Natural Light iPhone Product Photography | Trevor Christensen | Skillshare

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Natural Light iPhone Product Photography

teacher avatar Trevor Christensen

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Gear I Use

    • 3. Focal Length

    • 4. Positive & Negative Fill

    • 5. Hard Light

    • 6. Dressing Your Set

    • 7. Taking The Photos

    • 8. Moment & Lightroom

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About This Class

In this class I'll demonstrate a simple way to photograph skincare products using natural light and an iPhone.

I cover:

  • What accessories and products I use.
  • Ways to shape light.
  • How to shoot in natural light.
  • Common mistakes to avoid.
  • Assembly line style photography.
  • Editing your photos using Lightroom Mobile.

This class is for someone who feels like they're an absolute beginner and doesn't know where to start. Start here!


Meet Your Teacher

Hi! I'm Trevor Christensen, a photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. I specialize in portrait and documentary work. I love teaching photography-because learning a new skill is always empowering.

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1. Intro: My name is Trevor Christensen and I'm a photographer based in LA. I made this skill share class because I wanted to help people who were starting a small business or just needed to shoot products, be able to take better photos with their phone. Not everyone has the ability to set up a big studio with their DSLR. You can take really good photos with an iPhone as long as you have a little bit of know-how, will use this backdrop stand, moment lens and this iPhone and a couple of apps you can get on the app store. Join me and let me help you take better product photos with just your iPhone. 2. Gear I Use: When you're taking photos with your phone, you don't really need a lot of extra stuff. This section is just to talk about things that I use and I'll tell you why use them and why they make things easier, but don't feel like you have to get all this stuff. It's really up to you to determine what's going to work for you and what's going to meet your needs. The first thing I'd like to recommend getting is something like this backdrop sweep. What makes it really useful is that when you're taking a photo from eye level and you want a backdrop or a background that isn't really complicated, it's super nice to have this sweet because you'll put you there. You'll just leave this white translucent stuff on or you'll put some backdrop paper on and you'll have this nice gradient that goes back and it's just really not distracting. I'll get these little baby moccasins I have and I'll put my camera right here and just shoot this way and that way, if you are in a space that doesn't have a really pleasing background or the background just doesn't match your product's brand feel. It's a really nice way to get a good look in restricted space. Another nice thing about it is it folds up pretty easily. Take this out, the other side and folds real flat. Something else that's really nice to have on hand is different colors of backdrop paper. This is about two feet wide and when you're taking product photos and you want a certain look, flip it down, roll this up and then you'll have a nice pink backdrop. That is just like a fun look, and it's a good way to add some variety to your product or photos without having to actually change locations. Another thing that can be really useful to have as a tripod and then an iPhone holder for your tripod. Now a tripod is going to be most useful if you're doing a production line style shoot where you need to shoot 10 photos that are the exact same of 10 different products. That's going to be when you're going to set it up, get your angle all figured out, and then take a photo and put a new product down and take a photo and put a new product down and just have an assembly line situation. This is the plate that goes on your tripod and the problem is that there's no place to screw this into your iPhone. Which is why you get this little guy, which is smartphone holder for a tripod. All it is is it's a little thing that screws out and you slide your phone in and then you're going to screw it in like that and then you've got your i telephone and because this has the screw threads on the bottom and just screws in this and attaches to your tripod. Now I have got a cell phone on a tripod. Another thing that's really useful to have is this black foam core and this white foam core. We're going to use these to produce negative and positive fill. I'm not going to go into quite what that is yet, but they're the things that are useful to have because they help basically shape your shadows. Something else I really like a lot is these little lenses from moment. Basically, the reason they're nice is because your iPhone is naturally shooting a pretty wide image and that can distort your product and so you get a case that moment makes and you get one of their lenses and just screws on like that and then you have this nice lens that is actually going to straighten out your image and make it less look distorted and warped. Now this is the thing that you might have, a phone that has two lenses, wider and more telephoto lens and if you have that telephoto lens, you don't really need to buy something like this. You can just use that telephoto lens because I have the iPhone 10 R, I don't have that second lens and so it's nice to have something like this on hand just in case I want that more compressed image. That's all the gear you're going to see me use. Now, I don't want you to feel like you have to go to Amazon and spend like 300 bucks on stuff. What I recommend is watch this whole video and then, and go back and figure out what is the stuff that you are going to need for your own personal needs. 3. Focal Length: Now I showed you earlier that moment lens that I used to take pictures and the reason I use it is because it zooms in my frame and the reason that's important is the standard iPhone lens shoots a really wide image and that works well for some things. But if you want to get close to your product, it's actually going to distort your product. So this is a photo with the moment lens, I'm going to take it off and I'm going to push my phone in so it's framed and about the same way and take another photo without the moment lens on and so if you compare that two, you're going to see that there's some distortion going on. Now, distortion isn't the worst thing in the world, having a little bit of a pin cushion effect isn't really a big deal, but if you have a product where the right angles are really important or you just want to up the quality of your photo a little bit, I do recommend getting one of these attachment lenses for your phone. Alternatively, if you have an iPhone that has two lenses on it, the wide lens and the tele-lens then you can just use the tele-lens and you don't have to buy this extra third-party lens. 4. Positive & Negative Fill: This is the part where we're going to talk about positive fill and negative fill. We've got our set all set up. I like my backdrop, my product is framed how I want it to be framed, and my phone is in the right position. The next thing to look at is how do I feel about my light? I liked that my light is coming from this direction because it's illuminating the texts on this wallet. But I don't quite like how much shadow there is on the background. I'm going to take a photo that shows the before. Then I'm going to do what's called adding some fill light. All that is is I'm taking the light that's coming from this window and bouncing it off this white piece of foam core onto the shadow side of my image. If I push it down, you can see, if I push it down you can see that there's a lot of light that is being reflected off this onto my product. I'll take a before and after. If you like how the shadows look and you actually want to intensify them, you can take a piece of black foam core like this and you can put it in the shadow side and that will prevent any ambient light in the room from bouncing on to the dark side of your products and illuminating it a little bit. Now if we look at this product, you can see this is what it looks like with no fill, this is what it looks like some fill, and this is what it looks like with negative fill. We're preventing any ambient light from bouncing off of our firewall onto the subject. 5. Hard Light: We're going to talk about soft and hard light for a second. Now, when we're talking about soft and hard light, what we actually are really talking about is direct light and indirect light. Most product photos you see are going to be shot in indirect light. That's just because indirect tends to be a little bit more softer and it's what people like. The easiest way to tell if a photo has shot in indirect light or direct light is if you look at the shadows. You'll see here we've got our setup and I have my wallet and it's all set up in this direct light. If you look at the shadow right here, the shadow is super hard, it's very sharp, which means that there's not much between the Sun and my product, so that's direct light. Now if I were to look at a photo with the same setup, but I was to move the wallet over here, you would see that there is still a shadow being cast, but the shadow is a lot softer and so that's indirect light that you're seeing. Hard light is really nice when you want to take a photo that really stands out or has that more intense field to it. The thing is that you might not really want all the intensity, but you want a little bit more intensity of this hard light than a soft light photo will give you. There's two ways to get that hard light look while still mitigating some of that intensity a little bit. Now I'm going to take a photo in the hard light in the normal setting with nothing between the Sun or nothing bouncing off at right here to show what I'm talking about. The first thing you can do to mitigate some of that harsh look without totally getting rid of it is you can add some fill light. I have this card right here and I'm actually going to block this camera, but we'll go to the iPhone and I'll show you how that affects it. You can see I'm moving a card closer and farther from the subject and I'm filling in those shadows. But we still have a nice sharp line right here on the edge that gives it some texture and some punch. I'll put my white card really close to the subjects, so I can get the most fill possible, and take a photo. The other thing you can do, is you can get one of these, which is translucent disc and you can see that it lets sunlight through, but it's going to diffuse it. You can just put it on this side right here. It still gives us the brightness of the hard light, but it definitely makes it a lot softer. Can you see the difference, pretty intensely. Is more of a professional photography tool, but you don't really need something like this. You could get a trash bag or a shower curtain or even something white and transparent and put it between your subject and the light source and it would work just as well. When I show people hard light, the next question is, when should I use it? That's really an aesthetic decision that's going to come down to what makes sense for you and your brand. If your brand is skincare products and you want to feel soft and lush, hard light might not really be the thing for you. If your brand is maybe more intense or has an edge to it, hard light is something you should consider. But really the best thing to do is think about how do you want people to feel when they're actually interacting with your product and your brand, because that's really going to determine what decisions you make, what aesthetic decisions you make. 6. Dressing Your Set: In this section, we're going to talk about framing your shot and dressing your set, and basically doing everything you need to do to get ready to actually take your photo. The first thing I'm going to think about when I'm taking a photo is where's my light coming from. I'm using this window right here as my light source, which means that I'm going to get my table or stand and I'm going to get it as close to the light as possible. This is the section where the light starts to get pretty nice, and so that's where I'm going to be aligning all my stuff. I'm going to be photographing these bath bombs by Tubby Todd, and I'm going to take three basic photos of them. A photo from the top down, a flat-like style photo, I'm going to take a photo that's at about 45 degrees, and I'm going to take a photo that is at eye level with the product. When we're talking about dressing our set, you want to make sure to turn off all the lights in your room. The main reason to do this is most lights are actually yellow and the sun tends to be a little bit cooler and bluer, and so when you mix those two it just doesn't look right. This is a exaggerated way of showing it, but you can see that when I turn this lamp on, the shadows are illuminated and they have a yellow cast and that messes up the white balance of your frame. That's the thing you're going to want to avoid because it's going to mess up the color cast in your photo and it's just not going to look pleasing and it's not going to look natural. Now, when you're taking a photo in a flat-like setting or just coming from top down, what you want to really be careful about is which way is your shadow coming. If your shadow is coming from below, the camera if you're looking down, it's coming towards us like the light is coming from above, that's going to look proper to our eyes. If your shadow is coming from the opposite way, it looks like it's coming from below, there's going to be something that looks off about it. The way I've lined up my phone and my subject compared to my light is it feels like the light is coming from above. Now, let's compare these two photos. We've got one photo with the light coming from above, and one photo with the light coming from below. Now, clearly you can see the photo with the light coming from below, it's not like it's catastrophically bad, but it does look weird and it's just the thing you want to avoid. Now, we're looking at our second frame, and this is the 45-degree angle shot. It's not exactly a 45-degree angles, but that label gives you an idea of what we're talking about. This image is pretty straightforward. When I'm taking a picture, what I want to do is I want to just do everything I can to fill up the frame. You'll notice that I'm composing it with the shadow in mind. But I'm mostly just trying to make sure that I don't have to crop in a lot at all, because the more you crop, the lower quality the picture is going to be. I've got my camera lined up and then here's my 45-degree angle photo. Then for the last image, I'm just going to bring my camera down and so I have this hero shot that makes my product look really big and feel really epic and just be impactful in the frame. Frame it up, make it feel heroic. 7. Taking The Photos: In this lesson, we're actually going to take our photos and I'm going to show you how to do an assembly line style of photography so that if you have a line of products, place your product in frame, take your photo and then move that out and put the next product in and really get a lot of work done in a short amount of time because I just had a Sephora order come in a couple days ago, I'm going to be using some of these ordinary products as my stand-in. That's what you're going to see me shooting with today. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm just going to start taking the photos and narrating what I'm doing at the same time. This is the first shot and now we could come in on this right side and add some fill light but I actually like how the shadow is, I don't think it's too intense and all I'm really doing is just making sure my shot is framed up correctly. This is the 45-degree angle photo. It's not a hero shot and it's not overhead, it's just that good medium. I like how that's set up and I'm just going to take the photo. Then all I have to do, move that product out of frame and put my new product in the frame. Something you'll notice here is I have my crop marks set on this app, the square around the frame. I just like having that because if I know I'm going to be posting this on Instagram in a square format it just helps me visualize and cut off the top of the frame and the bottom of the frame a little bit in my head. The next photo I'm going to take, I'm going to get a little bit lower and I'm going to do my hero shot, so my frame's lower and I'm actually realizing that, there's a little bit too much shadow on this side. There's two things I can do. I could add some fill light and bounce some of it on. But I actually think what I want is I don't want any shadow coming this way. I'm going move my whole stand, and that way the light that's coming from this side on will just be headed straight on. Those are my hero shots and now I'm going to do some flyaways. Let's take a photo and take that out. For these bottles, using this push pen to keep them from moving anywhere. Now, I like having the shadow coming this diagonal direction. That's just a purely aesthetic choice, but there's something that feels a little bit more dynamic about it to me, rather than just having the shadow be straight, like up and down, is something that just shapes the bottle in a way that I think is interesting, so that's why I decided not to have the shadow be totally on a vertical plane with this photo. 8. Moment & Lightroom: One of the things you might have noticed when we were taking those photos is that it was actually a pretty simple process, and if you felt like it was just a drag and drop situation, then you are right. The thing about taking photos on your iPhone with natural light is really the effort is just about dressing your set, making sure everything looks nice, making sure you have a clean palette, and your frame is clean. After that, it's really pretty easy just to take the photos. In this next section, we're going to talk about the camera app I used to take the photos and we're going to talk about Lightroom, which is the app I use to edit the photos. Again, you're going to notice that it's really pretty easy. If you've taken a good photo and if you've been smart about your light, then you're going to see that all you have to really do is adjust the contrast, maybe brighten or darken some certain parts of the photo and just make sure it looks vibrant and crisp. Photography like this is a really pretty simple process. It's just about knowing a few tricks and a few things to avoid that are going to help make your photos a little bit better. The first app I'm going to talk about is the Moment camera app. The only real reason I think it's important to use an app like this is because it allows you to shoot in RAW. There are a lot of other really cool features that the Moment camera app has, but this isn't really a video about that app. Now, shooting in RAW is important because what that means is you're taking a photo and saving all the image data you can. Normal photos are usually shot in a format called the JPEG, and JPEGs are nice because they don't take up a lot of space on your phone or on your computer. The downside is that if you're not shooting in RAW, you are losing color information and more data in your image in general, and that's important if you want to edit your photo. If you want to edit your photo and just have more latitude to do things to it, it's important to have the RAW file because the RAW file is going to allow you to make more subtle color adjustments and really just do more with the image. Now, if you took a bunch of photos and you didn't shoot it in RAW, it's not the end of the world. Don't feel like you can't make good-looking images. RAW is just one of those tricks that professional photographers use to make better looking images. The Moment app isn't the only app in the App Store that can shoot in RAW. There's a lot of other apps that can shoot in RAW, but it's just the one I tend to use and it's the one I'm talking about today. Now, in this next section, we're going to talk about Lightroom. I'm going to show you how I edit a couple photos and then we'll be done. We are going to edit two photos that I shot today, and I'm just going to take you through the process. I'm going to talk about what I look for and I'm really just going to try to illustrate how simple photo editing is. This is one of the product photos I shot. What I'm doing when I first opened up a photo to edit it is I'm really just deciding how I want it to look. With a photo like this, I want to bring out the color of my backdrop as well as the color of my product. Now, editing apps usually have all the settings in the suggested order. It goes brightness, contrast, highlights, and so on. The first thing I'm going to do is I'm just going to make sure that my brightness is correct. Then I'm going to add some contrast because I want my photo to have a little bit more punch. I'm going to make sure that my highlights and my shadows look correct. Now, the highlights setting only controls the bright part of your image, and the shadow setting only controls the dark part of your image. What I want is I want to make sure that the brightest parts of my image feel bright, but don't feel too blown out and the same with the dark part of the image. I want to make sure that my shadows don't feel muddy or too dark. Now, you'll see me skip around a lot. If I change one thing, I might go back and change another setting. That's normal. I'm really just trying to play with the photo and figure out how I can bring it out the best. I like this look, it's airy and it's bright. There's enough contrast there to feel like there's some vibrance but it's not overly punchy. It's not a super saturated image. It's still feels like a makeup brand or a skin care brand. The next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to adjust the color. Now, earlier when I talked about shooting in RAW, this is a time when shooting in RAW really comes in handy. When you're trying to adjust the white balance of your image, this is data that a RAW photo has that a non RAW photo does not have. If I was taking a photo just in JPEG, I wouldn't have as much access to this white balance information as I would otherwise. I want the background to feel a little bit more pink than it did, and so I'm just going to adjust my white balance ever so slightly to make it a little more pink. Now, I like how my photo looks but I want it to feel a little bit more vibrant so I'm going to adjust that a little bit. Something that's nice about the Lightroom app is you can just long press on a photo and see the before and after. Now, the next thing I always do is I adjust the sharpness. Sharpness is one of those things that is like a garnish to your photo. It's not the most important part about your photo, but if you can just add a little bit of sharpness in your editing app, it's going to make it look that much more presentable and nice. The last thing I do when I edit a photo is I crop it. Because I'm planning on posting a photo like this to Instagram, all I'm doing is framing it in a square way that I like, getting a little bit closer than my original image and just making sure it looks as good as it can. Now, this is the after and this is the before. This is that photo I shot of the wallet in hard light. I chose this photo because I think a hard light photos fun to edit and I wanted to show what you can do with an image like this. The first thing I'm going to do is adjust the brightness and adjust the contrast. What I want to do is I want to make this photo feel pretty intense. Nothing blown out or lost in the shadows, but I do want people to feel like this is an image that's making a statement. I'm adjusting the white balance. I like this cool look for this image and I'm going to play with vibrance to see if I want it to be more or less saturated. I like how the vibrance brings out the brown of the leather and so I'm going to adjust it a little bit to make it a little bit brighter. You're going to see me adjust the sharpness, make it a little bit sharper and of course, I'm going to crop it after too. Now, because we shot our photos with the crop marks on in the Moment app, I really know that I'm probably going to crop it about how it looked in that app. That's just a nice thing to do to help you keep in mind how you want your final image to look. Here's a before and here's the after. If you have any questions, if you want to know more about a certain thing or if you have a topic you'd like me to talk about in a future Skillshare, I'd love to hear from you. Make sure you get in touch when you're done watching this video. Okay.