Playing with product shots

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich, Photography, Tech Tips 1 Comment

productshots (1 of 2)

Gary Persello's Twilight Brother. Check out the reflection in the foreground thanks to the plexi!

Yesterday I posted my review of “The Digital Photography Book Volume 3.”  And what you have to understand is that after reading any of Kelby’s books you really do walk away with a good deal of inspiration…..and gear lust.  Since things are tight on the financial front I decided to go with the inspiration side and toy with some ideas.

This go round an entire chapter is dedicated to product photography.  Very cool indeed.  See, I’ve been meaning to get around to photographing pieces in the gallery for the artists we host here.  Something always comes up though.  Printing for clients, talking to gallery guests, folks stopping by for a hello.  Well, with the recent snow storm I knew things wouldn’t be busy in the gallery, so I set a project for myself for the morning.  Some “product photography.”

Now I’ve played with macro photography, enjoyed photographing coins, and toyed around with some product style shots.  But I’ve never felt like I had the right backdrop, studio gear, etc.  Remember, I do have my wireless flash setup though…….so, part way there.

In Kelby’s chapter on product photos he touched on several really cool things.  I’m not giving them all away here, so I’d suggest you just go out and grab the book.  It’s worth it.

I will tell you one take away I had after reading though.  I’ve got more “gear” at the gallery then I thought I had.  Two simple points stuck out in my mind while reading.  Point 1, Foam Core for a backdrop.  Heck, we’ve got gobs of foam core.  I trip over it in the print room all the time, as it sticks out a touch from Ian’s table.

Point 2.  Plexiglass for a cool reflected effect.  Just pop the plexi over the foam core and Voila!  Reflective surface to play with.  I can do that!

So after the bit of inspirational reading on Monday, and getting a little stir crazy hiding from the storm, I got myself into the gallery early on Tuesday.  When you’re inspired, go for it!

The gallery really doesn’t have anywhere for me to shoot that’s convenient.  Heck, I’ve got such a tight workspace it isn’t funny, and I’m surprised I haven’t gone all claustrophobic!  But I managed to work out a small test space on Ian’s cutting table.  I grabbed two pieces of black foam core, and one small cutting of plexi.

The setup took me all of 3 minutes maybe?  Yeah, it was quick.

I next broke out the 580EX II and a 430EX II and set them up on wireless mode.  They were set almost directly apart from each other on the edge of the plexi, and the plexi was put over a black piece of foam core.  The second sheet of foam core was put upright as a backdrop and I was ready to go.

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Rick's Geib's "Bloom"

I decided to play with several bronzes for the morning.  Several of Gary Persello’s pieces as I’m partial to Fantasy stuff, a few of Rick Geib’s, and finally a couple of John Skurja’s frogs.  Love those frogs!

After shooting for a little while and liking the on camera results I exported everything off to Lightroom 2 in order to have a look.  Not bad, not bad at all.  I was aiming for some very selective lighting in a few shots, and I think I achieved it.  I especially liked the reflective surface results on Gary’s Twilight Brother piece (the first image in this post).

Now, I bet you’re going to ask about camera settings and the rest, right?  Guess I’ll have to tell you about them since you asked.

First, the Canon 5D Mark II was used.  I used a tethered flash cable from it to the 580EX II.  I set the 580 as the master unit, and the 430EX II as a slaved unit.  I did nothing else with the flashes, as control of the flashes can be set in camera which is super easy and convenient!

As far as the 5D?  Fully manual mode.  I set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second for the high speed sync on the flashes.  I popped the fstop to f/22.  ISO 100.  Then I worked with the flash output in order to control how much lighting came across.

Working with the flash output was a breeze.  Hit the 5D’s on screen menu, jump over to the speedlight control section, and deal with your output right there.  No grabbing the flash to reset power.  I like having the control right on the camera, it totally encourages laziness!

See, the foam core and plexiglass didn’t quite match up.  There was going to be a seam in each shot if I lit it wrong, but that’s something you can always correct in Photoshop afterward.  What I was trying to do though was control the light to the point where very little reflected from the upright piece of foam core, and the seam where pieces met didn’t show through.

My final results?  Pretty good by me for a first run at a confined setup.  How I wish I had a studio!  Of course, I’d need to fill the studio with stuff…..and that would cost me money…, working with what I have currently works out just fine.

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I had to reshoot this one multiple times. Looking for specific lighting, and I'm still not quite happy. I'll keep working at it!

Now, I suppose the final judges of this first round of images will be the artists themselves.  Guess I’ll wait for their comments before I pat myself on the back.

As you can see (well, I hope you see it), a little inspiration from a good book can go a long way.  I know I teased a good deal about Scott Kelby’s books encouraging me to spend money (which the books do effectively), but the books also provide a great deal of inspiration, and they encourage experimentation if you’re of the mindset.

Big thanks for all the inspiration.  And here’s hoping I provided you a little inspiration today to do a little reading, and then do some experimenting of your own!

Comments 1

  1. I like the shot of this statue more than the previously more illuminated one. The whimsical nature of the work is highlighted as the shot brings it to life.

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