Author Topic: Single light small product photography tutorial  (Read 25585 times)

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Offline johne

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Single light small product photography tutorial
« on: April 14, 2008, 07:06 AM »
Since there was a discussion about how to photograph your work here's a tutorial.


In this case i use:
- 4 pieces of styrofoam (about 50cm by 100cm) or 20 by 40 inches. You can use anything with a white surface
- A piece of paper (For the seamless background) About 40 inches wide and 50 inches long
- A single tungsten light source. You can use any kind of lamp, the brighter the better.
- something translucent and opaque to put on top of the construction to diffuse the light (an old sheet tacked to a frame for instance)

First i tape the paper to the piece of styrofoam and to the table so as to form the seamless background



Next i add two pieces of styrofam on each side to reflect light onto the subject. Then i put my translucent diffuser on top of the construction
and set up the lamp to light my "scene"



Now, if you have one use a tripod, if you don't then try to stabilize your camera as best as you can buy resting it on a table or something
set your camera to tungsten lighting for the correct white balance. Or if your camera can do this set the white balance manually by referencing your white background. (Check your camera manual for this)

take the shot



Not too bad but the circled area could use a fill light
Lets add one more piece of styrofoam as a reflector to brighten up the foreground



Take another shot



Not the best shot i ever took but not bad considering the setup.
This same technique can be used for larger objects. just scale components accordingly.
Just by bouncing light off white reflecting surfaces you can get easy nice looking shots.

Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2008, 06:50 PM by johne »

Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2008, 08:21 AM »
Another shot using the same setup

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2008, 09:32 AM »
John,

Excellent tutorial!   Since most of our pics are related to a product, it's use, a jig we create, or a work piece, this information has been lacking for a long time.   It shows the photographic quality that you can produce with a simple setup.   

When the Photographic section is created and the Photo Tutorial is moved, I'd like to add this topic to the overall tutorial with a link to this thread.   Sound OK to you?

Thanks,

Dan.

p.s. I know it's obvious, but...


 ;D

Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2008, 09:42 AM »
Dan, sure if you want to use the tutorial be my guest. If i should add anything or if something is not clear just let me know

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2008, 10:03 AM »
Thanks for the very clear tutorial johne. It's amazing what you can achieve with a single light. Many of us get stuck in the rut of only using a light stuck on top of the camera, with predictably poor results.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2008, 10:08 AM »
Thanks that is the exact type of info I wanted to see when suggesting a dedicated photography section.

Can that technique be used with a black background or different color background?

The picture I posted here I like, but I can not reproduce the results and the background may look better even more black with the object more bright. I think I have a better sample, I will post it if I find it.

Actually, the original picture does have a more black background and the item is brighter. Making the file smaller definitely changed it's look, darn it.

Nickao
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 10:18 AM by nickao »
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Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2008, 10:22 AM »
nickao,


You can use any color background you like. just experiment with colors, light position etc till you get something you like.



For this picture maybe a simple correction like this will do?
I would normally shoot something like this with the subject flat on a table or floor with the camera on tripod positioned straight above it.
Put the subject on something to elevate it off the background and use something like black velvet for background since this material absorbs
most of the light, giving you a solid black background.

You could also photograph it on a neutral background, cut it out in photoshop. Then put it in a new layer and add a solid black background to it.

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2008, 10:28 AM »
Johne
   A great tutorial. For those people who are tempted toget and use more lights, I suggest you perfect Johne's single light approach. A second light doubles the problems. In video sets, sometimes you need more complex lighting since you cant use slow shutter speeds. I have had a table top of liquor and perfume bottles (Pan Am inlfight store) and have used 15 lights - one mini spot for each bottle. It took me and lighting guru 18 hours to light, for about 15 seconds of footage.  We started out with one light though and reflectors.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2008, 10:34 AM »
This is a sample of isolating the subject in photoshop and changing backgrounds as you like


Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2008, 10:39 AM »
I like it! Any chance I can send you about 4000 pics to clean up! ;)
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Offline Ned

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2008, 10:40 AM »
About Nick's  Single_Saure_medallion_1:

I'd try something other than black for the background.  I'd use white.

Black isn't nearly as useful as you'd think.  I've got black paper, and every now and then my wife says "Let's try black" and we try it.  So far it's never been the choice we went with.  The only use I've had for it so far is off-camera, for light control.  Like everything else in photography, YMMV.

Ned

BTW, since a thread like this might have several images being discussed at the same time, I think a post should make clear which one the poster's talking about, as I've tried to do here.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2008, 10:41 AM »
This is a sample of isolating the subject in photoshop and changing backgrounds as you like




Yes, I remember I shot it flat on the floor in my shop sitting on a piece of black Formica sheet laminate.

I need to practice using the software to fix the pics, nice!
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2008, 10:42 AM »
About Nick's  Single_Saure_medallion_1:

I'd try something other than black for the background.  I'd use white.

Black isn't nearly as useful as you'd think.  I've got black paper, and every now and then my wife says "Let's try black" and we try it.  So far it's never been the choice we went with.  The only use I've had for it so far is off-camera, for light control.  Like everything else in photography, YMMV.

Ned

BTW, since a thread like this might have several images being discussed at the same time, I think a post should make clear which one the poster's talking about, as I've tried to do here.


Ned I just love the way the Red Heart and Maple pops on the black background, everyone uses white! Actually out of over 4000 pics this is the only black background I have ever tried. I think for certain woods I like the Black background better, not from a photography point of view, but from what I like.

« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 10:46 AM by nickao »
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Offline Ned

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2008, 10:46 AM »
John's use of the gradient background is extremely effective, giving Nick his red popping without making the image as a whole too dark.

Pretty easy to spot the pro's work, isn't it?

Ned


P.S.  In celebration of my 1000th post since we moved from Yahoo, I've added the Chattering Teeth to my avatar rotation.   8)
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 10:48 AM by Ned Young »

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2008, 10:48 AM »
John's use of the gradient background is extremely effective, giving Nick his red popping without making the image as a whole too dark.

Pretty easy to spot the pro's work, isn't it?

Ned


Yes I like the gradient background very much also!

Nickao
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Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2008, 10:48 AM »
Johne
   A great tutorial. For those people who are tempted toget and use more lights, I suggest you perfect Johne's single light approach. A second light doubles the problems. In video sets, sometimes you need more complex lighting since you cant use slow shutter speeds. I have had a table top of liquor and perfume bottles (Pan Am inlfight store) and have used 15 lights - one mini spot for each bottle. It took me and lighting guru 18 hours to light, for about 15 seconds of footage.  We started out with one light though and reflectors.


Sometimes you need more lights for effects like you mentioned and if done right you can get spectacular results especially with bottles etc.
the shots in the tutorial can of course also be done with multiple lights. The lights then can be used instead of the reflectors. There are no set rules for a lighting setup.
Experiment to see what suits you best.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2008, 10:56 AM »
Johne
   A great tutorial. For those people who are tempted toget and use more lights, I suggest you perfect Johne's single light approach. A second light doubles the problems. In video sets, sometimes you need more complex lighting since you cant use slow shutter speeds. I have had a table top of liquor and perfume bottles (Pan Am inlfight store) and have used 15 lights - one mini spot for each bottle. It took me and lighting guru 18 hours to light, for about 15 seconds of footage.  We started out with one light though and reflectors.


Sometimes you need more lights for effects like you mentioned and if done right you can get spectacular results especially with bottles etc.
the shots in the tutorial can of course also be done with multiple lights. The lights then can be used instead of the reflectors. There are no set rules for a lighting setup.
Experiment to see what suits you best.

johne I get what you are saying. But I have way to many projects and way to many things to do, so experimenting for days with lighting I just have no time for. While I write this I am in the shop working away, something I can not do with lighting and photography.

As many concrete examples you can give, like in this thread, I greatly appreciate. It saves me time on experimenting. I have been experimenting with the Festools and this forum so much  I have barely time to get my projects done! Maybe when I do not have to make a living making the pieces I can get full force into photography. I see their are entire books and college courses on lighting alone.

I think your setup below is about as complicated as I will ever get, of course that is just me others may want more. But at a certain point this forum needs to stay on  point as a Festool forum.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 10:57 AM by nickao »
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Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2008, 11:15 AM »
Nickao, that's the reason i went with the simple one light set up and used some inexpensive readily available items like the styrofoam.
The main goal should be the woodwork. If you like this setup and you can use it to get better pics then I'm glad i could help.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2008, 11:22 AM »
Nickao, that's the reason i went with the simple one light set up and used some inexpensive readily available items like the styrofoam.
The main goal should be the woodwork. If you like this setup and you can use it to get better pics then I'm glad i could help.

Yes, it is going to be very helpful. Pictures are so much simpler to follow. Thanks you so much!

Nickao
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2008, 12:09 PM »
Thanks that is the exact type of info I wanted to see when suggesting a dedicated photography section.

Can that technique be used with a black background or different color background?

The picture I posted here I like, but I can not reproduce the results and the background may look better even more black with the object more bright. I think I have a better sample, I will post it if I find it.

Actually, the original picture does have a more black background and the item is brighter. Making the file smaller definitely changed it's look, darn it.

Nickao

Nick, the classic classic copy stand setup would work well for flat stuff like this. Make it big enough for your largest piece and keep it setup in a corner or room. Actually in a corner might be bad if the closest wall bounces too much light back.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 12:22 PM by Michael Kellough »

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2008, 12:17 PM »
Hi I can't get the "classic copy stand'  link to work.

Oh I got it you have an extra "v" at the end of the link.


« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 12:18 PM by nickao »
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Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2008, 12:22 PM »
Those are neat Michael! 

I will have to modify as most of my work is 36" x 36" to 72" x 72", but looks doable.

Nick
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2008, 12:23 PM »
Hi I can't get the "classic copy stand'  link to work.

Oh I got it you have an extra "v" at the end of the link.




I fixed it Nick. This often happens t0 me as I tend to hold down the v key too long. On Mac, "paste" is Command v.

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2008, 12:26 PM »
Those are neat Michael! 

I will have to modify as most of my work is 36" x 36" to 72" x 72", but looks doable.

Nick

With work this big you might want to rotate the whole affair 90 degrees forward so the medallion is on the wall and the camera is on an ordinary tripod. It would save a lot of space to.

Offline Dovetail65

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2008, 12:45 PM »
Those are neat Michael! 

I will have to modify as most of my work is 36" x 36" to 72" x 72", but looks doable.

Nick

With work this big you might want to rotate the whole affair 90 degrees forward so the medallion is on the wall and the camera is on an ordinary tripod. It would save a lot of space to.

Sounds good, I'll give it a try this weekend.

Nick
The one who says it can't be done should avoid interrupting the person doing it.

Offline Dave Ronyak

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #25 on: April 14, 2008, 06:05 PM »
John's use of the gradient background is extremely effective, giving Nick his red popping without making the image as a whole too dark.

Pretty easy to spot the pro's work, isn't it?

Ned


P.S.  In celebration of my 1000th post since we moved from Yahoo, I've added the Chattering Teeth to my avatar rotation.   8)


Ned,  You're going to need to work those chattering teeth more, or verbose active FOGgers like me are going to claim them from you (just kidding, but reading and writing on FOG is nearly as addictive as those Festools).  It's all Matthew's fault - that's my story and I am sticking to it.  At least when I talk with my wife.  (smiles)

Dave R.
Friends, family and Festools make for a good retirement.  PCs...I'm not so sure.

Offline johne

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #26 on: April 14, 2008, 06:38 PM »
Those are neat Michael! 

I will have to modify as most of my work is 36" x 36" to 72" x 72", but looks doable.

Nick

With work this big you might want to rotate the whole affair 90 degrees forward so the medallion is on the wall and the camera is on an ordinary tripod. It would save a lot of space to.

Great idea Michael. I added pic to clarify


Offline Dave Rudy

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #27 on: April 14, 2008, 07:31 PM »
I have had a table top of liquor and perfume bottles (Pan Am inlfight store)

Let me guess, John, this has nothing to do with photography?  The liquor was for courage and the perfume to make you smell better after all that liquor?  Am I right? ;D ;D

Offline Ned

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #28 on: April 14, 2008, 07:41 PM »
John mentions (in his graphic above) tape marks for repeatability, which brings up an important point.

If you're doing a portfolio or a catalog, something with images of several products, consistency across images makes it look far more professional. 

If I understand correctly Nick, you've got a number of items like what you showed us.  If they're all flat, I submit that (photographically) they're all the same, much like photographing, say, book covers.  Get the setup right and you should be able to knock out the shots bam, bam, bam.  John's tape marks together with notes on camera settings and light heights should allow you to duplicate the shooting environment next time.

If your work differs in the glossiness of the finish, get your setup to work properly with the shiny stuff.  It'll give you the most trouble.  After that a satin-finished object of the same kind should be no problem at all.

One of the biggest problems to overcome is the point nature of most lighting.  That single point will end up as an obvious spot on a shiny surface.  What you want is as broad a source of light as possible, diffused and even.  This is where those big "softboxes" the pros use come in.  It helps if the softbox is bigger than the subject--I photograph jewelry and I'm seriously wanting a 36"x36" (~900x900 mm) box.
6130-0
A Westcott Softbox

You can make large diffusion panels from practically nothing.  I've got a roll of Drafting Vellum paper (36" x 5yds, 914x 4.6m, 19 USD) and use 1/2" (13mm) PVC to make the frame.

BTW, you might be interested in looking at this:  MFT:  Tabletop photography.  It's got some pics that might be interesting here.

Ned
« Last Edit: April 14, 2008, 07:55 PM by Ned Young »

Offline Dave Rudy

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Re: Single light small product photography tutorial
« Reply #29 on: April 14, 2008, 07:48 PM »
Johne and Ned,

Thanks.  I really appreciate this thread.  My wife has been selling sewing machine accessories (including a lot of feet, which are a challenge to photograph).  I finally went out and bought a 3 piece light set with tripods (not terribly expensive by --you know what -- standards) -- I have two major incandescent floods and a "hair" lite in this kit.  So far, it's been working quite well.  But there are some great tips in this thread which will help enormously.  (like styrofoam and diffusion, to name two).

Dave