2.4 Studio Trial - Product Shoot - Toys

The Lighting Set Up
The lighting position was inherited (i.e. it was already in situ) and as this was my first time in the studio we (myself an Steve, our tutor) agreed to allow my focus to be on learning the basics as opposed to spending time on moving lights around (when I wouldn't really know what I was doing anyway).

A soft box to the rear right and left with a snoot to the left - all lighting to the rear of the toys - not what I had intended. The idea I had was to get some front light as though the figures were looking towards a sunset.

Having read around the subject and in particular 'Light, Science & Magic' (3rd Edition - Hunter, Biver & Fuqua) that the soft boxes are well placed and would have given a nice diffused light with soft shadows. Had the snoot been positioned at the front it, then its high contrast light could have been used to simulate daylight with its direct light providing hard shadows. Positioned low enough these would have provided long, hard shadows, that may have diffused a little from the back lighting of the soft boxes. A gel could also have been used to slightly soften and colour the light to more closely mimic the colour of sunset light.

The uplighter lamp can also be seen. Its hard light becoming very diffused and refracted by the tables translucent composition (known as diffuse transmission no less). The table surface would also absorb some light, helping to removing light bouncing around and causing unwanted highlights.

The Camera & Subject Positions
I positioned the 'farm' at a slight angle with the figures coming out towards the camera. The camera itself shooting straight down the 'table'. Had the snoot been positioned at the front, because of the subjects material (dense 'shiny' plastic) then reflections would have become a problem - we wouldn't expect to see reflections from a low sun. A thin material to provide some diffused transmission - a mid-contrast light (see I've read the book, well o.k. the early chapters so far) would have solved this problem.

The First Shots

All pictures were taken on ISO 200, the fastest possible on a Nikon D70, and all at 1/60th exposure. These two being constants all (like it was nothing), so I repeat all, I had to think about was lights and aperture (yes all on manual focus, so that too, smarty blooming pants).

N.B. None of the pictures have been touched in LR2 or CS4, so what you are seeing are the images as they came out of the can (Mr Hollywood's in town). Yep, you can see the cr@p on my lens (please don't let it be on the sensor) too.

The reason for this is so that you (I) can see the impact of the light/aperture settings. A levels adjustment would make my learning impossible.

This first shot was at 48mm - a compromise of widest angle that could achieve the focus and crop. I got the lights to f8.0 - it felt about the right aperture and I'd read that the Nikon 28mm-80mm lens that I was using was optimum between f8.0-f11.0 (depending on where/what/who).

I was pleased with the depth of field sharp to blurred but still evident what it was - thus emulating the blur you might get in real life for the subjects over a greater distance. Wasn't happy with the light though.Did a shot at f11.0 that gave me the right light (slightly too dark but could bring that back in photoshop with levels). There was an impact to depth of field but I liked f11. more the blurring was softer.

Lights Go Out!
As you can see from this shot I had a light failure - the two soft boxes failed to sync and so I had to switch them off and work with just the snoot - which started to challenge my ability to get depth of field and lighting how I wanted. Reflections were becoming too hard (even greater diffused transmission required) Just a gentle touch on the snoot power was making a major difference to the light in the final image. The relationship was too sensitive for my limited knowledge. A small adjustment in power was having a disproportionate effect on light in the image.

Here's the first image shot after the soft boxes failed.

Love the long shadows, just like at sunset. It's exactly what I'd wanted from the front. If the this light was from the front I'd just need to get f11.0 for the depth of field and those soft boxes back for a bit of diffused light at the back (don't mind if I don't say diffused transmission, no thought you wouldn't). There are a half dozen shots between the shot above and this and I'd ended up at f5.6 for no other reason than getting used to adjusting the lights, taking a reading and getting the subject to camera reading to the aperture I required. I had loads of fun with this. I guess only photographers would describe such an iterative process as fun But there it is - it was. I was in the 'flow' (that's a whole other subject) maybe you know it as 'the zone' - when time passes unnoticed.

The image, as you can see, is too dark. The Bowens Esprit Gemini (GM500) was set at 3.5 (the other two lights with soft boxes are the same model), the camera at f5.6 and light reading at f5.6 (lens at 28mm - widest possible to maximise depth).

In the next shot I went with 4.0 on the Bowens

 I then went for  a more dense image with the figures closer together and the lens zoomed in, with a shallow depth of field.


Far too much light really. But I'd decided I wanted a close up now anyway. So camera to narrowest angle (80mm) and move on in. This following shot was withe the Bowens on 4.0 lights on f5.6 and camera at f5.6

I like close ups (we call it macro Joe), I like this image, the cos burned out the horse is blurred and they on a sloping boat but hey it was a mad time with the lights and I like this 'neon light' effect. The farmers taken the animals to Tokyo and they're enjoying the light show (too much Babe in the City Joe).

Went for a slightly wider view (78mm) more depth of field, f8.0 and lights at f8.0. If it was a product shot then getting the detail would be important. The pigs are a bit out of focus and so f11.0 should solve that, as well as changing the focus point. Here the farmer is still the focal point although he has moved behind the pigs (earlier he was at the front with depth of field moving away from him). I took another shot with the Bowens down a notch (was still getting and f8.0 reading) but the image was darker, the chicken had detail. That would be the image I would work on in photoshop - bringing out the details.

A Farmer Portrait
And finally a single figurine takes centre stage - lots of challenge around the single light and depth of field.

I then moved on to a selection of Farmer portraits, here's a list of some of the combinations I tried with the one Bowens light, snoot, no diffusion (did I mention I only had one light - do your best Steve said).

Bowens 4.0 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright
Bowens 3.5 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright

Bowens 3.0 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright

Bowens 3.0 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f9.5 = too dark
Bowens 3.5 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright  
Bowens 3.5 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright 
Bowens 2.75 - Reading f4.0 - Camera f5.6 = too dark
Bowens 2.0 - Reading f4.0 - Camera f5.6 = too dark
Bowens 2.0 - Reading f8.0 - Camera f8.0 = too bright

I think the evidence shows I'd lost the plot. Here he is, the very patient farmer.
80mm, f11.0 (I'd not gone for depth of field because it was a portrait - seeing as the background is white it begs the hindsight question of why not). f11.0 reading on the lights and Farmer's yer uncle.


  1. Hi
    Well evidenced and written and clearly shows what you did in relation to the criteria you are claiming for.


  2. Hi
    This experimental work shows a log of image capture alongside planning and preparation.
    This will go towards meeting criteria P4,P5.