A short story about a studio photography session with Nick that we did a couple of years ago.
The client required thirty-six shots of each golf club head against a white background. These shots would be turned into a flash movie to put on a website.
Each head had to be rotated through 360 degrees, and photographed at 10 degree intervals. All the clubs were different lengths, different types of finishes like metallic, shot blast, glossy, matt. They were different shapes, flat, bulbous, angled. A lot of variables.
We set-up the gear.
Assembling the kit and having a tea was a chance to discuss with Nick the approach to photographing the golf clubs. We arranged the products by type and size so we knew which order to photograph them. Once the gear was set up Nick prepared the gizmo for holding the golf clubs. He was in charge of that procedure. It was still in an experimental stage.
It can be time consuming finding solutions to lighting problems.
The digital camera, mounted on a tripod, and tethered to the laptop, is ideal for product shot photography. You can see the detail clearly on a larger screen. It’s much easier to see what needs adjusting in the scene. You can shoot till you get it right.
The digital camera is tethered to the laptop via a long USB cable. The cable is taped to the side of the tripod in case the lead gets pulled out. The laptop is running standard Canon software for capturing images. ( I also have Capture One for shooting and processing raw files). When shots are important it’s possible to shoot raw and jpeg files simultaneously. The RAW files can be adjusted to produce better quality jpegs or tiffs. It takes time to process RAW files, so have to incorporate a fee for that post-production. You can also fire the camera remotely from the laptop which can save time and be a convenient way of shooting.
The camera is fitted with a wireless trigger and two flash heads are each fitted with a receiver. The triggers only run on one channel, there are some that run several different channels. The choice of channels can help to avoid interference from other appliances that set off the flash. One channel appears to work fine. Have to keep an eye out for a misfire.
The laptop is an Apple G4 iBook. I use Photoshop for checking the files. Laptop is set up in its own space with a mouse (less strain on the fingers). A few blank CD’s to back up the work or a portable drive.
The solid tripod once in position is gaffer taped to the floor so it’s not knocked out of position during photography. The tripod has two spirit levels for leveling the tripod. I also keep another small spirit level handy.
I am using a Canon DSLR. On this occasion I’m shooting large jpegs (normally I would shoot large jpegs and RAW files simultaneously). Large jpeg quality is acceptable for this job. A Canon 17-40mm L lens. It’s a good quality lens and works well with digital, minimum flare if any. I am shooting at 40mm and only using the central area of the frame. I will crop the image substantially for final use. Always turn off the power on the camera when changing lenses to minimise dust getting onto the sensor.
I am using three flash heads. The Bowens Prolite 100 (750W) is fitted with a metre square softbox. The two Bowens Prolite 60′s (250W) are pointed at 45 degrees to the wall to bleach out the background.
A polystyrene sheet is used on the opposite side to the softbox. It’s black on one side white on the flip. The set-up had to allow space for Nick to work in. He rotated the club head from the top position. We also started doing some of the shots remotely from the laptop, saving a lot of time. We used a lot of gaffer tape to hold things in place.
With a basic set-up getting everything as level as possible with a spirit level I took some test shots for exposure readings, using a shutter speed of 1/60th second, and apertures of f13, f14, f16. On this occasion I didn’t use a flash meter. I looked at the image closely on the laptop, played with the Levels in Photoshop to see what leeway I had with the exposure.
I looked at the images in two ways, one as stills and secondly a flash movie. Not every shot had to be spot on and not every images needed to look like a perfect still. With the softbox on one side I wanted the other side to rotate into shadowy space choosing a black or white reflector depending on the colours and textures in the clubs. Some of the process is experimental. It is time consuming
A selection of product shots taken in the studio:
Portrait and documentary photography: www.bipmistry.com