Smartphone Camera Product Photography Tips: Lighting Dos and Don’ts

smartphone product photography

Without light, there’s no picture. For taking photos with your smartphone, even the best angles and background take a backseat to lighting considerations. You can easily produce professional level images using simple lighting techniques. Whether it’s shots of food, products, or your dog, these rules help you create great photography.

As part of the our smartphone photography tips series, here we provide some tips for users that are interested and capturing stunning images for small images or products using their smartphone.  These tips will apply to the most common smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, Note 6, and HTC M9.

Dimmable LED lights give you versatility to capture perfect images for Pinterest or Instagram.

Do Use Natural Light

The sun is the best lighting source of all – when you have it. It’s best to use indirect natural light, since direct sunlight creates harsh glare and shadows. Try setting up your shoot near a window on a sunny day. If the rays come in too strong, hang a white sheet as a light diffuser over the window.

Don’t Use A Table Lamp

Let’s face it, even though sunlight is best, you can’t always be near a natural light source. In a pinch, any light source can be modified, but if you’re taking lots of pictures get a decent light. Table lamps are unwieldy and produce a lot of heat. Plus the bulbs burn out fast. Low consumption light bulbs are even worse as they give off a sickly yellow glow.

You can get a pro-level LED light for less than $25. LED lights use less energy, produce very little heat, and can be mounted. Make your life easier and pick up one of these – you won’t be sorry.

Don’t Use Your Flash

Flashes are to be used only when no other light source is available. Like direct sunlight, flashes cause glare and can blur the natural texture of the subject.

Do Use Tripods

No matter how steady your hand is, a flexible tripod improves clarity and precision. You should consider mounting both your smartphone and your light source. Tripods facilitate experimenting with different camera and light angles.

Do Use A Dimmable Light Source

A dimmable light source works great as it saves you from having to move the light or hang a sheet over it. These lights also allow you to quickly experiment with different levels light within the same setup.

Don’t Position Your Light Head On

Always set up your light source at an angle in relation to the subject. This highlights textures and colors much more effectively. Reflectors (see below) can help even out the lighting.

Do Use A Reflector

Across from you light source (with the subject in the middle) you should place a reflector to ensure that lighting is even. You can use white paper or poster board for this purpose. To achieve a more sparking effect, try crumpled aluminum foil spread out over cardboard.

Do Keep Your Camera Lens Clean

Remember, your smartphone is a phone first and a camera second. That means it gets used and abused, and the camera lens gets dirty fast. Make sure you clean the lens with a lens cleaning cloth before every shoot.

Do Move Your Light Source

Test your light source from different distances. Both dimming and distance have different impacts on how your subject appears. Light size can only be changed in two ways, stacking light sources or moving them.

Don’t Forget To Diffuse

The reason indirect sunlight is so effective is because the light is diffused. For example, the best outdoor shots occur on overcast, not sunny, days. When using indoor light sources, you can diffuse the light with a thin sheet, opaque plastic, or wax paper. Some lights even come with snap on diffusers.

Do Experiment

This is the best advice of all. Consider all the tips here, and don’t be afraid to try different techniques. Sometimes the best images occur by accident, so have fun with it and take lots of shots.