Tabletop Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 4/33 - Shoot: Daylight Lighting - Tote Bag


Tabletop Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Shoot: Daylight Lighting - Tote Bag

Well as you met john who is a friend and is going to be helping us throughout the next three days, you'll see him here you'll hear from him and I think he could probably take off his his touchy screw bonnie glasses I think we could let john himself so what we have here is the beginnings of our set up for our daylight photography section so I haven't we haven't fully put together the set and I think it's important that we go through the whole process but what we will we will do is we will talk about the product which we're going to do this is called this is from a company called old little rabbit and they do these totes and some tea towels were going to show them both while we're photographing here but I think that, you know, in looking at the a starting point when we were looking at these products it was important to understand the aesthetic of the company that it was a little bit edgy and it was a little bit fun and that we wanted to show it in a way that was going to be appropriate f...

or the product that we're going to be shooting. So when we were sourcing out props for this, one of the things we thought about was doing a former model but rather than doing like a traditional dress model, we found this really great wire kind of little bit rusty a little bit bird kg it kind of has a really cool feel to it and I thought it kind of matched the the aesthetic of the company that we're trying to represent here so we're going to start with this as our model for the tote bag but we're gonna have to solve a couple of problems along the way so we're going to try to do that for you. One of the issues that we're goingto have obviously in a daylight scenario is we're going to have to push our camera pretty hard because our daylight in here isn't that great which for this particular class in this particular environment it's good because what we're going to show us how we can kind of overcome those problems this isn't an ideal shooting situation but we're still going to try our best to make the picture that we need with what we have available to us. So some of the key pieces of equipment that we're going to be using today obviously our light meter which is already told us that we're going to have to goto eight hundred s o which john's going to set for me at a tenth of a second and we're going to start it aperture eight well, no, we're starting at aperture eleven right? So we're gonna be at aperture eleven which is going to give us a really clean, crisp look all the way back to the back to the backdrop so everything will be nice and crispin and focus, and we're going to use a trigger release so that we can to do achieve two things here as you notice the light is behind me, so I'm in the way, so the first thing I'm able to do in that situation is get out from behind the camera and let the light come across and hit our subject. So I'm going to use the trigger released a key piece of equipment for this type of any type of studio photography that we're gonna be doing over the next three days because of the fact that we're gonna be on a tripod or camera stand pretty much exclusively because we're going to be wanting to have rock steady camera, no shit camera shake, and we're going to want to have the flexibility to get out of the way of lights or get out of the way off hear of the daylight so that's, unimportant thing. The other thing I wanna talk about is the lens I'm going to use. I am abandoning my my beloved macro lenses that I shoot my food with, and I'm moving to a lens that eyes sort of go to lens for a lot of photographers, this one is a twenty eight to seventy l siri's blends by cannon. This land's has since been discontinued and it was replaced by a twenty four to seventy lens so it's the one that is on the market now is a little bit wider it's not going to affect our purposes today, but the reality is that this is a this is a really versatile zoom lens and it's going to give us that kind of flexibility to move and do things with this entire setup that we're going to do and then if we find that we want to zoom in and do some more detail or we have a smaller object to work with will move back to the macro lenses later so we will be using different lenses throughout the three days I would probably say my fifty macro, my hundred macro and this twenty eight to seventy will do basically everything that we want to do over the next couple of days they're obviously our options that you can do other stuff I have prime lenses, but this is something that's flexible enough from this type of photography it's a perfect use for that kind of a lens so we're on a tripod, which is again another piece of essential equipment it's fitted with a ball head now what a ball head does is it allows you to flip the camera in any direction and this way we can we can drop down into a vertical position I'm going to try to do two things with this. I want to try to shoot this both vertically and horizontally, and for one reason most of what you see on the web is set and laid out in a horizontal plane. This is new because when you were thinking about product photography in the past, everything was in a tablet format, which may also come back with ipads and things like that. But when you're talking about a tabloid where you're opening pages, everything was in the vertical format. Now on the web, we see a lot of things that emblazoned across the top of a page in horizontal format. I've had to change the way I shoot personally and relearn styling and composition in this format. So now when I shoot, I try to do both try to be flexible enough to do both and may not need both, but for example, that's easy to understand is when I'm shooting something for the web exclusively, and I know that they want it exclusively and a hard on for matt. I will shoot it in vertical for one very important reason if they ever decide to turn it into a book or an e book it's in the wrong format, so I will also shoot it in the air. Cool. So I have it in my archive in case they decide to have something use it for something else. I would encourage everyone to do the same thing because until the internet has made up its mind as to how they're going to use pictures, whether it be on a laptop or on a tablet or imprint there is still print right? That is going to be something you want to be flexible about both in your vision of how you photograph something but but also in having the flexibility to do both does anybody want to name her? Jim, do you want a name? I'd like to name her kenna kenna what? Evelyn I wonder why we named about evelyn no it's okay, it's okay, okay, so some of the other things that we have here is this is our studio table and that's what we're gonna be shooting on the majority of the time we may be using it this way or you might be using it the long way depending on what equipment we're using and what are set up is we also angle the table in a unique way for this particular shot because this is the on ly segment where we're going to be shooting in daylight and since the daylight is strongest coming from this angle, this would be this is probably the most awkward position to be in firm just you guys and the camera, but the reality is that this is the best thing that works for the light. So first, identifying where your light source is coming from and what's going to give you your best opportunity for success is essential. So we found that this is gonna work. John said, I'm going to angle the table this way and I said, you do that. So john is going to help me here, and we're going to show you what we're gonna do here. We're going to roll out a sweep, which basically is going to create a situation these tabs now, but that's the tape. Okay, so we're gonna bring the world, but there's clamps right below you. Okay. This is ah, a roll of black, seamless paper with this sort of a standard thing to do when you're shooting in a studio. Now, you can either clamp these down or use gaffer's tape, which we have somewhere have some gaffer tape under here in our little tool kit gafoor gaffer's tape is it's kind of a matt, um, duct tape. And we can use this on the edge here. If we found that this was bubbling up, we really want to lock this down in a solid position, we could tape it down. This is essential to have in your studio it's not that expensive and it's something you find that we will use for a lot of things so now that we've created this sweep which is also called an infinity curve or if you're in a movie studio it's called the psych or cyclorama the ideas to create no horizon line do you have a you have a sweep of color that when you're when it's lit properly you're not going to see any lines behind it so it gives a nice create you know and um lucian of infinity this is a really you'll see that we use this a lot in product photography we're going to do it with a light table later but we're also going to create these with these roles and by putting this cross piece on top of these two light stands we're able to thread it through and of course I disappear behind that that's good it's really good camera that's really good camera where it's on my part um you threaded through you pull it you clamp it off so it doesn't enroll on you right? This is one of those things that one of those rookie mistakes right? I'm going to do it and then you put the thing on the whole thing on rolls on you so it's not just your cat with the toilet paper okay, so now that we have pretty much everything we want set up here to our liking we haven't been beginning to build the light yet because we didn't put our subject in yet so the first thing is to get the subject up in what we want the goal here with our tote bag right is to display this in a way where we're going to be able to see this and it hangs comfortably off with the shoulder of the model now we already have a problem because the handles on this too long so now we have to solve that particular issue before we actually can even start to think about lighting so we want to maintain the aesthetic and this is one of the things that came in with our props that I loved immediately and I was hoping to be able to use multiple times but this isn't how I envisioned using it but it's a it's a solution it's a solution to the problem we're having because it kind of it kind of is an extension off the aesthetic and it's solving a practical problem off being able to have this hanging comfortably in a way that we can show it and maintain the set so we want to make sure that this is facing our camera and the other thing that we did here was we pinned it to the shoulder because these shoulders were very narrow and the this wasn't sitting comfortably and hanging and we also filled the bag with tissue paper, which, when you're photographing bags and things that will eventually have form when you're using them, it's important to kind of try to remember to do that in the photography because things like this, when you display them flat, aren't always as attractive as they might be when they're in use, so it does pros challenges in how to show graphics in a way that's natural now, this has some waves and bends in it, and when we start to experiment with it, that may or may not be a problem, so we're gonna have to look that way. We also in looking at this, I realized that we saved the pedestal because now the pedestals doing a job, but it's also not showing, so that means I can use it in something else. So the other thing with product photography is making sure, just like when you're styling a plate of food, that everything is clean and neat and it doesn't look kind of wrinkled or flustered or whatever it might be. We already kind of iron a few things ahead of time before we put them on the set, but also when they're on the set, we want to make sure that they, like, not lindy or, you know, a lint brush is a good thing to have when you're working with textiles. On keeping it clean I noticed a few little things because quite honestly when you put this into photo shop and you look at the photograph and all of a sudden you see a hair on it it's going to drive you crazy so the more you could do before you actually take a picture that's an important kind of step is think about how you want to present this beforehand, make less work for yourself on the back end getting your light right and making sure your products look right before you snap any pictures it will save you in a measurable amount of time at the end so that's that and do a quick question do you also use a steamer in your studio? I don't have one, but I've used them on set before I don't personally have one we just iron we iron, but we don't use that much linen okay in what I do, okay, but a steamers a nice tool to have, especially if it's your job to sell textiles, right? So that's that could be a really good way to do things. Thank you, I think it's important to teo, use your eyes first before you actually get behind the camera because I'm looking at this and I know immediately I'm gonna have a problem I'm having a problem with the idea that this squid or octopus is not looking like it should the graphic is distorted because it's it's folded so by maybe by adding a little bit more stuffing in here or adjusting the stuffing in a way that is going to push it, push the graphic out toward me flatten it out a little bit might help so that's better that's a little bit better so these cameras are equipped with what's called live you function and sometimes when I'm composing a shot I will push the live you function especially if I'm not working tethered I'm working tethered now but not in a live you setting which I can look at the screen and see what I'm doing that's something you can do in some of the programs like the cannon program that these cameras come with you can actually run a live view program some of them are weird like there's capture one and his light room and there's a couple other ones and it's every one of them is missing one feature so whichever like some of them don't show alive you're some of them don't rotate the image for you vertically it's kind of a pain so you have to figure out which one you which feature you could live without pretty much okay since this isn't my head I'm going to ask john healthy so how how can I rotate this one knob does okay just about everything and then this one will go up in perfect okay thank you for the tutorial way should have gotten over those earlier no it's okay part of the process okay so I have my my I'm gonna put my focus on the graphic which is the most important part of this shot and I'm going to use the bottom of the table to orient myself because it's kind of hard to see against an infinity curve exactly what's level so if I could use the table edge teo to set my camera in my camera um orientation that should give me a nice clean straight line okay so I'm focused I like I said earlier I arranged my focus right on the octopus and I'm going to take a test shot okay so way going to see that on the screen I think we're gonna come up here in a second we're a little bit overexposed which is ok and we are looking at a little bit of a drop shadow that's coming off of this so what that's telling me is that there's light bouncing around here that needs to kind of get manage a little bit better it's easier for me to look at this because that's not calibrated in the same way what's very interesting about this is that the mannequin because of the wire the nature of the wire it actually looks like a drawing on on a chalkboard or something like that which kind of makes that bag hanging there almost look like on impossible thing so creatively and stylistically I really like what I see here but what I really need to do is manufacture my light in a much more confined way because I don't want that many drop shadows and you may not be able to tell us much against black, but I know that if this was on white we'd be throwing a big shadow off of that so we need to box it in a little bit so by using by using our our cards which these are night luckily what's nice about this is our foam board core boards that are kind of the stock and trade of any table top photography thes have black and white sides on him and I have a tendency to mix and match with ease, so when we're kind of assembling these in a set, what I normally try to do is get him to lean on things and it maybe put a clamp on the end as a foot, I'm sure you have a short one, so you kind of build like a little foot here and this works for basically any sides of these as long as they have something to kind of rest on, you don't want to interfere with your you don't want to interfere with your arm, your sweep just continue with the cameras yeah and could have a feast so little gaffer's tape helps here and that'll state mental state put things being this light now of course you can't see what I'm doing anymore in the audience, but you know you'll have to trust me trust me pay no attention to the men and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain right now you can't you don't have to worry about showing anything off frame, meaning that role is still in my frame maybe the edge of the table maybe my cards will show that's okay, because what you're going to do and some in most instances is crop around the image you're not taking that much material out of the image, so you're not really worried too much about losing resolution, but the reality is that by cropping it out, you're going to clean up your edges and you'll be able to do a little bit of straightening if it is a little bit askew because obviously this wire model is not perfect it doesn't sit perfectly flat so rather than try to knock ourselves out to make sure it's standing completely square we were because of the infinity curve we have the option to tilt a little bit and get get it straightened out so still I'm not let's look at the light here ok that's much better I like that a lot more and of course what I was reading as a shadow on my screen here was actually a smudge on the back of my screen so we were actually in a really good spot with light, but I'm not I'm still not thrilled with the way the product looks, so now that I'm comfortable with my life, I got a nice bounce reflection coming in here to kind of even out my whites. I love the way this looks because it's just had this really, really nice kind of effect going on. We're not worried too much about this square off situation because we have the infinity curve and we have flexibility. What I don't like is the fact that at the bottom of the frame underneath, the bag looks wrinkled and it looks a little bit unprofessional. So from a styling perspective, this isn't ready yet this needs this needs more work, and this is where the trial and error comes in. Sometimes it's the light sometimes is to set sometimes it's the product itself, so it's working with things like textiles and clothing, you have to be mindful of the fact that, oh, you can't fall in love with the idea that, oh, I got the light right. It looks great because the product doesn't look right, and at the end of the day this isn't about the model it's about the product so let's, try the best we can to flatten this out and get a nice, smooth front and we may actually need to put something else in this bag to make it work better I found a hair on the back okay this's a little bit better it's might still be a little lumpy, but we'll see what we can do with it this is where being an obsessive perfectionist will really help you and if you're not one learn how to be one so again I'm trying to stand off to the side and not block the light in any way give it a shot and it's better it's definitely better you see, we did take a little bit of that crinkle out of the bottom, but I'm not ready to live with it yet I'm not I'm not in love with it and I think that what john is preparing for me right now is something like when you know when you go to the sum of those the stores and they give you a big shopping bag there happens to be a cardboard bottom in it that gives it its shape so john is going to attempt to do this while yeah, well, we could take it down with this this is this will come right off we have this on here with a piece of wire and it's kind of a little tricky, but we got it okay, so we're going to try to get a better shape out of that bag so some of that I mean, I know there are some people probably out there going I'll just fix that wrinkle in photo shop that's fine if you want to do that that's fine, I have no problem with that it's totally acceptable in product photography it's a lot of work, so just because you can do it doesn't necessarily mean you should do it. The other thing is I don't know that maybe this is the right material we're using this kind of burlap e uh I think it's a curtain or something? We're using this to stuff it this may not be the right material maybe we should be thinking about putting paper or maybe we should be thinking about putting newspaper newsprint or something inside this thing that has more of a kind of ability even feel to it so we're going to try to get some of that we'll try this again and maybe maybe I'm wrong maybe it's just about folding it properly here we go in my laundry folding skills this is what john and I do at home when we're not running a motorcycle gang here. Frankly paper though oh, okay, yeah, we got some paper let's let's just put this it aside for now let's try the paper, okay, this is something that's a little bit more like traditional stuffing inside of a bag for for this it makes lots of noise. Okay that's looking a lot better, maybe a little bit more thank you very much. I hope some of you are amused by the fact that good two guys who look like us are fussing over this over this really cute tote bag. Yes, props that you're using with the product might take away from the product it's possible and then when you make that decision just to remove yeah, I think there are times when this prop can overwhelm the the composition because it's either the scale of the size of the shape or it's just two striking it's just taking so much of the attention this I think isn't bordering on that because it is pretty unique looking, but I do think that it gives a context and a scale, which is something that we talked about it does both of those things simultaneously, so I do in this case think even though it's a pretty striking prop, I wouldn't shy away from it because I do think that it solves a couple of our problems. Oh, well, that's a little better little bit okay and after another quick question, if you don't mind right ahead this one's from photo maker photo maker does the softness of the sweet matter and how gradual should the suite b I think it has to be you have to be able to have a comfortable base to work from and I think you probably have to have about an equal amount in front of it as you do behind it, so centering it on on the solid surface and then letting it sweep up in a nice gradual way is more comfortable I don't know if I could give you like inches or feet or anything like that yeah, I would just say that it's if you feel like when you put the object down on the table if it pulls on the sweep the sweep is too steep it should you should be able to put things comfortably flat on the table and that doesn't affect the idea that this is curving in a way I mean, I think most most of them I have that kind of mean back feel almost to it where it's almost leaning back I don't know what angle you would call that, but you know, I think that once you're comfortable on your surface allowing that kind of naturally grad grade eight up too it's pivot is probably the best way to do it great thank you equal in front and back way tape those down a lot of times in studios, but since I'm moving around a lot that's probably not gonna be the case unfortunately can see through the bag so that might not work yeah, we can try the black side of it yeah I mean now we got like kind of that it's a little too rigid um but it's closer I don't necessarily think that I don't necessarily think that we have toe worry that it's true you are a flattened head of the one a flattened head of the class all right? You know, when you start to think about planning out these things for camera you start to try to anticipate the problems you have with reality you can and this is why you know each individual shot you're going to take is going to present individual problems and you need to come up with solutions and sometimes those solutions aren't going to be something you can work out in ninety minutes here you know? But the reality is that they're they're trial and error just like everything else in photography I also we're looking for kind of a symmetry here something that kind of where the sides of this bag kind of hang naturally and then the the the graphic is is presented in a way that gives us the key I mean otherwise is just plain this's just a plain bag I think we also crooked so every time you stop fussing with this you're going to run into more problems and you want to not have the paper come out the top you have to always be right all right that's fine sort of ok let's give it a world and again, I'm trying to start with my eyes and then go to the camera and I'm already seen something with my eyes I don't like any questions jim as I work well, go ahead I can talk and work, pal. What do you got to say? Can you talk a bit about shadows? Actually cause when I'm shooting food I'm always trying to have a bit of a soft shadow around to give sort of dimension and moulding too the props and the way you seem to be trying to achieve something much flatter here can it go to flat? I can I think but with this object in particular there is no shine to it and there's very little dimension it's you know, so I think that creating a flat clean surface so that you can adequately look at the object and the and the graphic art work is important. I think if we were using that's better I think if we were using a a white surface this might be creating all kinds of different shadows because it away the light would play through these wires so I am not dissatisfied with that. I think obviously there's still a couple of creases in the bag and if we were working on a professional photo shoot right now we might take that down and iron it out and do it again but the reality is that we have achieved basically everything we've wanted to achieve here, in that we have a nice square look, weaken, adequately, judge the graphics. We have a pretty cool set up, even though it's, very simple. We used on ly one prop here to kind of display, and we've achieved both scale and appropriate kind of content. We've given it the context of who our audience might be here, you know, somebody who could appreciate the aesthetic. So I think we've achieved a couple of different things here and then when we put this in photoshopped in post production, and we trim our edges and we square it off, I think it would be pretty satisfied that we got a nice photograph here of what this product is meant to do and who it's for and how big it is. So I think we can move on from this and try to play with something else now.

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