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One-Light Photography Tutorial: How to Shoot Reflective Products


Product photographer Dustin Dolby is back with another workphlo tutorial that tackles a difficult subject in simple terms: how to shoot reflective products using only a single light source.

As with all of Dolby’s tutorials, he’s really giving a master class in simple lighting control—helping viewers to understand how to manipulate one light and stack multiple exposures to achieve a professional product photo. In this case, he’s sharing his workflow for shooting reflective products, which can be especially tricky.

“Reflective products in general present a unique obstacle, and with cutlery you can make use of a convenient approach. By extrapolating the angle our camera looks at our subject, we can place a corresponding light behind our scene,” explains Dolby. “This will flatter both a reflective subject and surface simultaneously creating a convenient angle to capture reflective product photography like knives forks and spoons and silverware.”

And so this is his setup:

And this is the result he’s able to achieve by stacking just two images together—one lit from above, another from the side to provide a highlight and give the cutlery depth:

The tutorial comes at the perfect time, when many photographers are looking for ways to practice their skills and continue learning indoors. While you might not have a piece of black acrylic floating around, most photographers can scrounge up one light source, a diffuser, and a set of silverware.

And if you want to get a little more artistic, you can throw in some close-up frames like this one:

Maybe your goal isn’t to shoot high-end product photography or be featured in the next Sears cutlery catalog, but the lighting principles discussed here will come in handy no matter what kind of reflective item or object you’re shooting.

Check out the full walkthrough up top, and if you are interested in product photography, you’ll want to give the workphlo YouTube channel a follow as well.

Image credits: All photos by Dustin Dolby and used with permission.