What's new

What is wrong with this shot? Need feedback & advice

Hi everyone – I would love some feedback and advice on a project I’ve been working on over the weekend.

I’m doing product photography and shot some boxes and feeding sets. I’m not over the moon with the results and would love to improve them

The first shot is a box shot – I’ve shot on a proper white photographic backdrop – I used continuous fluescent lamps in soft box – two either side and one above.

To the eye it looked beautiful – great colours and nice crisp white but the photos just don’t make the image pop – Also the background has a tint of the colour and I wanted it the crispy white that it looked to the naked eye

The look I want is a slighty underexposed ‘faded’ look but I would like the white to be crisp

The second shot was shot from above – Same set up re lights and again I feel it looks flat and the background has a bit more shadow than I would expect – when I see other shots from above they look floorless and shadow (if any) looks correct

What am I doing wrong ?

All was shot in RAW on a Nikon D7100, and I use Photoshop CC 2015.5

All images are resized at 1024 x 768 for our website but I do all the work on the full size image (in case this makes any difference)

Any advice or feedback is very welcome – You can be as brutal as you like

Thanks in advance

Baby Boy Dinner Front - 1024 x 768px.jpg Feeding Set Laid Out PINK - 1024 x 768px.jpg
Unfortunately, my response has to be short because I have to leave for most of the day, but this sort of problem is common:

1) The green color cast comes from the fluorescent lights that you used. All fluorescent light have to deal with the incredibly strong 5461 Angstrom green emission line of the mercury in the tubes. Fluorescent lights with a higher color rendering index do a better job of suppressing it. The CRI of your tubes simply is not high enough. Personally, I would take strobes or hot lights ANY day over fluorescents.

2) The lighting is much too flat, ie, almost no shadows are present so it becomes a very low contrast image. Your softboxes should be moved back to the point where they produce smooth graduations between lit and shadow areas, but not no shadows at all.

There was a thread on exactly this topic here on PSG a year or two ago. The guy posted an image that looked almost exactly like yours, ie, a weak green color cast and almost flat lighting. If I remember correctly, he was a newbie at product photography and was photographing inside of a light cube. The discussion would be very relevant to your situation, but unfortunately, I just spent 15 minutes searching for it, and couldn't find it. Perhaps one of the other moderators will remember it and be able to find it. I think you would enjoy reading it.


Got to run ...

Tom M
PS - My guess is that you are looking for a setup that would provide some modeling (ie, giving shape) to the objects themselves, but not produce strong shadows on the background. The way to better define the shapes involved is, as I said, move your softboxes back and/or reduce their number. Doing just this will probably make the shadows on the background too severe, so the way to get around this is to move the background very far away, and/or possibly light it separately. Lots of product photographers shoot through transparent plexiglass to accomplish this.

Later ...
Adjustments in software (either ACR or any other software), performed after the photo has been taken can only go so far.

Sometimes the correction will be adequate, other times, not, particularly in product photography when accurate colors across the entire visible spectrum are essential for commercial success in this field. Unless you purchase the very best fluorescent bulbs having the highest CRI (color rendering index), you are asking for trouble in product photography.

Here's a somewhat exaggerated example to illustrate how bad light sources with line spectra (ie, versus continuous spectra) can make a photo look:

Consider a hypothetical fluorescent bulb that puts out equal amounts of energy in three narrow bands, one in the blue, one in the green (like all fluorescent bulbs do), and a third line in the red). If you use this bulb to illuminate a white piece of paper, it will indeed look white. However, if there is bright yellow, orange, or cyan writing on the paper, these wavelengths fall between the emission lines of the light, so they reflect very little of the illuminating light and the writing will come out vastly darker than it should, in some cases, it might even look black.

No amount of tweaking in ACR or any other software can get around this if the CRI is too low.

Real world fluorescent bulbs do have a strong, narrow band green line, but fortunately, their blue and red emissions are more broad band. The closer such bulbs are to a completely continuous spectrum with no narrow band emission lines, the more realistic the writing in the example above will look. How well they achieve this is exactly what the CRI rating tries to convey. The CRI ratings are getting better with each passing decade, but are still a far cry from what can be achieved with conventional studio lights, either hot or strobes.

In addition to their color problems, since they are continuous sources, their peak intensity is wildly lower than strobes, and this means that for adequate DoF (ie, small apertures), you will be confined to long exposures which introduce their own problems (eg, shake, sensor noise, etc.). Since product photographers never know what colors will be on the packaging or on the product itself, using fluorescents for illumination is an extremely poor choice, and IMHO, should only be used if finances prohibit a better choice. Of course, the problem is that your images won't look as good as images from photographers with better lights.

Just some advice from someone who has been shooting products and other technical photography for decades.

Tom M

PS - Trying to simulate the correct lighting is never very satisfying. Attached is what I came up with, but getting the effect in camera would produce even better results.


PS #2 - Obviously, I have never seen the actual packaging for this product, so I had to guess at things like how white (vs colored) the lighter areas on the packaging actually are. Hopefully, I came reasonably close.

BTW, my philosophy in all shots like this is to first bring them to a standard, conventional look, and then, if you want to add some special effects, eg, a tint or softening, always do it from the conventionally adjusted version of the image.
I re-read your first post in this thread and your emphasis on "crisp whites" throughout the image got my attention, as did your desire (or that of your client) for a shadowless background, so I produced another version, which hopefully comes closer to what you want to achieve. Personally, I feel that product shots with a transparent or pure white surrounding area look like they are floating in space (hence my enhancement of the shadows in my first tweaked version). However, I understand that for print or web catalog work, the transparent background is necessary, hence this version.

It still would be better to get rid of the original pervasive green color cast in-camera with better lights, but fortunately, the cast wasn't all that strong, and one could do a reasonable job of getting rid of it with post processing. See what you think.

BTW, it would have been absolutely trivial to get even brighter whites (not just purer, completely unsaturated whites like I did) on the packaging, but my sense is that you want to preserve somewhat of a lower-contrast, pastel look, so I left the brightest areas considerably less than 255,255,255.

For ease of comparison, I've also included a similarly sized copy of the original.

Tom M

Last edited:
Wow – You’ve been busy

Massive thanks as usual – great feedback …

I think it was me with the green haze from a year ago - haha

What I’ve done for now as I needed the photo ASAP to get online, is cut it out and added to a nice crisp white background with a little drop shadow – it’s not perfect but does eliminate that awful coloured haze.

Tom, you have done a version that looks outstanding – thank you – I would love to know how you did it so I can try to replicate (the delicate white version) – I did ‘play’ with the White balance and etc but got nowhere near as good as yours

Also have just seen the one with the green background – I would never have thought that would work but it really does – I can’t thank you enough

I did wonder when I was shooting it if I should separately light the backdrop and I think that’s where I keep having the lights too close.

I can’t really justify changing the lights – I’ve just got to make them work for me – By no means are they professional standard but I try to think I’m a serious Hobbyist … or trying to be.

Product Photography is by far the hardest aspect of photography I’ve tried – but I love it when it looks and goes right

Cutting the items out is an option but I’d rather manipulate the original shot and make it look perfect…

Any advice on using Flu lights would be massively appreciated

Thanks – You guys are brilliant
I've looked at these images again - your first one where you do show a little shadow on the background is also really good and could really work - Is that my original shadow that you have enhanced or have you added that wispy shadow on the right hand side - that background would work - it stops the floating look -

The only thing then I would change is to 'fade' the box so not quite as harsh. As it's a children/babies website everything needs to appear soft and delicate and in real life the colour on the box is a soft green / blue... and looks very green in the shot

Really appreciate all your help - thanks
Hi Retro - Unfortunately, this is going to have to be short because I need to leave shortly, and I won't be back till late this afternoon.

So, a couple of quick comments:

1) "...Is that my original shadow that you have enhanced or have you added that wispy shadow on the right hand side?..." -
I added it. I cut out the box, put it on its own layer, selected "drop shadow" as one of the layer properties and adjusted the parameters to get a nice whispy look.

2) Thanks for clarifying the colors, their intensities, etc. I should have guessed that one should keep things soft for this market, but I kept coming back to your "I would like crisp whites" request, and was trying to respond to that.

3) Getting the colors right was a royal PITA, LOL, and it will be for many, if not all images shot under fluorescents. That's why I kept harping on switching to strobes or tungsten hot lights. They will save you an enormous amount of post production time, and the results will always be better.

Anyway, it appears that isn't in the cards, so I'll try to write up something later today on how I did it, but to be honest, it's likely I won't get it out because I have a huge amount of work to get done before my wife and I leave on a 10 day long vacation, ... soooo ... I might wind up doing the writeup for the color and tonal correction while on vacation. The only problem is that I will only have my iPhone with me, and won't be able to have PS open to give exact directions. The same goes for writing up some hints about photography under fluorescent lights (but hint #1 = if nothing else, switch to bulbs with as high CRI numbers as you can afford; hint #2 = never ever use a shutter speed faster than about 1/30th of a second).

4) Final item for now, in your first post, you said, "... I used continuous fluescent lamps in soft box – two either side and one above...". Did you really mean soft boxes, ie,


or might you have meant a light cube (aka, "light tent") with multiple fluorescent lights outside of it?


More later.


Tom M
This was my very quick cut out job - just as a quick comparison - when I do it for real I will take more care - But did I do the drop shadow correctly? It's very faint but I feel just enough to stop it floating - I've always used Drop Shadow as a dark and black bold statement.

Also you'll see what I mean about making the image soft and delicate for the audience

the difference.jpg
Thanks Tom - You are such a great help
I used soft boxes - exactly as your image - Two either side and one above

Lets never say never on the lights - but maybe not just yet - They were quite pricey (for me) and I've not had them too long
I do have an old flash and brolly that I use occasionally - I'm guessing that's tungsten? Think it's called Portaflash or something like that

Enjoy your break - Please don't worry about a lengthy write up - you've been a massive help already

It's just great to know I can share ideas and get helpful feedback

BTW - I was using a much faster shutter than 1/30 - I have a feeling it was more like 1/250 so there;s another area i can look into

A million thank yous - Have a great vacation