On Monday night we did a demo in the studio to prepare students in the Introduction to Lighting Class on their first product assignment, shooting something that is solid with texture or detail. I had decided to try two things: first was to ask students to bring in some objects I could tackle “cold” so everyone could see a thought process going on and secondly to light the same set-up in two ways starting with a typical studio multi-light approach and then to also do it as a “painting with light” effort.
Two of the students brought in items, one was an old wood plane and the other a woven fan designed for fanning a fire into life. Very different items with virtually no relationship to one another so naturally to add some sport to the shoot I decided to shoot them together. The surface textures were totally different from the woven rough fibers of the fan to the old metal furniture on the plane and its wooden handles oiled and polished from years of use.
In the chaos of my pre-class day I had left my camera at home so had to borrow one from the school checkout room. When I went to get it the students went ahead and placed the two items together on the surface I had made so when I got back I thought, well, if we can do something with this, it will be interesting…
To make the comparison of approaches more meaningful I put the camera on a camera stand and locked it down so both shots would be essentially identical in composition. The lens is a Canon 90mm tilt-shift design, so I also was able to describe those types of lenses for the class. Then it was time to set up and make the shot.
Since I often start set ups like this with an overhead softbox or light-bank then pick out details with snoots and grids I decided to try to do this whole shot with just the standard 7” silver bowl reflectors on the studio’s grid mounted PHotogenics™ which, aimed from sides and back, worked fine for picking out details but did not create an acceptable fill so I broke down and used a small softbox for fill.
Below is the light plot for this first shot.
Here first is the file out of the camera but with RAW tweaks in ACR™.
And here is the finished, cropped and edited shot after a pass through PhotoShop™. There was a slightly mottled texture in the background I liked but decided I’d take it down to black so that in the near future I can use this shot to show how to drop in a different background and dropping that solid black will be a lot easier.
Now it was time to do the painting with light version. I put away the grid-mounted mono-lights and ised a single head with a snoot from a Norman 2000 power pack set. This allowed me to demo the use of the powerpack lights and also gave me a light I could easily move around the set-up to custom light it with that narrow beam of light. I thought about using continuous light but decided to keep the class focused, at this point, on using the electronic flash units for their projects.
As I moved around the set-up from side to side but always to the rear,I had a student fire the camera when I had lit an area I liked. Starting from the screen left side I moved around, shooting from various angles to pick out details and allowing some skimmed light to spill around the front for fill. To maintain the sense of texture I never fired a shot where the light was aimed at the front of the set-up, only from top, sides, and back.
In all I took about 20 shots to make sure I had it covered but I only used 11 of them for the final assembly. Assembly is normally easy but our new computers have had a complete re-install of the software and all of my saved templates and actions were over-written plus the workspace was completely at a default setting as was the screen display. I confess it was confusing and irritating but there were students watching the procedure so rather than just bring it all home I determined to complete it, one way or the other, while they were watching.
So here is the final assemblage after cropping.
But in looking at it, it now really was starting to have a rich, old timey look to it so I decided to push that. The modified first version is somewhat desaturated with a warm overtone to it.
Then I completely desaturated it and applied a slightly warm duotone effect to it.
Personally I prefer the middle one, the one with a slight desaturization. But a client could decide for themselves which they like.
Next time we’ll be tackling transparent and translucent products.