A simple product shot – how and why I did it, part 2

We got as far as lighting the front of the lighting generator with a honeycomb, to reveal the texture (specifically the fluting) in part one.  The photos below are taken from the video.

a still from the videoThe next job was to fit the  bracket and flash head to the camera – my old Nikon F90, a gorgeous film camera – and put it in position. It wouldn’t stand up straight of course, these things never do, so I used one of my favourite tools, a very versatile stand/bracket thingy that I bought for £1 many years ago. It’s very adjustable and incredibly useful for this kind of shot. The next job, not shown in the video, was to hide most of the 12′ of lead that runs from the flash generator to the flash head. 12′ of lead is incredibly useful when I’m using the Safari Li-on but it’s a complete pain when I’m photographing it!

Now we move on to lighting  the side of the lighting generator and, unusually, the key light that I used for the side also skims across the front and lights the side of the camera and the side of the flash head.

this is a video stillI used a 70cm Beauty Dish because the light from it is both more controlled and harder than from a softbox of similar size. Most beginners to lighting seem to believe that soft light is good and hard light is bad, but although that might sometimes be true for family portraits it’s the opposite for product shots, where we generally push hard lighting to the limits to create impact – hence the beauty dish!

And I stuck the beauty dish and head onto a backlight stand. The backlight stand is one of my favourite accessories and it’s dirt cheap too. I use it a lot in this type of shoot because it allows me to place a light much lower than a normal stand, which means that I can light the subject without tilting the light, and this is often essential, as in this case, so that the level of light is constant. I metered it and set the power to give f/8, which balanced the light skimming across the front.

still from the videoI angled the beauty dish so that it lit the side of the flash head and the side of the camera, as well as lighting the side of the flash generator. Sometimes we get lucky and can use one light to do more than one job, as in this case, but sometimes we have to add a reflector, a mirror or another light to do that job.

I then dealt with the top light, you can see the diffused specular reflection of the overhead softbox on the flash head, right.

still photo from the videoI took a meter reading by placing the meter on top of the flash generator pointing directly at the softbox, the reading was f/8 d4 (about f/9) which was far too much, so adjusted the power and re-metered until I got the f/4 reading that I was looking for – 2 stops less than on the front and side.  2 stops down from the key light and the effect light was about right, and anyway I wanted to have the Safari switched on and show the LED display in the control panel, so I didn’t want the top to be lit too much. More about the LED display in the next ‘chapter’ but, although it barely shows in the finished shot, it’s well worth taking the time and trouble to show it – it’s always the fine details that count.

a still from the videoI then took another test shot and didn’t like what I saw in terms of the  arrangement, so I moved the camera/flash head a bit and adjusted the lighting to suit. I also moved the camera closer to make the camera and flash head more dominant . It’s now time to look at the front of the camera, which doesn’t have any light falling on it.

This is quite a detailed tutorial, so please  check back in a few days for the next chapter – or click on ‘subscribe’


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