Product Photography: Light Box vs. No Light Box

Do you Need a Product Photography Light Box?

At Iconasys, we hear it often – should I be using a light box for my product photography? Many of these customers are looking to shoot Still and 360 Product Photography in house and are seeking guidance as to what direction to go. This is a loaded question and will primarily depend on the type of objects being photographed. This article will help to communicate the benefits and drawbacks of shooting product photography in a light box.

Did you know 90% of product photography image quality comes down to lighting?

We cannot stress enough the importance of lighting when shooting product photography. Product photography lighting can come in many forms, these include continuous lighting, strobes, speed lights and can vary in the type of bulb being used (ex. LED, tungsten, fluorescent etc.). Enclosed product photography lighting, often referred to as a product photography light box most commonly include built in, continuous LED lighting. Regardless of what lighting source and bulb type being used, when selecting lighting for product photography, you will want to consider the quality of the lighting. More specifically the:

  • Color Rendering Index (CRI): This is the measurement of light in relation to how it affects the appearance of color. Or in simpler terms, the ability of the light to accurately depict the subject’s color. For product photography we suggest using lighting with a minimum of 90 CRI. The higher the CRI value, the better job it will do at producing color accurate results
  • Lumens: Traditionally defined in Watt’s, this simply defines the brightness of the light. The higher the lumens value, the brighter the light. A good quality photography light will be very bright and often support dimming.
  • Flicker-free: Lower quality lighting can have issues with flickering – this can cause problems when shooting at faster shutter speeds.

Product Photography Light Box Overview:

Some players in the industry have really driven home the importance of using a light box when shooting product photography. They claim light box’s are the be-all end-all to your product photography woes. Light box’s, while optimal for some types of products, often constrain users in a tight space and eliminate the ability to adjust lighting angle and positions – which can significantly hinder results. Lets take a deep dive into the case for and against a light box.

The Case Against a Product Photography Light Box:

If there was one comment to encapsulate the case against using a product photography light box, it would be ‘Professional Photographers do not use Light Box’s’. Product photography is often described as an art. Do you ever wonder why product photography shot by professionals look so much better than the images you are creating in your light box? Light box’s often produce a very flat, non-dramatic light and will yield boring product images. As described above, they hinder the ability for creative freedom – specifically the ability to adjust, position and angle lights to create more profound effects when shooting products. While this can sound intimidating for some with little to no product photography experience, I can promise its not – especially when using a software like Shutter Stream Product Photography Software that support a large real time preview so users can see the result before even capturing an image.

Because of the nature of an enclosed lighting space, we sometimes see Light Box’s can emit too much light – eliminate the ability to create contrast on the subject to highlight details. Take a look at the examples of the shoe below:

Product Photography: Lightbox vs No Light Box 02

Figure A. Shot using Light box – very soft, flat light leads to us losing a lot of details in the subject

Product Photography: Lightbox vs No Light Box 01
Figure B. Not shot using Light box – able to create more contrast, highlighting details in the subject
Product Photography: Lightbox vs No Light Box 03

Figure C. Comparing Light box vs Non Light box product photography.

The last drawback of light box’s is the challenges of working in an enclosed space. Positioning objects can be difficult and object size can often be constrained.

The Case For a Product Photography Light Box:

Some type of objects will benefit for an enclosed space or specifically, a light box. For items that are highly reflective (ex. Jewelry Photography), a light box will help ensure for consistent reflections. In this case, its important for a light box to have a non-textured interior walls. The other benefit we see would be the ability of a light box to eliminate external lighting sources contaminating a product photo. External lighting can cause issues however this is actually very rare when shooting non-reflective type products.

To Light Box or Not to Light Box:

For those shooting Jewelry and other highly reflective type items, you may see benefits in shooting product photography inside a light box. For the very high majority of products, a light box will likely hurt product image quality.

Learn more about the LumiCube 360 Jewelry Photography Light Box.

About Iconasys:

Iconasys is a leader of do it yourself still and 360 Product Photography Solutions. Our line of still and 360 Product Photography Software are designed for users of any skill level and will enable users to create high quality product images in seconds. We also have a full line of 360 Product Photography Turntables that will streamline the entire 360 product image creation workflow. We also specialize in product photography lighting tools that include Product Photography Light boxes and Modular Product Photography Lighting Kits. If you are looking to create Amazon Product Photography or Ecommerce Product Photography with pure white backgrounds, we can help!

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