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Archive 2012 · Product shot lighting recomendations?
  
 
Will Patterson
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


A friend wants me to get shots of some products he's selling on his website (Milltek car exhaust parts) and I'm mostly a noob when it comes to lighting equipment.

I rented an Elinchrom dual light box setup before, but I'd like to buy something to do shots like this and maybe some in-house portraits. I know the setup I had rented was a few thousand bucks, waaaay out of my league at this point.

I'd also like to get a background setup, something like this - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/594218-REG/Impact_BG_W_1012_SK_Background_Support_Kit.html


I have a wireless remote to use with an off-shoe flash, but I'd like something like an Alien Bee setup, I'm just not sure what to get really. I'd like something to shoot stuff as small as exhaust parts, but something I could shoot portraits with. Any help is appreciated!



Feb 28, 2012 at 03:18 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


With most still life subject you get the most realistic looking 3D rendering in a 2D image by creating directional lighting from behind from above at about a reverse 45 angle with even, slightly downward fill from above.

Reflective parts require a strategy where you surround with object with a white "tent" to get uniform highlights on the shiny parts and then add darker cards or draping around the bottom to create the illusion of shadows. When I got my MX-5 I waited a couple months for a uniformly overcast day so I could get that type of lighting, then used the old trick of wetting down the pavement to make it darker on the bottom to create the illusion of "shadows" in the more or less flat even light. The advantage of flat light is that it also allows the camera sensor to record the full tonal range outdoors....







You can achieve a similar effect indoors with minimal equipment by shooting in a small white room with bare flash....







I took these shots to show a furniture maker how to pull off shooting the chairs he made on a white background with only the two lights he had. The frontal lighting comes from bare bulb that both creates specular point source highlights and also floods the space with spill fill in all directions like the overcast day car shot to create the uniform highlights. There's a black drape hung on the right side wall to "subtract" the fill on that side making the lighting appear more directional...

SOOC - bare bulb





Edited in Photoshop:





As mentioned above the addition of rim lighting enhances the illusion of 3D shape and spacial separation with the background...
SOOC:





Photochopped:






For small parts you could do something similar by creating a surround with white foam core on the floor, with black cards or fabric to create the shadows and just bounce the flash off the ceiling over head or off to the side for more directional lighting.

To get the detail in black on black subjects the key factor is keeping the fill from the direction of the camera as shadowless as possible because where the fill is shaded there will be no detail... This was just a quick pair of shots to illustrate a DIY lighting accessory I created.

For the first I bounced the fill up off the ceiling with the key light from behind and right...





But to get more detail in front on the black umbrella holder I switched to direct fill from over the camera






Strategies will need to vary depending on the tone the object and how you want to reveal it. Small reflectors such as foil covered cards, or black cards to cut reflections, added to the basic two light frontal fill / rim lighting strategy can be used to nuance the modeling with minimal flash gear. Find a large north facing garage door as your source and you can get some nice lighting with no flash at all. Or wait for an overcast day




Feb 28, 2012 at 04:19 PM
rkgatteleport
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


The setups for shooting shiny stuff like this can vary wildly depending on what look the
client wants. FWIW, you probably need to sit down with them and design the images/agree on what they want prior to deciding on what equipment you need to achieve their needs.

That said, I've been making do with a number of Buff products (x3200, x800, ab400) - they're OK, but their color consistency isn't the best (maybe the einsteins are better - I haven't tried them), and I find that their output intensity jumps around a little bit due to
various factors. - on the other hand, I can usually get what the client wants
out of them, and the lower cost is always good when you're squeezing your camera
to eat...

FWIW, If your ceiling is low enough/is solid, I find autopoles to be the way to go to hold
up backgrounds - they take up no floorspace, are Really Hard to knock over, and are
incredibly versatile - During the financial crisis I was fortunate enough to pick up a bunch of these along with superclamps, clips, etc. from various store closings on the cheap. I've got
a couple of those background stands like the ones you posted the
pointer to, but now pretty much always just use the horizontal poles out of them...

Good Luck,

rkg
(Richard George)



Feb 28, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Will - Have you been to Milltek's website and looked at their shot of various exhaust products? What they've done is a prime example of how NOT to shoot shiny and semi-shiny metal. The photos there are mediocre at best.

If you're just going to be shooting the smaller pieces, like exhaust tips and mufflers, you can get by with a fairly simple setup. A couple of 4'x8' sheets of Fomecore and some tungsten lights to bounce off of them. These subjects aren't going anywhere. You don't need strobes here if you're on a budget. You just need to think about what those parts are reflecting.

I shoot a ton of highly reflective metal. It's one of the most difficult things to get right, and a lot of photographers won't even attempt it because of that. You're basically photographing a mirror for the polished pieces, but a mirror that's curved and sees every damned thing in the studio. That's why you need to thing about what it's reflecting and control that.

Whatever you do, please, please, do not use a cheesy cloth like the examples in the previous post. It looks so amateurish and cheap. A white seamless or a sheet of white plex or white formica would be more appropriate - and for website images, white is always a good choice, particularly after you've knocked out the background and left just enough shadow or reflection to ground your subject.

You're also going to have to consider whether you want to have just part of the pieces in focus or have everything from front to back in focus. Two different looks, but often for these kind of products, full, complete depth of field adds a hyper realism to the shots that is a plus. Unfortunately, you can rarely get that with just f-stop alone. Either a tilt-shift lens or using focus stacking methods give the best results.

Start with the smaller pieces and work your way up. You'd be surprised how good some of that stuff can look with a very simple setup with one or two lights and two or three reflectors. And remember that on chrome or chromish surfaces like these, the background surface being white is a huge help, as it's a reflector too.





Feb 28, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Will Patterson
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Thanks a lot for the input guys. I appreciate it. I've done SOME off camera lighting before, but not product style shots. I've got one stand/umbrella/430ex strobe and a YongNuo wireless sync setup that works great, I think I'll get a second of the same setup and see how that works with that background.


Feb 28, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Will Patterson
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Peter Figen wrote:
Will - Have you been to Milltek's website and looked at their shot of various exhaust products? What they've done is a prime example of how NOT to shoot shiny and semi-shiny metal. The photos there are mediocre at best.

If you're just going to be shooting the smaller pieces, like exhaust tips and mufflers, you can get by with a fairly simple setup. A couple of 4'x8' sheets of Fomecore and some tungsten lights to bounce off of them. These subjects aren't going anywhere. You don't need strobes here if you're on a budget. You just need to think
...Show more


Thanks a lot! Great info. I never considered the bare tungsten bulb approach but if I put a gel on my flash I could definitely do that, or at least try it. I have all day, he's a friend of mine, so I'm willing to experiment to see what I can do with the parts and so that he has a few different styles of lighting to choose from in the final pictures. And I agree about them being difficult to shoot because they are going to reflect everything. And I also don't like the photos on Milltek's website, way too harsh.



Feb 28, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Will - One thing you're not going to want to do is use an umbrella. Once you see the inside of an umbrella reflected in something shiny, you'll never want to see that again. Large, flat, white reflectors are what works best for this. Then bouncing lights against them, sometimes feathering the light off so not all the reflector is lit is also effective. That will help create a gradated highlight in the metal. You want the metal to look like metal and not plastic, so a gradation helps give that impression. If you decide to shoot tungsten, you can set you camera to that setting and your color should be very close. Best to shoot RAW and then just gray balance when you process the raw files, as the lights may or may not be exactly 3200K, especially after bouncing off cards.


Feb 28, 2012 at 06:00 PM
 

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Mark_L
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Factor this into your budget:




Feb 28, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Will Patterson
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Peter Figen wrote:
Will - One thing you're not going to want to do is use an umbrella. Once you see the inside of an umbrella reflected in something shiny, you'll never want to see that again. Large, flat, white reflectors are what works best for this. Then bouncing lights against them, sometimes feathering the light off so not all the reflector is lit is also effective. That will help create a gradated highlight in the metal. You want the metal to look like metal and not plastic, so a gradation helps give that impression. If you decide to shoot tungsten, you
...Show more


Ok, I'll try that. What should I get for lighting then? You're saying tungsten, should I just use bare bulbs?



Feb 28, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Will - If you want to keep it on a strict budget, you can do it with a couple of floodlamps with 3200K bulbs in them. Obviously, the sky is the limit if you really want to get into lighting, but for this it's not really necessary. Bare bulbs are hard to control as the light pretty much goes everywhere. You want to be able to direct it to the reflectors, and feather it off, sometimes by turning the light and other times by maybe putting a small card partially in front of the light.

I'm trying to keep in mind that your original post mentioned not wanting to spend a ton of money on this and I don't think you have to. You should be able to do all of this for maybe a hundred or a hundred fifty bucks.

When I'm shooting this sort of stuff, I generally use strobes, but the principles are the same. I'm often bouncing a strobe head with a seven inch reflector on to a piece of Fomecore that is above or to the side of the object. Sometimes I put gridspot honeycombs in the reflector to help direct the light, sometimes not. Sometimes I shoot with the electronic flash and other times I use only the tungsten modeling lamps. It just depends on the photo at hand and what seems to work best.

If you can shoot into a laptop or desktop tethered, it will make your life faster and easier.



Feb 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Will Patterson
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Thanks Peter. I have some shopping to do on B&H I really do appreciate the advice.


Feb 28, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Will Patterson
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Peter, here's what I received from B&H today, looking forward to toying with different angles and reflectors on-site. These are 250 watts each -








Mar 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM
John Skinner
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Product shot lighting recomendations?


Just as a side note. The fomecore will mark easily. Especially with auto parts and alike.

When I've had situations where I needed to shoot items that have been manufactured (factory) and they come out of a box, they tend to be dirty. I don't want to alcohol down an entire (place part here). A piece of white plexi works well. Say 4 X 4 with a 1/4 inch thickness. (a small investment if you have to do this regularly)

Easily cleanable with Windex, and you can fasten things to it with 2 sided tape or duct tape from behind for angled shots without worry of screwing the fome it will clean easily.

Support for the plastic can be anything from a wire/cord on each corner that will adjust from the ceiling allowing angles/tilts/etc. to a small wood frame (your height may vary) and this can also be backlit easily for a higher contrast look. A small kitchen step ladder will allow for those 'over the top' shots.

But I think you went the right way with continuous as apposed to strobes.



Mar 04, 2012 at 11:58 AM





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