Tripod Product Shots – BTS Part III

In the second Behind the Scenes, I defined Key Light and Rim Light. If you don’t know what hard vs soft light or what key and rim light are, check out those posts first before moving forward. Today we learn…

3. How to put it all together!

I wish I knew I was going to post a “how to”, because then I would have taken more photos to make the explanations easier to understand. Since I didn’t, I drew this diagram of my set up (and then took a quick snap using my 50mm no less – this is the 50mm Experiment right?!? 😛 ).

As you can see from the diagram, I didn’t take these photos in a special studio. They were actually taken in a bedroom, and I used this to my advantage!

In my mind, I pictured the edges of the tripod being lit on a black background. Since the tripod itself is quite dark, I also knew that I had to light both sides to bring out its shape from the blackness.

First, I had to bring everything to black – as I did not have a black backdrop to use. I set my camera to manual and put my shutter speed at 1/200 sec; the fastest shutter speed I can get while still syncing with the flash. I then stopped down the aperture (I’m making the hole smaller by making the f-stop numbers go up) to kill off exposure from any ambient light (the light that was already in the room from the window). If I had an example of this, it would be a photo at 1/200 sec f4.0 and it would have been pitch black.

Once I had my frame pitch black, I knew I could start layering my lighting onto the tripod. The first layer I wanted to add was the hard rim light. For this I set up my SB600, zoomed to 85mm (it is zoomed to make it a smaller light source, which makes the light harder). I place it on the Speedlight stand that it came with, angled it up 45 degrees and then placed it behind and to the left of the tripod 0.5 – 1m. To make sure I had it aimed correctly, I moved my head to that it was directly on the top of the tripod and used my eyes to check that the front of the flash was directly facing me.

Rim Light only

SB600 Rim Light only

I then used the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) capabilities of my D90. The D90 can act as a commander of different groups of Speedlights using the built-in flash. I set up my SB600 to Group A, and instructed it to fire at a manual power of 1/128. It gave me enough rim light for what I was looking for aesthetically.

As you can see, I got some hard light outlining just the left side of the tripod. The right side is completely dark, since I did not yet set up my key light. By laying one component at a time, you can see what each light is adding to the photo. This hard rim light plays a major role in all of the photos.

Layering in the key light was next. I set up my SB700 with a Lumiquest Softbox III to make the light source larger and therefore the light softer. Usually I use my tripod as a light stand when necessary, but as it was the subject of the photos, that wasn’t possible! This time I just handheld the SB700 with my hand so I could tweak both the angle and distance of the light. I set the head to 0 degrees since it made it easier to hold and manipulate; it wasn’t necessary to have it at that setting.

Light Direction

Click on image to view large

I held the flash in my left hand since I was holding the camera and triggering the shutter release with my right (see top diagram). My arm went under my chin and across so that I could get a 45 degree angle towards the tripod from the right and 45 degrees facing down on the tripod section I was photographing.

Again I started at 1/128 power as it uses the least energy and allows the flash to power back up faster. I set it to Group B because if they were both in Group A, they would both have to fire at the same power. By having them in two different groups I could control their intensities independently.

Over the course of a few photos, I did have to tweak Group B up and down a bit. That is because as I moved back to take photos that would fit the whole tripod (as the 50mm is not a zoom), my light source (as it was attached to my hand) had to move back with me. The further a light source is, the more power you require to get the same exposure. This distance also makes the key light a bit harder than when it is in nice and close. Group A was always at the same distance, so I did not have to adjust it.

Since I had to increase the power and distance of the SB700 for further away shots, it also brought the wooden doors in the background back into the frame; they were no longer pitch black. They are still darker than they appear in person and I liked the look and thought it helped demarcate the edges of the tripod a bit better for those shots.

For different shots I varied the angles of the two sources, but for the most part I used the setup in the diagram at the top. Can you figure out how the diagram would be different in the photo below? The wood that you see isn’t the closet, it is the floor.

Direction of Light 2

Click on image to view large

I realize that there are some things that I haven’t explained fully here, but I wanted to keep the posts manageable. Feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc. If you are looking for more detailed information and a log full of great posts, check out Strobist; it is the best source I’ve found.

Good luck using some of these techniques!



One Comment on “Tripod Product Shots – BTS Part III”

  1. […] This time I had a bit more of a plan in my head when I took the shots, so I’ll include some photos that should compliment what I wrote before on hard vs soft light, key and rim light and putting it all together. […]

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