Saturday, May 2, 2009

Iced Tea Product Shot


as always, click on any photo for a bigger view..

I've had a few friends express interest in how I shot this so I thought I would blog about it to try to answer a few questions.

I really enjoy doing commercial type photography and this setup is pretty simple even though it may look difficult. The first thing I did was to find a cardboard box that I could use as my "light box". The reason I use this is to keep light from spilling all over my base that the glass of tea is setting on. Also, by using this box, the light comes from the top and leaves a small amount of shadow on either side of the glass giving it more of a defining edge.


After I cut my box up and added the piece of copy paper to the hole in the top for diffusion (you can see this in the photo above) I placed a piece of white foam core down as my base for the glass to rest on. I would have preferred white acrylic but I didn't have any so I used what was available.

Then I set up my lights. I knew I wanted a white "blown out" background and didn't want that light to spill on my glass of tea, so I set up a piece of white foam core on a chair behind the table about 2 feet away. Ideally I would have liked to have gotten the background further away but my place is small so I had to work with the space I have. To light the background, I placed an SB-800 (set in remote mode) under the table and placed the dome diffuser on it because I wanted an even coverage on the background.

Then, to light the glass of tea, I place another SB-800 (in remote mode) on a stand to the left and added a Honl snoot to the flash. The reason I used the snoot was I didn't want that light spilling all over my base and accidentally adding light to my subject. So now I have complete control over the light on my background and the light on my subject, controlled independently. The snoot does a good job of restricting the spread of light. Its hitting the diffusion material on top of the box pretty evenly.

Next its time to take a few test shots. The first thing I did was to make sure my background light looked the way I wanted it to. I set my camera to its fastest native flash sync speed at 1/250 of a second, my ISO to its lowest setting 100 (for the best quality) and guessed at an aperture of f/8. I had my power on the background light set to 1/8 power and when I took the first shot, I noticed it was just a tad too dark for my taste. So rather than opening up my aperture, I decided to increase the flash power. I didn't open up my aperture anymore because I wanted to retain the most focus and detail on the glass of tea as I could. So changing the flash power to 1/4 did the trick. Background light, check.

Then I took a test shot with my key light (the snooted SB-800). Since I already had a good working aperture and shutter speed, I now only needed to dial in the right amount of power on this flash to light my subject, which just also happened to be 1/4 power.

Both of these flashes were set to remote and I triggered them with my D300's built in CLS system using the pop-up flash as a commander for the speedlights. I also set the power settings on each flash from the camera. I could've used TTL settings on the flashes and dialed compensation to suit, but I find that dialing the power in manually on my flashes gives me a more repeatable result and I've been doing this long enough now that I usually get my lights right the first time within one stop.

I shot this hand held since I knew that shooting at 1/250 sec and using flash, I would have no problems in getting a clear shot. However, the detail may have been a tad bit better had I used a tripod. I was working quickly though and didn't want to take the time to setup the tripod.

This shot is straight off the camera, I didn't need any levels, curves or contrast adjustments (even though I checked to be certain). I just re-sized it for the web and added my digital signature.

This setup works great for small product photography and if this is something you're interested in, I encourage you to try it. This is a low cost setup too provided that you have two lights that you can work with.

If anyone has any questions about this, please feel free to drop me a line.

::How to build your own DIY macro box::

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