Today, I would like to introduce my entourage. Meet the usual suspects. This is Project I.S.O. OK that was dramatic, but really it's just an excuse for some product photography. I have been playing around outside of my favorite lightbox setup, and instead have come up with some techniques for more directional, controlled lighting using simple household lamps and flash. These simple tricks offer some surprisingly dramatic product shots. While the lightbox is all well and good for quick, even, soft lighting, that gets boring fast, as it can be a fairly flat lighting style. So, to get around that, I have used some odds and ends pieces of cardboard and bounce cards for this product shoot of my gear. The new lens line-up photos have been added to the new, updated "about" page.
We start off with this cool cat, my 50mm which always reminds me of an eyeball for some reason. I wanted to play around with some interesting lighting here so I combined a regular tungsten lamp and my flash to create some color contrast. Look to the right - you will notice the "canon" is lit in an orange-ish color. This is the tungsten lamp. The light carries over to the "EF 50mm" text. With my flash OFF, I exposed for an appropriate amount of ambient lighting to taste. This basically meant that only the right side of the lens was lit in orange and exposed. I then added flash, gelled with 1/2 CTB (color temp blue), and bounced it off the wall to my front and left to fill in the rest of the lens not lit by ambient lighting. The flash was flagged using a half snoot to block any flare from being picked up on the front of the lens. In retrospect, I would have preferred more orange light. This could have been achieved by increasing the ambient exposure ("dragging the shutter").
Next, the telephoto shoot. This was my first take, which is later revised (see below) for a more appealing look. The choice to shoot vertical made sense as this is a long lens. This was simply lit by bouncing a tungsten lamp off a white board to achieve a front, 45 degree angle of light. The goal here was to ensure the text was lit, but equally important was to capture the texture of the rubber grip on the focus ring. I like the color temperature which enhances the characteristic gold lettering ("ultrasonic") on this lens.
Here is version 2. The major adjustments with this is really more on choice of composition and background. The lighting remains much the same. I wanted the lens to fall into darkness, and I felt the red background provided more contrast and drama. The red background was actually a photo album.
Next, Mr. Macro lens. Personally, I like the feel of Sigma's lenses. They just seem more rugged, and the finish of the lens housing has a nice feel to it. As you can see from the reflection on the distance scale, this was lit from front left. While the logo stand out nicely, and you can really get a feel for the finish of the lens (including the nice gold sparkles on it), I'm not too crazy about the distracting blown highlights created by the angle of light. I also like the way the rubber grip turned out.
After dinking around a bit, I found this to be the shot worth keeping. This more aerial view, made more sense for a few reasons. The first is it eliminates the distracting blown highlights. The second is that the background is more uniform and therefore also less distracting - shooting downwards captured the black table, without the white wall in the background. lastly, for a fairly simple, plain looking lens, I bring the focus to where it matters - the rubber ring, the distance scale, the logo, and a part of the finish / sparkles on the surface.
Since I had to remove this lens to photograph it, I switched to my telephoto and shot at 300mm to minimize depth of field. I originally intended to shoot this with my 50mm, but it didn't get me close enough (the min focus distance is something like 1.5ft). The lighting setup here was from slightly behind and to the right of the lens. The text on the lens was illuminated via a bounce card, directed to provide bare minimal lighting to the text while intentionally keeping the left of the frame in the dark. My favorite trick in this photo is an overhead bounce card placed directly above, and parallel to the glass on the lens - this helped visualize the glass on the lens, which was otherwise dark. You can see the bounce card on the left of the glass.
This was a photo I used for a technical article on some issues I had with flash and the technique of focus and recomposing. If you want to be really confused, read it here. This was set on one of Michael Freeman's books on composition, ironically. I shot this with my 50mm using available light coming in from 1/2 open blinds to the left - my favorite way to use available light during the day (find a nice big open window or sliding doors anywhere, and side lighting always be pleasant). While it's a nice photo, it's certainly not a product shot without drama.
This is drama. This says "I'm batman!". For an interesting background, I placed the speedlite on some plexiglass. The single light placed down low and from the left side created several effects. One, it made for dramatic fast, light fall-off. Two, it reflected the red light panel (autofocus assist) on the front of the speedlite. And three, it lit the edges of the plexiglass and made it glow cyan. While I could have lit this shot from the right, this would have caused the "580 EX II" label to blow out.
At this point, I decide to take a 180 degree turn and switch to some higher key lighting. I stood the speedlite on its stand, and lit it from the back. Because the key light was in the back, this overexposed it into a nice clean white background. The front of the speedlite was actually lit with 2 bounce cards. The one of the left is clearly closer than the one on the left, so there is still shadow and definition created across the front face. Lastly, the speedlite is being lit indirectly from below by the white board it stood on, which bounced any residual light upwards towards the Canon label. All I had to do was compose and make the speedlite look nice and tall.
Wow, we're really running out of time here. Stay tuned, as I will be posting a step by step DIY setup for my shoot with the 5D.