Photos, more photos and even more photos (and really good ones), are one of the most important tools for selling online. No one reads .................... (well unless you are reading this), but what I mean to say is that very few people read technical details, it’s too booriiiinnnnnng, so the photo is one of the main reasons to buy. It needs to be crisp, clear and informative with detail, so if you make the assumption that you can never have enough light when taking the image, then that's a good assumption to make, but you don't need to have loads of expensive equipment.
Studio Flash lights (one big flash of light) give great light output, but can throw up random shadows, Continuous lighting (it stays on all the time like modelling lamps) can be set, to a position, where the shadows are controlled, but you usually need more continuous lighting units, to get the same output as a flash unit (but not always). Never be afraid to use a combination of continuous lighting and the flash on the camera, because with clever light positioning, it can work really well.
Taking Photos of small Objects
A photo tent, is a great way of getting a plain background, which is probably the best way to show the product, unless you are selling a lifestyle, in which case, product images along with stock photos from a reputable company are a great way to go. Some of them are only a few pence and look really professional.
Shiny objects are a bit of a nightmare, so if you are taking photos of jewellery, shiny ceramics or glass, then you will need to diffuse the light, or make the shiny surface matt. This sounds a bit drastic and I don't want you to start getting the sandpaper out and rubbing within an inch of your life, you can easily find matt spray, which you can use on the product take off the reflective surface and tone everything down a bit. I know what you are thinking, there goes my beautiful product in the bin, but some of the sprays are temporary and if not, what price a fantastic picture? The other alternative is to diffuse the flash, this means putting the lighting kit outside of the tent, or if you want to use a standard flash gun, either put a diffuser on the flash, or do what I do, which is get a piece of tissue and stick it to the flash head, a bit 'heath robinson', I know, but it saves money.
It’s Not an Exact Science!
Please don’t shout at me, but it is a bit of trial and error when setting up a good lighting system, whether it is a compact unit in the corner of a room or a full studio. At its most basic, lighting depends on the ambient light, bouncing about in the room, the size of the room you are in and the colour of the product you are taking. If you have a massive black item to take a photo of, then the light will be absorbed and you will need lots more for the photo, if it is a bright or reflective product, then the lighting required will be a lot less; helpful I know!
Remember that there are all sorts of gizmos that can help with creating the perfect photo, slave sensors that fire other flashes when the main flashes fire (great for shadows), channel remotes, that fire up to 16 flashes at once (brilliant for synchronised lighting) and background support systems along with white paper backdrops, but always try and keep it simple, becuase let's face it, who has the space for loads of studio equipment.