Combining lighting techniques, part 2

Please be sure to read part 1 of this tutorial first

And the next thing I did was to add a honeycombed flash head to the right.

The most obvious benefit of this light  is to place catchlights on the front optic of the telescopic sight, but because of its acute angle it is also picking up detail that would otherwise be invisible.  Here’s a closeup showing what I mean, these sharply angled lights really do reveal texture. Note too, the new highlight on the front of the trigger guard.

The honeycomb, fitted to a standard reflector, is essential. The light would go everywhere without it. As I think you can see from the setup photo, the honeycombed light is behind the subject and pointing forwards, this gives better control of the light and prevents the light from striking unwanted areas.

Alternative methods
There are often of getting a similar effect, and with this shot I had two other choices.

  1. I could have used a honeycomb at the other end of the telescopic sight, shining a light through the sight. This would have involved using a very tight honeycomb and masking the front of the honeycomb with cinefoil, to avoid light going where it wasn’t wanted.
  2. Or, as the telescopic sight is illuminated, I could have switched on the internal illumination, switched off the modelling lamps, switched off the room lights and increased the shutter speed until it was enough to produce the required effect.

Using one of these other methods would probably have lit the front optic without creating the double catchlight, which resulted from light bouncing back from one of the other elements – telescopic sights are complex lenses.


Next up is a another honeycombed light, on the left.
All that I wanted to do here was to produce just a little extra light into the areas that other lights couldn’t reach, and I wanted the effect to be subtle.  You’ll see from the setup photo below that I’ve draped a neutral density gel over the honeycomb, that’s because even though I had the flash head set to its minimum power of 1/32nd, it was very close to the subject and it was still too powerful.

Why was it so close? Well, when we use a honeycombed light we often place it a long way away, so that the light skims across a large area, revealing and emphasising surface texture without losing too much light within the area that it’s lighting, due to the effect of the inverse square law – but in this shot, I made a point of placing it close so that the light would fall of rapidly, again making use of the inverse square law. The inverse square law, which tells us that every time we double the distance we reduce the power of the light to a quarter, can sometimes work in our favour and sometimes work against us – understanding how it works is vital!

The shot above left shows how important it is to get the exposure spot on, just one stop of over exposure produced this terrible result.


This shot has added a little more detail, as you can see in the closeup below

Basically, it has added some definition. A bit of light went where it wasn’t wanted too, but that can be cloned out easily. Other areas need a bit of attention too, but I don’t retouch photos used for tutorials.

And that’s about it, apart from the background.
The background was lit with a light behind the shooting table, all that I did was to bounce another flash head, fitted with a standard reflector, off of the wall. You can see this flash head to the right of the photo below.

And then I added another light, mounted on a floor stand and pointing up at the base of the shooting table, as you can see above. These lights were set to provide the minimum light that I could get away with, an overexposure of 0.7 of a stop. More would cause unacceptable loss of edge detail.

We’ve ended up with this, it’s sort of OK and fairly typical of a white background shot, but sometimes white backgrounds don’t show the product at it’s best, with unwanted reflected light etc.

And with this particular shot, the diffused specular highlight that I put all the way along the barrel looks decidedly odd where it has merged with the background, here is a closeup to show you what I mean

So I did just one more thing. I switched off the lights that made this shot white and covered the shooting table with a black background cloth, here is the result.

The lack of reflected light on the underside of the subject has made a difference too. Which is better is of course a subjective judgement, all that I try to do is to show how something can be done.