the Amazon credit card that promised a nice rebate for opening an account. I was shocked at how affordable it was and wondered why I had waited so long. All those years of frustration that I could have avoided! I have been a portrait photographer for about 20 years and always stuck to outdoor shots – and even then it needed to either be in the shade or on an overcast day.
With this light kit, there is no limit to where and when. I can take any shot at any time day or night. Hallelujah!
And you can too – if you get a light kit. Just take the plunge and do it. Order yourself this kit and learn how to use it. It’s not difficult.
Adjustable, Portable, & Filtered
The kit comes with a set of three filtered lights on tripods and a nice carry case, though once you assemble the lights you’ll probably never want to take them apart.
- There are two that basically shoot the light forward and swivel right and left, up and down.
- The third is on a tripod that adjusts forward or backward that you can adjust to light above your subject. All three have adjustable height.
- Each light is in a "box" with a diffuser in front of the light bulb to give off a soft light.
- Each light has several toggle switches that afford more or less light depending on how many you switch on. This is a great feature for both portrait and still photography.
- They are light weight and easy to carry with a decent length cord.
- Bulbs are included.
The actual Amazon listing has a much more technical description, but I'm sure you "got the picture"…or you will as soon as you get a good light kit!
Your goal is to:
- Cut down but not eliminate your shadows by facing two of the either in front or one off to the side and one in front, with the third over top to bring a natural illuminated look to your piece.
- Give enough light but not too much to give a good representation of what your pieces look like in person. You want to bring your customer up close and personal – online.
Here you can see my set up for my two end tables, Cora and Nora, that I will be advertising for sale soon. Good photos tell a story – make sure yours is a good one. You need your customers to be able to picture your pieces in their home.
Sheen or Shine?
You will have to play with your lighting because it will be different with each set up. A pair of end tables like Cora and Nora will need a different set up than a large buffet or small set of mason jars with flowers. Some pieces reflect light and depending on the look you are going for, you may not want any shine.
On Pepper, I only wanted a slight sheen because my finish coat was Tung Oil, which gives a rich but not shiny surface. Be sure to "reflect" your piece correctly in your photos. (Pun intended)
BUT, if you have some interesting smalls atop your piece that cast a nice reflection, you may prefer to show off the nice shine of your table top by reflecting the small and taking a close up to show the sheen.
A nice reflection brings romance to your photo. You may chuckle, but it's true. There is something about a clear reflection of a vase of flowers or a little white bird that gives you that nice warm and fuzzy feeling. Am I right?
This photo of the bird and vase reflecting on my table top makes me want to reach out and run my hand along the surface. You want your viewers to feel the same.
Some shots you will want minimal shadow and no shine, so you will adjust your lights to get the best vantage point. Here I wanted no shine or shadow because I wanted the eye to travel to Charlie's chippiness and the color to pop.
It’s all personal preference and can be quite fun to take close-ups to show the uniqueness of your piece. Each piece has its own story and it's up to you to tell it in your photos. A good shot will bring in the money or accolades (depending why you post the picture). That's why we choose one great picture and call it "the money shot."
Tell the Truth
My favorite part of a photo shoot is a nice closeup that shows the character of a piece. You will have trouble capturing that without the proper lighting. The chippy goodness you see in Charlie above is all naturally created. All I did was sand a bit to get off the flaking paint and stain the wood that was left raw by the chipped off paint. I then sealed it. The photo is a good representation of Charlie. It tells the truth. That's what you want when you showcase your work. You can talk all day long about how amazing your furniture is, but with one photo you can prove it.
Here are a few up close and personals that grab attention because of my lighting:
Make sure your hard work shines for the world to see by using a good light kit, background and flooring. You only get one shot. Make it a good one.
Come visit more in this series: Background Options for DIY Indoor Photography.
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