Tutorial: Lencarta product photography workshop part 4

beer_final_croppedSo, 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 something 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 was our last shot of the day.

Photographing this beer wasn’t just our last shot of the day, it was also the most complex.

As the day progressed, I did less and less and ‘asked’ my victims to do more and more, partly out of pure laziness and partly because I feel that most people learn more from doing than from watching. By the time we got to this shot, I was in full lazy mode and did virtually nothing except make sarcastic comments about wedding photographers…

It took a while to sort through the images. After deleting all those that were out of focus we were left with 73 shots, many of which seemed to be identical to each other, which made me realise how complicated it can seem to people when they’re just starting out…

About the only thing I did do was to arrange the very preliminary lighting. I used a strip softbox to bottle right, we tend to use strip softboxes a lot, but photographing bottles is what they’re actually designed to do, because the long thin strip of light can create a perfectly even diffused specular highlight right along the length of the bottle.


We used a table, covered by a black background, as the product base. My fault, we should have used a pillar of some kind instead because the table was too wide for the job. Because it was too wide we couldn’t use another strip softbox to camera left, so we used a 70 x 140 softbox instead, the extra distance compensated for the extra width. But if it hadn’t, we could have used cinefoil to mask the width down.


See how dark the label is on the bottle?

This is where I interfered a bit. There are a couple of ways of illuminating just the label, which absolutely had to be done. My own method is to use a pretty specialised focussing spotlight, a brilliant and versatile tool that can create and throw pretty well any required shape of light, but it isn’t the sort of thing that is lying around in the typical home studio, so the group rightly opted for a Garry bodge, which involves more work but does the job.

The bodge here was a piece of Cinefoil (trade mark of Rosco) and it is also known by the generic name of Blackwrap. Cinefoil comes in a roll that lasts ages, and is thick aluminium ‘baking foil’ coated black both sides – we use it all the time in the studio, often for making flags and black absorbers. On the day though, we just cut out a small rectangle and shone a flash through it so that only the label was lit by that light. Place the Cinefoil really close to the subject and place the flash head really far away, and you get pretty sharply focussed edges, reverse that and you get very blurred edges. The shot below shows the effect it produced, which I think is pretty cool.


Next up, the beer was added. This has to be done last because otherwise it would go flat.


And this shot also includes  just a wisp of smoke from the smoke machine…

Personally I blow tobacco smoke through a straw to achieve this, but the smoke machine could work with a very gentle touch… or with some PP work

And finally, the beer was disposed of, I’m told that it tasted good.

Sarcasm about the number of shots aside, I think they did pretty well with this shot. My usual comment of “My cat could have done a better job and I haven’t even got a cat” doesn’t apply here.

Obviously, it needs some PP work, but all of my lighting tutorial shots are straight from camera.