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New to this type of photography
Jun 12, 2019 10:49:19   #
wayne-03 Loc: Minnesota
 
I'm retired, drive school bus and I'm off for the summer. I decided to try my hand at tabletop photography. What am I doing wrong?


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Jun 12, 2019 11:07:21   #
charlienow Loc: Hershey, PA
 
Just wondering what your complaint is with these shots...

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Jun 12, 2019 11:07:59   #
PixelStan77 Loc: Vermont/Chicago
 
wayne-03 wrote:
I'm retired, drive school bus and I'm off for the summer. I decided to try my hand at tabletop photography. What am I doing wrong?


Wayne, A great way to have fun in retirement. I am trying to understand your lighting. You are using 4 flash units and the lighting seems balanced? Why 4 flash units?

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Jun 12, 2019 12:03:09   #
wayne-03 Loc: Minnesota
 
charlienow wrote:
Just wondering what your complaint is with these shots...


Maybe it's my computer but the background looks gray, I was trying for a white background.

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Jun 12, 2019 12:04:38   #
wayne-03 Loc: Minnesota
 
PixelStan77 wrote:
Wayne, A great way to have fun in retirement. I am trying to understand your lighting. You are using 4 flash units and the lighting seems balanced? Why 4 flash units?


Just trying to match what I say in this YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW2ngB4L1Lk

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Jun 13, 2019 11:08:39   #
Kozan Loc: Trenton Tennessee
 
wayne-03 wrote:
Maybe it's my computer but the background looks gray, I was trying for a white background.


To lighten up the background, move the subject closer to the background. You can also light the background separately from the subject.

Also, you can use a translucent material for your background and light it from behind.

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Jun 13, 2019 11:42:03   #
Vince68 Loc: Wappingers Falls, NY
 
wayne-03 wrote:
Maybe it's my computer but the background looks gray, I was trying for a white background.


Wayne,

After looking at the photos of your setup and watching the video, your setup looks a bit different than Adam Lerner's in his video. The two speedlights he used to blow out the background are placed on the table closer to his background, behind the subject he is photographing. Looking at the photo of your setup and the diagrams you have provided, it appears the two V860's being used to blow out the background at not located as shown in the video, but are farther away from your background.

Not having actually tried this setup myself, and only looking at your setup photos and the video link you provided, I would say try moving the two V860's closer to your background as in the video.

Best of luck to you.

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Jun 13, 2019 11:54:23   #
cjc2 Loc: Hellertown PA
 
Just as a general comment, it would not be too difficult to get your background to be white in post. You also might want to check your white balance with a grey card or a color checker. Those, if used properly, will allow you to 'nail it' every time! Best of luck.

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Jun 13, 2019 13:26:33   #
E.L.. Shapiro Loc: Ottawa, Ontario Canada
 
Hey Wayne! Thanks for posting in this section. Great post with photographs and fine diagrams.

So...here's my critique: In simple terms- too MANY lights! Well, not exactly, it a matter of disunity of lighting and that causes less dimensional and modeling.

Just as in a portrait, no matter how many lights are used, it is best to maintain a unified direction of lighting. In many kinds of still life, product illustration and tabletop work, one main light source is sufficient and all the other lights become subservient to the main light in that they don't add major highlights or cast multiple shadows.

I find that softboxes are more effective than umbrellas in that they generally create more even lighting than any parabolic reflective source.

For a wide variety of items, an overhead softbox source, slightly to the back of the subject and feathered so that the edge of the beam can strike a reflector or multiple reflectors, is a good basic system. The reflectors can provide fill for ratio control and preservation of shadow detail.

For sculpture, dolls, etc, the main light can be moved to one side or brought in from the side, anywhere from 45 - 135 degrees to the camera/subject axis, to create portrait-like modeling and the reflector can be used in a like manner. as described above

This basic method will provide more depth, the illusion of a third dimension, and a much better rendition of texture.

Even in catalog, online E-business advertising sites, unless specified, it is not always necessary to float the product on a pure white background. Consider using a colored background, perhaps a graduated background where a color transitions into white or a darker more dramatic background.

In a product shot, as you have done of a camera, you need a more appealing angle showing reflections in the lens. As you can see in my attachment, the overhead lighting placed highlights on the contours of the came body, provides a rendition of texture and the reflector illuminate the lens. In all product shots, "product identification" is important to find an angle where the brand name model designation shows prominently.

The most important technical theory to study in tabletop lighting is ANGLE OF INCIDENCE". The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. Using one main light makes it easier to SEE exactly where your reflectivity is happening in relation to the camera position. Understanding where exactly to place your lighting will enable you to successfully render items with many different surfaces form highly polished metallic finishes to the light absorbing black cloth. If you examine the "egg" shot I am posting, you will notice that there is a good rendition of the eggshells, the dark wooden stand, and the highly polished stones. Since the light is striking the white part of the seamless background an oblique angle of incidence, it is rendered as clean white.

If you wish to get into doing more tabletop work, you might want to try a few of my suggestions especially using various backgrounds and storytelling props. I separate my "product" still life work into two categories. straight catalog shots on a white or solid background or PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION, where the item is placed in an environment or atmosphere to create a scenario or storytelling concept.

You are welcome to post here as often as you like and I will be pleased to walk you through some of the ins and outs.

Hunting for props and background is cheap and fun.
I use stuff like crate wood, barn wood, baskets, carpet and cloth remnants, old rusty stuff, antiques, whatever and you don't need much of it for small items. Decided on a theme and get some stuff.

By the way, my day job is commercial photography- some weeks we do literally hundreds of small product on the tabletop. Some of it is glamorous- cosmetics, flowers, fashionable handbags leather goods, high tech gear, fancy computer peripherals, and all kinds of foods and beverages. and some of it is kinda mundane- nails, screws, small garden tools, kitchen gadgets, garbage cans and bags, plumbing parts, toilet seats, medical supplies- you name it! The challenge is making it all look interesting and creating desire to investigate further and eventually buy on the part of the potential "customer". Even if you are just shooting for yourself, making both ordinary and extraordinary things look enticing and interesting in your images. You add the artistic touch!













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Jun 13, 2019 18:51:00   #
rmalarz Loc: Tempe, Arizona
 
Excellent contribution in your reply, E.L.
--Bob
E.L.. Shapiro wrote:
Hey Wayne! Thanks for posting in this section. Great post with photographs and fine diagrams.

So...here's my critique: In simple terms- too MANY lights! Well, not exactly, it's a matter of disunity of lighting and that causes less dimension and modeling.

Just as in a portrait, no matter how many lights are used, it is best to maintain a unified direction of lighting. In many kinds of still life, product illustration and tabletop work, one main light source is sufficient and all the other lights become subservient to the main light in that they don't add major highlights or cast multiple shadows.

I find that softboxes are more effective than umbrellas in that they generally create more even lighting than any parabolic reflective source.

For a wide variety of items, an overhead softbox source, slightly to the back of the subject and feathered so that the edge of the beam can strike a reflector or multiple reflectors, is a good basic system. The reflectors can provide fill for ratio control and preservation of shadow detail.

For sculpture, dolls, etc, the main light can be moved to one side or brought in from the side, anywhere from 45 - 135 degrees to the camera/subject axis, to create portrait-like modeling and the reflector can be used in a like manner. as described above

This basic method will provide more depth, the illusion of a third dimension, and a much better rendition of texture.

Even in catalog, online E-business advertising sites, unless specified, it is not always necessary to float the product on a pure white background. Consider using a colored background, perhaps a graduated background where a color transitions into white or a darker more dramatic background.

In a product shot, as you have done of a camera, you need a more appealing angle showing reflections in the lens. As you can see in my attachment, the overhead lighting placed highlights on the contours of the came body, provides a rendition of texture and the reflector illuminate the lens. In all product shots, "product identification" is important to find an angle where the brand name model designation shows prominently.

The most important technical theory to study in tabletop lighting is ANGLE OF INCIDENCE". The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. Using one main light makes it easier to SEE exactly where your reflectivity is happening in relation to the camera position. Understanding where exactly to place your lighting will enable you to successfully render items with many different surfaces form highly polished metallic finishes to the light absorbing black cloth. If you examine the "egg" shot I am posting, you will notice that there is a good rendition of the eggshells, the dark wooden stand, and the highly polished stones. Since the light is striking the white part of the seamless background an oblique angle of incidence, it is rendered as clean white.

If you wish to get into doing more tabletop work, you might want to try a few of my suggestions especially using various backgrounds and storytelling props. I separate my "product" still life work into two categories. straight catalog shots on a white or solid background or PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION, where the item is placed in an environment or atmosphere to create a scenario or storytelling concept.

You are welcome to post here as often as you like and I will be pleased to walk you through some of the ins and outs.

Hunting for props and background is cheap and fun.
I use stuff like crate wood, barn wood, baskets, carpet and cloth remnants, old rusty stuff, antiques, whatever and you don't need much of it for small items. Decided on a theme and get some stuff.

By the way, my day job is commercial photography- some weeks we do literally hundreds of small product on the tabletop. Some of it is glamorous- cosmetics, flowers, fashionable handbags leather goods, high tech gear, fancy computer peripherals, and all kinds of foods and beverages. and some of it is kinda mundane- nails, screws, small garden tools, kitchen gadgets, garbage cans and bags, plumbing parts, toilet seats, medical supplies- you name it! The challenge is making it all look interesting and creating desire to investigate further and eventually buy on the part of the potential "customer". Even if you are just shooting for yourself, making both ordinary and extraordinary things look enticing and interesting in your images. You add the artistic touch!
Hey Wayne! Thanks for posting in this section. Gr... (show quote)

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Jun 13, 2019 20:24:56   #
E.L.. Shapiro Loc: Ottawa, Ontario Canada
 
rmalarz wrote:
Excellent contribution in your reply, E.L.
--Bob


Thank you, Sir! Your kind comment is appreciated.

Ed

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Jun 14, 2019 07:48:34   #
wayne-03 Loc: Minnesota
 
rmalarz wrote:
Excellent contribution in your reply, E.L.
--Bob


Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and advice. I will post more on this in the future.

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Jun 14, 2019 10:58:34   #
E.L.. Shapiro Loc: Ottawa, Ontario Canada
 
wayne-03 wrote:
Just trying to match what I say in this YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW2ngB4L1Lk


So...I went to the link to see what it was all about.

Well! I have been contributing to this forum for a long time and I have clicked on many of the links that folks have suggested. I disagree with some of them, others are good resources. Many of them are just full of HYPE and folks trying to sell stuff that is not really the right equipment for the work they are supposed to be teaching about. I have never commented on any of the U-tube and other videos that I disliked or disagreed with. It was just that the introduction that kinda turned me off. The presenter said "KILLER" product shots numerous times and used many superlatives like "cool, awesome" and "how cool is that" pertaining to a lot of flat uninteresting shots. There are many ways and alternatives in doing all kinds of photography but this video is just full of bad information. Sorry for the bad news- the presenter comes from Brooklyn- so do I, so I like plain straight talk!

He spent the first several minutes talking about the Cactus speedlight equipment and was basically fumbling with it. He created a video and did not have all of his settings and exposure lined up. If you're trying to sell the stuff, at least, learn how to use it smoothly and accurately.

Then he expounds on the virtues of cross-lighting- 2 equally powered light on each side of the subject. That is good lighting for falt copy or mugshots at the police station. Remember I mentioned making "portrait-like images" of still life subjects- not mug shots! He extolled the beauty of that nice little Leica M-3 he was photographing but he did no bring out the classic beauty in its design or the brilliance in the lens. Then he went on the talk about including and excluding the ambient light in the exposure. If you are doing a product shot with electronic flash, ambient light has nothing to do with it. Keep the room dimly lighted except for the modeling lamps and shut them off before the actual flash exposure if you are concerned about them bleeding into the exposure. He brought his shutter speed beyond its synchronization limit to ostensibly eliminate flare or background washout that was actually due to his background lights that were accidentally left on at full output.

The presenter also mentions the fact that you can do this kinda work with the gear you already have lying around and then proceeded to use 4 speedlight, 2 umbrellas, and two light stands. For the price of all that stuff, you can probably score a nice little monolight, a softbox, a boom stand a couple of reflectors. Then he gets into radio-controlled triggering and TTL exposure settings. In a small set up like this, all you need is one good light, a softbox and you can hardwire it to the camera. Exposure can be determined by a few test shots and the standardized for the basic setup.


He admits that he does not want to produce "moody" shots and probably doesn't understand that directional lighting can also be "even". So-called "KILLER" shots should have viewer impact, mood, dimension, and selling power! Even still life images that are made simply for artistic expression should have some of these attributes.

Please understand, I do not pontificate that the method I have suggested on this thread is the only way to do still life tabletop work. There are dozens if not hundreds of time-honored methods. I have used umbrellas, softboxes, raw light in parabolic reflectors, bare bulb, daylight, window light, skylight, Fresnel spotlights, tungsten, flash, lighting tents, LED, and mixed lightings. I recommend, however, a basic simple method, at least, to get new folks started on the lighting principles. More lighting units and other methodologies can be added later on.

There is nothing wrong with speedlights, however, they do not have modeling lights and unless the photographer is already very familiar with all the required lighting forms, and can guesstimate positions of the lights, good lighting will be difficult to achieve without endless trial and error. Modeling lights proved precise control and are especially helpful in LEARNING to create excellent lighting. Once you know what you are doing with your main lighting source, speedlights can be added to boost background intensity, etc., however, another set of monolights would be ideal.

I also fully understand that many good photographers receive sponsorship from equipment manufacturers, importers, and retailers and they have a perfect right to endorse whatever kinds of equipment they like. The least the can do, however, is to get all their ducks lined up, write a script and devise a logical lesson plan before producing a video and show the best application of the equipment they are demonstrating.

Sorry to say- that video is not worth the time to view it! It's a mess!

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