Product and still life studio lighting 1
I really liked this class! It occurred at the beginning of November 2010 and the intent was to expand upon the Intro to Light class we had a month and a half prior. Each class is two and a half to three weeks long, we all focus on just that one class at a time and move through the program together as a group. Oh I don’t think I ever told you, but there are 8 people total, including myself, in my class. Four guys and four girls, it worked out very well. We get along great and we are considered a smaller class, but that generally means we each get more shooting time in and get to work in smaller groups, I’m glad I’m part of this smaller class. For this class we had a different teacher than Intro to Light, this time we had a woman named Sharon White. She’s a fantastic photographer and really knows her stuff, especially with studio lighting. She, like Paul from the Intro class, have operated a studio for quite a while, I look up to them both and really admire their work.
This class was geared towards learning more about studio lighting in a controlled environment, rather than shooting outside and being at the mercy of the sun and constantly changing weather. Also, non-moving objects are (generally) easier to work with, so product/still life seems like the natural progression. For the first night (class is every Monday and Wednesday nights from 6-9:45pm and every other Saturday 9am-5pm) we simply needed to bring in a stationary object, something with some texture to it. I brought in one of those little pumpkins since Halloween was just a few days prior (the class I am talking about happened on 11/3/10) because I thought the color was interesting and the vertical line/ridges would make some interesting shadows and be a good example. Turns out, I was right! Here are a few of the photos from that night. (For the gear people, we used Profoto Acute2 1200 studio packs, my Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-70 2.8L USM lens.)
This was lit from above, and for this particular item, it doesn’t show a whole lot of texture. It creates an interesting shadow below since it’s rounded, but virtually no texture. (Single strobe head and zoom reflector only for these three photos)
This was lit from the side, obviously. Notice how much more texture there is? Since the ridges on the pumpkin run from top to bottom, there is shadow in between the ridges, this is by far my favorite photo from this setup. I also really like the hard shadow that is created here.
The only difference between this photo and the one above is I used a white fill card (just a piece of foam core) on the right to add some light into those ridges and soften the shadow. This was just an exercise. There was still some texture along those ridges, more than the very first image, but there wasn’t quite as dramatic shadows in this photo. I still like the one above better.
Clearly not all products are alike, but the point here is to try multiple lighting scenarios until you come up with a good one for the product you are shooting. And once you get the perfect setup, take a photo of your setup! Or at least draw it out with details of what you were shooting so you can refer back to it later if you get a similar product to shoot again. Save yourself some time!
Now the next class, on 11/6/10, we were instructed to bring in a glass of some sort, I opted to bring in a red wine glass because I like the shape. Shooting glass is hard! Well, it’s hard at first, at least. Have you done this before:
Why not just setup a black seamless, two softboxes, and just fire away?
Damn, two didn’t work, lets lower the power and just use one head… yeah, that’ll work…
Damn, that didn’t work either! Oh, wait… lets move the softbox directly overhead… yeah, that’ll work…
Steve and I had no idea what the hell we were doing, neither of us had photographed glass before. Sooooo, we called Sharon over and she just smiled at us. She said, “You’re doing it wrong” flatly. Uhhhh, yeah, we know! It was funny, actually, as well as being irritating. Well, she explained to us that we had, for this particular shoot, the black paper on the bottom correct, but using a softbox like that is going to create a lot of spill… yup, definitely had that problem. The solution? Get a big-ass (3′x4′) softbox, put it at table height and vertically (perpendicular to the table), and put the diffusion at the front of the softbox right up at the edge of the table. Now the trick? Use some black paper or foam core, juuuuuust enough to fill the frame of your viewfinder when looking through the camera between the light and the glass to block off the light from hitting your lens directly (still need to use lens hood, obviously). This creates a black background and the big soft light source wraps around the “background” and highlights just the edges of the glass, it’s so simple!
After we took a few shots like this, varying the distance between the glass and the background to adjust how much light falls on those edges, we swapped out the bottom black paper for some black plexiglass to get a reflection, and I looooove these!
Stole someone’s martini glass for this one, we had everything setup perfectly and this looks great! The plexi wasn’t perfect though, you can see the reflection curve just a slight bit at the bottom of the photo…
I learned a lot from this class, I learn from most of my classes, but this one set a really good foundation for proper lighting habits. Specifically about continually trying to find new angles, or new ways, to shoot something (or someone). Don’t just settle for the first thing you come up with, push yourself to try something new or different, it could make your work infinitely better with minimal effort. Seriously!
Have you photographed glass like this before? Did you have similar troubles? What were your solutions? Lets chat about it in the comments!