Boot Demo for Lighting Class 

This week’s assignment for the lighting class was to create a catalog cover shot of something solid and textured. It could be anything but had to be larger than a watch and smaller than a suitcase — basically something that could be shot on a tabletop.  The students were also allowed to add “props” to their composition and would be given extra credit for producing a complete sample layout.  This is an advanced class so they were allowed — and expected — to show their editing skills as well.

For the demonstration, I picked a pair of fancy dress boots, tossed in some western-y props including some spurs, a hat, and a belt, all sitting on a saddle blanket for “flavor.”  A black seamless was used behind the setup.  Based on the items I used, I decided to make this a fantasy cover for a Sheplers™ (a real company specializing in western clothing and gear) special catalog.

The shot was done in the studios at City College during a class demo using our Photogenic grid-mounted mono-lights. It was shot in RAW format with a Canon 5DSr and a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens.  The conversion was in Adobe Camera RAW and editing was done in Photoshop CC 2014 on the computer at my teacher’s station in the classroom.

The light plot contained a KEY LIGHT in a 7” reflector positioned behind and to screen right to create some highlights and shadows from the light raking across the boot’s toe bringing out the texture of the leather.   FILL was provided by a 3’x4’ softbox from front left. A RIM LIGHT and ACCENT LIGHT were added from the back and side screen left.  Specular HIGHLIGHTS to make the leather shine were created from a light placed screen right in front.  Using some flags and other modifiers to more tightly control the lighting would have been called for normally but this demo was not intended to overwhelm students on their first studio product shot so I tried to keep it simple, explaining what each light was to accomplish as it was placed.  Though not as dramatic as is my normal style this is a far easier concept to grasp.  As the class progresses and students gain proficiency and confidence with the lights we’ll play more but for assignment number 1, this will do.

Lighting plot for Boot Demo courtesy of

Lighting plot for Boot Demo courtesy of

The first shot below is the conversion directly from Adobe Camera Raw with no editing. The histogram was skewed to the right with specular highlights on or just over the edge.  That allowed more shadow detail and mid-range tonalities to be captured minimizing noise.  It is better to darken selected areas in post as needed than to risk enhancing signal noise if you need to lighten dark noise-filled areas in post.  I would rather have a fairly flat file that captured all of the potential detail.  I can always darken selected areas if I need in post.

This is the shot as it came out of the camera.

This is the shot as it came out of the camera.

That shot was then cropped to the cover dimensions/ratio of 8.5″ x 11″

Step One in the editing process

Step One in the editing process: cropping to layout.

By darkening the items behind the foreground boot, and adding some warm tone. they become less distracting.

Step 3 in the editing process

Step 2 in the editing process, dropping the luminosity around the main boot and warming the surrounding areas a little.

The shot is then tweaked a little to further vignette the foreground, soften the surrounding items to create the effect of a more shallow depth of field so they fight less with the main boot for attention, eliminate some small tonal problems, and then made ready for the text.

Step 3, soften the supporting elements.

Step 3, soften and tweak the supporting elements.

Shepler’s logo is added along with some fantasy text to make the final layout.

Version with Text

Version with Text and layout

The problem for me was that the black background was B O R I N G !!!!!.  So I dragged a texture into it to give it some ‘life.’  I thought I had a good barn wood texture file but it is apparently on another disk at home so this leather-ish look will work for the demo.

Final version with some texture added to the background.

Final version with some texture added to the background.

The difference is subtle but has a major effect on the “feel” of the final piece.

And now it will be time to start planning the next demo…


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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