WEEKLY LIGHTING THEME: Controlling Specular Highlights............

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by brooks short, Apr 4, 2004.

  1. ....to define form and surface texture. Sounds complicated but it's really not. Specular highlights are, by definition, the reflections of light sources on the surface of an object. These reflections are often referred to as "glare". Glare is usually something photographers try to avoid because excessive glare is distracting and obscures surface detail. Many photographers attempt to completely eliminate specular reflections by repositioning their lights or polarizing the light either at the lens and/or at the light source itself. Sometimes that's the best choice but often a shiny surface is one of the defining features of an object and should be shown. As most people know, a diffused light source such as a scrim or softbox creates a softer light quality. The larger or closer a diffused light source is to the subject, the softer the light. Another, perhaps less well known, quality of a large diffused light source is its ability to control the intensity, size, shape and TRANSPARENCY of specular reflections. The props in this series of sample photographs are simply a few shiny tomatos and some glossy black rocks. The tomatos have compound curves and reflect light from many different angles while the rocks have angular surfaces and create their own set of specular highlights. The tomatos and rocks are lit by a single overhead light. In this series I've used electronic flash and in some versions a softbox. You could also use hot lights and scrims. All exposures are at f-32 and are digital captures at an ISO of 100. The first photo is lit with a bare flash with a 7 inch reflector positioned overhead and slightly to the rear of the set approx. 2 ft. away. Flash power is 800ws. Notice the hard, opaque white specular highlights on the tomatos and black rocks. These specular highlights are so bright and the light is so hard that the highlights in the tomatos and rocks are pure white with no detail and the shadow areas are extremely dark with little to no detail. Next weeks LIGHTING THEME: LIGHTING GELS will be presrnted by Garry Edwards
  2. In this second shot, a 2'x3' softbox (900ws) replaces the 7" reflector light and is positioned so that the front screen is about 12" above and behind the subject. Now the specular highlights are larger and more transparent so that you can see some of the red color of the tomatos in those highlights. The specular highlights on the rocks are similarly reduced in value to a light grey and the softness of the light from the softbox helps define the form of the tomatos and rocks
  3. In this third shot the 2'x 3' softbox has been replaced by a larger 3'x4' softbox (900ws) still positioned in the same location about 12" above and behind the tomatos. A fill card has also been positioned in the front of the set to brighten the front of the tomatos. This larger softbox creates even larger specular highlights on the tomatos. These larger specular highlights are also more transparent allowing more of the red color of the tomatos to be revealed in the highlights. The light is softer than the smaller softbox and there's more detail in the shadows.
  4. Finally, in this last shot a background light, 2400ws 7" grid reflector has been added. The blue/grey background is about 7 ft. behind the subject and was present in all of the preceding photos. Because of the distance between the subject and the background, the background rendered as black. Adding a seperate light on the background creates a second layer of detail behind the subject and creates some degree of depth in the shot. This technique for lighting shiny objects and surfaces is a simple and effective way to control and use specular highlights to your advantage. The specular highlights in these sample photos help define the shape and textural qualities of nboth the tomatos and the rocks. If you're interested in this level of lighting control and wanrt to learn more, this is a simple one or two light set-up that you can easily try yourself. Setup a softbox or place your light behind a scrim, find a few shiny objects to shoot and try it yourself. The more you know, the better it gets. #8^)
  5. Hi all,

    I was experimenting with this still life subject and figured that it fits this week's lighting theme right on! This was lit by a portable flash through tracing paper, 45 degrees and 2.5 ft from the left, plus a white foamcore board reflector on the right.

    The paper container seems to be more reflective than the bottle itself and i was having a hard time trying to reduce the hot spot on the container. Can anyone please recommend some ways to improve this picture?

    Thanks in advance.
  6. This is downtown Bluefield,WV.The full coal hoppers move east from the mines to the sea,empties flow back west to be refilled.This is looking east into the raising sun to capture the "angle of incidence highlights".Your theme was sort of vague this week,so I thought Id toss this in.
  7. ZJ, I was about to make the comment in general, and to Brooks in particular, that this week's theme and his examples perfectly illustrate the need for large diffused light sources, even with very small subjects, when large, gentle and translucent highlights are required. By large light sources, I mean either a fairly large source extremely close to the subject or, when this is not possible, an extrmely large light source further away. Unfortunately many photography books and magazines fail to mention this and may also show lighting setups with the light sources far too far away.<p>And then you added your own example, which perfectly illustrates the problems that you've encountered by having too small a light source and having it too far away. To answer your question, Try placing a large piece of white foamcore or similar as close as possible (just out of shot) and bounce the light off of it. If the highlights on the packaging are unacceptable to you then you could spray the packaging with a dulling spray, or with hairspray or milk.
  8. ZJ, Garry is right. Your light/scrim is too small and too far away. See how white and opaque the highlights are on your bottle and box ? You need a scrim or softbox 3-4 times as large as your subject and so close that it is just out of the frame. Glass bottles present unique lighting problems because they are made of glass and extremely shiny. I would light your setup with a large softbox overhead to define the shoulders of the bottle. Either a second softbox to the left to lay a soft, translucent highlight down the left side of the bottle or perhaps a fill card in that position to accomplish the same thing by bouncing the light from the top softbox. Another fill card on the right. Either a cut to fit fill card behind the bottle to bounce some light through the liquid in the bottle or another light to do the same thing. Here's a bottle shot lit with a softbox angled from overhead and the left to create the soft highlight on the left side of the bottle. It was a 3'x4' softbox, just out of the frame, maybe 12 inches away. A hard spot from the rear left to light the liquid and ice cubes and a background light.
  9. ZJ,
    Brooks has given the correct answer and you will get better results, and get them more easily, if you follow his advice.

    If you don't have the equipment he suggests you will still be able to improve on your present example by bearing in mind the need to have a much larger light source and bouncing the light off a white card or a piece of foamcore. This reflector will need to be very, very close and personally I would get it only just out of shot.

    Your biggest single problem will be making sure that all of the light aimed at the reflector hits it in the right place and at the right angle, so that the reflected light hits your subject and none of the light from your flash hits the subject directly. The usual method is to use a large piece of black card (known as a flag)to stop light spilling into the wrong place.

    Hope this helps.
  10. One of the best darned tequilas known to man! This was taken with a 800ws to camera right. I don't have a softbox, but I used my Photek Softlighter II about 8" away, perpendicular to the bottle. Then there is added diffusion between the light and bottle with a portable/collapseable (sp?) 42" disc. There is a cream colored wall camera left about four feet away and this is shot five feet or so from backdrop. One light on background with 20 degree honeycomb and red gel filter.
  11. This is just a quick scan of a Polaroid I made over the weekend, sorry I don't have anything better. It shows an interesting way of using a specular highlight (actually I'm not certain if I can stretch the term and call this a highlight, although it is specular light), in this case, to give me an effect I could otherwise not achieve. I've used a large softbox from above and behind to create a large, specular, reflection on the glass surface, making it go almost white. Underneath the glass is a black cloth. The "shadows" on the table are caused by the object blocking the light from the softbox an in turn killing the reflection.
    I hope this is an interesting example and apologize to Brooks for stretching the "highlight" part.
  12. It's good to see there are quite a few people shooting still-lifes here on PhotoNet. Still-lifes are a great way to practice and learn lighting.

    Jennifer, your image is exactly to the point of this Lighting Theme. That's a beautiful specular highlight on the front of the bottle.

    Kipling, you nailed it also. Great specular highlights on the toothpick container as well as the glass surface.

    Those "shadows" under the toothpicks are actually called specular shadows. They're not really shadows at all. A specular shadow is defined as the reflection of an object (rather than a light source) on an object.

    This is exciting to see such excellent examples so early in this thread. Good Job !

    Let's see more !
  13. Specular highlights, specular shadows and 'real' shadows.
    This was a fairly complex shot for a brochure. A large (8'x4') softbox was used above and behind, to give broad, translucent highlights. A couple of lights with honeycombs (grids) were used to provide more intense highlights where required, and a couple of spotlights were used for localised lighting, with a 3rd spotlight used to provide the shadows and avoid too much symetry.
    What made this shot complex was that I had to include objects of different shapes as well as different materials, different reflective qualities and different colours.
  14. Oops, b**** that one up, trying again with a smaller pic
  15. Thanks Garry and Brooks for the advice! here's another shot at it:

    The key light was still the flash(diffused by silver umbrella) and tracing paper(2'x3') combo to the left of camera, moved closer to the bottle and just out of frame. Since I only have one flashgun at hand, the overhead softbox suggested by Brooks was substituted by a large foamcore board. There was another foamcore to the right of camera. A small white fill card is placed flat on the table behind the bottle.
    I also tried moving the key light to the overhead position but figured that i would need three hands to keep everything in place...

    And now time to enjoy that scotch before it becomes ice water!
  16. Btw, how can i upload an image without it being an attachment?
  17. ZJ You've certainly got rid of those over-harsh highlights, the banding on the bottle may be difficult to cure with your limited equipment. The glass is looking good too, even if the 'whisky' is really cold tea.... Overall, a fantastic improvement but it's lacking punch a bit, which I think could be caused by flare. I wonder whether you used a zoom lens, which is less than ideal for just about any kind of creative lighting. I also wonder whether the background could be improved - deliberately or otherwise, the light spill in your first shot suited it better. I think your next major improvement will have to be a second light, to provide some backlighting and to separate the subject from the background. If you don't have another flash available for this you can use a tungsten light, using whatever shutter speed is needed to provide the correct exposure. Suggestion - why not send me a couple of cases and I'll see if I can get a good shot of it? BTW, to post in the thread the image needs to be less than 511 pixels wide AND have a caption.
  18. I dont know wether this photo fits for the subject, what i tried here is to model the shape and texture of the objcet with highlights.I used my 36inch tv screen as a light source !! (with blue color) at a distance of 40cm away and at 3 o-clock position).
  19. Okay, for the sake of not having money and just plain curiosity, I made a soft box tonight. I took a 2'x3' cardboard box and on one side cut a hole that is about half the size of the diameter of my reflector (about seven inches). Then on the opposite side I cut the side out leaving about 1 1/2" as a "frame". I then took a piece of muslin and quadruple layered it and taped it to the box. I then attached the reflector to my light and tested it out. Here is a graphic detail.
  20. gobbledeegook
  21. lalalalala
  22. Attached to my AB. Didn't cost me anything because I used items I had in the house.
  23. This was all done for ZJ. I then took a bottle of wine and took a picture. The one light with my "soft box", no reflector and one background light. A nice diffused light with little/no money. I don't have a boom, so I can't do my light from above. I did this practically perpendicular to the bottle. Just another option.
  24. Interesting softbox there Jennifer, and great results!

    To Garry: yeah I used a 28-70 zoom for the shot, 1/60s at f16. The hood was on but dunno if it helped with all the light spill and reflections... Now a second light is next on my shopping list.
  25. Not contributing an image, but wanted to say that this is a great thread, very helpful to someone like me who doesn't know enough about lighting.

    The choice of subject matter is interesting: beautiful tomatoes and plenty to drink. I even like that Syrah. Now I'm hungry AND wish I had lights.
  26. Garry, Why is a zoom lens less than ideal for creative lighting? is it because a zoom has alot more lens elements as compared to a prime thereby causing a loss of contrast? Or is there a simpler reason. The reason I was asking was because I was planning to buy the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L USM lens for a flexible portrait light. It's a pretty expensive lens (over $1,000) and I don't want to make a purchase like that if I am going to get disappointing results. If it is not good for portrait, then I'd probably be better off getting a couple of good prime lenses.
  27. Oopps... Sorry, didn't mean to post that question on this thread.
  28. Jeff, your Q may be a bit off-topic but surely it's relevant to studio lighting?
    There's a world of difference between a cheap consumer zoom and a Canon 'L' but IMO primes are still far better for still life subjects, where strong backlighting is the norm and simpler lenses with fewer elements are less prone to flare. Whether these concerns are equally relevant to portrait photography or not I don't know, I'm not qualified to form a useful opinion.
    One consideration however that applies to all types of photography is that their lenshoods have to be designed for use at their wide end, which means that they are far less effective at longer lengths.
    Hope this helps.
  29. Wow! Is this a tough excersize! you are absolutely right about the softbox. I tried a variety of techniques ranging from bouncing off reflectors to a small softbox and this is the best I got. I chose to use the wine bottle and glass because it is harder to get it right. I will keep working on it. May have to build a large lightbox like Jennifer did.
  30. Jeff,

    You need to make either a much larger softbox or scrim, at lease 2.5 times the size of your subject and position it as close to the bottle as possible without it showing in the crop.

    In the final image of the sample photos I posted, the overhead softbox was 3'x4' ie: 48 inches long and only 12 inches above the tomatos. The width of the tomatos and rocks in that sample shot is only about 14 inches.

    Bigger and closer is the answer.
  31. Here is one with a Photek 60" softlighter II. As with Jennifer, I don't have a boom so I did it from the side with a 42" white reflector on the other side. This one came out much better because of the size of the softlighter. Only thing is the reflection shows the flash. Need a big softbox.
  32. Jeff,

    There you go. It's all about the size of the light source relative to the size of the subject.

    You could hang a large piece of tracing paper or vellum in front of your light to get a smoother highlight.
  33. I know. I plan to try my white shower curtain.
  34. The weekly lighting theme is a great idea. Thank you Brooks for initiating it, and thanks to all who provide worthy information.

    I look forward to more educational themes in the lighting (and other) departments.
  35. Playing during my study break. One White Lightning X1600 with white satin 45" umbrella about 2' from subjects. That umbrella in the highlight really botheres me, but that is all the studio equipment I have. Need a large soft box. Shot with a Canon A70. This is fun!
  36. small studio home studio, I used my dwg room's north window as diffused light source and got this picture!!
  37. one more in same setting
  38. the attachment
  39. I took this shot a few years ago, using a single softbox. An example of the genre, not of good practice. I think it was taken as a test of a camera, or a light or something
  40. I like they was all of us here chose glass to do this excersize. Shooting portraits does not have these challenges that glass can give you. I guess, on this theme, everyone recognizes that shooting glass is tougher. Tonight, I will shoot with a diffuser to hide the equipment reflection. After that I want to start working on getting brighter and better specular highlights on the cut-crystal wine glass - which was the purpose of using the cut wine glass - any suggestions? All suggestions will be appreciated.
  41. Here's a shot from several years ago. This shot of Iced Coffee drinks was done on 100 ISO 4x5 transparency film. Mediun 3'x4' softbox on the left, small 2'x3' above, fill card on the right and a blue gel on a grey wall in the background. Exposure was around f-45 if I remember correctly. Strobe lighting and a single exposure.
  42. An apology.

    I thought that these weekly themes were a great idea but I had some reservations. I felt that it was asking a bit too much for people to even attempt to carry out some of these exercises without extensive and expensive lighting equipment.

    So when I was asked to contribute a theme I thought I'd go for something that requires little or no lighting gear, in the hope that more people would have a go.

    But I clearly got it totally wrong - this week we have a theme that really needs a medium to large softbox with maybe 3000J of power, and although relatively few people are likely to have this equipment, so far we've had a TV screen, a home-made softbox, a home-made scrim and a window used instead - and all with brilliant results!

    And results aside, these themes are disseminating real knowledge and real confidence to people who have never tried serious studio photography before.

    I wish now that I'd made next weeks' theme a bit more complicated....
  43. Gary,

    I didn't get a chance to send you out a note after reviewing your theme. Let me just say, Gary has done an excellent job for next week and I was just thinking how well it's going to fit well with the current home-made ideas. There is one little trick in there that is really cool too. So no need to appologize. :)

    Next week will be really great follow up to this week's theme.
  44. Today's attempt
  45. Jeff, your images keep getting better and better as the volume in the bottle gets less and less. I wonder if there's some sort of relation :)
  46. Jeff, just look at the improvement between your first and latest attempt!

    Just a couple of suggestions, although a bit off topic.

    1. The bottle shouldn't be empty, although of course I understand how it got empty....

    2. Some backlighting on both the bottle & glass would make a tremendous difference and would be a big help with the cut glass. If you don't have another light you could use a mirror to kick some light back from your softbox, or you could use a shaped, undersized piece of white paper fixed to the back of the bottle to at least get some light coming back through the bottle

    3. The glass needs to be perfectly clean, and preferably it should never have been attacked by a dishwasher

    4. The contents of the glass are usually better diluted (for photography at least)
  47. Jeff,

    Your latest shot is probably a bazillion percent BETTER than your first attempt.

    It looks like you might have discovered a way to facilitate placing your scrim closer to the bottle. I was going to suggest placing your bottle as close to the left and front edge of your table so that you can put your scrim right next to it. Looks like you discovered that yourself. Nice.

    Garry's suggestions above are good also. Some color from a light/reflector behind the bottle would be nice. I think your glass looks pretty good by the way.

    Here's another idea if you're interested. Try a lower position for your camera, so that you're looking up a bit at the bottle. If you place your lens well below the center of the bottle you'll get a perspective which makes the bottle look heroic. You'll have to move your scrim higher to lay a continuous highlight on the side of the bottle but that should be easy.

    Try another shot with a reflector behind the bottle, cut to the shape of the bottle and angled to the left to catch the main light and use a lower point of view to look up at the bottle.

    You've come so far, a couple of small tweaks could take it over the top !
  48. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll give them a try. Unfortunately I have to do some work tonight so I'll do it tomorrow. As far as the wine disappearing, it's evapo*hic*ration.
  49. THE HELL WITH WORK! This is more fun! How's my latest attempt?
  50. Jeff,

    Very nice ! It's amazing the progress you've made in this excercise. With a couple of more lights you could bring out the detail of the label on the wine bottle and do some kind of treatment with the background. Maybe an overhead soft fill......So many choices, so little time ! #8^)

    For the point of this theme, you've certainly fullfilled the objective.

    The lower camera angle really makes the bottle be the hero, don't you think ?

    This is what I like about still-life photography. You can try out many different techniques and types of lighting. The subject matter doesn't want to get up and leave after 10 minutes and you can really work on the details and tweak the lighting, perspective and, maybe as the subject of a later theme, the propping and arranging of objects.

    Jeff, I bet you learned more about lighting and photography doing this theme in these past few days than you've learned in the past 6 months.

    Good job !
  51. Gary -

    What do you mean by boy's toy???? ;-)

  52. Playing again tonight. Different approach this time. How did I do?
  53. Nghi - I think your second round is so much better! It looks like we have a few on this forum that like their red wines!! Here is me playing tonight. I think I have the lighting okay, but still feel there is a better way to photograph this. Any suggestions?
  54. On my last photo, the lighting changes I did were:

    Changed the reflector on camera right from white to gold/white which seemed to add a little more lighting on the right side of the glass.

    Added a flash with a red gel (oops.. isn't that next weeks' theme) Ok it wasn't a red gel, it was an opaque red plastic diffused with a Sto-fen diffuser set in back and below pointed upward 90 degrees trying to simulate a diffused bare bulb flash. The objective was to make the wine "glow" a little bit (that worked) and to add some color to the background at the same time (that didn't work as well with a black background)
  55. Studio still-life on a budget. This diagram illustrates my light set up for the second shot above. It isn't the most professional, but fun.
  56. Well, everyone who has participated in this Lighting Theme has really done a great job. As all of you have demonstrated, it doesn't take expensive equipment to create some very nice lighting effects.

    The funny thing is that I specifically chose tomatos and rocks as the subjects for this demonstration because they're not as shiny as glass and are easier to light. Yet, you guys and gals chose glass bottles and did a remarkable job.

    As you have seen, diffused specular highlights are not that hard to create and control and often are the most dynamic and dramatic design element in a still-life photograph.

    To see how it's done by the best in the business, take a look at the upscale ads in consumer magazines, specifically almost any automobile, wine and liquor, jewelry, watch and electronics ads. You'll find that the lighting on these products is largely about those diffused specular highlights.

    From your experience shooting for this theme, you can see that it takes a very large soft, light source to create these delicate highlights. As the subjects physical size increases, so does the required size of the soft box, light bank or bounced-light flat used to illuminate it. The lighting requirements scale up quickly.

    Think about that the next time you see a beautiful photograph of an automobile and those large shiny surfaces with those liquid specular highlights. #8^)

    Anyone have any more photos for this theme ?
  57. Thank you, Brooks, for a great theme and for your help and suggestions. Doing this exercise, aside from the learning, also solidified in my mind about the very large softboxes I was thinking about purchasing - it justifies the extra expense rather than going with smaller softboxes because of price.
  58. Ok, since Easter is so close, let me try to combine the week's lighting theme with an Easter theme...
  59. Happy Easter, everyone!
  60. I've never really done still lifes of any form and after reading this (and because I'm a glutton for punishment) I was curious... what could I do with a really minimal setup. I decided to limit myself to only a single shoe mounted flash. I used the camera flash pointed straight up at a white ceiling (with a piece of cardstock rubber banded to the flash to keep any direct light off of the subject) and a white towel over a cutting board angled to reflect the light off the ceiling into the left side of the bottle (yes I know I'd have done better with large paper or foam core or something else but this was really spur of the moment). This was taken with a canon 550ex at max power, ISO 400, f/14 on a canon 10d.
  61. continued: Because I couldn't control the light spill onto the background I used photoshop to darken it a bit. It's really easy to darken something in photoshop, much easier than creating things that aren't there so I don't feel too troubled by posting this followup. I selected the bottle, inversed the selection and then did a layers mask and darkened everything in the background with that. I then modified the selection on that layers mask by burning in areas of the selection mask to lighten up the background around the bottle and lighten the table just a bit.
  62. This was shot with a 36"x 46" Redwing Cirrus softbox 2 feet directly above the items.
  63. irv


    HI -Hope I'm not too late to chime in...The below photo was taken with window light ( east facing window about 2:30PM) coming in and a curved white reflector card surrounding about 1/2 the bottle.<p>
  64. irv


    Trying to get photo on page...
  65. Irv,

    For a photo to display on the page it must be less than 511 pixels wide and have a caption
  66. irv


    Sorry, one more time to have the photo on the page...
  67. Thanks so much for these tutorials - I hope it's not too late to post. I'm fairly new to photography, and have just gotten my first lighting kit a couple weeks ago. For the novice, these exercises are fun and extremely enlightening. (sorry.) I have three photos today - the other two are appended to the "sunlight" and "single light" threads. This one is basically set up just as the example leading off this thread (and the subject matter should look familiar too).
  68. ps - since the goal is to learn/improve lighting technique, i assume that manipulation of levels, color balance etc. is discouraged. how about sharpening? some of the images seem artificially soft scaled down to 511 pixels (maybe coming out of a canon dslr has something to do with it too)...
  69. Hello everyone! This theme is extremly helpfull to me! Thank's! Here is what i came up a few hours ago. it's PP'ed but my background is a simple cardboard and was ugly. I do not have any equipment and i used couple of desk lights w/60w reflector bulbs behind a cardbord frame covered w/trace paper. http://www.powermag.net/fuji/DSCF5291.jpg
  70. My dilemma: I work in kitchen cabinetry industry. I am trying to photograph cabinet doors: 15 X 18. I am using continuous lighting.
    My problem is the rounded ages and groves on the shape of the door. No matter how I position my lights, rounded edges always reflect light and produce glare.

    What can I do to get rid of it? I tried softening with defusers, bouncing off light.... What else can I do?
  71. I really learned a lot due to this thread. Not so much the technical content (though it was good) ... but because for once I decided to pull out some of my studio equipment and actually try to do the exercise proposed. (I usually stick to armchair photography, at least since my wonderful, adorable, and entirely time-consuming daughter was born 9 months ago.)

    I've never tried still life photography before (I'm only interesting in portraits, generally), but I was surprised by how enjoyable it is. Because nothing moves (unless you knock it over), it's ideal for morbid perfectionists like me. ;-)

    It's probably the first time I've ever used so many toys at once (some I've shamefully never found a real reason to use before tonight). For example:

    - Shift feature on my 45mm TS-E (I'm glad to finally have a justification now for buying such an odd-ball lense, however interesting it is)
    - Boom for overhead softbox
    - 4 of my studio lights (Multiblitz)
    - Most of the light-formed for my Multiblitz lights (tonight the 20 degree honeycomb grid, barndoors, two softboxes, and several reflectors)
    - Simple muslin backdrop I ordered a few months back.
    - New ballhead (which is a lot more useful in the studio than I thought it would be, at least for still life work)
    - I think it's the first time I've shot tethered to my laptop as well ... also great when shooting still life, since the preview image is much more helpful for compositional and lighting changes.

    The only problem now is packing it all up and putting it away. No fun at all, that. I'm going to quickly process some of the raw images and then post them on this thread to share.

    Thanks for the incentive to try something different. I've learned more tonight than I have in several months, photography wise.


  72. I like the shape of this bottle a lot (thought the Armagnac is quite good as well, if that's your thing ;-). This was the first object I started photographing, and so it took me the most time to get something I like (30-40 shots). I am using two softboxes, one on each side (just outside the field of view), and a third strobe with a 20 degree honeycomb on the background. I think this was taken with my 45mm TS-E. I would have liked to have more light on the 'stamp' in the centre of the bottle, maybe with a small mirror well blocked off, but didn't find a way to do it well. It (along with all these photos!) would have benefitted, I think, from a light from the bottom, but I had nothing available to cut and no supports -- it's past midnight and I can't exactly pull out the power tools while the family sleeps. ;-)
  73. This was the second thing I photographed, using the same setup as the last photo. The different shape of the bottle worked well in the same light, I thought. Again, it would have been nice to light up the orange-ish liquid, and the photo is less for it, but I'm already happy to have learned so much and gotten the results I did for, essentially, my first real attempt at still life. I'd love to hear any comments from people who can suggest how I could have improved the picture, other than lighting from below.
  74. Similar lighting as above, but I moved the background light down a bit to try and emphasize the label. I realize the label is difficult to read. I tried masking the lights a bit to lower the highlights on this section, but didn't succeed quickly, and so moved on, knowing this is something I have to work on, since it's essential to any accurate lighting scenario. Any other problems or suggestions other than this, though?
  75. PS: The lines in the background are because it takes me 2 hours to steam iron the backdrop, and since I was doing this as a quick learning experience late at night while my wife and daughter were sleeping, I didn't want to lose hours ironing only to pack it all away the same night. I would normally take them out in Photoshop, but didn't want to do any real editing in the photos to show what it was like out of camera.
  76. This is one of my favorite bottles (in one of my favorite colours, no less). I don't get to use it very often, though, so I thought I'd at least take some pictures of it, since it seemed like a great example for reflections on glass, etc. It was a very hard one to light, and I wasn't entirely happy with any of the photos, since the reflections were a bit all over the place. This was (without photoshop editing) the best of the lot, I thought ... you just have to ignore the small ugly highlight in the inner right-hand side. ;-( With shapes like this, I see why people think glass can be hard to photograph well. Can anyone suggest how I could have better controlled that particular highlight on this difficult shape?
  77. I like this champagne more than I like this photo (Dom Ruinart is also the oldest champagne house in France ... I'm saving the bottle for my daughters first birthday, though) ... the light is ok on the side highlights, but I couldn't find a way to get the light onto the label without showing the reflection of the mirror in the rest of the bottle. This was the same problem I had with other bottles/tests. Can someone suggest how I could have dealt with that, without having the mirror/reflector in the bottle?
  78. Silver was a bit harder, since it is so highly reflective when smooth, but much less so where heavy 'texture' is present. Not sure how I should have dealt with both types of reflection. Any ideas? Sorry for the lines in the backdrop. Again, I didn't want to spend the time ironing it, since the point was just to learn.
  79. Single cup from the above photo.
  80. I took this for my wife, since she just bought the ducks and thought they were cute.
  81. I made a softbox based on the Jennifer C's post on this thread, which is a great tutorial on lighting. The following is my first attempt at setting up a still life and I was reasonably happy for a first attempt, but I'm not sure how to take it to the next level.

    The setup was a 18x24 homemade softbox about 8" from camera left, a background light (could probably stand to increase a touch) and a foil covered cardboard reflector just to the right of the tea cup. (Couldn't lay my hands on actual relfector last night)


  82. Eric,

    For a first attempt at still life, I think it's outstanding.

    In terms of suggested changes to your technique, the background could have done with a lot more light - it looks almost black on my monitor and black backgrounds, although they look dramatic, take the depth out of the photo.

    And I would have tried a white card reflector instead of a silver one. Silver ones can be a bit harsh, and are sometimes a bit too efficient - white would have been slightly less efficient and I feel that it would have been better - but that's just a matter of personal opinion.

    I would have had a white reflector immediately below the camera too, which would have pushed a bit of light under the saucer. In theory it wouldn't, because the light isn't aiming towards the reflector, but in practice there would have been some.

    Other than that, the limitations are with your softbox, which could have done with being bigger. In theory it's almost big enough but the cup, which is quite a long way from the softbox anyway, has fairly complex shapes and it really needs a bigger one. And a bit more diffusion, to spread the light more evenly and hopefully get rid of the hotspot, would help too. Tracing paper and white shower curtain material both work well.

    Hope this helps
  83. Gary,

    Thanks for the feedback, I'm quite certain I couldn't have come close to this effort without first reading this thread.

    I have put my hands on my lite disk and hope to ease the hot spot on the spoon and will bump up the background light. Seeing what one can accomplish with the homemade softbox, I am definitely inclined to make the investment. The nice part about a hobby is you don't have to worry about a return on investment.

    Thanks again for the input.

  84. Okay . . . I see that I am a bit late to the party but here are my attempts with three lights in succession please....don't laugh:)

    keep in mind I am using my 18-55 kit lens I have a 1.8 coming soon!

    1st pic
    1 24 x 24 soft box high and in front of subject

    2nd pic 1 soft box from side

    3rd pic 1 SB in front and side

    4th pic 1 SB in front, side and slight bare strobe in rear
  85. here is pic 2
  86. pic 3
  87. pic 4
  88. I know I'm super late, but a thread this good deserves to be bumped once in a while.

    This is the best shot of my attempts. a softliter to the left and slightly behind the bottle with a xs softbox forward right of the glass. The softbox has been diffused further by a shoot through screen. No light at all, obviously, on the background. The bottle is cut off because I didn't notice I was off from square a bit. Straightening took off the top.

  89. I know this thread is long been put to rest, but I must say it was invaluable to me this past week. I had to photograph wine bottles, various still life's involving wine bottles, glasses and other reflective objects for a client and was struggling a bit when I stumbled across this thread. My client is very happy now and so I am very grateful to you for this thread. .....Sherle
  90. I do have a question, is anyone is listening... I need to photograph 4 different types of wines in one shot and every time I set it up I get the reflections of the neighboring bottles in the one wine bottle. While this can be interesting, I would prefer not to have the reflections. Is there any lighting setup that I can do that won't allow for the reflections? I have two white lightning 800's and a 2x3 and 3x4 lightbox. Right now I only have a continuous light for the backdrop. Any help would be appreciated. ....Sherle
  91. Sherle,

    Use a tripod and photograph each bottle independently (alone), being sure to place each bottle in it's own spot. Do not bump anything between the shots. Then layer the shots in PS and use layer masks to make each bottle appear. Since each bottle was photographed independently, the reflections of the other bottles will not be present. Lighting must (should) be identical in all four shots. This assumes you're not trying to place any one bottle partially in front of another.
  92. Strongly inspired by Kevin Townsend's work shown above, I humbly submit the following...
  93. This thread delivers.
  94. I came across your very informative thread but couldn't find any information on using these techniques with natural sunlight. Any suggestions?
  95. Stephen,
    Most of us use flash in preference to daylight because it's easier to control as well as being available whenever we want it.
    But daylight will work, the principles when using daylight are exactly the same, you just have to use different tools.
    Instead of using a softbox to diffuse an enclosed light, you can use a silk to diffuse the daylight. A silk is just a sheet of diffusing material (such as white frosted plastic) that goes between the light source and the subject, just as the diffusion screen of a softbox does. In some countries, the U.S. for example, you can buy them fitted to frames. In other places, if you want a large one, you make it yourself from ripstop nylon or plain white shower curtain or similar.
    The good thing about using a silk instead of a softbox is that it's a cheap tool. The bad thing is that you have to find a way of placing and keeping it in position.
    Depending on what you're doing, you may also need to use flags (black material) to stop light going where you don't want it to go and to create a dark 'edge' to the subject. This applies with artificial light too, but can be even more important with the uncontrolled light from daylight.
    Moving on a bit, you may need extra, harsher light too. Mirrors can work wonders when it comes to changing the direction of light and harnessing it, or you can use flash, which can be combined with daylight
  96. [​IMG]
    I'm using a solid background of construction paper and a diffusion round to soften direct sunlight. The photos of cans, bottles and packaged foods are for an encyclopedia. I'm looking for functionality not artistry. One problem that crops up on all the photos is the specular highlight that runs up and down each edge. I'm posting an image that illustrates this. On this image I'm also unable to get the proper saturation for the red background behind "Spiceberry Jam" without using PS. Why do you recommend a silk rather than an umbrella, which would be easy to keep in position. Is the silk material more desirable for working with direct sunlight?
  97. Stephen,
    Sometimes a silk is the absolutely right job for a specific job, please see the lighting theme on Creating diffused specular highlights.
    But not for your purpose. I suggested a silk because it's cheap, easy and suitable. You can make them up very easily from ripstop nylon or from a plain white shower curtain, which is generally around 6' wide. In your case, this is exactly what you need to do because the problem with the specular highlights in your example photo is caused by having a light source that is far too small. Convex subjects (in particular) need very large light sources.
    And I repeat my earlier suggestion that you use black flags each side of your subject to absorb light on the edges and darken them. The flags need to be just out of shot and should follow the line of the subject, which is in this case is tapered.
    Hope this helps.
  98. Stephen,
    It wasn't clear to me from your links what I should be looking at.
    You'll just have to experiment to see how large a diffuser you need and how close it needs to be to the subject - all that I can be sure of is that it's too small/too distant in your example shot.
    As for flags, again, whatever works. Mostly we make them up using blackwrap (sold under the trade name of Cinefoil) which is a roll of thick alluminium cooking foil coated black - ideal for the job and in fact ideal for many jobs in the studio.
    Still life shots are 99.something %setting up, and time spent getting it perfect is always time well spent. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to explain exactly how to do things, all that anyone else can do is to explain the principles. You then need to experiment and see what works best with that particular shot.
  99. Hi first post but been learning loads on the lighting tutorials here so thought i would post my attempt from the techniques i have found here.
    2 x SB-800's
    1 on a stand with ezy-box
    1 bare with stofan diffuser
    I placed the softbox above and forward slightly, from the right side, and the bare flash with the plastic diffuser front left acting as fill light, the statue was on a black cloth draped from a kitchen cupboard
    f16 1/100 ISO200

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