White paper product photography lighting problem

Photographing white paper.

I get a number of interesting requests for help with photo projects that grow out of the one day short courses that I run in my studio. Many of my customers run small Internet businesses of one form or another. This problem came from a man who was well informed about the technical aspects of photography and had set up a website to sell high quality sheets of paper suitable for use by artists, craft workers, and designers.

I think he must have been using some form of template website that allowed only small samples to be shown in his website shop.
The problem was that a sheet of white paper, irrespective of its high quality and hand made attributes, doesn’t look very exciting as a small white square on a website. Off white paper, looks even worse.
Like most of my customers he had a selection of bits of lighting equipment acquired over the years that he was trying to use. Some of the equipment he had been sold wasn’t very suitable for the job it had to do.They were fluorescent light bulbs of the coiled type.These can be successfully used on some static subject matter where a very soft light is needed.
The problem was that a hard light was needed to bring out the texture on the art paper surface. Usually people have problems creating soft lighting. This one was the other way round. If there is a moral to this storey it should be that good information is best obtained before you buy equipment. It is equally true to say that situations change over time and one bit of gear cannot solve all of your problems.