A quick product shot

Today, I am sharing a quick product shot.

Here’s the shot, of my “nifty fifty”, a 50mm f/1.4 lens:

And here’s how I shot it:

  • I used a Canon 5D camera on manual at 100 ISO, f/4 and 1/125th second.
  • The lens was on a table with a white sheet of Bristol Board underneath.
  • The background was an improvised white background (I used a reflector).
  • I used a 430EX flash with a Honl grid, diagonally above the lens, as the main light. The grid causes the dropoff from the centre.
  • I used a 430EX flash with a Honl blue gel and a Speed Gobo to illuminate the background.
  • I used e-TTL to fire the flashes, from my 7D’s pop-up flash (the 7D will support this, like Nikon cameras. On other Canon cameras I need to use a 580 EX flash on the camera to drive the remote flashes).
  • I set a flash ratio of 8:1 a:b, where A was the main flash and B was the product flash.

All of which looked like this:

Simple. It only took a few minutes to set up, which is good since I was tired.

One tip: when shooting this type of product clean it well using a soft brush, or else you will spend hours in Photoshop or Lightroom aftereard, cleaning dust.

Using light today.

I shot Victoria Fenner today. But only, you will be glad to know, with a camera.

Let me talk you through that, shall I?

Victoria is an audio expert. She used to run the studio at McMaster University that we shot this in. We decided to shoot her doing her thing – and sound is her thing. So we shot in a studio first:

Camera: I shot her with a Canon 1D Mark IV. The camera was on manual at 100 ISO. I used a 24-70 lens set to around 24mm – meaning around 30 “real” mm.

Light: the camera was equipped with a 580 EXII flash to act as e-TTL “master” to drive three 430EX speedlites:

  1. The “A” flash through an umbrella on camera right, shining into Victoria’s face. An umbrella throws nice soft light, great for faces. (There is a certain irony in the fact that we use the word “umbrella” to name this thing that throws around this nice light. Umbra means shadow!)
  2. One “B” flash with a green Honl Photo gel in the background – I love adding a splash of colour, and green goes very well with purple.
  3. Another “B:” flash, fitted with a Honl Photo 1/4″ grid, as hair/accent light shining toward the camera. You can see it just outside the field of view.
  4. I set an A:B ratio of 4:1 to 8:1.

All this took about ten minutes to set up, and ten minutes to take down.

Then we shot some outdoors. For this, I used two flashes off camera: one into a Honl gold/silver bounce card; the other using a grid, as before. Yes, in bright sunlight you can fire these flashes using light-controlled TTL.

This was a bright day in April around noon. But it does not look like noon light, does it? I shot in Aperture mode, with -2 to -3stops exposure compensation. That darkened the background to give it colour saturation. The flashes took care of the foreground.

My day

First, more episodes of season 7 of “24”… the inimitable Chloe… one episode to go 🙁

Then, teaching, and then to the gallery in Toronto’s historic Distillery District:

That was a wide angle lens: 16mm on a full frame camera. Aperture mode, exposure compensation minus two stops, and flash on. (Aren’t wide angles great?)

Then, in the gallery, a snapshot of a gallery visitor and potential student of flash:

That was done with:

  • The camera on “Manual”…
  • …with exposure set to around minus two stops.
  • A CTO-gelled 580 EXII flash aimed to my right.
  • …and white balance on “Tungsten”

Isn’t TTL wonderful?

Flash from behind

Look at this picture, which a student took of me in a class the other day:

Michael Teaching

Can you see how she turned her flash behind her, so it aimed at the wall above her, which in turn lit me with soft, gentle light? Otherwise, if she had aimed it at me directly, we would have seen all the things that people hate in flash:

  • oily skin
  • flat face
  • dark background
  • overexposed subject
  • shadows under the chin

Instead, we get soft, natural looking light.  And it’s easy: turn the flash so that the light bounces behind you. With TTL, it’s easy: the camera does the math. You just push the button.

That wired effect

Here’s a picture I just took of my favourite patient model. I used some technique to get that dramatic “Wired” effect:

The way I made this picture:


  • Camera: Canon 7D with 50mm f/1.4 lens
  • Set to Manual, 1/125th sec, f/8, 100 ISO


  • Multi-flash TTL with one on-camera and two off-camera flashes.
  • One “A” Flash on the camera (580 EX) as fill flash and “commander”;
  • The main lighting was rim lighting: two 430 EX flashes either side of the model, slightly behind, set up as “B” flashes.
  • I was using a 1:8 A:B ratio.
  • The 430 flashes were each equipped with a Honl 1/4″ grid, to stop their light from hitting the entire room.
  • Flash compensation -1 stop to avoid overexposing the rims (this is common when your main flash lights only a small part of the picture).


  • And finally, I desaturated the colours in Lightroom: Presence +15, Vibrance -20 and Saturation -40. I also did a version where I desaturated only red and orange, and increased sharpness, which is the usual technique.

Try it yourself, or come to our two-day Light workshop 10+11 April to learn exactly how to do this.