In Threes

In Threes

Many times in catalog or product work we are asked to shoot the same thing from different angles. This is NOT as easy as it sounds.

Objects present light differently depending on shape, color, texture and dimension… and many objects have different qualities on different sides of the product.

Below are three examples of a subject shot at three different angles, or three different ways.

They show what can go right and what can be more challenging.

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Anders  Deme (UK) used a large softbox and several white cards for this shot of expensive Brandy. You can see the cards reflected in the bottle cap and the bottle itself.

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Jorge Rodriguez (Cambodia) used natural light coming in through a doorway, and white cards to enhance the shiny surfaces of the antique sowing machine.

Chopsticks at Multiple Angles

Damian Powell (UK) used a large softbox to the rear of the set, and adjusted white cards in the front part of the set to get the exact look he wanted from the shadow sides.

Takeaway.

To shoot one thing from one angle is far easier than to take the same item(s) and shoot them from three angles. The way the items look, how the photographer presents them, how the lighting can help/hinder the process… all are taken into account when attempting to shoot something from different POV’s.

Assignment.

Find an item to make three shots of in the same way. Not closeups/distance shots, but from same distance and with the object being in the same size in all images. Notice how Damian above worked with DOF and angle while preserving the same size of the object he was shooting.

Two additional shots for your inspiration:

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Duane Middlebrook (Philipines)… Duane worked with a large light source and white cards to keep the shiny black parts of the blender alive.

 

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Patrick Mathews (US) used gelled speedlights and a small softobx to capture the grit and detail of a fireman’s helmet.

“Tungsten”

Photographer Anders Ericksson, Sweden.

A combination of several photographs, Anders Eriksson creates a ‘magical’ moment of light. The bulb was shot alone in order to get the edge lighting exactly right. A strip light was used to light either side and then the two sides of the bulbs were combined with bulb lit from in front by fill cards (see base of lamp). The hand was shot separately as was the fiery tungsten burning inside the bulb. A background with a single spray light for gradient was added behind the composite to give it depth.

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Takeaways:

The creative conception of an image can lead to many ways of creating it. Anders ‘saw’ this image in his head and then began to assemble the needed tools to make it happen. He discovered that it was easier to assemble two halves of the light than to shoot it with two lights, and creating the image he saw was now a matter of assembly.

Assignment:

See how you can do with this shot. Think it through. You must have a tripod and be able to match items up in Photoshop. That means attention to detail, angle and repeatability is paramount. How many different images will you use to create your “bulb”?

Lady in Blue

Photographer Girish Bashavar, Ohio

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In this photograph by Girish Balshavar of Dayton, Ohio, the model is lit with one large source to camera left, and slightly below the subjects elbow. The light source, a softbox, is only a little out of frame and providing soft, washed light across the models arm and skin. Attention to styling pays off with tightly woven hair, perfect nails and excellent makeup. Note the models excellent hand position as well. Fingers are curled and the hand feels comfortable and relaxed. The low camera angle provides the shadow side of the arms and creates shape.

Takeways:

There are times when a lower than normal lighting angle can be used for dramatic effect.

Assignment:

Using a softbox or umbrella, place the center of the light slightly below the chin and work the pose to make it look natural and glamorous.  Do not let the eyes go dark from cheek shadows, nor should you have a “horror-film” look to the image. Work the body, shoulders and pose to provide a state of naturalness to the lower than normal light source. In other words, provide context for the light.

Through the Rainy Glass

Photographer Anna Gunn and Filipe Martins, Portugal.

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A thin sheet of glass was sprayed with water to provide a bit of an out of focus foreground and create a mood for this stylish portrait by Anna and Filipe. To create the feel of a rainy day, they used a large diffuser to camera right, just out of frame. To light that scrim, a small strip light was placed only inches from it. The size of the scrim created a soft, constantly fading away light source since the strip light was so close to it. This gave a very natural main light, with ultra soft wrap from the soft, diffused scrim. No fill cards were used on the shadow side.

Takeaways:

Moving a very large light source in close, and providing a smallish size source behind it can create a very soft, natural “window” light look for portraiture.

Assignment:

Using a very large scrim (cloth shower curtains from Target) bring an additional soft light into the back to illuminate it. Use a small softbox (6-10″) or small umbrella (24 – 30″) and work the distance from 16″ to 4″. Note the different ways the light falls off, and creates a feeling of soft ambient. The distance of the source from the scrim may determine the size of the ‘hot’ area. Note the difference between small softbox and umbrellas.

Bob Knill’s “Moody Style”

Photographer Bob Knill, Maryland.

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Bob Knill of Frederick, Maryland wanted a very dark, moody portrait.

Using a main light consisting of a 5-in-one scrim (the inside of a 5-in-one reflector system) with a speedlight he created a very earthy, dark but sublime main light. By keeping the strobe very close to the scrim he was able to create a bit of a hot center, while the surrounding scrim was lit up enough to provide excellent “ambient”. A second hard light (un modified speedlight) was added behind the subject to give an edge to the natural shadow side, presenting detail and shape.

Bob sent along a behind the scenes shot of his lighting setup. Note how close the flash is to the scrim.

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Takeaways:

Note how the gentleman’s head never disappears into the very dark background. Bob kept the ambient at a point where the head never falls away. The detail provided by the hard “kicker” light behind is just enough to give the image separation and depth. The overall dark, mysterious look is achieved by not letting any of the subject blend into the background.

Assignment:

Using a scrim or shower curtain for a main light, bring your source (flash/strobe/hot light) into a distance of about 3 – 5 inches and use that ‘hot spot’ to light your subjects face. Control the ambient with the amount of ‘spill’ you get from the light in close to the scrim. Don’t let the subject melt into the background, instead provide either fill cards or a second light for separation. Work this out… you can do it, and it can be a wonderful stylistic approach for you.

Still Life Breakdown: Corn in Virginia

Still Life Breakdown: Corn in Virginia

This past weekend I was privileged to hang out with a bunch of photographers in Virginia. It was not a workshop, it was a hangout-and-shoot-your-ass-off weekend. Stephen and Michele were the gracious hosts who put it all together, and we had a blast.

Saturday had us shooting a wide variety of talent they had booked, and we shot in a very nice little studio in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. The weather cooperated and we had a couple of lovely days to shoot outside and in the studio.

More of those images on this Sunday’s dispatch “In The Frame” which you can sign up for free right over there on the right. We don’t spam you and we let you know if there is something for sale. Most of the time it is just a lot of fun, and stuff you will not find on this site.

One of the attendees, Bob Knill, wanted to step up his game in the still life / food arena, so he came prepared with two fresh ears of corn snapped up at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. (If you live near Fredericksburg, you really should check it out – Saturday mornings near downtown.)

We are going to take a look at this image from a different perspective… we are going to deconstruct it from finished to start. Instead of starting with the corn and adding in what we did, we will look at what happens when we take things away.

(I should mention that these are straight out of the camera with zero adjustments or modifications. They were processed from Raw in LR5, and exported to PS for JPEG.)

First let’s set the stage:

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You can see all the major players here.

  • The main lighting is the scrim placed just above the set. That is lit by a small softbox about 4 inches from the scrim to make the light have shape. Backing it off fills the scrim, but moving it in close creates a hot spot on the scrim and lets Bob focus the main part of his light wherever he wants.
  • The second light is an unmodified speedlight on the left, passing through a glass block placed very close to the set.
  • Notice the glass block has a black card on the speedlight side and one on the corn side. Those small cards are helping to shape the light as it comes through the glass block. It also keeps unwanted light from spilling around the edges.
  • There are two small white cards propped up in front of the corn. They are adding a bit of fill, and something for the glistening corn to reflect on the shadow side.
  • Bob is shooting tethered here so he can see the nuances of his lighting.

The set is quite small – less than the coffee table we were shooting on. He set his shutter and aperture on a setting that assured no extraneous light would be added by the ambient.

ISO 200, f4.5, 1/60th of a second with a 50MM lens were the chosen tools and settings.

The first shot is with all the gear set as in the BTS above. Click on the images for a much larger experience.

Notice the smooth light, with delicate fill all around the corn. That is the combination of small speedlight and diffuser providing a nice ambient feel. The speedlight to camera right coming through the glass block gives the image some depth and interest, as well as shaping the top ear of corn with light and shadow. Notice how subtle the light is from the left.

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In this shot we removed the black cards that were on the glass block. The light is less nuanced, but still interesting. It is your shot – make it your way. With the cards no longer shaping the light, the fill cards in front are now brighter and providing more fill than when they were not receiving so much of the speedlight from the left.

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Now we remove the cards from in front of the corn and it goes much darker in front of the corn.

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This shot is with the light to camera right shut off. Now the only light is from the diffuser and the small softbox above the corn. This has a very soft, natural light look to it as well.

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On this shot we removed the scrim and just used the speedlight in the small softbox. You can see the entire feel of the ambient is now gone. This has a very point-source feel to it.

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Interestingly enough, you may like any one of these for your work. There is no one way or right way to do this stuff. Experiment and have fun creating your own versions of how you want to light.

Bob spent a couple of hours on this, working out exactly what he wanted to do, and doing some cool variations. I hope he shares those on his blog when he is ready.

This shot shows how the little shelf blocked some light behind the set so it would create a shadow and some fall off for the background.

Paying attention to the smallest details is what this type of photography is all about.

BTW, it is a blast to work with subjects and light like this. Try a couple ears of corn or a head of broccoli or whatever you like. Blend the light, make the light do what you want it to do and don’t give up at the first shot. Keep working it till you get what you want.

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Another shot of the set.

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Sort of a ‘spy-cam’ feel, eh?

OK – see you next time.

BTW, if you would like to see more posts like this, please let me know. I am happy to do them.