Daylight Examples


Tabletop Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Daylight Examples

This is one of those examples right off the bat off using daylight and managing shadows really effectively with black so this is when I first showed this photograph to some people they were surprised that it was they like because the balance and the way the light is flowing off of all around the object um what you're seeing there is different than what they might be seeing on the internet because that's a little lighter from my audience who's looking at it going like um the idea of lighting things like this in daylight it's it's you know the challenge is trying to get this is more of a product still life photograph that is a food photograph so being able to manage your shadows appropriately in daylight is really about where everything is set up outside of the frame how much black I'm using the cards on the left and the daylight coming in from the right again that side cross lighting is the thing that kind of highlights texture gives you that subtle shadowing and using black in the back...

ground is something that is effective in managing the shadows that's what going to fall off the subject so that's one of those prime examples of that where by contrast using again that blown out kind of thing in daylight and the one I put this in here on purpose because this was one of those kind of combination photographs it was for food magazine but it's of a product and there's food in the picture so I shot it as if it was food and as I had as the picture was published I realized that that was a mistake that this was shot in the shallow depth of field completely backlit and I'm not unhappy with the lighting situation what I'm unhappy with was the focus and the sharpness because it's soft and this is a product that really should have been shown that maybe like that eight point oh aperture and much crisper and much sharper and I think that it still works because it's a food magazine but if this was an advertisement for that particular product that wouldn't work so when you're using daylight I hand held that what I would do in the future would be too put it on a tripod slow down my shutter and push my aperture as far as I can go and still get the lighting I want so when you're managing daylight in a product photography situation you need to adjust your thinking a little bit and I think I would have had a better result had I done it the other way so this is the prime example of how shooting product like food doesn't necessarily always work still a nice image but it's not this wouldn't be something I put in a portfolio to show my still life work to say this is what I can do with product this is one of those kind of things where we had some weird object that reflected all kinds of stuff back at the camera, and basically that is ah, corked display er for really pretentious people who buy thousand dollar bottles of wine and want to display the court know that I say that, oh, no, I didn't say that it'll send your wind to me, um, all of those streaking that that streaking that gives you all of that highlighting on the on the cork display er thinking or I don't know what it's called that's all manage with cards, so the black stripes and the white stripes are all manage with cards and reflections, so I was watching through trial and error, which is a big, big part of what we're going to do over the next couple of days. There is no set up the lights in this way put the object, they're pushed the thing and all of a sudden, like, oh, that's, great no, everything is about move it twisted, tweak it, find it that's what this is about and that's what this type of picture is about. So even in daylight, I used highlight cards to make catch lights, so if I were using strobe or hot lights in this situation, that would also create those kind of catches and that's what we call those and when I talk about catch lights or catches that's what those are, when a reflective object is looking at something, and creating a shape, whether it be the edge of a glass or bottle, or something like this that's our catch. So the catches, the black stripes, the white stripes or cards, and the way that the object is looking at the room. So you have to find the the eyeballs of the object, and find out what it's looking at and through trial and error, and taking lots of photographs, and looking at the way that things progress as you move them around in the frame. That's really important to understand and when you find it you you learn something you really do you learnt how difficult it is to like things like this. So that was a fun experiment. It turned out to be a really cool picture on dh that was again for a magazine. And I really treated that one like still life photography. And I shot it at the higher aperture rating, and everything is really crisp and clean. So that was an example of doing it the right way, yes, tethered in this instance so that you can really, you know, you know, I I've tended to moved mohr towards shooting tethered lately it's not something I was always really comfortable with, but when I do product photography in particular it's really essential, and we'll see this later when I'm tethered and we're working how I'll be able to call out to the control booth to show us side by side images that's so essential when you're doing product photography, because change is so subtle and and unless you can look at things in a progression on a computer as you're working it's very, very hard to see that's subtle little light change too subtle little bend in the catch light. All of that really matters is a very detail oriented kind of process, working in product photography and still life photography and there's no right and wrong it's just about what you want it to look like how you want to present it? I would say there's obviously right and wrong ways the light things, but I don't know that if you do something experimentally and you like what you found, then you roll with it. It doesn't mean that any other photographer may do it that way. I've had people come up to me on sets in big photo shoots and say, I've never seen anybody work the way you work, I didn't know whether that meant good on that, but quite honestly, I took it as a compliment because obviously I've gotten to a point in my career where I have a job doing things on a bigger scale and I'm doing it my way so I don't think there's a right and a wrong you know, I didn't start off as ah eighteen year old art school photographer who went through college and grad school and worked as an assistant and did all those things that's not that wasn't my career arc a lot of my friends that was their career arc and the way they do things in the way I do things are very different and I think I would encourage you to do things your way learn the basics understand how the equipment works find a new way to use it right isn't that? Isn't that a really cool way to go about doing things is creating a new way to do things and when you're not when you're not tainted by the idea that you have to do things a certain way I think that's how I found my style in photography I wasn't influenced by other food photographers I wasn't influenced by other still life photographers because I didn't assist them I didn't study them I just figured it out from myself good, bad or indifferent it's the way I do things and now there are people who learned the way I do things and then they can make it twist on and do it your own way I thought they were sending you to the principal's office I'm sorry. Um I had some more things I can talk about when I'm done with this I realized I on my notes have some more notes the chair with you all right this was on also daylight and I was really tempted to do this with strobe lighting that's makeup and we worked I worked with a magazine art director we sat in my studio one night and he said I have this job I don't know what to do here's the concept and it's about sustainability in makeup makeup that is being made in a responsible, sustainable way and we came up with this concept and you know, the idea of this was natural it was supposed to be natural and and the title on the page that this ran in the magazine was what is natural? So that's where I branched off and said I'm not going to shoot this and stroked I'm going to shoot it in natural light because the whole concept is natural and I wanted to look as natural as possible and I think that we pulled it off because there are no catches in any of those facets of all of that stuff had I use strobes there would have been catches everywhere they would've been spectral highlights everywhere and I didn't want that I wanted it to look flat and natural like earth like dirt you know and it worked so there is one of those concepts where you have put your head in a space and you are trying to represent something in a way and even though maybe no one would ever know that I shot it in daylight and that was my concept and that's why I did it innate lee there you might understand that because it does look earthy because it does look natural so the wood the wood we ruin that would surface by the way it was trashed after that but it was just such a great organic process no pun intended with the sustainability symbol it was just organic people creative people sitting in a room figuring it out and then working all of the aspects of it to fit so that's where that natural light situation is it goes a little deeper it goes a little deeper right into the concept of why we shot things a certain way. Um this again was one of those things where the magazine insisted on shooting it in daylight when I wanted to shoot it in strobe and there's a number of cases in a number of still life photographs that I've shot for this particular magazine that I wanted to use strobes but they were uncomfortable with the idea they wanted they will on ly used to daylight photography and they wanted to shoot it a certain way and this is a prime example of something that should be shot stroke but how you can make it work through camera settings and you know the right the right angles and everything else so this is shot obviously from a straight over the head that was a pullback shot there was all kinds of stuff on the outside of it there're cards boxing in the whole thing we made a giant lightbox light source and three cards all the way up for four feet around the whole thing so that thing was flooded with light so is balanced and even but that same setup could have been achieved with two soft boxes and a bounce cards so easily that actually that's harder to do in daylight than it would have been to do in strope so sometimes you get you work backwards based on how a client wants to work. So but that's a good understanding of being inverse and in your thought process and that you save yourself that's a strobe shot and I can create it with daylight well, you could do it the same way the opposite side I don't have enough daylight so I'll create it with stroke or I'll create it with hot lights because you understand how they work because you understand what the concepts are augmented daylight is the on ly food shot I'm going to show you in this whole thing true food shot so we were working in a very dark bar and I was shooting with strobe and I wasn't loving the results it didn't have the right equipment with me to do it, and the room was really dark and they didn't like it, so I rolled it everything over to the window, the one window that had any semblance of daylight on that particular day and and I took a strobe light and I bounced it up off the ceiling behind the subject. All it did was bring the ambient light in the room up just a touch to give me enough to make it look like a food picture, and we had to play with it, and you have to sometimes understand that mixing light doesn't always work because the color temperatures are really off, but if you get close enough and you have just enough, you know, flexibility in your camera that you can blend light in a successful way even for something as complicated as food with a lot of white in it, you can do that. So we're gonna go over just a bit of that will probably won't do it with a stroke today, but we will do it with another type of a light to show how we can kind of blend light a little bit and I think a lot of people come to me with the same problem with food and with product is I'm working out of my home I don't have a lot of daylight I'm only comfortable shooting daylight or you know not not really familiar I don't have a lot of room to set up lights and all these other things what can I do? So we'll talk a little bit about using augmented daylight and that'll be the china segway point into everything else we do because that that point we're getting rid of daylight and there will be no more daylight for the rest of the sun will set on the studio and there will be no more daylight okay, here we go continuous lighting there are a lot of different sources we're going tow do lamp housings, which we will show in the d I y segment, but we also show that upgraded kind of professional type of lamp housings and there are lots and lots and lots and lots of um what do you say different gear that you can attach to different lights, all kinds of accessories that's the word I was thinking about the product photographers and dying right now he doesn't know the word accessories um there are a lot of accessories that go with all of this lighting we're not going to use all of them theirs, I will reference some of them will talk about some of them will use some of them, but there are so many different accessories that you can use with lighting that you shouldn't be intimidated by you should just know that everything does a job a little bit different than the other thing it's not that anything is right over all is just about sometimes it's an umbrella and sometimes it's a soft box and sometimes it's a light filter there's a lot of different things that sometimes it's an egg crate or sometimes it's a screen there's a lot of different accessories, so don't be freaked out by it, so we have light housings h m eyes leads tungsten inflorescence. Those are the things that we're going to talk about mostly over the next couple of days, and we're going to go over each type of lighting and show like what I'm showing you now, like what they do and how you can manipulate them in certain ways. So this is the shot that I made for the course graphic, and I was looking online at different types of glass photography, and this type of an image jumped out at me because it's it's something that's really artistic and fits that what they say that I have a paint, the painterly style. This was something in this vein that I felt a connection to, so I said, all right, I'm gonna go out and try to recreate this photograph so tried through trial and error, I worked with one fornell steady light, and I'm going to show you how to set this up because it's a really interesting concept, and if we can do that really successfully, I know somebody who's had a product that they've had all sorts of difficulty photographing for the last twenty years that we're going to put up on the table and see if we can photograph it that way and make it look cool. So that's an interesting concept and it's there's a lot going on with one steady light and the trial and error on this took several hours to figure out how to recreate the only giant scene online, but once I got there, it was really rewarding because it really challenges you toe look at light differently when you're trying to recreate something that you've seen, and I think that's one of those challenges you should take on yourself as a photographer is you should look at a photograph and say, how the heck did they make that? And I want to try to do that myself and then try to get his closest possible, and I got pretty close, it was really cool, and it was a good experiment, and this was done, like I said, with one study like this is the same or image with the full reflection coming off of the plexi glass that we put on the bottom so the way this was set up was there was a plec black plexi, and then I had the wall off a solid wall from avi flat, like the big foam core wall behind black and I boom the light up and over the subject and shine the spot on the back of the of the black card. And then I adjusted the for nell to make the light close down a little bit more, and I'll show you all the mechanism and all the things I did to make it work, but you have to adjust it and twist it around to make sure the halo was balanced. It was a lot of fun, but it was definitely a challenge, and I'm glad that we're going to do it together here. I think tomorrow this was ah campaign that I worked on, and the challenge here was shooting what was on a video set so that's, why the light is so is so orange. We couldn't really change it because that was the whole feel off the video that we shot don't know if you've ever seen the commercials for this, where they're in a big cheese vault. It's looks like it's underground and there in this big cheese vault and it's that really golden lighting so this was the challenge I couldn't do anything to this all I could do was stand up on a stool and take the picture so this is that idea where you run into a problem sometimes where you're working with video at the same time they want stills and you have to understand that there's some things you can and can't do and this is one of those kind of situations where steady lighting that was designed for something else was that we were able to make something out of it and you know through the right angle whatever but that's all that's all h m my lighting this is again that one the next two photographs also done with a single light source on dh by using the angle in which delight was presented and using black backgrounds and using color I made that read out of drops of cranberry juice because it was just sparkling water to get highlights and details and show the way light can play off of certain objects and getting that really kind of interesting edge on that I shot that in the shallow end of the field because I wanted the edge to fall away so if that was a product real true product shot I would have shot a little bit crisper but that was the idea yeah. And also have the idea of that. You can have some fun with doing things. This is a project that I'm working on with a friend. So we found ice cube trays that were we were found ice cube trays that were in the shape of the titanic and ice cube. I know. While icebergs, right. So we got them and report acrylic into them rather than make ice cubes out of him. We poured clear acrylic, and then we got them out of the thing. And we found on the internet exactly where the titanic broke. So we created holes and snapped it right where broke. And we put it in this glass off a drink called the dark and stormy. Okay, way got we got some. And we got some dry ice. And my iceberg all the way in the back is napkin against a black background with a single light source. And in order to do this properly, we could never have done this with strobe because we wanted to show the movement off the smoke. So this is where steady lighting and and a slower shutter speed will help us achieve the kind of thing that we wanted here, so if we were trying to sell this as a product as something that we got we had been created the environment we really want to show so and that was because steady lighting was available to us rather than strobe lighting that's why this works it was not because it gave that ethereal feel because we could show movement and that's the way to do that with a slower shutter speed so this is also done with steady lighting and you see those two spectral highlights that come right down either side of the glass through trial and error we had and we made do something just like this we showed how to create those catch lights now there's a lot of different ways to do it the way we did it was with soft box and a big white card and by moving the soft box almost completely behind on the angle so the light was coming through the glass this way we created that long catch light that reflected the soft box and the card and we got it really balanced at first the light was mme or in the front and it was the highlights were so close together that the whole front of the glass was turning white so gradually we kept moving the lights back this way around the table until we got there so through that trial and error but we knew exactly what we wanted we knew we wanted that long strike that went right down the side we want to show that that on a balance of symmetrical pattern on either side and make it chris crystal clear so that that was one of those things that because we were able to move the light to see how it would move that's where working with steady lights really helps so strobe lighting um we're going to go over I can't read that far soft boxes and diffusers the light table that I used in that last class that I taught here creative live where we put the lighting underneath we have a similar kind of store bought arching sweep light table that we're going to use we're gonna show you different ways to use after product the light tent and all of those things can be used with strobe light tent can be used with anything the light table is best used with strobe lighting because you could light it from behind but we can experiment with all of that but these are the kind of images that we've kind of made with strobe lighting I want this is where we get like kind of that clean against white everything's balanced very little shadow that's the real clean example of how to use strobes in a really controlled kind of product photography way they're you know, not a lot of highlights not a lot of shadow is just a nice flat even photograph and then by contrast we have something like this which was supposed to illustrate this is for the business section of the new york times. And it was to illustrate the goldilocks economy, right? So I really wanted that fade out to go down and almost vignette the, uh, the bowls. So what we did was we put a big, soft box, but then we created a a mask in the shape of a vignette around the soft box and attached it. So basically, the light was blasting through a hole and it created that effect. That's all table top. I mean, maybe that's twelve inches, but that gives that really deep illusion of death because of the way we created the light and that's about bending and shaping like the way you want it. That's one of those things that's really cool about strobe lighting is that you could do some really interesting things with how to manipulate and move it and shape it by putting massive filters or or bank lights or where you position them. Strobe lighting is very, very versatile, but it doesn't give you everything you want. So it's, just one of the options that we're gonna talk about. And then with strobes. You also what on that same shoot the sergeant oh, picture, I had a side set up. So I had to match the type of lighting that was going on on the set, so I was able to kind of create a side set with strobe lights and then adjust my light temperature and a way to make those those tools that we had a photograph look like they belong in that office set on dh. Also, this is also about managing light flare and catch lighting because reflective objects like that could very easily go awry it. You could see everything in them. So just how it's positioned and where the light is and there's something you know, we'll talk about a little bit called the angle of incidents and the angle of reflection and that's, you know, a little physics for for our science nerds in the house on again, like gradation, too, and how things kind of can kind of fade and create some kind of an environmental look through lighting and that's again, this is on a light table on dh. We use that and the next the next photograph is wells on a light table and how we can achieve a number of different effects with strobe lights and doing product photography. Um, like that and that's the cross course graphic for the other thing that we did, but that's again, that's on a light table where it's lit from the topside and the bottom and it gives you this idea of the light kind of penetrating through the glass and that's something you can't really do as well with steady lighting unless it's super powerful this is something that's really and the next one as well are really, really intended for things like like tables where you can really penetrate objects with light on dh creates certain effects and when you're doing a really close kind of proximity, product photography and doing labels in particular, being able to manage your flares in a certain way is really important because this particular packaging was really difficult to photograph because every which way we put the lights it was throwing off some crazy catches and we want to get it as clean as possible out of the camera, obviously with ah commercial client you khun doas much photoshopped as you like and I was actually in a dinner with a friend who's just started a company and he's doing a lot of product photography right now, and I was horrified to learn that everything on his website was rendered it wasn't photographed, so they basically took three d models and put them in auto cad or something called p something and they actually render the photographs out ofthe nothing out of thin air and they just do it out of the model it's crazy and very disheartening for photographers and I think that's it for that so let me ask, is there questions about what I've said so far because from this point on I won't be listening to anybody, I'm just going to be shooting well, andrew, as you know, we always have some fantastic questions and I'm going to start off one from mad panda who says I absolutely love the presentation, especially the titanic one. Do you have a creative process when you're finding a concept or visualizing for these shots for product specifically, do you do a lot of previous or do you? Is it half and half on the set? I actually draw sketches I like to sketch things out beforehand, even though I can't draw a lick, but I do like to kind of visualize the shapes of with the things I want to use, and I do that with a lot of what I work on. I do collaborate sometimes on a set and will create a sketch, and I think that's really helpful and then obviously when you're in process and you're seeing that your sketch, you just basically need to crumple it up and throw it out the window is not working, then you need to probably do some stuff on the fly, so I would say fifty fifty is probably right I go into a project with a vision in my head, I tried to sketch it out on paper and if that doesn't work or we need to change it obviously gotta be flexible enough to do that, but I prefer going into a situation with a clear vision of what I want to create so cool and just a follow up to that andi, I think we're gonna head to the studio to see if they have any questions are we going to talk about is now a good time to talk about working with art directors because you and I have talked in previous courses about your interaction with our directors with your food? How about with product and that pre visualization? I think it's important? Yeah, because there is and it's not just about art direction in this situation, I think it's also about collaboration because they think a lot of online companies and a lot of product people are collaborating with each other, so whether it is an art director or collaborator, a lot of what we're doing in this and pre visualizing what we want ahead of time is really important one the things that I found to be really effective when I'm collaborating with somebody or an art director is something like pinterest ah pinterest board I'm not interested in participating in pinterest as a social media platforms so much as I am as a productive kind of artistic collaboration platform and whether I'm collaborating with a partner or I'm working with an art director pulling inspirational pictures, I think we did that here, too. I didn't use a pinterest board, but I did put together a collection of pictures for the kinds of things that I liked and that way, whether I was bringing it myself or we were sourcing it here locally, they knew what my aesthetic wass and I think that is part of that pre visualization process for sure, whether you receive sketches from our directors or collaborators that show you were texas going to go and how you deal with that in your angles. At times, yes, and that's a real important point to make because they're often times it's really, really hard to visualize where text is going to go and there's sometimes we shoot directly into into a map, so in light room you can actually put like the map of where all the text is going to go, and as you shoot, you can readjust everything in the frame to make sure it's fitting where the text is going to go. So it's an interesting process. I don't necessarily like that process it's kind of taking away from how I want to see it originally, but it is better than watching your photographs be destroyed by horrible text after the fact. Because that's happened to me as well will you take really beautiful pictures and in all of a sudden it's emblazoned with all this crazy type and it's because they didn't know where it was going to go in the first place so I think it's important to understand that for sure great okay do any questions from the audience yes, I was going to ask do you get say a client comes to you? Do you get like a full brief from them with an emotional response because as you're going through your sideshow entity, you know varied from sort of like you said the homey kind of a field something really clean and a little bit edgy and you know, being a photographer myself I'm always I get an immediate emotional response and it was you know, it varied so I'm wondering if the brief like says, you know, you know certain sodas sell happiness, you know yes is this yes, I think that attaching some like other anthem mobile mobile what is it what's the word no that's not the anthropomorphic where you're attaching human emotions to basically inanimate objects that's very true and I think that happens a lot and I do get I ask those questions ahead of time and I think sometimes people come with this this is what I want to say with this product this is what I want this to feel like and that's that's kind of amorphous right that's kind of in the vapor, but to you, specifically because you consistently delivers certainly I think so, yeah, I think that my particular aesthetic is something that speaks to some people and doesn't speak to other people, and I think that once you've established an aesthetic and people understand what you're really good at, it doesn't mean you can't do other things, and there are times when people come to me and I'm like, why did you come to me? Because, it's very odd that your vision and my aesthetic really don't match, but it's about being proficient and being professional, and I think that's another part of the business, it's not just about vision, and I think that if you are flexible as an artist, you can have your druthers sometimes, but all the times you have to be able to bend your style and your will to what your client wants, and if you're able to execute that, you'll find that you'll generate different types of work in your career, which is true because I have some clients who only want me to shoot still life, they don't want me food magazines, don't they? They hire me to shoot there still life because they want they like my aesthetic and still like my aesthetic as a food photographer doesn't fit and I don't take it personally I know it I look at their magazine I'm going I don't fit in there I don't know what I do doesn't fit that so it's important to know where your edges are and how to bend them and a ce far as you can so yeah, power styling is often because the product has to be so prominent yes, I suppose to having a house set I think yes, we will because I think that we will show the proficiency of lighting meaning howto light something with good proficiency and then we will talk about the artistic part of that process and how to make that part better because I do think it's a two part thing just like any other uh, thing where we're putting objects on a table to shoot them yeah, you can shoot it on a plain white surface and great we know what it is but it doesn't give you any feeling it's it's kind of empty so I want to I want to try to do both of those things and I want I think ideas to come from this part of the room and from there as well I want you to say, hey, I see how your shooting that but what would you what would it look like if you shot it like this? Because I think when we did the table top stuff we had so much fun in the last segment of that of that day because the internet was just coming out, saying, shoot this, do it that way. What would it look like if you did that? And it was really cool because we came up with some things that I might not have thought of before. So if you have an idea while I'm doing something with demonstrating something, I want youto I want you to voice that for sure.

Class Description

You don’t need a studio to take professional-grade product and still life photographs! All you need is a simple tabletop lighting setup. In this course, award-winning food photographer Andrew Scrivani will show you how to create and tailor your own table top lighting setup — on any budget. Whether you’re a beginning photographer looking to master lighting or a professional photographer eager to expand your services, this course will give you a candid, comprehensive playbook for tabletop lighting.

Tabletop photography transforms a single surface into a small-scale studio. Andrew, a regular contributor to The New York Times, will show you how to create and then optimize your lighting setup for your needs — using everything from the latest gear to household items. Andrew will cover metering and bounce cards, working with strobes and soft boxes, LED lighting, and tips for shooting glassware and other tricky products.

By the end of this course, you will know how to set up and adjust your very own tabletop studio — and how to use that small-scale studio to expand your services, improve your photography, and market your business.


a Creativelive Student

I was pleased to see real life situations and set ups, their work arounds and the little fiddly things all commercial/product photographers go through to produce a viable shot. Unlike some of the other reviews, the "oops, it didn't work, let's try this instead" was totally real world and believable. So many times on other teaching venues, the shot is already set up and perfected before the instruction begins. It was extremely helpful to watch the processes that were involved in producing the correct captures. I was impressed with the humor and teaching style as well, especially for the time constraints in a classroom setting. The student set-ups and critiques were valuable and spot on without being negative in any way. All-in-all this was one of the best classes I've viewed at Creative Live. I just wish I could have had three more days and to have been there in person for the one-on-one instruction.

Aly Cupcakezz

I really liked how things were experimented. Instead of just giving do x, y, z. It shows you how to correct issues as they come up, and how to enhance your photography This gives you a guided idea of all the things you can play with to perfect your product photography image. You really learn how to fix the image problems as they appear in front of you. A very realistic way to create your own personal lighting setup for your product photos for your own studio space. Excellent fundamentals class for new photographers or small businesses attempting to do their own product photography. Thank you!

Sunil Sinha

very nice table top