When V-Flat released the new Karl Taylor Light Cone, the comments ranged from dismissive jokes about “the cone of shame” to excitement for a product designed by esteemed commercial photographer Karl Taylor. I decided to take the cones into my product studio and see for myself if this simple tool really delivered the effortless results it boasted.
To be quite honest, I was skeptical of the Light Cone. Lighting for product photography is very specific and requires extensive knowledge. Like most commercial photographers, I have spent years fine-tuning the skill by testing different softboxes, diffusion papers, and light modifiers. The idea of throwing a cone on top of a product and everything magically working out gave me the same thoughts I have when I walk by the “Brazilian Butt Boost” pills at the international market. Please. If it were that easy…
And then I tried it. Wow. Look at these results for yourself. I will let the images do the talking. This first comparison shot was with the light placed above, pointed down at the cone.
You can notice an enormous difference in the smoothness of the oil, the transitions in the label, and also the softness of the cast shadow. It truly was simple as placing the cone over the product and taking the shot. I was shocked when I saw the first image pop up on my review screen. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw my surprise as I took my first shot. I just placed the cone over the product and took the exact same shot, and instantly, a smoother, softer image was created.
In this second comparison image, I placed the light to the left of the cone and the bottle inside the cone.
Hard light (left) is most definitely a trending look. I’m often hired for its my use in my work. I love the bold crispness of it. However, if you are after a creamy, smooth look, I can tell you with certainty this tool will be the easiest and most efficient way to achieve it. One thing that is almost miraculous about this cone is how it erases imperfections. I chose to test the cone on this brown bottle specifically because for the last many years, it has been the hardest bottle for me to photograph. If I wipe it down, there are filaments all over it no matter what I use. If I blow it with an air gun, there is dust. Every imperfection on the label seems amplified once the light hits it. Somehow, despite microfiber gloves, it just creates fingerprints out of thin air! This bottle has been the bane of my existence for years. I was stunned with how the bottle looked nearly flawless by simply using the cone.
You can see the same astonishing results in this test shot.
For this third shot, I wanted to try something a little unconventional, so I put the entire cone between the light and the product without placing the product inside the cone. I was curious about what would happen if I used it simply to break up the light. I used a bounce card to reflect a little light back onto the bottle’s right side.
You can see the shadows and highlights are softer with the diffusion. You can also notice a big difference in the cap and the transitions of color.
It was interesting to learn that Taylor worked for two years, testing different materials and shapes. Once settling on this material, he continued fine-tuning the cones to the best optical density for the material. The cones come in three sizes. You can buy the set of three, or either of them individually. If I had to choose just one, I would purchase the large, which measures 20″ x 18″ x 5″ and retails for $69.95. It really is a game-changer. It’s so easy and effective that it can allow a novice to achieve professional results instantly.
The only drawback I came across while using the cone was photographing a product which was a little bigger. I prefer to shoot product work with my Canon 100mm f/2.8 .In the case where the product was larger, like this shampoo bottle, in order to get the whole product in the shot, I had to switch lenses to a wider one: my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, which causes distortion on the product, as seen below.
If you shoot product photographs, I am confident this tool will be a tremendous time-saver. It will cut time on lighting and editing. It’s affordable, easy-to-assemble, and it stores flat like the stack of backdrop,s which are surely piled up in your studio. This is the one case where “too good to be true” actually is. Hats off to Karl Taylor and V-Flat.
After this and their Lindsay Adler spot, I’m anxiously awaiting their next release. You can pick up the Light Cone here.