I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You don’t need a light box to take plain background studio-style shots of your products. You don’t need big lights and you don’t need a fancy camera. All you need is some reflector boards or a white shower curtain, a window, your phone and a couple of apps! I’ll show you how.
A few months ago every single time (and I mean every.single.time) I opened up Instagram or Facebook I saw an advert for a tabletop lightbox. Did you see it too? A little white cube with LED lights inside. I was very tempted to get one. Very tempted. I didn’t though because, in reality, I didn’t need it. I have studio lights for client work and can use natural light to take clean shots with my phone. If you didn’t make the purchase either, never fear! I’m going to teach you how you can get shots like these for less than $10.
DIY Studio Version 1 (the egg shot)
- Your product
- 2 white sheets of Coreflute / signboard
- A bright window that isn’t getting direct light
- TouchRetouch phone app
- Any photo editing app that will increase brightness and shadows (I recommend Instagram or Snapseed)
Score one of your Coreflute sheets so that it can be bent into a V shape. This lets it stand up by itself and wraps around the subject slightly throwing more reflected light on the scene.
Create your studio by setting up side-on to a bright, shaded window. You don’t want harsh shadows here. Use one Coreflute sheet as a base or use a white table or bench like I have (in that case you’ll only need the one reflector board) and place the other one as your background with the V wrapping around your subject opposite the window. This decreases the shadows by reflecting light back onto your subject. By having it angled in slightly rather than directly parallel it will also brighten up the front of your subject.
Now take your shot! You’ll notice that it looks very grey through your phone. Like I described in the post 3 reasons you need to edit your images that’s because the camera assumes every scene is an average grey and this one obviously isn’t. Tap on your screen so the little sun appears and slide your finger up to increase the exposure. If you forget to do this (like I did) don’t worry! You can still get a top shot by editing. (You’ll also notice my boards are starting to get a little dirty!! They are VERY well used.)
Now you have your shot we need to remove the lines between the background and the table. You can use any app with a healing brush but I love TouchRetouch because it has a Line Remover tool. You simply click on the section you want to remove and voila! it’s gone. You may need to zoom in and remove the ends close to your subject with the Quick Brush but overall I find it does a pretty amazing job.
Then it’s a matter of lightening and brightening the image. I do this 2 ways. First I use a filter and then I brighten in Instagram. (The filter I use is A Color Story’s ‘Everyday’ filter. You don’t need to do this step but if your image is as muddy as mine then I’d certainly give it a go). You can use any app that lets you increase the brightness. The final image looks like it was taken on a piece of white seamless backdrop in a studio!
Granted if you have a bazillion products to get through this may be a little tedious. In that case, I’d recommend you hire a professional that can bang through your products in an actual studio. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
DIY Studio Version 2 (the flat lay)
- Your products and props
- A white background
- A bright window that is getting direct sunlight
- A cheap white shower curtain
This time instead of reflecting the light like we did in the studio setup above we’re going to diffuse the light. Essentially we are going to turn the sun into one of those great big white softboxes that you see the pro’s use.
Set up directly in front of the window so your products are getting full sun.
This doesn’t make for a very flattering flat lay at all and normally I’m shouting from the rooftops “No direct light!”. With the right tools, however, this will totally work in your favour. Here’s the shot at the bare window (dirty smudgy shadows and all!)
Now hang your shower curtain up at the window. You will see the magic instantly. My whole room glowed. The light is soft and dreamy and there are minimal shadows.
Now, this final shot has no editing on it. This time I did remember to increase my exposure when I was taking the shot and the colours and everything just worked perfectly. Lighting magic from your $2 store.
These two tricks will take you through a variety of lighting situations. Whether it’s overcast or the middle of a bright sunny day you can get studio-style shots without the costly studio setup and with the very handy camera that we keep in our back pockets.
If you want more DIY tips and tricks regarding taking the ultimate flat lay images download my Step-by-Step Guide.
I love what I do and I’d love to help you.