Tutorial: Lencarta product photography workshop part 2

shoe_1  So, every now and again, when the mood takes me, I run a free lighting workshop at the Lencarta studio. The studio measures 50′ x 25′, with a high ceiling, so is pretty much ideal for any kind of subject.

The idea is to help photographers to learn their craft.
Sometimes, we hire a model, this time we decided to run a workshop on product photography and we simply asked people to bring along studiosomething that they would like photographed – a dangerous game because, unless we really know how to approach literally any lighting challenge, we could end up with egg on our face 🙂

But, it worked out OK.
A group of people came along from Yorkshire, London, Wales and just about everywhere else, very keen to learn, and they brought along a pair of shoes, a trombone, a crash helmet, a bottle of beer, some food, a table lamp and various other things. It was a good day.

This is the Second of this series

Half a pair of shoes

Shoes are easy, please see my tutorial on shooting the shoe.

Like many products, when we photograph shoes we photograph just the one, it’s always the left one and we always photograph it at the angle in these photos. Like any other product, we may well end up with several detail photos too, with the shoe in different positions but it’s the main photo that really matters because if that one doesn’t attract the potential customer’s interest then she won’t look at the detail ones.

I used f/16, which is as small an aperture as I’m happy with on a full frame digicam because of the risk of diffraction limitation starting to rear its ugly head at a smaller aperture, but f/22 would have been a better choice, there really isn’t much DOF at these short distances and there isn’t quite enough – this is why monorail cameras, making use of the Scheimflugg principle that allows the plane of sharp focus to be controlled, are still used in product shots.

Even black patent leather knee boots are easy enough, and this shoe was especially easy. It was shiny of course, so we needed to create diffused specular highlights, as almost always, and the only slight challenge really was the fact that, for some reason, it has a 7” high heel, so a light source coming from above would create very uneven lighting, and put the reflection in the wrong place.

So, I tilted the 70 x 140cm softbox to suit the angle presented by the shoe, problem solved.
The softbox is lighting the shiny bits on the top, and the shiny bits on the side. And it’s lighting the inside of the shoe too. It’s a classic single-light shot.

There was just one minor problem, the shoe has in fact been worn so isn’t new, and it needs to be new and in pristine condition because, with a shiny subject in particular, even faults that aren’t normally visible jump out and hit you in a photo.

This is my first photo, but the camera was just a bit too low

So, for the second shot, I raised the camera by maybe 2” – see how that has changed the shape of the shoe? Small changes can make big differences.

And finally, I added a honeycomb, fitted to a standard reflector, to put a bit of backlight on those white decorative rivets. It’s subtle, but it does add a bit, and also skims along the side of the shoe, adding a bit of life to it. Unfortunately it also shows up a scuff mark, but that wouldn’t be a problem on a new shoe.

And finally, it’s shot on an unlit shooting table, which produces an uneven grey background. Low end clients, and those who do as their marketing guys tell them, usually want a white background instead. My approach is never to photograph on a white background, because it reduces the overall contrast and interferes with lighting control. If they want a pure white background then they can pay for the subject to be cut out of the background. Nearly all of the top brands go for the grey background though, because they want their products to look as good as they can.