Archive for April, 2009
Reflections on Reflection
This is a quick post to help you better understand reflection as it relates to product photography. We all want to get cool shots of our reels and gadgets for various reasons. Maybe it’s for a quick post on the internet or maybe you need to showcase a product you built yourself. If you are lucky you might have a acquired an new or even antique reel that you want to showcase. By following a few basic photography principles and knowing a bit about light reflection you can better compose your shots.
First, let’s look at a very informative picture provided by David Briggs http://www.huevaluechroma.com/index.php. This is one of the most important teaching tools I stumbled across when starting out and I printed this out and literally taped it to my studio for about three months. This is art and photography 101. Learn about each topic on the image and then practice as much as it takes until you can not only recognize each of these in your own images but be able to recreate it using a fly or reel/rod in place of the cue ball. For example, look at the metal bead head in the photograph following the cue ball image; can you map out these elements on the bead? They are all there – rounded metal on flies or reels or rods is like a microscope into what the photographer was doing at the time of the shot. You will notice that the photographer used three flash light sources.
Light has a quality and character – it can be harsh and focused or diffused and broad. How that light hits our product will invariably produce shadows and they will occur not only on the subject but also on the surrounding surface or table top. One of the most important things to first notice are the highlights. These are the “hot spots” and while they can’t be completely avoided (at least without high end techniques) they can certainly be minimized if you train your eye to identify and minimize before shooting. Let’s look at my neighbors knight statue as a teaching point . . .
Here we see the statue in daylight with the sun at my back, directed straight at the statue. Notice the multiple highlights and harsh white hot spots. The main highlight is on the upper left breast plate and that is where we need to focus in order to plan our composition to avoid this distraction.
We could zoom out but that doesn’t help because our angle hasn’t changed in relation to the light source – in other words, the highlights and shadows are in the same place.
We could lower our angle more toward the ground but notice that actually intensified the highlight.
We could move more “en fose” or “straight on” – the original highlight is gone but we now have a new highlight on the left breast plate. However, we are getting closer to our final goal because the overall reflection pattern is lessened and the true metal texture/tone is starting to come out.
By moving more to the subjects right side we are starting to lessen the highlights.
By moving in closer and a bit to right we create a “barrier” or a “flag” with our own body and the suns rays are blocked out. This creates a better image and the light is more diffused. You could also do this with an assistant holding a cloth or large box or something to block/diffuse the sun.
Here is the final image. I moved to the right which minimized the highlights and then I had an assistant hold up a bed sheet to diffuse the sun. The highlights are minimal and the metal is true tone/texture. The subject was shot slightly behind bush to add depth and interest to the image.
Now let’s look apply these principles to product photography.
This is a Tibor Reel (http://www.tiborreel.com) shot on a seamless white background. I have also provided a markup of the image to show the analysis of the light reflection pattern.
This is the same reel but with the angle changed to an oblique angle. The highlights are now minimal and the reel has more texture. A much more interesting and balanced shot.
Finally, here I added some dynamic lighting with a soft box. While it creates a different mood we see that the softbox can be visualized in the right lower quadrant of the reel as a black/grey triangle.