Sunday, September 25, 2011

Powerpax Battery Management System Review

Powerpax Battery ManagementChances are, if you're a photographer, you probably have dozens of AA batteries lying around.  These days it seems like everything photography related uses them (if you're lucky), from speedlights, to radio triggers, to light meters etc etc.  I know I have at least around three dozen batteries, all of which are rechargeables and it can be a chore to keep them all organized and together.

I have tried every method and product imaginable for storing and keeping my batteries organized but have now found a product I truly love!  Chris at Outdoor Photo Gear tipped me off to the Powerpax Battery Management system.  These little guys are a breeze to use, take up little to no space, and what I really love about them is that I can keep groups of four batteries together, in a small and compact, secure device.

These little guys are made of a hard, durable plastic and aren't much bigger than a set of four AA batteries in your hand.  The batteries simply pop in through the bottom of the case and snap in to place, ensuring a snug fit.  They won't fall out due to the design of the case, however you can easily pop the batteries out with one hand, which if you shoot weddings or other venues where you need to reload batteries quickly, this can save valuable time.  When on an assignment, I always carry at least two sets of AA batteries in my pockets and up until now, I felt like I had aliens growing out of my legs due to the size of the case that I stored my batteries in, but with these new cases, you don't even notice them in your pockets.

Another thing I really like about this system, is that you can get these cases that will hold various quantities.  I personally prefer the 4-packs because most of the devices I use, either hold four AA's or two such as my radio triggers.  The 4-packs are handy to me because one important thing with batteries is to not mix and match them.  In other words, when you get a quantity of rechargeable batteries, you always want to keep them in the original group, otherwise you can have problems keeping them charged.  Some chargers will not charge batteries evenly when you have batteries of various charge levels in the charger.  So, when I get a set of four batteries, I mark them with a sharpie so that I know which set goes together.  The new Powerpax cases now enable me to keep those same four batteries together in a much easier system.

A couple of other cool tidbits about the Powerpax system is that they come in multiple colors which may help you even more in organizing your batteries.  You can even get them in a glow-in-the-dark color! ...which should come in handy for all you night flashers ;)

This product has been on the market for some time and apparently, pilots, the military and other similar groups have been using these with great success.  Now I can see these really taking off in the photography world.

To show how easy these are to use, I included a short video showing how to load and unload the batteries. (please excuse my poor video skills)  Again I have to say I REALLY love this product and am planning on getting one of these for every set of batteries I have.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Product Photography: iPhones

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!

Thursday, September 1, 2011