2.0 Statement of Intent - Product Studio Shoot

Title of Theme: Capturing Nostalgia

Statement of Application
The pictures will be used to promote the Toy Museum by 'Toys of Yesteryear' at Barton Marina, Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire. Initially I liked the idea of taking studio shots of the toys - purely to meet the needs of the C&G L3 criteria.

Having had a good look around the museum the ideas started to take shape. I noticed a c1970's Subbuteo set and immediately got the pangs of nostalgia (mini leagues involving friends from my community with home and away games at each others homes, knock out competitions, players getting broken and glued together again, the relatively huge ball and endless dispute about flicking techniques).

If seeing he box set could have that effect on me - could a series of images stir the same nostalgic feelings in others. That became the purpose.

I am fascinated by the 'tilt shift' technique - see blog 2.5 The Best of Tilt Shift Images and became interested in the idea of using this technique for use with actual miniature toys/models. 

Following discussions with Steve Davies (our Tutor) and fellow students the 'proposal' started to evolve. Simulating 'real life' scenarios with the subbuteo set and then merging with images from 'real life' football stadia would be a development of the tilt shift genre. Some of the Tilt shift techniques would be applied to this shoot (depth of field and post shoot editing) see blog 2.6 Tilt Shift Trial - Photoshop Method

Equipment Used
A full description of the equipment used can be found on Blog 2.2 Equipment and details of my experience with lighting on blog 2.4 Studio Trial - Product Shoot - Toys

Technique Used
For details of the lighting, shooting and post shoot techniques used please see blog 2.5 Subbuteo Shoot.

Lighting Application and Control
Learning about the use and control of lighting is covered in blogs 2.3 Studio Photography With Household Lights & 2.4 Studio Trial - Product Shoot - Toys. A discussion about the lighting actually used is covered in blog 3.0 Subbuteo Shoot.

Health & Safety Considerations
A review of H&S considerations and assessment of risks is covered in blog 9.0 Health & Safety

2.2 Studio Know How - Lighting & Equipment

Light quality is often considered the single most important factor in photography. In a studio their are no rain clouds, bright sunlight or setting suns. The photographer has complete control over the set up. The only limitations are space, equipment, ability and perhaps most of all - imagination.

The Burton studio comes equipped with 4 x Bowens Gemini Esprit 500 compact flash (the 500 indicating the maximum capacity of the light in watts). When used on full power the cycle time is 1.5 seconds and quicker at lower power. A discharge switch ensures that, when moving from higher to lower power settings, follow on shots are not incorrectly exposed.

They all come with a model lamp that can be dialled up or down to show where light and shadows will fall allowing the photographer to set shots up quickly and make creative decisions and adjustments with greater ease. The flash unit can also be used on location.

Here's the light before the use of attachments, showing the dials for model and flash lamp settings.

At the rear of the lamp we can see the switches the beep is very useful as an audio guide to whether all lamps have fired or not. The very necessary lamp with - maintains the power in the lamp but enables it to be switched on off during the shoot for various lighting requirements. E.g. shoots with and without back lighting of a full length body shot lit bottom and top followed by the same shot with light only on the upper body.

The cell enables a very simple, very useful but tricky to explain functionality. Lets explain it in a logical sequence of events. The camera has the trigger, the trigger fires one of the lamps with the corresponding unit. That leaves three lamps to be triggered. Switch on the cell/s and they will synchronise - very important. 

The two main sources of light are tungsten (red heads) and flash. The tungsten light remains on all of the time, it is constant.  The flash is used to light the subject and only when activated (fired) as described above. To help each flash comes with a modelling light to help set up the subject. The modelling light can indicate where light and shadows may fall.

In the studio, once we are ready for shooting we work with the modeling and flash lights only. Tungsten works on a different wavelength and will give our pictures a yellowish glow (we've all go some of those in our family albums).

Soft Boxes

The main aim of the soft box is to provide 'diffused' light - providing a soft light that provides gentle highlights and soft shadows (no hard edges) and even coverage. Great for product / still life photography.  Allows greater control than an umbrella. This will be my main light source for the portrait shoot. The model's skin tone will absorb some light and I'm expecting to need stronger highlights than a brolly would provide.

This diagram shows the component parts for a soft box. The outer skin (1), steel rods for creating the shape (2), the speed ring (3), inner diffuser and outer diffusers (4&5) and the outer bib (6). The speed ring enables quick attachment and release of the constructed softbox to/from the flash lamp. Some speed rings also enable the softbox's position to be adjusted

Barn Doors
A set of four clips that are used to control the light source - thus attached to the light source. Warning. they get very hot and should only be adjusted with a 'door key'. (remember that Joe). I plan to use these in the Subutteo product shoot.

The brolly. Shown here in an Elinchrom D'lite kit (see what they did there!). Mainly used in portrait photography. The flash is fired in to the umbrella and back on to the subject. This diffuses the light - causing in to bounce around the umbrella before landing back on the subject. The light will flood the subject area providing soft shadows and smaller reflections than the direct light source from a softbox. Another warning Joe - they would melt if used with a continuous light source.

Snoots give a very directional circle of light. This will be perfect for the Subutteo shoot where the light will be used to recreate the effect of floodlighting. Great for casting shadows and highlighting specific areas. They can be used to create a spotlight effect on subjects.


Usually used to lighten shadows and are more subtle than using additional light sources. When used for very specific applications they enable careful control of shadows e.g. allowing enough light to allow details through but not so much that it distracts. They come in many shape, sizes (and price ranges). Coloured sheeting/card can be used to great effect. This Bowens kit demonstrates the extent of options available.

Lastolite are probably the market leaders in diffusers and reflectors here's an example of their tri-grip reflector in action. They can also be used with stands.


Fitted to a spillkill the two types of honeycomb provide either wide or narrow pools of light. Great for lighting specific areas and creating soft edges.


Help to control light direction (reducing reflected light) and create shadows (less so if close to the subject).

Light Table

The object of product photography is to show details of an object clearly. Lighting an object well brings out details and provides pleasing highlights and contrasts. One method for controlling the lighting of small objects is to use a light table. This table was used in my trial product shoot.

The Gemini Classic 500C features the unique ability to easily integrate with the Bowens Pulsar trigger - a device that sits on the hot shoe of the camera and simultaneously fires the flashlights.

An essential hand held device that can be used to measure both reflected light (light coming from the subject) and incident light (light falling on the subject but prior to hitting the subjects surface). 
The lightmeter will come fitted with a diffuser (the white dome shown here) which is slid back for taking reflected light readings. The meter is then pointed at the subjects surface. The reverse is true for incident readings. The diffuser is closed and the meter placed at the subject's surface and pointed towards the camera. Incident readings provide a good average. I will use incident readings for my portrait and product shoots.

This one is the ever popular Sekonic range the L-358 Flash Meter.

2.3 Studio Photography With Household Lights

I set myself up on the dining room table with a load of props (after the kids had gone to bed). My kit consisted of my Nikon D70, 28-80mm lens (with UV filter and hood), a manfrotto tripod and two lamps - a table lamp and a standard lamp (the tall ones), both with shades on - which helped me to direct the light to some degree.

All other lights were switched off to provide a great degree of control over shadows and highlights.

ISO was cranked up to 1600 (just like suzypaws did for her 'Live Rock Band' images).  I knew this would give me grain, particularly in the background but I was O.K. with that for 2 reasons (i) I wanted the backgrounds blurred anyway & (ii) I tried 800 it wasn't getting the results I wanted.

The D70's histogram was used to see how the overall exposure was going. I wanted some burning out in the high reflections so I used the 'clipping' function of the histogram that flashes in the areas of the image where the highlights are burned out. Using this facility I was able to get maximum reflection off the lights and only burn out where I wanted to burn out.

Here's how I got on.

Hey Hey Were The Monkeys
In all of the images I wanted the light coming from the left, with a burned out reflection spot on each Monkey's head. I achieved that objective but there's far too much shadow - and grain from the high ISO.

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-1.jpg image by JoeFogg

I grouped them all in the first shot - f11 and 1/8 exposure. The tripod was  too far away and I had to use the lens at 80mm to close in (flattening the effect - the opposite of what I wanted!). I didn't like the look of them bunched either.

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-2.jpg image by JoeFogg

The f11 gave too much depth so I opened up to f5.6 with 1/20 exposure to get a bit more light in (I also thought the previous image was too dark).

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-3.jpg image by JoeFogg

Now I've come in at 66mm, stayed with fll and gone for 1/30 exposure. I've spread the monkeys out - I much prefer this look, it easier on the eye, you can take a look around, it's not cluttered and confusing.

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-4.jpg image by JoeFogg

Everything the same I've moved the tripod closer and gone to 60mm - it's getting better. The eye now has something to focus on when it first sees the image, it can then look around at the rest of the image.

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane
I wanted good saturated colour, lots of reflections off of edges and curves.

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-30.jpg image by JoeFogg

I wanted to get the jet in the background and so went back to - f11 and 1/8 exposure. I had to use the lens at 80mm to close in.

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-31.jpg image by JoeFogg

I thought I'd be O.K. with the captain's legs cropped out but I wasn't so I adjusted to 75mm. I also adjusted the lamp to give more light to the bodies.

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-32.jpg image by JoeFogg

The plane was too sharp and distracted from the image so back to f5.6. I also turned the plane around, thinking it was too distracting. It ended up being to 'nebulus' although I liked the Captain sharp, the stewardess slightly blurred and the plane more so, it gives depth to the image.

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-33.jpg image by JoeFogg
Reverted the plane to its original position stayed with the previous settings and hey presto.

Old McDonald
I got so much wrong with this one that I'll just show the one decent image (although the sheep's construction distracts from the rest of the image).

To get sharpness I used ISO 200 (see it can work - even in these conditions), f11 and got right up close with the lens, with 0.5 secs exposure.
TrialShootIn-House-10.jpg image by JoeFogg

She's My Japanese Girl
I fully expected to use a 'Japanes Cherry Blossom' picture as the backdrop for this. However the backdrop picture is only 12x8 so it'll need to be close in, otherwise I'll have more than that in the background. I chose 80mm to deliberately flatten the image. I knew I wanted a blurred backdrop in the final image. 

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-11.jpg image by JoeFogg

I wondered if a white towel would work better than the brown dining table (used in all the other shots) and started off at f5.6. & 1/15th exposure. 

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-13.jpg image by JoeFogg

The towel wasn't working so I decided to raise her on a box (no adjustments to settings),

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-22.jpg image by JoeFogg

Slight adjustment to get rid of the plinth (O.K. box).

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-25.jpg image by JoeFogg

The final image tweaked in photoshop to hide the evident fact that I haven't kept my camera as clean as I'd like.

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.

2.5 The Best of Tilt Shift Images

The technique is now often created 'post shoot' with a combination of Photoshop tools (and I dare say other editing photo suites offer the same functionality).

There also 'Tilt Shift' videos, that are 'sped up' to add to the impact.

All Images Courtesy of Smashing Magazine

2.6 Tilt Shift Trial - Photoshop Method

Having observed some images, Jim showed me a couple of his images done using Gaussian blur in Photoshop. So I decided to have a go myself using an old image of Santorini (after perusing a few candidate images).

I'd shot the original image in aperture mode at f22 at 28mm, the widest angle I could get - because the shot was of buildings moving away from me (and I wanted some of the opposite side of the Island in) I wanted maximum depth of field.

Here's the original image, tweaked a little in Lightroom for exposure and 'blacks'.

I then used Lightroom's 'Vibrance' and 'Clarity' (both at 75) to really pump up the colour - which gets it half way to that 'miniature' or 'model' world effect. A large dollop of sharpening was also added as I thought that defined edges would add further to the 'model' look.

The image was then exported to photoshop. Here I used Gaussian blur (1.6) to isolate a central strip of the shot to make it appear 'in focus'. For the background and sky I added more Gaussian blur (4.3) to try and give the village a 3D type effect. And here it is.
I then decided to go over to Ros Forest  and saw the following opportunity for a 'Tilt Shift' shot. Now knowing that I need narrow depth of field I shot on aperture mode at f4.0, focusing in the bridge (the central theme). To crop out unwanted areas I had the lens at 44mm (as wide as I could go). Getting a really wide angle increases depth of field and maximises the 3D effect.

This one gave me invaluable learning. One of the requirements for creating good 'miniature images' is to get high above the subject - although I stood on a bench it just wasn't high enough. Equally I shot too close to the subject.
This shot required much more Gaussian blur. 7.0 for the background, 5.0 for the foreground and 3.5 for the near centre. It's all a bit too heavy handed. But hey I'm learning (I'll know what to do next time).


Revisited this after some advice from Jim ('ll fix it) via the comments boxes. Got the Gaussian blur up to 15 on the outside down to 2.5 nearer the bridge. Clarity & vibrancy at 75, and upped the Green, Blue & Red channels. I'm quite pleased with it.

Found a tutorial on tiltshiftphotgraphy.net and applied it to the same image - as follows and forsaking all modesty I prefer my own technique - the focus/blur is to parallel for me (the rectangle looks too obvious to me. However, I did use lens blur with this and Gaussian with the other, I much prefer the effects I was getting with lens blur. So, a merge of the two techniques is my way forward. For further info the tutorial suggested using a saturation layer and a curves layer. Whilst I found the saturation useful, I tried a levels layer and preferred it (even though I've clipped some darks and highlights).

Oh no! it's not the same picture. Right lets do it again with the right picture.