Shape, Form and Texture in Product Photography

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Michael A. Sewell
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This was photographed as part of a product portfolio for an equestrian equipment supplier, Saddles Direct in Burnley, UK.

Due to the complex shape and the requirement to ensure the various textures were visible, I needed to use a fairly complex four light setup. Starting frame left and further back than the saddle, I placed a 300Ws head, firing at 1/8th through a 40cm beauty dish. This provided the accent light seen along the top left edge of the saddle, along with the splash of light skimming across the seat area. This helps to highlight the texture of the leather grain.

Still frame left, and a few feet away from the camera, I placed a 300Ws head firing at 1/16th through a 70cm gridded white beauty dish. This provided the overall lighting for the saddle. Why the grid if it's not skimming or facing the camera? The grid is to ensure the light hits the saddle only, and doesn't wash across the walls or ceiling which are white, and would have increased the possibility of the background losing its depth of black. I wanted the background to stay black, so as the saddle would be isolated from anything else.

A third 300Ws head was placed camera right, firing at 1/8th through another 40cm gridded beauty dish, and placed marginally in front of the saddle, allowing the light to skim across the saddle frame right to left. This enhanced the visible texture in the leather. It also created the shadow and highlight in the front panel so as to give it some depth.

Finally, I found the third head didn't quite fill the underside of the saddle enough. I placed a 200Ws head with a gridded standard reflector in line with the saddle but a little lower. It was set to fire at 1/16th, its lowest setting. I found I had to move the head a little further out to reduce the intensity of the light hitting the saddle. After all, I wanted to add just enough light to show some detail, without it becoming too distracting.

OM-D E-M1 1/200th sec ISO200 12-40mm f2.8 @f8
 
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retiredfromlife

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View attachment 505277

This was photographed as part of a product portfolio for an equestrian equipment supplier, Saddles Direct in Burnley, UK.

Due to the complex shape and the requirement to ensure the various textures were visible, I needed to use a fairly complex four light setup. Starting frame left and further back than the saddle, I placed a 300Ws head, firing at 1/8th through a 40cm beauty dish. This provided the accent light seen along the top left edge of the saddle, along with the splash of light skimming across the seat area. This helps to highlight the texture of the leather grain.

Still frame left, and a few feet away from the camera, I placed a 300Ws head firing at 1/16th through a 70cm gridded white beauty dish. This provided the overall lighting for the saddle. Why the grid if it's not skimming or facing the camera? The grid is to ensure the light hits the saddle only, and doesn't wash across the walls or ceiling which are white, and would have increased the possibility of the background losing its depth of black. I wanted the background to stay black, so as the saddle would be isolated from anything else.

A third 300Ws head was placed camera right, firing at 1/8th through another 40cm gridded beauty dish, and placed marginally in front of the saddle, allowing the light to skim across the saddle frame right to left. This enhanced the visible texture in the leather. It also created the shadow and highlight in the front panel so as to give it some depth.

Finally, I found the third head didn't quite fill the underside of the saddle enough. I placed a 200Ws head with a gridded standard reflector in line with the saddle but a little lower. It was set to fire at 1/16th, its lowest setting. I found I had to move the head a little further out to reduce the intensity of the light hitting the saddle. After all, I wanted to add just enough light to show some detail, without it becoming too distracting.

OM-D E-M1 1/200th sec ISO200 12-40mm f2.8 @f8
Nice photo and description on how it was done. For your next one any chance of a photo of the setup as well?
 
Joined
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Messages
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Bootle, Cumbria, UK
Real Name
Michael A. Sewell
Nice photo and description on how it was done. For your next one any chance of a photo of the setup as well?
Unfortunately, it's an age thing!
I forget!

Believe me, I go into the shoots thinking "yeah, I'll get a BTS on this one, because the subject matter is actually worth a write up."

Oooooooh, a squirrel!!!!!!!
 

thenextpage

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Oct 13, 2014
Messages
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This is beautiful work Michael, thank you for sharing. The detailed placement and control of lighting worked very well to convey the texture and design of the product. I'm curious to know how much time and lighting position adjustments go into the preparation for this type of shot. Do you have a clear vision and idea from the beginning as to how the lighting should be arranged, or do you make several adjustments along with test shots? Was this done in your studio or on location?
 
Joined
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Messages
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Bootle, Cumbria, UK
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Michael A. Sewell
@thenextpage

I tend to have an idea as to what I will get out of a modifier for a given distance and power setting, so can visualise how the light will appear on a subject. But that's just down to shooting a lot of stuff over the years.
At the start, it tends to be a lot of trial and error, and the more you shoot, the more you remember. You start to anticipate the positioning and power output needed to get a particular texture or shape from a subject, and that starts to cut down on the preparation time.

This particular image was done in the studio, after an afternoon based on location at an equestrian centre..
 

christofp

Mu-43 Veteran
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Jul 21, 2012
Messages
262
Thank's for sharing, Michael!

I have three flashes and two reflectors but I didn't find enough patience to get good use from it. Reading your articles is very useful!! Now, I will try my luck with an easier subject and hope the result is good enough to keep me trying ...

Christof
 
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