Credible lighting is the best way to sell an environmental composition. Since we're shooting a sunset theme, adding a flash to backlight the subject adds a wash of light reminiscent of low sunlight naturally illuminates the environment, but in a controllable way. For a firelight effect, even if ambient light is present, supplementing this with a gelled flash can make the glow stronger and introduce color continuity too.
A technique many pro commercial advertising photographers use to communicate the target customer for a product is to capture the subject in a thematic setting.
Environmental product shots add soft subliminal cues, suggesting the branding to the viewer without directly hard-selling it. This works as potential buyers of the product feel like they have made a decision themselves, based on how they perceive the product fits into the environment portrayed.
The great aspect of product imaging is the freedom to control context; the tight framing means we have complete flexibility to arrange the scene, which can be shot inside or out.
The aim of any environmental shot is to make the subject seem like it fits in with its surroundings. The light, color and texture need to seem compatible. Here we've gone for a familiar ultra-colorful branding theme. You'll need a camera for product photography (opens in new tab) and a flashgun (opens in new tab) before getting started.
1. Elevate the product
One challenge of shooting on location is room to maneuver and place equipment. Find a flatter surface that is several feet higher than the surrounding terrain so you can easily get behind the subject and re-dress it if necessary. Compose the shot to leave space for text.
2. Add the elements
A great way to make the product feel continuous with the novel environment is to add in elemental components. In this case we sprayed a fine mist of water on the glass bottle to produce beads of what looks like condensation, suggesting the humid climate.
3. Position fill light
Place the main light in order to fill shadows on the front surface of the product. It is better to place the subject out of the direct sun and then control fill artificially to ensure the sunset effect appears natural. Diffuse with a softbox, in our case a Speedlight model.
4. Add backlight
Place a CTO gel on a second flash and put this behind the subject, at a 45° angle to the lens. This light will be your ‘sun’. Don’t worry about the flash head clipping on the histogram, but avoid losing important detail or color in the product.
5. Shoot multiple directions
The logo or brand titles are often the most important part of a product, so be certain that these areas are legible. Capture multiple shots with the fill light in various positions as frames can be blended in post, creating the perfect lighting structure.
6. Create flare
To push the summery look in our shot further we added water droplets to a protector filter, which turned into flare bokeh when hit by the backlight, firing into the lens. Take shots with and without the filter attached for the option to control or remove this.
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