Tripod Product Shots – Behind the Scenes

Were you impressed by the photos in yesterday post?

If so, I thought I’d put together a more lesson-type post so that you know how it was achieved and can maybe try something similar yourself!

If you’re looking for detailed instructions and inspiration of these types of techniques, you have to check out David Hobby’s Stobist website. It is where I (and I’m sure countless others) started their journey into off camera flash photography. I hope that my blog post lives up to the quality of posts on his site. I’m going to split this into 3 sections that will be posted over the next few days so that you can easily skip anything you already know and understand:

  1. Soft vs Hard Light
  2. Key Light & Rim Light
  3. How to put it all together!

Today we will talk about Soft vs Hard Light.

1. Soft vs Hard Light

Hard vs Soft Light

Click on photo to view large

Hard light is highly directional and causes shadows that are dark and have a well defined edge. It usually creates large contrast variations in a scene where somethings are extremely bright while others are very dark. Hard light occurs whenever the light source is small in comparison to the subject it is lighting.

In the tripod photos I used my SB600 Speedlight zoomed to 85mm to create a small, direct light source.

In nature you can see this on a bright sunny day at noon. Although the sun is extremely large, its distance from the earth makes it appear much smaller and therefore when you take photos of people on a sunny day, you tend to see harsh shadows on their faces (from their nose, eyebrow ridge, etc).

Soft light can also be made to be directional but is less so. It tends to wrap around objects and fill usually dark areas with at least some light. The shadow that occur from soft light (if they occur at all) tend to be diffuse, not as dark and their edge is not as well defined. Soft light occurs when the light source is large in comparison to the subject.

In the tripod photos I used my SB700 with a Lumiquest Softbox III light modifier which basically increases the apparent size of the light source 10 times.

In nature this occurs in overcast days. The sun’s light is no longer a single point, but is being spread (mostly) evenly) across the sky, creating a HUGE light source. Photos taken of people on overcast days do not have the harsh shadows of sunny days. I love taking portraits of people on overcast days!!

Just like the sun, if we brought it closer it would be relatively larger (although we’d be burnt to a crisp!), which would make it a softer light source. The closer I brought in the SB700 + Lumiquest Softbox III, the softer and less directional the light was. The futher I put it, the harder and more directional it was (although it was never as hard and directional as the bare SB600).

Aside: Some people might be asking why there is only one shadow, and it is coming from the soft light source in the image above. That’s because the hard light source is on the ground and angling up. It is creating a shadow, but the shadow is somewhere on the wall or ceiling on the right.

If you have any questions, use the comment section below!

The next post will deal with Key Light & Rim Light.



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