B&H Portfolio Development

The next subject has been percolating in my mind for a while, as I’ve struggled a bit with how I wanted to style it and how it needed to be lit.  It is a knockoff of a bottle of “M by Mariah Carey.”  The bottle has a butterfly as the cap, and the bottle has a very unique color, almost a purple / magenta mix.  After doing some research on the internet into what aromas were in the scent, I decided to go shopping to see what flowers I could find.  I brought the cap of the bottle with me to see if I could find flowers that matched the specific color.

Michael’s was again the store of choice, because they have a crazy variety of fake flowers.  I started out by looking at the flower selection and found several with blue and purple tones.  I picked up a few bunches.  I then headed over to the paint area, because I decided for this image, I wanted to paint a background to pull the various colors together.  I bought bottles of white, blue and purple paint and some brushes and sponges; I knew I had a blank canvas at home.  Deciding I had already spent enough money, I went to the check out before I did further damage to the bank balance.   

Once home, I started on the background, because I wanted to give each paint color a chance to dry before painting the next color.  I started with the purple and got a good base down on the canvas.  After an hour or two, I grabbed the white and added that judiciously around the canvas.  When that was dry, I picked up the blue, intending to use a sponge to dab little spots of blue around, because I didn’t want it to be a main color.  After doing that, I didn’t like how it looked, so I started blending the three colors a little more heavy handedly, and finally got it to a place where it was satisfied.  

My first attempt was in line with many of the “floating” images I’ve been working on lately.  I balanced the bottle on a small light stand using some sticky tack with the freshly painted background hanging behind it. I set up a shallow depth of field so the background would appear out of focus in  behind the product.   That image is below left:

The second attempt, above right, was to place the product on a piece of glass, to get a reflection.  I pulled the background to the edge of the glass so that the background would reflect in the glass as well, and provide a seamless background. 

For the final image, I introduced the flowers.  I scattered them around the front of the scene, and in my opinion, they helped to tie in the background.  See that image below:

I forgot to take a behind the scenes shot…but for all the images, the lighting was relatively simple.  I used two strip boxes, one to the left of the product and one to the right.  I cut out a white card in the shape of the bottle and placed it behind the bottle so it would reflect light back through the bottle and not show the busy background.  I used small white cards hand held under the “wings” of the cap and in front of the bottle to reflect some light in those areas.  Each of the images was a composite of approximately 3 images to incorporate the light introduced by the hand held card.

 

B&H Porfolio Development

One of the quintessential items in Chinatown is the watch.  You don't hear it quite as much any more, but I remember many moons ago walking down the street to a chorus of "Rolex?  Copy Watch?"  I wasn't looking to shell out huge money for a watch, so I set my sights a bit lower on the watch ladder.  After scouring the stores for one without visible scratches - cloning those out in Photoshop can take forever - I found a suitable watch that I might actually wear at some point.  It is a metal-banded Guess watch.  I negotiated two watches at the same time (although sometimes you wonder if that really makes a difference), so I'll be writing about images of a Patek Phillippe in the future. 

I bought some "props" at Michael's, little stones, to use as a background.  The color mixed well with the watch.  I stuffed the inside of the watch with a cardboard tube to help maintain the shape and thoroughly wiped the watch down to remove as much dust and fingerprints as possible.  I set the time to the standard picture taking time and pulled out the bezel when the second hand got to 33 seconds.  I realized later that I had set the watch to 1:50 instead of 10:10, but I never really was good at telling time!

The face of a watch is highly reflective, so you can’t put a light shining directly on it or else you wouldn’t see the face in the photo.  I built a bit of a “light tent,” using white foam core boards on the left and the right, starting at the lens of the camera and angling away.  I then took a homemade scrim - a translum sheet on a PVC frame approx. 24” x 36” - and rested that on top of the foam core.  I took an Einstein strobe head with a 7” reflector and floated that over the scrim on an angle so it produced a bit of a gradient on the face of the watch.  It also provided some illumination into the rest of the scene.  The stones surrounding the watch were looking flat, so I put a 20 degree grid on another Einstein strobe to focus the beam and placed that low in relation to the scene, so that the light was raking across the stones.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Project 52

Weeks 15 & 16 - More Power Tools

Instead of working the assigned image for the next couple of weeks, I followed last week's lead and shot more product images of power tools.  My brother-in-law Pete got a new router kit for Christmas, so I borrowed it one Saturday morning and recreated the set up I used with the drill last week (which was actually a cordless impact driver, not a drill...). 

The first tool in the kit was a Fixed Base Router.  On a fixed based router, the position of the router bit is constant - the depth of the cut does not change until you physically reset the depth of the bit.  Doug set the router up for me after I selected a "nice looking bit."  While the tool in the image below appears to be cordless, I have to admit that it is not, I just removed the cord in post-production as it was distracting in the image.

Fixed Base Router

Fixed Base Router

The second tool in the kit was a Plunge Base Router.  The black accordion like devices allow you to set the cut depth, but then you can plunge the bit into the wood with the base sitting flat on the surface you are cutting.  The power cord was also removed in this image.

Plunge Base Router

Plunge Base Router

The behind the scenes shot is below, but this was a four light set up.  I set up strip boxes on either side of the tool to illuminate the sides and wrap the light around the front a bit.  I used a large piece of white foam core in front of the router to bounce some light up onto the front, and used a small white card to illuminate the Bosch logos and the router bit.  I combined four images in post production with all these various pieces illuminated.  The top of the router was getting lost a bit in the background, so I used a snooted light to aim some light on the top of the tool to give a nice rim to the top edge.  This would be similar to putting a hair light on a human subject to separate their hair / head from the background.  The final light was a spot light placed on the background to give the light grey area behind the tool. 

Apparently, Pete got other power tools for Christmas, and my other brother-in-law, Andy, got a circular saw, so I'm hoping to get a chance to shoot those before they use them and get them dirty! 

Behind-the-Scenes

Behind-the-Scenes

Project 52

Assignment 14 - A Product Shot

After a few weeks hiatus for the holidays, my 52 week project was back in full swing with a product shot.  Doug had asked me to shoot some pictures for the bathroom in the bar he built in the basement, so I went to work on some liquor bottles.  I spent several hours shooting various bottles in closeup, but decided not to use those for week 14. 

Instead I wandered the house looking for inspiration.  I finally said to Doug, "do you have any new-looking tools?," to which he replied, "like the drill I got for Christmas?"  Bingo!  Search over.  We went down to the basement and after looking for an un-scuffed battery pack, I went up to the studio to get started. 

I decided the first shot would be similar to some of the 'floating food' shots I've done recently.  I mounted the drill on a lightstand and set up the lights. I decided to put strip boxes on either side of the drill to light the outline of the product.  It was missing a bit of a snap, so I added a gridded light behind the product to provide some rim lighting.  Finally I set up a light shining on a black backdrop to put a white spot behind the product.  After testing each light by themselves, I decided to set up black foam core boards on either side of the camera to kill some of the light on the front of the product.  I shot five images of the drill using a white card to put highlights on different parts of the drill as I went along.  I then shot a picture of just the backdrop, so it would be easy to take out the lightstand on which the drill was sitting.  I brought the six images into photoshop and combined them to get this:

Behind-the-Scenes image at the end

Behind-the-Scenes image at the end

I then wanted to try a shot where just the edges of the product were illuminated.  I took a picture of a spoon a few weeks back using a similar method and thought the drill might be an interesting addition to my portfolio using that style.  I used a similar set up to the shot above, except I dropped out the background light.  I also used the black cards to flag off much of the strip light.  I decided since it was a product shot, that I should illuminate the logo as well.  The final product, which isn't exactly meeting my expectations, is to the right:

I decided to flip to the opposite end of the spectrum and do a brightly colored shot, with a strong shadow. 

I set up yellow paper on the backdrop as well as on the base of the image.  I then put a gridded strobe in various places between 45 - 135° to camera left.  I put a white card to the right of the product to give a bit of a rim light on the product.  I also used white and black cards in various shots to lighten / darken certain aspects of the product.  The resulting image is below:

Out of all of these, I think the first is my favorite.  Your thoughts? 

Next week's topic is to take a photo of a hand or hands to illustrate an article on "The Handmade Economy."  I've done a lot of images of people who hand make things, so I guess I need to find a new subject...

Project 52

Assignment 13 - Close Up of An Electronic Device

We recently bought an Amazon Echo, which seems like a really good idea, because neither Doug nor I can remember anything anymore.  From the advertisements, it seems like you can just call out “Alexa, add butter to my shopping list,” and snap! you have an electronic shopping list and it has butter on it.  There is also the “Alexa, remind me to walk the dog at 5pm,” and she does that too.  Before pulling her out of the box, I decided that she would be the subject of this week’s 52 week project, since the theme was “A close up of an electronic device.”

My first impression was that the device was a lot larger than I was expecting it to be.  I thought it would be maybe the diameter of a 50 cent piece and maybe 5 inches tall.  I pulled it out of the box to find something that was closer to 10" tall and wider than a coke can.  My “close ups” are showing a lot less of the device than I was originally planning because the span of the product is so much larger. 

I had decided to focus my first set of images on the speaker part with the Amazon logo.  I set the device up with a 24” x 36” softbox to camera right, and a white card to camera left, with some black cards scattered around the front to give it some depth and shadowy areas.  I then zoomed on I various aspects of the device and even put it on glass to get a reflection of the Amazon logo.  At one point I added a scrim to camera left with a blue gelled strobe to give the left side of the product a blue cast.  I felt the blue gave it an “electronic” feel.  Here are a few of those images:

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I raised my camera up to get an angled shot of the buttons on the top.  I put the blue gelled light behind the scene shooting on the background.  This is probably my least favorite of all the images:

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I then put the device on a low table, put my softbox and a strip box on either side of the product, and shot straight down on the top.  Under the device I put white and blue paper, angled across the device, which is a similar type of background I’ve given a few of my recent shots.  This is the result:

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A funny side note about Alexa.  After you get the system started, the app makes suggestions on how to use Alexa.  It suggested asking Alexa to tell a holiday joke.  Always game for some amusement, we said "Alexa, tell us a holiday joke."  Being in a very silly mood, I thought the joke was laugh out loud funny, particularly coming from an electronic device, so I’m sharing it here. 

What is Santa Claus’ nationality?  

[Wait for it…]

North Polish! 

This will likely be my last post before the holidays, so I hope everyone has a terrific holiday season and I’ll catch you in the New Year!