A product shot or two

Today I taught Merav, a student, a few product photography tricks. Perhaps I can share one or two insights here and take you through how to do this.

The brief was: shoot some products using simple means. “Simple” to me means speedlights (bad knee – don’t ask). So the setup I decided on was simple: a table, a white cover, and the product. The white wall serves as a backdrop.

And the lights?

  • We used one main light, a 580EX flash controlled through a Pocketwizard, through an umbrella. (A Flashzebra cable was used to connect the Pocketwizard to the SB-900 flash).
  • The fill light was simply a reflector. Held in place with a stand.
  • We lit the wall behind the product with a Nikon SB-900 flash in SU-4 mode.

The setup was thus:

You can make out the background flash behind the product.

  • You first set the camera to f/8, 1/125th sec, 100 ISO.This means the ambient light does little or no work, just the way you want it.
  • Then try the main flash at, say, 1/4 power. Meter using a light meter set to flash mode, 100 ISO and 1/1/25th second.
  • The light meter showed a close-enough value (f/6.3). Moving the main light closer made it f/8.
  • The reflector was just moved closer to make the light nice.
  • The background light was set at 1/8th power, so the background blew out completely (but only just). A bit of trial and error and the “blinkies” on the camera LCD display was enough to get this done: no metering was needed.

Bingo, end of setup.

  • Now make sure every product is the same distance away (even an inch farther = darker!)
  • Focus carefully, using one focus spot.
  • Use a tripod to ensure all images will have the same layout.
  • Do not forget to minimize distortion by using a long-ish lens (70mm on a crop camera, in this case).

The resulting shots looked like this:

Easy, and portable. And it can all be done in a living room:

If you have never done product photography, please give it a go. It is fun and rewarding.

4 thoughts on “A product shot or two

  1. Hi Michael
    I told you I’d be following your site.
    How did the background flash sync? – I don’t see a pocketwizard attached to it in the picture.

    • Aha! The high-end Nikon flashes have a slave cell mode (“SU-4 mode”), where the flash just emits a flash when it sees another flash. Like strobes, in other words. So that is what I used. Since we are not using TL, so there are no pre-flashes, this worked fine.

  2. Hey Michael,

    Any chance you could devote a future post to reflectors? I notice that you’ve made references to them on the blog so I’m not sure if you’ve already covered this topic in-depth.


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