Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lighting on the cheap

I've been working on portraits with available light for about a year now. I've been trying to learn to see the quality of the light, to be able to recognise where the good light is, even in the bad locations. But all of this has been with the light as it is found, not taking control and setting up lighting. I'm slowly starting to build up a set of strobes so that I can expand my ability to create interesting lighting. This watch shot, while not a portrait, is helping me learn how to light better. I've built a simple macro studio, with all the usual features you'd find in a larger studio environment. But this cost me a few dollars. I can play with the lighting and hopefully expand my repertoire for portraits as well as product photography, while working on a small, quickly adjustable scale. The light on the watch is from two small strobes, on the left and right. They are fired through relatively large diffusion panels I constructed from tracing paper and some poster board. I also added in some white poster board above the set to provide some bounced fill light. The background is a sheet of neon orange posterboard to give some colour contrast with the blue & yellow watch. Before I added the various pieces of lighting modification, this is how it looked. Hard specular reflections from the overhead lighting and no light in the recessed LCD face, gives a flat, ugly appearance. The reflections in the glass also don't add to the overall appearance and the hard shadow under the watch isn't very appealing. The coloured background might put it a little beyond most of the ebay shots out there, but this isn't exactly good lighting or a good product shot. But with just a bit of effort and experimentation I got to the shot above, with bright, diffuse highlights and controlled reflections. As I continue to play with this small macro setup I'm learning more about how I can adjust and modify light and new ways to control and light objects. I hope this is going to translate into portraits I'll take in the future and give me an overall better idea on how to get the shot I want, no matter what the light happens to be like on that day.

3 comments:

Mike said...

Hi Gordon,

I too have been experimenting with home lighting for shots like this. My budget doesn't allow the purchase of a lightibng setup. As an alternative I made a DIY light tent out of plastic domestic water pipe and a white sheet. After a bit of experimenting, I managed to get some good results.

By the way, I have enjoyed your posts on portraits and the pictures themselves.

Mike

jason said...

Very good use of a 2 strobe setup Gordon! How did you have the watch secured vertically?

Have you tried moving the left light diffusion panel in closer? This should allow you to maintain exposure, but bring the color into the Nike logo and increase separation on the top band.

Gordon said...

Jason,

There's some blu-tak under the watch strap, holding it on the paper.

The idea about moving the left diffusion shadow/highlight is great - thanks! That's the sort of feedback I've been looking for.