Friday, September 2, 2011

Product Photography: iPhones


After reading a thread in the Flickr Strobist group about a shot of two iPhones done by photographer Peter Belanger, I decided to see if I could recreate his photo, but instead of using studio equipment, I wanted to see if I could get similar results using just a single speedlight and reflectors.

I decided to light the phones from the back (as I often do with food photography) and use reflectors to the sides and to the front to throw subtle fill/highlights back on the phones.  So for my keylight, I used an SB-800 in a 24" Lastolite Ezybox almost directly behind the phones and at about a 45 degree angle.  This might seem like nowhere near the size of the light source that the photographer used in the video, but a 24" softbox used in close to the phones appears to the phones as a HUGE light source which created a nice soft light.  I triggered that flash with my D300's on camera pop-up flash.

Next I added my fill lights (or fill sources).  Since my softbox was so close to the phones and I was shooting on a piece of white foam core, which is relatively reflective, all I needed to do was add a few more pieces of white foam core around the phone which would reflect the light from the softbox back on to the phone.  I simply added these to both sides and held one in front below the camera lens.

To get the right amount of light I wanted from the reflectors, I simply took a shot, chimped a little, then moved the reflectors either closer or further away.

You can see in the setup photo (click on it for a larger view), my position of the reflectors except for the one in front.  I was holding it, so I had to put down to shoot the setup folder.  Also, I almost never shoot on a tripod but when doing product photography, I've that its really useful to use a tripod so you can keep the same framing, then adjust your subject(s) as necessary.  If you do use a tripod, be sure to turn of the VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilization) on your lens, otherwise it could create a little vibration and not give you the sharpest photo.

This is the image from the camera that I used for my final image.  I knew going in, that this would be a more labor intensive photo in post production than I normally do but I still wanted the best image I could get to start my post work from.  After watching Peter's video, I decide to use the same method he did, and shoot the phones while they were off, then add the desktop views afterwards in Photoshop.  This is definitely not my strong suit, but I took a test photo with the phones on, and my key light reduced the contrast and color of the iPhones' desktop screens, so I thought adding them in post would be the best option for the best looking finished product.

If you look closely at this photo, also you will notice that we use protective screens on our iPhones which leave bubbles and scratches but actually does a pretty good job of protecting the face.  We also use Otterbox Defender cases for more protection, but I took those off to take the photo.  I also had plenty of nicks and scratches to remove in post as well.

To get the screen capture, I simply did a "screen shot" of the home page on our iPhones and texted them to my main computer to use in this composition.  This probably would not be the best way to do this for a client as the screen shot is not that good of quality, but for just posting a photo on the 'net, it worked out fine.

After adding the home pages to the phone, I boosted the overall contrast and brightness a bit with a curves adjustment layer, then added the blue, vignetted background in post.  I had a pure white version but I think the blue background just works better and adds a little color to the shot.

So as you can see, this is actually a pretty easy setup to do, but did require a little more post work than I usually prefer to do.  However the post work really made a difference with this particular image imho.  Another reason I shot this the way I did was to illustrate the fact that you can create pretty nice product photography without having a studio full of expensive lights and modifiers.

Hope this was helpful and if anyone has any questions, please sound off in the comments!


Jamie Product Photography said...

Have you got a picture of the image you tried to recreate or was that the first one :S?

John said...


If you click the second link in the first sentence, it takes you to a vid that will show you the finished photo that the original photographer did.

David Kittos said...

John, for those of us who are not so good at photoshop, what option(s) in photoshop do you have to use for the blue vignetting? I'm getting back to strobist photography and want to attempt this pic myself. Excellent work!!

John said...

David, I am by no means a Photoshop guru and tend to take the path of least resistance.

I believe for this image, I separated the phones where they were on their own transparent layer, then I made a white layer underneath.

Using the paint bucket tool, I filled the underneath white layer with the light blue color, then took a large eraser brush (probably around 850 px or so) with the hardness set to 0% so it would be as soft edged as I could get it, then simply erased a circular spot on the blue.

I may have also lowered the opacity level of the blue layer a bit as well.

There are probably several other ways you could have done this, but this seemed this easiest to me.

Hope this helps, and thanks for the kind words!

Nazmul Islam Sujan said...

Great product photo-shot.