A simple product shot – how and why I did it, part 3

We got as far as looking at the front of the camera/flash head and realising that the front isn’t being lit by the overhead softbox, key light or effect light in part two The illustrative photos below are taken from the video.

a shot from the videoAgain, I went for a hard light solution (because a product shot needs to have sparkle) so I set up another flash head, again fitted with a honeycomb, and pointed it straight at the camera lens. It didn’t need a lot of power, hardly any at all in fact, because the light was reflected straight back to camera. Having flash heads with a lot of power adjustment – and which produce the same colour temperature regardless of the power setting – is important!

Time now to turn my attention to the LED light on the control panel, I wanted to show it, even though I knew full well that because the flash generator was at a pretty acute angle, very little of it would be visible in the final image.

Now, there are 2 easy ways of doing this. A lot of people create a second image, just of the illuminated display, and drop it onto the main image in Photoshop, and sometimes I do that too – but the easiest way is usually simply to shoot in complete darkness and slow down the shutter speed enough to record the illuminated display properly, and that’s what I did here.

So I turned off all the modelling lamps and the overhead strip lights in the studio. I also had to turn off the video lighting of course, I used the Quadlights for the video, they are incredibly powerful and, to a large extent they overpower the modelling lamps. This doesn’t help in an instructional video but it can’t be helped.

Anyway, with all the lights off the studio was in total darkness and I could take the shot. If you can’t exclude all light from your own studio you need to use a separate layer in Photoshop instead.

After some experimentation I ended up with a shutter speed of 1/30th second. This is the shot. It’s full of strong shadows, which are inevitable with hard lighting.
What can be done about that?
Well, I used a shooting table so I could very easily just put another flash head at the rear and another one underneath the table to create a pure white background, and that’s a quick and easy solution if a white background is wanted, but although a white background may be fine for a webpage sometimes we don’t want a white background – a black background is far more dramatic and may be better if we’re using the image on a poster or in print media, so it’s good to keep the options open. This is where Photoshop comes in handy again, just create a transparent background layer, cut out the subject and flatten the image to get a white background or fill it with black to create a black background. That’s what I did here, but if it was a real commercial shoot (and not a tutorial) then I would have paid Clipping Paths Asia to do it for me.
Putting it on black may not seem to work when the subject is black – but nothing that is lit is truly black and anyway, the overhead softbox, angled forward as it is, has created a gentle outline.
And finally, what about the diffuser? I didn’t light it at all.
If I wanted it to be lit then there would have been 3 easy ways of doing it.

  1. I could have fired the flash in synch with the mains powered flashes I used to light the shot, but that isn’t the easiest way of doing it – and I would have been stuck with a lit diffuser whether I wanted it or not.
  2. Or I could have simply switched the modelling lamp on, but that modelling lamp is incredibly bright and would probably have caused flare – and anyway, I would have still been stuck with a lit diffuser whether I wanted it or not.
  3. Or I could simply ‘light’ it in Photoshop, a very simple job that would give me a choice of having the light ‘on’ or not, and that is exactly what I’ll do if Lencarta want me to.

So there you go. A simple product shot using just 4 lights and very simple light modifiers. If you think that this is helpful, please click on ‘like’

I plan to produce more lighting tutorials, so please check back from time to time – or click on ‘subscribe’