I've always admired the product shots of electronics, particularly cameras in magazines, or the web. You only have to try to take a photo of this equipment yourself to realize how much work they must put into making these things look as amazing as they do. It looks sleek, dramatic, bigger than life. It makes you want to reach out and steal it own it. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can make this shot without all the fancy equipment and photoshopping. And, while I'm shooting a camera here, these simple tricks might help you use light more creatively to shoot whatever it is you craze.
So, before we start, I want to pull up a shot I used for the plog "Mark is born" - when I first got the Mark II.
OK, not a great shot, but I needed something to introduce Mark to Project I.S.O., and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, so I shot quickly and dumped my Rebel... until I decided I had to shoot Mark again.
I didn't like this shot for a few reasons. While the shot is dramatic, the framing seems odd. The viewpoint makes the whole camera look smaller than it is. The light falloff is rapid, leaving the left side of the photo in the dark, which is great for drama, but nearly 1/2 this frame is being unused. Next, while the light angle illuminates the body well and gets most of the texture on the top of the body, it fails to demonstrate the characteristic "skin" on Mark. Lastly, you can't even tell this is a Mark II - the text to the bottom right of the body is pretty obscured.
I must redeem myself. So here we go. Get ready for the setup that will change the way you think about product shooting. Be prepared, this is ghetto, and it will look ridiculous.
Here's the setting at a glance. Don't get overwhelmed, this is just to give you an overview. Let's take this one step at a time.
The Key Light
The first step in any lighting setup is establishing the main or "key" light. I chose to light the camera from the right side. You can see I've placed a lamp between 2 white foam boards that are stood up by rubber-footed paperclips (ingenous). This light gets tunnelled through the "barn doors" towards the right foam board that reflects our key light onto the side of the camera. This effectively illuminates the main side I will be shooting from. The board directly behind the camera will also serve as a nice blank background.
Here is the result of the key light. As you can see, I've placed another panel now to the left. This panel will collect scattered light to fill the left side of the photo which is hidden in shadows. More importantly, it will reflect light into the lens to illuminate the glass and the lettering.
The B&H Catalog
See how the panel reflects the light back onto the lens? Now, we need to elevate the camera a little. This will allow me to shoot from an angle below the camera, making it seem larger when I compose the shot later. So, I've used the B&H catalog for this. This is crucial. It must be a B&H Catalog otherwise this project will fail ENTIRELY. Remember. B&H!@@#$#.
Fill from Below
Now, the only thing I haven't explained is why there's a scrap piece of paper sitting on the table. Yes, my gear can get a little sloppy once in awhile, but I assure you, this piece of paper is crucial for the setup. In fact, this scrap white paper is reflecting light upwards at the Mark II text. Now, you can see it is well lit, despite being all the way at the bottom of the camera body.
Lastly, you may have noticed that most of the light is coming only from the right side, with a small fill on the left. Well, if I had shot it this way, the background would have been uneven, being lighter towards the right, and darker to the left. The fill card really didn't provide enough to even out the ligthing on the background. So, I bounced another lamp off a foam panel towards the background, which is now evenly illuminated from left to right (at least in my frame).
Lastly, you may have noticed the cup to the left - It is in fact full of coffee, a much needed accessory to any long shoot.
Finally, adjusting the white balance in LR achieves our final shot, with a nice clean white background. We have removed the tungsten color of our lamps.
I find this angle much improved. The camera (especially lens) looks massive. The lens glass and text is visible, but not overlit to be too distracting. The body reveals good detail in the smooth finish of the upper body and the "skin" of Mark below. The "Mark II" and "5D" are clearly lit thanks to our scrap paper.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this one!