Website Photography Tips: Using Natural Light by Katie Vandyck

Website Photography Blog: pot in shadow

Transform your photography skills by following a website photography expert’s top tips – Guest Blog by Katie Vandyck, of Katie Vandyck Photography

Your website photography will improve immediately if you take advantage of natural light, so try and take your photos on a sunny day.

Website Photography Tip 1:

Place the object you want to photograph in the shadow area next to the brightest spot you can find.

Let’s have a look at these keys. This bunch of keys present several challenges to photograph: the shine of metal, the range of materials and the numerous bright colours. Bright sunlight is too harsh, and solid shadow is too dull.

Photographing keys in bright sunlight

The extreme contrast of bright sunshine is unattractive, it washes out colour and exaggerates flaws.

Website photography: keys in shadow

For a better result, place your object in to a shadow area that’s directly adjacent to a patch of bright light.

Website Photography Tip 2:

Place a reflector next to the object on the shadow side.

To give your photos extra glow, put some reflecting material, white paper or card on the shadow side of the object.

Photographing keys with reflecting material on shadow side

What happens when you use reflecting material?

  • Light spilling into the shadow area from the the bright area is then reflected back into the shadowed area by the white reflector. 
  • This reflected light lightens the darkness/shadows on the side furthest away from the bright light.
Keys with reflected light resulting in rich colours

Result: rich colours, and metal that has a soft sheen.

Here’s another example using a pot of coriander:

Bright sunlight, which is harsh and drains the colour.

The pot is in shade, with a reflector balanced alongside.

Final photograph.

The combination of diffused light and a white reflector makes the coriander look much more appetising than when it’s lit by direct unfiltered sunlight.

Now I’ll show you through some examples of website photography using natural light.

Example 1: Photographing food in natural light

Food will look much more vibrant and appealing with diffused natural light.

The photos below were all shot beneath the perspex roof of a courtyard at the Italian restaurant, which immediately diffused the bright sunlight. The reflectors on either side of the food reduce any shadows and allow the wonderful colours of the food to come through.

Sunlight through the perspex roof, combined with reflectors on either side of the food, soften the shadows.

The bright, diffused light from overhead is particularly good for food, making everything look fresh.

Food website photography: Italian salad on wooden board

The closer you move the reflectors towards the food, the softer and more appealing the light.

Insider tip: I used insulation tiles as my reflectors, propped up by whatever came to hand.

Example 2: Photographing silver jewellery in natural light

The challenge with photographing jewellery is to capture the detail of the craft.

The first shot is in bright sunshine. It looks a bit cheap and garish – more of a snapshot than a photograph.

It’s a very sunny day, so I made a makeshift structure from wire and grease proof paper – essentially a homemade light tent.

Earrings inside light tent.

Shot from above, the silver glows, and the details are gently rendered. And it’s always worth trying out different backgrounds for one shoot.

Example 3: Photographing pottery in natural light

Strong sunshine coming through a window creates a bright shadow. I’ve used a sheet of coloured card as a backdrop.

I placed the pottery inside the shadow. I then placed a polystyrene tile on the shadow side of the pot, seen on the right of the photograph.

Result: a soft but directional light bringing out texture, allowing a richness of colour and luminescence.

Copyright: Katie Vandyck Photography 2020.

Check out our blog for more useful tips on websites, or get in touch if you have any questions.