Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making a prop shot

Let´s see how to photograph things. Items. ebay sales, if you will.

I did this shot for a degree dissertation. It shows the two ends of an interface for LED controlling in architectural lighting. USB-to-DMX conversion, if you should be interested. It is a composition of two different pictures, but they both were made under the exact same conditions.
I had nothing but a 70x140cm softbox (much too large!) overhead, slightly angled away from camera. I raised a tripod on each side of the table and attached a third tripod on two superclamps high. then I clung an old studio flash head with the softbox to the horizontally clamped tripod. Actually, I could have used a broomstick. And if I´d had a small hot shoe flash, which also would have worked, I would probably have fixed it up there with gaffer´s tape.
A grey seamless paper served as backdrop. It turned almost white due to some overexposure and gave me enough light bounce so I could fix the shot without any more light bounce from below. The seamless makes Photoshop composition a cinch.
You can also do this with a white umbrella. They are a lot cheaper than softboxes. But use it as a reflector. Don´t shoot through it. The light will be much more pointed.

This shot was done under the same light:

BY THE WAY: Please don´t use old flashes on the hot shoe of your camera. Okay, I´ve done that a lot. But I was lucky!
Flashgun sockets are live with trigger voltage. Before some time, this voltage was as high as 60V on flashguns and 300V on studio strobes. There never was a problem, because analog cameras would trigger a flash by simply short-circuiting the flash´s contacts via a  relay. Modern digital cameras do this via electronic circuitry that is easily toasted by voltages too high. Todays flashes are somewhere around 12V and no more dangerous.

This here was actually made for ebay:

I used a light tent. Those come as single items or in a set with two lamps and two tripods.
Light tents are great for small objects. You can also buy them in huge sizes, enough to stand a person inside. Some are great for outdoor scientific photography, because they have no floor and you can put them over an interesting plant. They all collapse into a small disc ready to stow away.
Here, I had two flashes outside the tent. One was aimed  front left and makes the chrome around the lenses glow and the other one rear right that give the highlight across the camera´s left side.
You can shoot hand-held with flash. Flash fires at fractions of a millisecond and will almost always freeze everything. You can use incandescent lights, but their power is spread over time (imagine lighting your home with flashes...) so you must use a tripod. Plus, if the sun shines on your light tent, you will get mighty blue problems when you work on incandescent white balance. Just keep the curtains closed.

Here´s how it was done:

 Here´s one I made for fun (it´s not properly extracted):

 This is lit by two almost identical flashes (GNo.s 40 & 38) with white reflective umbrellas aligned left and right at camera level. The kicker light comes from a flash (GN24) small silver umbrella overhead. This worked right away. Yummy camera!

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