Let me explain how I shot a dozen radiator swatches, for one of my clients. This is a straight forward technical job, but there is more to it than meets the eye, as with every shoot I do.
Firstly you have to position the product, so it is straight onto the camera; I often use a small mirror for this with a cross on it, to aid squaring up. Some heavy products need clamps and screws, but these products are placed on a tilted board, on black material.
Lighting next, the most important bit. The object is to show all the features and characteristics of the product, and here we have different coloured, reflective metals, mouldings, and surface texture.
So let’s start with our key light, this is the long soft box light at the top of the radiator, causing all the horizontal highlights on the top of the mouldings. This doesn’t want to be to high or close, as it will flare into the metal. This light is revealing the mouldings.
Then we have two identical lights on either side of the radiator sample. These are also at a distance, and are not flaring into the metal, (apart from the textured samples) but are causing continual highlights on the edge mouldings, and general illumination.
At the bottom of the sample radiator is a large white reflector. I am deliberately using a reflector here, instead of a light, as I want the top and bottom of the product to be obvious to the eye, as light generally comes from above, and casts a shadow below, this gives the mouldings depth, and the product weight.
Over the top of the camera, is a very large reflector. This is very softly flaring into the metal surface, and revealing the sheen, and lightening the product evenly. Their is a light bouncing into this. The metal products are on black material, to cut down on camera flare, and this gives me a hard edge to cut around. Sometimes this can be too hard, and I use white or grey paper.
Almost at the end! I take meter readings, and work out what f-stop I want. This is usually about f11 as the sharpest part of the lens, for a straight on subject, as you don’t need much depth of field. I am using a long lens to cut down on distortion. Colour here is very important, and I put in test cards to shoot, and get a white balance on my calibrated monitor.
Each sample is different however, some have more texture that needs to be shown, some are shiny, some are matt, so I continually adjust the lighting, for each product, as I see the images on screen.
Once they are exported, and opened in Photoshop, I cut them out with paths, so a designer can place them on any background. Then I convert to cmyk, using a very good generic profile, checking with the sample as I go.
The final stage is to go in close and check and remove any minor blemishes, and defects, and then send the images to the customer for approval. See Easy!
A simple technical job, with much more too it than meets the eye. I hope you have enjoyed this insight into studio photography, and that it helps explain how experienced commercial photographers can make the most of your products and services, and why it pays to employ a professional to do your work.
Thank you Martin