How to Shoot Products in Natural Light // Dallas Pastry Chef Abby Dumont of Pinch of Salt Pastries

Ever wonder how avid Instagram-ers get those perfectly bright product photos? Learn how to shoot your own gorgeous product shots with this step-by-step tutorial! All you need is a little natural light and $5 worth of tools. Tell me if this has happened to you...

You get on Instagram (just for a minute, I promise), start scrolling and end up on this gorgeous profile with perfectly lit flowers, stationary and coffee mugs set on a lovely white background, and you wonder... How do they get their images to look SO GOOD? And more importantly, can they do that for me?!

I wanna let you in on a secret: it is possible for you to create clean looking images using natural light, and it doesn't have to take forever or be expensive (yay)!


I want to show you how you can quickly and easily set up a natural light product shoot in your own home for less than $5. 

So yesterday I went out to find some new thank you cards and I saw these gorgeous gold and peach ones — and of course I snatched them up!

I came home, unwrapped them and knew I wanted to share them with the world (aka my Instagram friends), but shooting them on my dark kitchen table just wasn't cutting it.

So I proceeded to set up a makeshift natural light box which took me a couple minutes to do and gave me the images I was looking for. Curious? Here's how I did it.

I found a spot right next to the window (I made sure the blinds were turned up a little so that no lines were coming through the window). The light needs to be even and diffused. This can work on really sunny days or cloudy days, as long as there's enough light coming through.
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Because I wanted a white background and something that was clean and simple, I laid down a white foam board on my chair (yes, it's slanted but it worked just fine for my quick little shoot)! I found these boards at Hobby Lobby for about $2/each and have used them multiple times for different little projects — super handy photo props to have around the house!
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I then propped up another white foam board directly on top to deflect the light that was coming through the window. I did this so the light coming through didn't drop off on the other side of the product and cause a shadow. It reflected the light so both sides of the product were more evenly lit.


After securing the board, I placed my card and flower next to the window, rearranged them and then shot directly above. I was using my Canon 5D Mark II with my 50mm 1.4 lens — but you could easily shoot this same setup with your phone. What will make the most difference is the even lighting and how you position your products. 


STEP FIVE (Camera Settings) 
I knew that I wanted both objects to be in focus so I shot at f/4 or higher so I would have a larger depth of field. I was also shooting it hand-held (the camera wasn't completely steady), so I had to make sure I was shooting at a higher shutter speed to avoid capturing a blurry photo — in this case, it was 1/640 of a second. And my ISO was 250 — this was the last setting I changed to make sure the exposure was correct.
(Psst, if you're interested in learning how I shot this in manual and want to learn how you can shoot in manual too, check out my FREE email course on shooting with confidence!)
Here are some other variations you could try at home: 
  • Use a different backdrop depending on what you're shooting. Let's say you're shooting something that's a little more rustic or earthy — you could definitely get a piece of wood or something that looks similar to wood and shoot on that instead of the white foam board. Especially if the product is white itself and you want to help it stand out even more from the background.
  • If the light by your window isn't bright enough, you can also place two more boards on either side so that the window is the only open side. This will make the product even brighter all around. You can easily tape the boards together or prop them up. Ideally, they'll be at a 90-degree angle, but try moving the boards around a bit and see how the light plays on the product before you secure them.
  • If you want to shoot an object from the front instead of the top, you could set up two boards at a right angle and shoot against the white board that's standing up. (I've got more examples of how I shot delicious food this way at the end of the post)!


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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Abby Dumont of Pinch of Salt Pastries

I had the opportunity to shoot with my friend and talented pastry chef, Abby Dumont of Pinch of Salt Pastries. She makes the most delicious food and I wanted to eat everything the entire time I was shooting! (I used the same white board and natural light setup here).


Do you have any tips for shooting products in natural light? Leave a comment below!