One Light Product Photography with Jaw-dropping Results

When it comes to product photography, less can often be more. Using a single light source not only simplifies your setup but also forces you to hone your lighting skills. In this guide, we’ll explore how to achieve stunning lipstick photography with just one light. This approach is ideal for enthusiasts and e-commerce sellers who want to elevate their product images without a hefty investment in equipment. Watch the complete one light product photography workshop replay here.

Why One Light?

Using one light is an excellent way to focus on mastering the essentials of lighting. It teaches you how light interacts with your product and surroundings, helping you create dynamic, professional images with minimal gear.
One Light Product Photography Setup

One Light Product Photography Setup

The Setup - Equipment Needed

  • Camera:
    Any DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings.
  • Tripod:
    For stability and consistent framing.
  • One Light Source:
    A strobe, flash, or continuous LED light.
  • Light Modifier:
    Softbox, umbrella, or reflector to soften and control the light.
  • Background:
    Seamless paper, fabric, or a light tent.
  • Props and Reflectors:
    Mirrors, white foam board, or cards to manipulate light.

Step-by-Step Process

1. Background and Light Placement

Start with a clean, neutral background. Position your light at a 45-degree angle to the product. This angle creates depth by casting shadows that give your image dimension.

2. Diffusing the Light

To soften harsh shadows, use a Lee 216 diffusion material over your softbox. Adjust the distance between the softbox and the lipstick to achieve the desired softness. This diffusion creates a gradient effect that enhances the product's texture and appeal.

One Light Product Photography Setup

Using a mirror as an extra fill light source for your product

3. Using Mirrors for Fill Light

Mirrors are fantastic tools for bouncing light and creating additional highlights. Position a small acrylic mirror opposite the light source to fill in shadows on the darker side of the lipstick. You can use multiple mirrors to further enhance the lighting.

4. Addressing Dark Areas

To minimize dark stripes or gaps, use a reflector card or white foam board to redirect light. Adjust the position of the scrim or reflector to ensure an even light distribution, filling in unwanted shadows.

5. Creating Focused Highlights

If you don't have a Pico light, a makeup mirror can be a great substitute. Use it to direct focused light onto specific areas of the product, similar to how a parabolic reflector would. This technique highlights details and adds dimension.

6. Flagging and Controlling Light

To prevent the brightest areas from overpowering the image, use flags. Place a dark object between the light and the brightest part of the product to create a shadow, balancing the exposure.

7. Managing the Background

A white background can often cause uneven lighting. Flagging the light with a card can help control this. Position the card to block direct light from hitting the wall, creating a more even background illumination.

Creating Gradation: Move a white board at various distances and angles behind the product to create a gradation effect. This adds depth and interest without needing extra lights.

Behind the scenes photo taken during the one light product photography shoot challenge

Behind the scenes photo taken during the one light product photography shoot challenge

Advanced Techniques

1. Simulating Two Lights

You can mimic a two-light setup by using long exposures and coordinating with a partner. Start by capturing the product with the softbox. Then, have your partner remove the softbox, replace it with a different reflector, and fire a second flash towards the wall. This technique creates a radial glow effect behind the product.

2. Reflective Surface Control

  • Polarising Filters: Use polarising filters on both your light source and your camera lens to control reflections on shiny surfaces. This helps in managing glare and enhances colour saturation.
  • Gradient Lighting: Employ gradient lighting techniques by using graduated scrims or diffusion materials to create smooth transitions in light intensity, adding depth and dimension to your product.

3.Creating Background Effects

  • Gobos and Cutouts: Use gobos (go-betweens) or cutout shapes placed in front of the light source to create intricate shadow patterns on the background. This adds a dynamic and artistic touch to the background.
  • Colour Gels: Apply colour gels to your light source to change the hue of the background or create colour gradients. Experiment with different colours to complement the lipstick shade and create a visually appealing contrast.

4. Light Painting

  • Long Exposure Techniques: Use long exposures combined with a moving light source to "paint" light around the product. This technique allows you to highlight specific areas and create unique light trails and effects.
  • Multiple Exposures: Capture multiple exposures with different lighting setups and blend them in post-processing. This method gives you precise control over the lighting of each part of the image, creating a composite with perfect illumination.

5. Macro Photography

  • Focus Stacking: Use focus stacking to combine several images taken at different focus distances. This technique ensures sharpness across the entire product, which is particularly useful for close-up shots.
  • Extension Tubes and Macro Lenses: Equip your camera with extension tubes or macro lenses to capture extreme close-ups, showcasing intricate details of the lipstick texture and branding.

6. Post-Processing Techniques

  • Frequency Separation: Use frequency separation in post-processing to independently edit the texture and colour of the lipstick. This technique allows for precise adjustments, enhancing the product's appearance without affecting the overall look.
  • Dodge and Burn: Apply dodge and burn techniques to fine-tune highlights and shadows, adding depth and dimension to the product. This method helps in emphasising the product’s contours and features.

7. Creative Lighting Modifiers

  • DIY Modifiers: Create custom modifiers using everyday items like aluminum foil, translucent paper, or cardboard to shape and direct light uniquely. Experiment with different materials to see how they affect the light quality and direction.
  • Snoots and Grids: Use snoots and grids to narrow the beam of light, focusing it precisely on specific parts of the product. This technique is excellent for highlighting logos or particular features of the lipstick.

Implementing these advanced techniques will elevate your one-light product photography, providing more control over the lighting and adding creative elements to your images. Always experiment and refine your methods to achieve the best results.


The one light challenge demonstrates that with the right techniques and a solid understanding of lighting principles, you can achieve professional-quality lipstick photography.

While multiple lights offer more flexibility, great results are entirely possible with just one light and some creativity. By experimenting with light positions, diffusions, and reflections, you can create stunning, dynamic images that make your product the hero of the scene.

Remember, the key to mastering product photography lies in understanding light and continually experimenting with different setups. Happy shooting!

Do You Want More?

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