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Strobist Product Photography

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by CoolStreams, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. CoolStreams


    Jan 12, 2009
    It's been a long time since I've done this. Actually been doing strobist stuff before they invented the word 'strobist'. :wink: Had to dust off my 20-year-old light stands and umbrellas from the closet for this one. :smile:

    My wife asked me to shoot some products she's selling for a new brochure/price sheet she needs.

    Strobist info:
    Main: Vivitar 283 @ f/8, shoot-through umbrella, camera right @ nearly overhead
    Fill: SB-600 @ f/5.6, bounce umbrella, camera left @ product level
    camera: manual, 1/250 ss, between f/8 and f/11
    lenses: 105/2.8 AF non-D for all shots except last shot with 85/2 AIS
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2010
  2. Very nice shots Ed!, i really love that backdrop for these shots, it fits perfectly for the product.
  3. TXAvi8tor


    Feb 6, 2009
    Nice work. EXIF shows D700 / 85mm / f8 (well, on the last one). How about sharing your lighting setup?
  4. CoolStreams


    Jan 12, 2009
    Thanks, Charlie. I asked my wife if she would want a white background for her price sheet, she said light but not white. I was thinking a light pastel shade of any colour, so I rummaged through her stuff. Found an old blue curtain. :smile: Used the non-shiny underside for all shots, although it still looks a bit shiny from the pics.
    Thanks, Larry. Yeah, the last shot was too "wide" for my 105, and I was hooked up to the SB-600 with the Nikon cord and didn't want to "pull" on it if I stepped back too much. So switched to the 85mm.

    I guess the EXIF data could not catch in-between aperture settings? I had the aperture ring set between f/8 and f/11 to slightly underexpose from the main light output.

    In addition to the main strobist info in the first post, here are other info:
    - I didn't want to exaggerate the folds in the cloth so I positioned the main light nearly overhead to even out the shadows
    - I used a flashmeter to manually adjust flash settings so that the main gave me f/8 and the fill gave me f/5.6
    - Vivitar 283 had a vari-power module for manual power adjustment
    - Vivitar 283 had a Wein optical slave for trigger
    - SB-600 in manual output was attached via Nikon cord (forgot its model #)
  5. menos


    Nov 11, 2008
    Interesting setup!

    I would like, to get some tips, how you guys solve problems like the black pen in no. 6?

    I sometimes shot reflective products, that give me a headache with such reflections.

    Is the only solution diffusing and placing your light sources differently?

    You did a great job especially with the not blown white products but proper scene exposure Ed! As others mentioned, the background fits the product type nicely, I do not like this background in backdrop usage though. It looks too hygiene product and less glamour ;-) did you experiment in underexposing the background (less ambient) and exposing the products with several flashes and snoots?
  6. mrluilou


    Feb 15, 2009
    wow that looks really good ed !
  7. jerryshenk


    Jan 8, 2009
    Ah yes, a Vivitar 283...I have one of those things. How did you trigger it. I've been warned that triggering it directly could fry some components on my D90. I had tried once before getting the warning but since that, I've triggered mine with a photovoltaic slave (there's gotta be a better name than that but...)

    I'd love to hear a little detail about how to made it all work. Did you "do the math" or did you just fire a few test shots and settle on something that worked right?
  8. CoolStreams


    Jan 12, 2009
    Thanks, menos! I wasn't too particular with harsh reflections because these images would appear only as tiny 2"x3" pics (maybe less) on a price sheet that will handed out to my wife's clients. But to answer your question, yes, diffusion is the way to go to reduce at least the quality of hard reflections, especially on curved surfaces where changing the angle of light may not be an option. And no, I did not experiment at all with the lighting on these shots. I kind of knew from past experience how the lighting would end up. I mostly experimented with the shot angle and the product placements, but not the lighting. (You could say I "experimented" but it was all in the past! :wink:) 

    Thanks, Luis! Most appreciated!

    Hi Jerry, I fired the 283 with a Wein optical slave from the SB600 which was hard-wired to my camera with a Nikon cord. Although it's the SB600 that's hard-wired it's the one providing fill, and the 283 providing main light. I was constrained by the length of the Nikon cord.

    I didn't do any math for these, instead I used a Minolta Flashmeter for convenience. Measure each flash separately, and adjusted the power setting so that the main gave me f/8 and the fill gave me f/5.6 on the meter. If I used f/8 on the lens, the areas lit by both flashes would have been overexposed, so I turned my aperture ring halfway between f/8 and f/11. To reduce all ambient light, I maxed out my flash sync to 1/250 ss. That's about it for lighting. I spent more time on product placement and rummaging in the closet than actual setup. :wink:

    Thank you everyone for your comments!! This little "gig" actually got my strobist juices flowing again, and may fiddle a bit more with it in the near future. :smile:
  9. jerryshenk


    Jan 8, 2009
    Ya did a good job thanks for the details - I should play a little with some "strobist product" type shots. I've never really gotten in too deep with flash.
  10. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    Overall, the shots seem decent to my eye, except they all seem too close to blown-out for my preference. Hard to accurately judge web images for that kind of thing, but the last shot values for the lightest plastic tones seem better to my eye, while in most of the other shots, hottest parts and lids seem blown. I think I would have not put as much light on the background, so it could be a bit darker - letting the products stand out the more. Just nit-picking - really like what you did overall.
  11. Raphy


    Feb 29, 2008
    Canada, eh?
    Great overall shots. I agree with some blown out shots (especially the 1st one), but overall very well done. Your choice of background couldn't be better ! Thanks for sharing the setup!
  12. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    One other thought - I should have looked more carefully the first time around. It's clear in most of the shots that there is more light at the tops, than at the bottoms of the products. That really shouldn't be - the same face of a product should be evenly lit. We may have some technically measurable difference, but it shouldn't be as obvious as in some of these shots.

    Last nit - most observable in shot four - lack of DOF. This kind of stuff should be edge to edge sharp and readable, which means smaller aperture. You've done a good job of minimizing the depth needed by how you have arranged the product - now just need a bit more help from a smaller aperture to get that text sharp top to bottom and if the same ink, then should be same density top to bottom.

    It takes awhile to get it really dialed in - but part of it is being super critical of our OWN work, first. As the Nascar guys observe, "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it."
  13. CoolStreams


    Jan 12, 2009
    Thanks for all the comments! Most appreciated!!

    In reply to the "nit picks", you're looking at 7"x10" (approx.) images on your monitors. However, these shots would end up as tiny 1"x2" and 2"x3" images on a 8"x11" white paper printed on a $80 printer. (Yes, my wife has finished it and I've seen the actual price sheet. It looks awesome!) At these small sizes, minor blown highlights and DOF considerations are absolute non-issues.

    The DOF issue I thought would pass unnoticed. I had fixated on using f/8 for all my shots and that's how I set up powering my strobes. I found on some shots where I had to be closer, that the whole product was not in total focus, which was mainly due to the close subject distance and my high angle of shooting. The solution was any of three: (1) stop down and see if that will solve it, with no guarantee that f/11 will solve it, but this requires resetting the strobes again maybe more 2 or 3 times, or, (2) lower the angle of the camera to put all products in same plane of view and reduce DOF issues - this I tried and though it resolved the DOF issue, the lower angle was not very pleasing, or, (3) do nothing - as DOF issues do not show up on small images. I opted for #3.

    In my experience, recognizing problems is most important. Whether we act on them will be another matter, i.e. is it worth it to be perfect? In this case, my wife won't care and neither will her clients. Therefore, minor problems like these that won't even show up at the final output are not worth wasting precious time to fix. As long as we, the photographers, are aware that issues exist, we're already "dialled in". (Of course, for beginners, they need to resolve these issues to know what works and what won't. It's part of thte learning process. But I think I'm passed that.)

    Thanks, again!! It's been a worthwhile discussion so far.
  14. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    I hear what you're saying - but it's been my experience that regardless of how the images will be used initially, it's not worth ignoring larger issues. I've learn through doing that, then having a customer want to use the images differently, that if I see - I should correct it. In this instance the images will be okay tiny, but what if they want to use them full sized for web, etc. Now you're stuck either using marginal shots, or setting it up to get it right. Getting it right the first time may add another minute or three to tweak angle and light power, but that doesn't compare to having to set it up all over again.

    I would suggest that while seeing a problem is important - more important is knowing how to resolve it, and better, to prevent it to begin with.

    Clearly, we all have different levels of "get it right," which is partly why so many good photographers are having a harder time making a living. Because purchasers of photography often don't know better and as long as they get something that is decidedly better than what they think they could produce themselves, they think it's good enough. They accept image issues that a pro would never have provided.

    Hopefully - each of us keeps pushing and learning and improving our craft. I'd suggest "good enough" should be stricken from our vocabulary. There is a business balance - I get that - I work for myself, as I have the last thirteen years or so. I get to keep working because people know that every job gets my best - and that my best is constantly pushing to be better - to keep me at peace. And it seems to help keep the work coming my direction, too.
  15. Well done!

    I wish more people learn this stuff, or even want to learn.
  16. Lurker


    Jul 21, 2007
    Obviously you're not commuting on I-80 every day :rolleyes: 

    Very nice job on the lighting. I agree it's a bit soft here and there. The top/bottom difference bothers me less as it still looks fairly "natural". The backdrop fits extremely well with the subject.
  17. Jaytron


    Mar 22, 2009
    San Jose, CA
    Great shots Ed.

    My only gripe are the first couple of shots are extremely bright.

    However the last pic turned out great!
  18. garyosborne

    garyosborne Guest

    My only gripe is that i don't have anyone to rub some of that foot cream on me...i love a good foot massage
  19. dx379


    Jul 9, 2008
    Tulsa, OK
    I think these pictures are absolutely wonderful. Very well done :) 

  20. tbaybucs

    tbaybucs Guest

    nice work..almost hurts my eyes, so bright :p 
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