Low Key Pen Photography?

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jrista

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I've been trying to take my pen photography to the next level. In particular, the next level of low key photography. I've been watching a ton of videos on still life/product photography, particularly lighting, and have invested some money in reflectors, boom arms and clips to hold and position reflectors. Don't have the booms in yet, but I gave the reflectors a try. It definitely gave me much more exacting control over the position, size, and scale of highlights.

I also liked how some photographers used simple reflective things, like a piece of perspex (or plexiglass, or optix which is what I used as it was cheap and this was my first try) painted gloss black on the back side, producing a very nice darkly reflective surface. I liked how that dark reflection worked for many of the videos I watched, and gave it a try. My lighting control needs work, for sure...but I'm curious what people think of this result. This is one of 15 pens made for a client, sets of 5 each with different woods:

Client Pen - Zao Goncalo Alves Elegant Sierra - Low Key.jpg


(Accidentally left a bit of a fingerprint smudge on the nib, hence the imperfect reflection)

Had to do a bit of post-processing work to clean up the reflections of the reflectors, which were apparent in the upper part of the photo. So I selected the pen and its reflection, then just made the rest of the image black. Took care of the never-ending scattering of dust as well, which seemed to just form out of thin air and land on my freshly cleaned highly reflective surface illuminated by a very bright white light! Dust!! Meh!
 
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magpens

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EXCELLENT ! ! ! ! !

Thanks for posting this thread, Jon ! !

I am interested in upping my pen photography skills, so I will be following your progress.

Hope you continue to report ! ! :D . :D . :D
 

jrista

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I sure can, Mal. I'd say, the biggest thing I've learned so far is about rim lighting. For dark objects (i.e. chrome, gunmetal, pretty much any metal plating really, I think, that will reflect black as black), you need to get some backlighting going to highlight just the back edge rim with some light. That helps separate the full shape of the object from the dead-black background.

In a lot of the research I've done so far, the real pros are always looking for a soft gradient to wrap around the back edges of the product. I'm not sure yet exactly how to do that, and for that matte with pens I'm not yet sure if it is really appropriate. There are also other nuanced aspects of lighting that the pros will address. For example, the top part of the finial of this particular pen...is currently dead black, so you can't see it. A pro would figure out how to beam a little bit of light JUST on that one part of the pen, but not illuminate anything else, to make sure that the viewer could see every aspect of the pen.

One of the photographers who's videos I watched, had these tiny little mirrors that he would orient to reflect light from the primary light, directly on parts of the product that was fading into invisibility. I don't have anything like that yet, and I couldn't figure out how to light the top of the finial, so it remained black here. I think that is one of those little nuanced things that will help create a more professional photo in the end. (I just need to figure out A. where to get such tiny little mirrors, and B. figure out how to hold and orient them in an exact manner to reflect light to exactly the right parts of the product, and nowhere else...I think some of the pros used these little tripods, or those flexy pods that you can just sort of wrap around a leg of a tripod that is holding something else, along with these little chip-bag type clips to hold the mirrors and allow them to be swiveled around. Another photographer had this tiny little stand for a small mirror that was maybe 1" by 1.5" in size.)
 

jrista

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Found one of the videos that inspired me to do the black reflective plastic, and had some great tips on how to set up lighting. Part of my setup is based on this guys video here:


I'll get a photo of my current setup in a minute here and share that.
 

wmillman

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Very nice work Jon, this is an area I would like to improve on as well, but I have to fix one itch before we tackle another and just getting started in making pens and trying to improve that skill is taking up most of my time at the moment, but photography was my hobby before pen making so I do have some gear just need the time. I retired in June of 2020 which helped with the time issue but jumping down this rabbit hole of pen making is doing a good job of using up the time. Your low key photography is off to a good start I would say Jon, and will be watching and following your journey.
 

jrista

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Very nice work Jon, this is an area I would like to improve on as well, but I have to fix one itch before we tackle another and just getting started in making pens and trying to improve that skill is taking up most of my time at the moment, but photography was my hobby before pen making so I do have some gear just need the time. I retired in June of 2020 which helped with the time issue but jumping down this rabbit hole of pen making is doing a good job of using up the time. Your low key photography is off to a good start I would say Jon, and will be watching and following your journey.

Yeah, I didn't get into this level of photography for my pens until a few months ago. I made my first few slimlines in 2020, but then stopped (number of reason, ended up stopping turning entirely for a while actually). I started up again the beginning of summer 2021, and I don't think it was until september or around there, that I started getting into the photography stuff. And it wasn't really until later in the year that I had all the gear I needed to really try to step it up.

I only just received the reflectors today, and this is the first time I've ever used any. I will say, they give you a LOT more control, as you can get the lighting very precisely positioned on the product (relative to the camera's view, BTW). I was never able to do that with the light sources themselves. Now, many of the photographers who's video's I've watched often use a number of lights, or a combination of lights and flash, AS WELL AS a number of reflectors. I'm not at that level yet (and usually it looked like a TON of gear in the end, probably amounting to many thousands of dollars in cost). Many photographers, though, used only one single very diffuse, often very very large, actual light source, then used reflectors and various light blockers (black panels or what have you) to control exactly where and how the light from that one source fell onto the product. I kind of like that approach. I got some photos of my setup, and you will see that I actually blocked light with some black paper and a black shroud in order to control the size and brightness of the reflection on the front of the pen.

It is pretty amazing, once you start playing with it, just how much you can control light. ;)
 

jrista

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Ok, some quick photos of the setup. Sheet of Optix, painted black on the bottom, as a reflective base. Single large light source to the right. Couple of pieces of black paper in front of part of that light source, and a black shroud (normally a black background for one of my light tents) to cover the front edge of the light. Two white reflectors wrapping around the back of the pen, to give it that backlit rim lighting, which is essential for separating the product from the background (without the reflectors, the chrome simply reflected black, and the pen blended into the background. I ended up wrapping the whole setup in the back with the black fabric, to prevent the Optix from reflecting the entire rest of my home.

Pen Photography Lighting Setup-1.jpg


Pen Photography Lighting Setup-2.jpg


Pen Photography Lighting Setup-3.jpg
 

jrista

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Given the discussion this has spurred, I thought I would share the original photo (actually, this is after a little bit of cropping, but before I fixed the background). This shows the reflections of the reflectors, which I nuked by masking off the pen and nuking the background by just filling it with black:

Client Pen - Zao Goncalo Alves Elegant Sierra - Low Key - Pre Edits.jpg
 

sorcerertd

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That looks great, Jon! I'm sure it takes a little practice. I just bought an entry level SLR so I can fine tune more than my phone camera. The last SLR I had was 35mm film, so I'll be playing around with that for a bit. At least I don't have to wait to see how the pics came out!
 

jrista

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That looks great, Jon! I'm sure it takes a little practice. I just bought an entry level SLR so I can fine tune more than my phone camera. The last SLR I had was 35mm film, so I'll be playing around with that for a bit. At least I don't have to wait to see how the pics came out!

Yeah I used a DSLR. Actually, I guess its a mirrorless now, the Canon EOS R5. Its generally the same thing though...MUCH more control. I really do like how the background rim lighting comes out here. The chrome can go black in some places, for that low-key look, but you can still define the entire shape of the pen. I just need to figure out how to light the top of the nib...that is the one piece here that isn't lit, and it DID vanish into the background.
 

jrista

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Alright. Brought in my second lamp, and fiddled with the setup until I just had the top of the finial lit by that other light:

Client Pen - Zao Goncalo Alves Elegant Sierra - Low Key - Improved.jpg



I think this is better, as no part of the pen really just "vanishes" into the background now.
 

jrista

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Hmm, a little bit of additional explanation might be required for this last photo. I fiddled with the angle of the pen as well. To do two things. First, to fix the primary highlight that runs down the length of the pen...in the first photo it was inconsistent. The nib had a tight line, the finial a big fat barcode of a highlight.

In this photo, I leveraged all the reflection going on. Adjusted the angle so the finial picked up just a line, like the nib...then leveraged the reflection of the highlight...from the Optix base. The top edge of the pen is lit by the reflectors, which are just a bright white but otherwise flat/diffuse reflection panel. The front of the pen is lit by the primary light. The top of the finial is lit by a secondary light. The bottom edge of the pen...is reflecting the reflection of the primary highlight, which is coming off the Optix base that the pen is sitting on!
 
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I sure can, Mal. I'd say, the biggest thing I've learned so far is about rim lighting. For dark objects (i.e. chrome, gunmetal, pretty much any metal plating really, I think, that will reflect black as black), you need to get some backlighting going to highlight just the back edge rim with some light. That helps separate the full shape of the object from the dead-black background.

In a lot of the research I've done so far, the real pros are always looking for a soft gradient to wrap around the back edges of the product. I'm not sure yet exactly how to do that, and for that matte with pens I'm not yet sure if it is really appropriate. There are also other nuanced aspects of lighting that the pros will address. For example, the top part of the finial of this particular pen...is currently dead black, so you can't see it. A pro would figure out how to beam a little bit of light JUST on that one part of the pen, but not illuminate anything else, to make sure that the viewer could see every aspect of the pen.

One of the photographers who's videos I watched, had these tiny little mirrors that he would orient to reflect light from the primary light, directly on parts of the product that was fading into invisibility. I don't have anything like that yet, and I couldn't figure out how to light the top of the finial, so it remained black here. I think that is one of those little nuanced things that will help create a more professional photo in the end. (I just need to figure out A. where to get such tiny little mirrors, and B. figure out how to hold and orient them in an exact manner to reflect light to exactly the right parts of the product, and nowhere else...I think some of the pros used these little tripods, or those flexy pods that you can just sort of wrap around a leg of a tripod that is holding something else, along with these little chip-bag type clips to hold the mirrors and allow them to be swiveled around. Another photographer had this tiny little stand for a small mirror that was maybe 1" by 1.5" in size.)
Glaziers usually supply mirror,cut to measure.
 

leehljp

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Black background usually makes for very classical photos. There is one weakness in that - in which I may not be saying it technically correct - the black eats up the light. The reflection along the bottom side is OK - along where there is chrome/metal edge is, but when it gets to the wood that is not as reflective, it is a little difficult to see the outline of the wood part of the pen. This brings up the question for me - what is the purpose of a photo? To make a great photo, or show off the pen? If the point is to present the pen, IMHO, there should be a bit more light on the lower side without washing out the sides and top of the pen. The purpose would be to bring up more light on the lower visible edge and make it nearly as crisp as the linear top side edges along its full length.

Eric (Sylvanite) said it perfectly above in his link. Study that link.
He turns a photo from emphasizing a photo to emphasizing the pen.
 
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jttheclockman

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Jon there are some past threads on this topic if you do a search for them. I remember the head moderator here Curtis use to use black mirror backgrounds as well as Sylvanite. They went on to discuss procedures and do's and don'ts because many questions and interest arose from there photos. Just a side note.
 

moke

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I owned a photographic studio for 43 years, retiring in 20. Not because of Covid, but because I am old. In the Photo School I attended we called the rim light, a "garlic" light. Because a little of it goes a long ways. In my studio portraits I always used 5 lights...the fifth being a Garlic light. A rim light is truly a highlight along the rim of a face or product, but it is rarly used for products. like pens.

A garlic light must controled, though. Usually we used about 15% of the power the main light was at. Too much Garlic will ruin a dish of food, conversely, too much Garlic light in photographs will ruin the effect. When a light source comes at a product or face at an oblique angle it's power is magnified. It isn't really, but certainly looks that way in reality. It also can raise problems with flair or spill onto other surfaces. So it must also be controlled. Feathering or barn dooring is also recommended. But innovations for control is always good too. In Photography there are no absolutes....there are a myriad of ways to accomplish things, no right or wrong way to get there, just the final image to be your testimony. In photo school I was taught the rules of photography.....some 20 years later at a convention, a speaker and I were having lunch after a session....and he said," Who made these rules?" " Why do we stick to them"....I couldn't answer and at that moment became a rule breaker...the only rules I stuck to was what my customer wanted or I didn't like.

Commercial photographs can be used as a guide. Look at a an image in a book or magazine that you really like, and study the lighting, look at where the light comes from. You can always tell. In product photography, we always used a boom light. It was above and slightly behind, sometimes more behind than others, but always above. That will give you a rim reflection, creating depth and in our case of Pens, give it some "roundness" or a 3 dimensional appearance. But again, moderation! The mother of all creativity is trail in error in our case. With digital, we nothing invested more that our time. You can "Bracket" the lights. In other words try the garlic light at increasing power in the photograph, to see where you like it....delete what you do not.

If you have light-room or Phase One programs, some adjustment is possible within the conversation software, if you photograph in "raw", but it is complex and does have it's limitations.

As for photographing on reflective surfaces, it does give a cool rendition of things. For a mirror though, there are often times a fuzzy or distorted reflection. This is cause by a reflection from the glass on the top of the mirror, then another where the backing is applied to make it reflective....I am not describing it very well, but you will know it when you see it. For mirror shots in a Commercial studio we used a "first side" mirror. The coating for reflections is on the top of the glass. They are pricey.....and you can get good results from a regular mirror if you experiment with the angle you are photographing at. The secondary image may not bother you, so again...experiment.

There are many techniques you can use.... another is using live lights (color correct light bulbs) and use of a mini-spot. A mini spot is a specialized light that casts a hard light, not diffused much at all. with crisp round edges that you can use to create shadows for effect and concentrate the light in one specific area. Used a lot for fashion, but sometimes for product photography too. Again, look at different style and steal....the best photographers I know were thieves at best! Usually they have stolen from another type of photography and adapted it to what they want. Look at pinterest, but know that most folks on there today are not great at the technical end. Most have not attended any formal education, rather learned there craft from you tube. And that is not to be said there are not some good photographers out there that started like that, but they are definitely in the minority. In portraiture, it is the in thing to do to have photography business and do seniors and families at night and weekends. That is fine, we have always had that, but most often these are not "experts" that you should listen to.


Good luck, you sound like you are on the right track....try things......PM if you want.
 
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jrista

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Black background usually makes for very classical photos. There is one weakness in that - in which I may not be saying it technically correct - the black eats up the light. The reflection along the bottom side is OK - along where there is chrome/metal edge is, but when it gets to the wood that is not as reflective, it is a little difficult to see the outline of the wood part of the pen. This brings up the question for me - what is the purpose of a photo? To make a great photo, or show off the pen? If the point is to present the pen, IMHO, there should be a bit more light on the lower side without washing out the sides and top of the pen. The purpose would be to bring up more light on the lower visible edge and make it nearly as crisp as the linear top side edges along its full length.

Eric (Sylvanite) said it perfectly above in his link. Study that link.
He turns a photo from emphasizing a photo to emphasizing the pen.
Thanks for the reply, Hank. I agree, its not a perfect photo by any means. This is my first foray into lighting like this. I whole heartedly agree that the pen needs more lighting along the bottom of the blank part. The whole pen needs better lighting in general, for sure. I'm just happy I was able to get this done almost purely in camera, which was exciting. It did not require much of any post-processing except a bit of masking to remove background reflections, which based on my research is pretty common. One way or another background junk often needs to be edited out.

I think you make a good point about the photograph's intention, and that is to present the pen. That said, I don't think that means we cannot explore more creative, artistic and/or stylistic ways of doing just that. That is what I'm trying to do here...explore a particular style of lighting. Hopefully in the long run, I'll be able to achieve that goal of properly presenting the pen...with style!

Regarding the post that was linked. Some interesting points were made, indeed...however, the photo demonstrated in that thread was not a low-key (i.e. overall dark, low lighting) photo. It had a dark background, but in the end it was a very bright photo. I wouldn't necessarily call it high key (i.e. overall bright, light colored lighting) photo...but it did not really have the same look and feel I am going for. I am actually trying to get some black or at least "dark" in the pen's reflections. It may be that I could use a gray card to lighten up some of the chrome that is currently black, just a bit, to make it a dark gray...I am not sure. But the general goal is for that "low key" look.

I'm actually OK with some of the reflections on the chrome being black, so long as I can otherwise highlight all the edges of the entire pen. I just about achieved that with that last photo, but your point about the lower edge of the wood part is entirely valid...I failed to light that properly.
 

jrista

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I owned a photographic studio for 43 years, retiring in 20. Not because of Covid, but because I am old. In the Photo School I attended we called the rim light, a "garlic" light. Because a little of it goes a long ways. In my studio portraits I always used 5 lights...the fifth being a Garlic light. A rim light is truly a highlight along the rim of a face or product, but it is rarly used for products. like pens.

A garlic light must controled, though. Usually we used about 15% of the power the main light was at. Too much Garlic will ruin a dish of food, conversely, too much Garlic light in photographs will ruin the effect. When a light source comes at a product or face at an oblique angle it's power is magnified. It isn't really, but certainly looks that way in reality. It also can raise problems with flair or spill onto other surfaces. So it must also be controlled. Feathering or barn dooring is also recommended. But innovations for control is always good too. In Photography there are no absolutes....there are a myriad of ways to accomplish things, no right or wrong way to get there, just the final image to be your testimony. In photo school I was taught the rules of photography.....some 20 years later at a convention, a speaker and I were having lunch after a session....and he said," Who made these rules?" " Why do we stick to them"....I couldn't answer and at that moment became a rule breaker...the only rules I stuck to was what my customer wanted or I didn't like.

Commercial photographs can be used as a guide. Look at a an image in a book or magazine that you really like, and study the lighting, look at where the light comes from. You can always tell. In product photography, we always used a boom light. It was above and slightly behind, sometimes more behind than others, but always above. That will give you a rim reflection, creating depth and in our case of Pens, give it some "roundness" or a 3 dimensional appearance. But again, moderation! The mother of all creativity is trail in error in our case. With digital, we nothing invested more that our time. You can "Bracket" the lights. In other words try the garlic light at increasing power in the photograph, to see where you like it....delete what you do not.

If you have light-room or Phase One programs, some adjustment is possible within the conversation software, if you photograph in "raw", but it is complex and does have it's limitations.

As for photographing on reflective surfaces, it does give a cool rendition of things. For a mirror though, there are often times a fuzzy or distorted reflection. This is cause by a reflection from the glass on the top of the mirror, then another where the backing is applied to make it reflective....I am not describing it very well, but you will know it when you see it. For mirror shots in a Commercial studio we used a "first side" mirror. The coating for reflections is on the top of the glass. They are pricey.....and you can get good results from a regular mirror if you experiment with the angle you are photographing at. The secondary image may not bother you, so again...experiment.

There are many techniques you can use.... another is using live lights (color correct light bulbs) and use of a mini-spot. A mini spot is a specialized light that casts a hard light, not diffused much at all. with crisp round edges that you can use to create shadows for effect and concentrate the light in one specific area. Used a lot for fashion, but sometimes for product photography too. Again, look at different style and steal....the best photographers I know were thieves at best! Usually they have stolen from another type of photography and adapted it to what they want. Look at pinterest, but know that most folks on there today are not great at the technical end. Most have not attended any formal education, rather learned there craft from you tube. And that is not to be said there are not some good photographers out there that started like that, but they are definitely in the minority. In portraiture, it is the in thing to do to have photography business and do seniors and families at night and weekends. That is fine, we have always had that, but most often these are not "experts" that you should listen to.


Good luck, you sound like you are on the right track....try things......PM if you want.
Thanks for the post, Moke! Appreciate it.

So, I searched for "garlic light"...and, while I found lights, I'm pretty sure they are not what you were talking about! šŸ˜‚


I know "garlic light" is just a term... I assume this is a light that is angled and blocked off and lower powered, to make sure that its light only falls on a very specific part or parts of the product? Any chance you have some references for how to set up and control a garlic light? I'd like to continue my research.

I've been fiddling with the light, and in particular the cards I have blocking the light from the primary light that is directly in front of the pen. Trying to see if I could get just a little bit to hit the lower front of the pen. So far, no luck... I certainly need another light, but I'm not sure what kind of light to get, or exactly how to control it so its light only illuminates exactly the part of the pen I want it to illuminate.

Regarding the double reflection bit. I actually think I have that controlled to a degree. In one of the videos I watched, they used gloss black spray paint on a plastic sheet. I was concerned about that second reflection off the bottom, and in my case I actually used matte black krylon, which is pretty darn flat stuff. The nature of how light reflects (something I'm intimately familiar with because of my astrophotography, I've spent years chasing down errant reflections!!), it is still going to reflect off that back surface, but I am hoping the black paint will disperse that reflection enough that I won't be seeing double reflections in my photos.

I've actually been a photographer since 2008, although primarily nature (birds, wildlife, landscapes, nature macros, and astrophotography). This is my first real foray into still subjects and artificial lighting. Picked up my first Canon Rebel back in 2008, and have owned many Canon and Sony cameras over the years. I moved back to Canon with the EOS R5. I have Lightroom, Photoshop (actually been using this since the early 2000s), Affinity, Capture One, etc. I'm a raw shooter. Always raw. With these modern cameras, notably the Sony Exmor based cameras and this new sensor in the Canon R5, the dynamic range is mindblowing, and almost limitless now. It is amazing what you can pull out of the deep shadows these days.
 

jrista

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Ok, trying to address the issue Hank brought up. Same exact photo as before, I just worked on the exposure a little bit to try and make sure the pen was properly exhibited:

Client Pen - Zao Goncalo Alves Elegant Sierra - Low Key - Best.jpg
 

moke

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Jrista-
I love your garlic light! I wish I would have had one of those for conventions, back in the day! It is going to be difficult to light one specific area of a pen....I was more refering to highlighting a pen in a bigger set. ie: a pen on a desk, a pen in a hand or set....etc

I was referring to, lighting the pen and not the background, but having a subtle background around it. While doing your search look for these two things, barndoors and snoots.


This is wierd snoot but you get the idea....


In a commercial studio, you will find some pretty specific "toys"....but mostly you will find a lot of "jury-rigging" I had probably 50 spring clamp.....tons and tons of gator board....in multi colors and when you cut a piece for a specific use, it is a cardinal sin to throw it away after using it. many boom arms and background stands too....these need not be high dollar fancy things, pieces of 3/8 or 1/2' rod that fit into a boom control. ( a device that fits onto a light stand, with a slot to put the rod into that can rotate). You can spring clamp gator foam or foam core board to it to create barn doors or a blockers for light. Barn doors are only built in blockers but not as accurate or precise as they are close to the light source.

Ideas for constructing/substituting for effects:
Diffusion can be as simple as bouncing light onto white gator foam.....or shine it through a shower curtain hanging from background stands with clamps. You have to be careful to not get colored shower curtain or wash an old one with a detergent with UV whitener. I could write a book on buying the wrong shower curtains. The "real"-correct way to do it is with scrim material, or diffusion material. Diffusion material is smaller....16x20 and smaller and comes in varying level of diffusion, and scrim material is basically the same, but very pricey but comes in huge sheets/rolls.

We photographed on a smaller table, about 3' x3' surface that the base was translucent plastic, it had a high back that the material was screwed to, creating a "seamless" type "Swoop". It was white plexiglass material but could be anything else that is flexible. It was lit from the bottom for effect with a snoot. It created a circle of light that the product was placed on. The effect got old, so we just clamped seamless paper on top of it, and lit from above like usual. We used it mostly because it was an awesome table.....changing the plexiglass was a gigantic PITA so I only did a couple of times. There is no reason why you couldn't do this for pens with out the seamless swoop. Get a piece of plexiglass that is translucent or even clear with a diffusion backer.....construct a snoot from some sort of thick paper....Just adjust your camera angle so that you can not see "off the edge of the glass". Be sure to keep the circle/oval of light underneath to be subtle, then light the pen well, so as not to create a back light situation. For interest you can change the colors of the light or paper underneath.

As for an above "garlic light, for the product lighting. I would suggest using your boom, constructing/buying some barn doors, and light from above about 30 to 40 degrees behind the vertical axis of the pen. Maybe more.....remember BRACKET the power and angle. The barn doors will rob you of light output....so you may have to increase it. Close the door quite a bit and move it around on the product. You may have better luck using the softer light in front of the bight area. Moving the light around using different areas of the light produced is called feathering.

Use a main and fill light or main and reflector for fill. The fill will kill shadows, so make sure your fill is lower power, so as not to create a shadow form it. The main will create a shadow and that is ok, just make sure the shadow is very slight. The intensity of shadow compared to highlight is called ratio. Shadows create realism. and add to the roundness that the garlic will add. Use your lens shade or hold up a small piece of foam core to shade the lens during the exposure.

When you work alone, it is often prudent to use your self timer in leiu of your remote release. It gives you one more hand and stops any chance of stretching the remote too far. If you use a pod and live lights (bulbs as opposed to flash) it will be tremendously easier. You can see the effects with out metering. Remember it is ok to have long exposures, so your lights need not be bright. I can't tell how many times I burned myself on hot lights, and they are short lifed. So dimmer is often better.

I spent a lifetime learning this type of thing, so it is difficult to put into a posting.....good luck let me know if you have questions and if others find this boring, maybe PM. Try some it if you want and then ask, there will be challenges and problems that are unforseen by instruction.
 

jrista

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@moke Thank you for all the info! I am not sure I'm grasping all of it yet, but once I get more of the necessary lighting gear I'm sure it will all start to fall into place.

I already use the in-camera timer. I have been using that for years for macro photography. I do a lot of nature macros, like so:

PPBgvLp.jpg


b4wcb4i.jpg


The built-in timer is awesome for this kind of thing. I need to get a z-focus rail though so I can focus stack on these photos and get better dof without having to stop down to f/22. I've been using the built-in timer for all my pen photos so far. Most of my exposures are around a second, give or take. I am shooting at ISO 100 unless I forget to check it, for maximum dynamic range.

Glad you recommend live lights vs. flash. I've always wondered how people use flash to light a still scene and get it right. Sounds like a LOT of trial and error work...which doesn't seem necessary if you have continuous light.
 

moke

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Using Flash. like Photogenic power lights or Einstein lights is more natural to working professionals. They are more durable and reliable. IMHO
They are more difficult to balance. We use flash meters. They also do available light. Flash meters are typically reflective. In other words they measure the light falling on the subject. It is more accurate than reflected light.
Live lights, until recently were "photofloods", They has an accurate Kelvin temperature (color of light). The problem with them is as the bulb dies the kelvin temperture drops and the light becomes more yellow, or lower Kelvin temp. Lately, in the last few years, live lights began to come in LED versions. LED light is more constant and dependable. Do some research. I never even considered them as my career was winding down and didn't want to pt out money for something I wouldn't get to use that long.

Do research on Kelvin Temperture, it will explain a lot. Should be an ah ha moment as far as white balance. Virtually you could use any Kelvin temperture bulbs as long as they are all the same....or if you just use one light. Make sure they are the same.

Also I just youtube searched for Commercial Photography gadgets and got 8 to 10 good hits Luke Ayers looks to have decent content, but I did not watch it.......DIY Photo Products
 

MRDucks2

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Just wanted to say thanks to those participating in this thread who know what they are trying to achieve from those of us who havenā€™t really thought about it but appreciate your experience and find the info interesting. I will return to lurking on this one. šŸ˜Š
 

moke

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Jrista-
I forgot to explain one other thing......photographing against black....or white. Camera meters are programmed to average the light for exposure. Well for the most part. You will read about about how the camera meter is center weighted or segmented...on and on. They are set up to photograph the average scene, which if you turn to B&W is 18% gray. ( kind of a light-med gray) So if you photograph a black background it turns it gray. if you photograph a white background, it turns it gray. The work around is one of two things, either use a hand held meter (incident meter- the kind with a dome) and go to manual, or BRACKET in manual or in an override mode!!! When you bracket, particularly since you convert from raw as you are doing photograph in 1/2 stop increments. go two stops in both directions....keep notes. This may be a little excessive, because as you know, in reality in today's raw convertors you could probably fix something to acceptable up to 2 1/2 stops off.
I could tell you that a black background is usually 1/ 1/2 stops over exposed and a white background about 1 1/2 under exposed but I want you to figure that out on your own....LOL
 

jrista

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Using Flash. like Photogenic power lights or Einstein lights is more natural to working professionals. They are more durable and reliable. IMHO
They are more difficult to balance. We use flash meters. They also do available light. Flash meters are typically reflective. In other words they measure the light falling on the subject. It is more accurate than reflected light.
Live lights, until recently were "photofloods", They has an accurate Kelvin temperature (color of light). The problem with them is as the bulb dies the kelvin temperture drops and the light becomes more yellow, or lower Kelvin temp. Lately, in the last few years, live lights began to come in LED versions. LED light is more constant and dependable. Do some research. I never even considered them as my career was winding down and didn't want to pt out money for something I wouldn't get to use that long.

Do research on Kelvin Temperture, it will explain a lot. Should be an ah ha moment as far as white balance. Virtually you could use any Kelvin temperture bulbs as long as they are all the same....or if you just use one light. Make sure they are the same.

Also I just youtube searched for Commercial Photography gadgets and got 8 to 10 good hits Luke Ayers looks to have decent content, but I did not watch it.......DIY Photo Products
I understand the kelvin black body scale, high CRI, etc. All the bulbs I have right now are LED high CRI bulbs, with a good neutral white light. All the bulbs I currently have emit the exact same light color, but I think I got them all from the same brand of large diffusing lamps. Its possible if I ended up getting lamps or bulbs of other brands I might have color differences... I'll have to keep an eye on that. Actually, I am curious...if you pick up some high CRI bulbs, say 90 CRI...and they are rates for 5500K sunlight temp...with a high CRI like that, even if you crossed brands, bulbs should still be emitting light of a color that should not vary much from the specified color temperature, right? Or would you need to get closer to say 95 CRI for that to be true? I've had 95 CRI CFL bulbs in the past, years ago like 2012, 2013 or so... I know that LED emits light differently (either RGB leds blending light together, or blue LEDs with a yellow phosphor...in either case, you have a multi-peak (probably more appropriately called multi-modal) spectrum, vs. more of a single peak like you had with CFL). Perhaps the way LEDs work make it harder to achieve exactly the same color across brands?
 
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jrista

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Jrista-
I forgot to explain one other thing......photographing against black....or white. Camera meters are programmed to average the light for exposure. Well for the most part. You will read about about how the camera meter is center weighted or segmented...on and on. They are set up to photograph the average scene, which if you turn to B&W is 18% gray. ( kind of a light-med gray) So if you photograph a black background it turns it gray. if you photograph a white background, it turns it gray. The work around is one of two things, either use a hand held meter (incident meter- the kind with a dome) and go to manual, or BRACKET in manual or in an override mode!!! When you bracket, particularly since you convert from raw as you are doing photograph in 1/2 stop increments. go two stops in both directions....keep notes. This may be a little excessive, because as you know, in reality in today's raw convertors you could probably fix something to acceptable up to 2 1/2 stops off.
I could tell you that a black background is usually 1/ 1/2 stops over exposed and a white background about 1 1/2 under exposed but I want you to figure that out on your own....LOL
I am also pretty well versed in Canon metering modes, 18% cray cards, etc. (I actually used to do all of my own printing, and have done some extensive color balancing and white balancing calibration with both my camera and my printers, created my own printing ICC profiles, etc.) Their DSLRs and now Mirrorless cameras have had a range of metering modes for some time now (I mostly used the Canon 5D III in the past). I think they have evaulative (auto-adjusted based on the camera's logic), partial (~6% central meter), spot (~3% central meter), and the CWA (center-weighted average) which averages the entire scene, but weights the center more. I think I've been using partial mode so far with the R5.

Modern cameras like Sony's latest Exmor sensors and the Canon EOS R5 sensor have 4-5 stop correction range. It's pretty mind blowing what they can do these days. The technology with CMOS image sensors has come so far!! You can easily lift or adjust exposure 2-3 stops. If you REALLY want to push it, you can get 6 stop adjustment if you really wanted it. I have found with the R5 that clipping highlights is almost impossible at ISO 100, as I can lift shadows with minimal noise and no banding by 3-4 stops without breaking a sweat. The Canon 5D III wasn't even remotely in the same ballpark...2 stops and you would see pattern noise (banding and the like). The Sony a7R III which I've used. bit probably has the best dynamic range I've ever seen. Adjust exposures (notably lift deep shadows) 6 stops without breaking a sweat, with surprising color fidelity and detail. Canon just doesn't quite achieve the same results, but with the sensor in the R5, they finally made the quantum leap to the kind of dynamic range modern photographers (especially landscape photographers like myself) expect.
 

jrista

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Oh...actually, the metering mode doesn't even matter, as I've been using full manual mode for these photos. Since I know I can recover a good deal of shadow info, I'm purposely under-exposing, then lifting in post.
 
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I am also pretty well versed in Canon metering modes, 18% cray cards, etc. (I actually used to do all of my own printing, and have done some extensive color balancing and white balancing calibration with both my camera and my printers, created my own printing ICC profiles, etc.) Their DSLRs and now Mirrorless cameras have had a range of metering modes for some time now (I mostly used the Canon 5D III in the past). I think they have evaulative (auto-adjusted based on the camera's logic), partial (~6% central meter), spot (~3% central meter), and the CWA (center-weighted average) which averages the entire scene, but weights the center more. I think I've been using partial mode so far with the R5.

Modern cameras like Sony's latest Exmor sensors and the Canon EOS R5 sensor have 4-5 stop correction range. It's pretty mind blowing what they can do these days. The technology with CMOS image sensors has come so far!! You can easily lift or adjust exposure 2-3 stops. If you REALLY want to push it, you can get 6 stop adjustment if you really wanted it. I have found with the R5 that clipping highlights is almost impossible at ISO 100, as I can lift shadows with minimal noise and no banding by 3-4 stops without breaking a sweat. The Canon 5D III wasn't even remotely in the same ballpark...2 stops and you would see pattern noise (banding and the like). The Sony a7R III which I've used. bit probably has the best dynamic range I've ever seen. Adjust exposures (notably lift deep shadows) 6 stops without breaking a sweat, with surprising color fidelity and detail. Canon just doesn't quite achieve the same results, but with the sensor in the R5, they finally made the quantum leap to the kind of dynamic range modern photographers (especially landscape photographers like myself) expect.
This has been a brilliant thread...I must resist getting sucked down this rabbit hole...for now.
And I don't have much of a clue what most of it means :)
 

jrista

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This has been a brilliant thread...I must resist getting sucked down this rabbit hole...for now.
And I don't have much of a clue what most of it means :)

Metering is just how the camera determines what exposure to set in full auto or partial auto modes. Partial, being you set the aperture and the camera determines the rest, or you set the shutter and the camera determines the rest, etc.

Dynamic range is the range of values between bright and dark (and technically, just how bright and just how dark) of values you can capture in a single photo. Less dynamic range, and you will usually have to compromise on one end or the other...clip some highlights, or crush some shadows. With more dynamic range, you can capture more information in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows, then recover that information when processing your photos in say Adobe Lightroom.

Stops are just light/exposure thing. One stop represents a doubling or halving of something...the exposure, or an exposure setting, etc. So, if you increase your lighting by a stop, you could halve your exposure (say use a shutter speed half as long, or reduce your aperture by one stop) and achieve the same brightness in the photo. When processing a high dynamic range photo in a program like Lightroom...you can adjust exposure there after the fact if you shoot in "raw" mode (storage format that stores the photo information in a very high precision format). You can increase or decrease exposure by a stop, or two, or many. You can increase the brightness of just the shadows, or reduce the brightness of just the highlights, etc. With modern cameras, the camera noise is so low that you can usually bring a good amount of detail and color out of parts of the original photo that might have looked like pure black on your computer screen. (Computer screens, BTW, may have around 8-10 stops of dynamic range...modern digital cameras have 12-14.5 stops...so photos acquired with a higher dynamic range camera often require some shifting of highlights and shadows so all the signal information fits within the dynamic range of the average computer screen, which is usually 8 stops.)
 

moke

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Jrista-I have never used a system that has a 6 stop range. I would be skeptical as to what that would to to the histagram. There simply has to be some damage somewhere....but maybe the raw conversion world has passed me by....I'm running Phase 1-10...I understand that 12 is out now.

As far as CRI, it is my understanding the anything above the 90 range is basically incomprehensible in differences in light color. As long as you maintain the same K temp and stay above 90 CRI, from what I understand the brand is irrelevant in practicality. You have to understand that Camera compaies do a lot of CYA. A lot of the "diferences" in metering and the conversion chips are more for their Sales than practicality. Is there a difference between the 1st 2nd gen chips and those of today....oh good lord yes...Huge..but NOTHING is going to be as good of a substitue for good exposure and focus. And the problem with the Camera business is that Cameras don't antiquate themselves like software or Computer hardware.....they need a hook to sell folks new equipment...ie: hey look at out new chips....they are 2000 times faster and more accurate than last years....The reality is that we as a society make 4x6 and maybe 8x12 prints and they are viewed through HUMAN eyes. Sharp is sharp and good color is good. I gave a seminar once on physics of photography at a convention. It was a long time ago and I shot the photos on transparency film (slides) Transparency film had very little latitude. Maybe 1/2 stop under and 3/4 over. I intentionally over exposed the beginning slides by 1 1/2 stop, and gradually stepped each following slide down by 1/3 stop. I know that when they viewed th first slide they might have noted it was "light" or overexposed ( transparency film was backwards...overexposed was lighter) but in the 4 times I gave the show no one noted that it was changing. The last slide I told them what I had done and showed another copy of the first slide......it always took several minutes for the room to calm down before I could resume. These were working professional photographers....they couldn't believe they were duped.....they thought they had very discerning eyes.

I'm going to sound like your grandpa now...In the good old days incandesent bulbs were manufactured to standard that the CRI was always above 90 and most of the time with brands like GE were in the 95's. I wasn't until we began with LED and CFL that CRI became pertinent.

Kelvin Temperature at it's best is 5500 Degrees K. Daylight light bulbs in stores now days can be as much as 6500k. That is a disgusting color of light, not flattering to anything. I have been doing little projects here and there, but just using flash/studio lights. I did do a small project about 500 miles from home with 4100k bulb with CFI in the 80's....they looked just fine. I guess what I am telling you, don't get to caught up in the technical aspects....get close and se what your results are....you will be surprised.

I am somewhat of skeptic...When I bought my studio we had a portrait studio, a commercial studio in the same building, a color lab, a B&W lab, a Camera store, and Camera repair people. It was fun, truly a zoo, but fun. We had 11 people and me. I came to realize that sometimes we had to make do with this or that. Whether it was because we were waiting on parts in the lab machinery or making my own snoot in the commercial studio. The Camera companies were hard to work with....I closed the camera store in 2010. I felt horrible doing it, but it was not profitable and really never had been. It was more like a hobby than an income. Camera companies didtate prices (MSRP) which is about a 7 to 8% profit. They didn't care if you made money or not, as long as they did. I notified Canon and Nikon I was closing my account and they truly didn't care. Now they are a pittance of what they formally were. 95% of all photos are taken on a cell phone. Our once great industry had a convention that served folks worldwide, with fantastic trade shows. 100,000 attendees. Now that is gone and has been absorbed into CES, I was in las Vegas two weeks ago after CES had just closed and I was told the attendance was 25% of ten years ago. Companies are not as interested in getting you a better product than they are selling you things to survive. Technique always wins or technical....produce high quality images and you will win every time. Do not ignore the technical side, just concentrate on good images. Who cares how you got there.....have good clean and correct exposure and you don't have to worry about metering and under/over adjustment. One more story....In the beginning of my career I shot a Hasselblad 500c. I was poor and it was expensive, I got some decent images and entered a Commercial competition....I felt good about the images as did the other 100 people that entered, I'm sure. We all got smoked by someone no one knew that had a little studio in big town. His photograph was awesome.....I cornered him as struck up a conversation. Here I was with a degree and all the right stuff, ran around with friends that were big in the industry and this kid took that image with two Smith Victor photo floods and a twin lens reflex and not a great one at that.....he had learned from books and this was his first convention.....I changed my opinion of myself and my approach right there.....I will remember that kid until my dying day.....I don't think he ever had great success, I never saw him more than twice after that. But basically that was my epiphany.

Thanks for listening to an old man....I always tryed to use a good marriage of effort and technique. When you get old, try and pay it forward by helping folks, like on this forum.
 

jrista

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Jrista-I have never used a system that has a 6 stop range. I would be skeptical as to what that would to to the histagram. There simply has to be some damage somewhere....but maybe the raw conversion world has passed me by....I'm running Phase 1-10...I understand that 12 is out now.

Modern digital cameras have over 13 stops of dynamic range, some have over 14 stops. Your standard sRGB computer screen which renders 8-bit color, is only capable of displaying 5-6 stops less dynamic range than the average modern camera. So one way or another, you have to process the signal in order to make it fit within the available dynamic range that the average viewer has. Many older DSLRs had much higher read noise, and also a fair amount of DFPN (dark fixed pattern noise) in the form of banding, blotchy color noise, etc. So, even though they were still 14-bit cameras, you usually couldn't push the shadows as much, you might get 2-3 stops worth of ability to push the signal around (notably, brighten the shadows).

Modern cameras, which really started with the first Sony a7 series cameras that used their full frame Sony Exmor sensors, have significantly more dynamic range. Sony's cameras are better than Canon's...they just seem to have greater color precision/bit depth overall, which translates to better color even in the very faintest signals, and while the Canon R5 significantly stepped up Canon's game, I still think that the Sony a7R III and IV deliver better quality deep shadow signal. Still, the a7R III and IV, and even the older Nikon D810, as well as the Canon R5, on a normalized basis (all images scaled to a standard 8x10 print size at a particular DPI) deliver over 14 stops of viable dynamic range. On your average 8-bit computer screen, that would mean they provide ~6 stops of signal pushing range.

As an astrophotographer, where the only thing we work with is deep, deep, dark shadows, I can attest to the ability to lift very faint signals out of seeming pure black with these cameras. I also use dedicated, thermally cooled monochrome astrophotography cameras. In the past nothing came close to the capabilities of a monochrome astro camera, but the last few years color DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras have come a long way, and they can deliver pretty amazing color even with a single exposure (i.e. which is usually the case with your very wide field milky way photography). Technology is a wonderful thing sometimes!!

This was made with a Canon 5D III, under very dark skies. Signal was very dark, black in many areas, a barely visible dark dark brown where the brightest stars were:

L08dtSa.jpg


This is about 4 hours of exposure. The 5D III had a little over 12 stops of dynamic range.

This was made with a monochrome camera, and from a stack of images, but the signal was pulled out of an original image that looked to be pure black, save for a handful of white points representing the brightest stars:

VfCCOCg.jpg


The camera used to create this had about 12.5 stops of dynamic range (although, this camera also had exceptionally low read noise, just about 2 electrons worth which is phenomenal, so that helps bring out those really faint signals. Low read noise is often more important than dynamic range when it comes to astrophotography.) Technically speaking, this image would be stretched by stops and stops (and I guess it should be noted that this is more on the order of 24 hours of exposure). Its a non-linear stretch, what you could call signal compression (you are compressing most of the range, which represents only stars, and expanding the darkest few bits of signal). Modern digital cameras have only a few electrons worth of read noise, and much more dynamic range than this, which makes them incredibly capable cameras. You can get images like these with a DSLR or mirrorless camera such as the R5.

As far as CRI, it is my understanding the anything above the 90 range is basically incomprehensible in differences in light color. As long as you maintain the same K temp and stay above 90 CRI, from what I understand the brand is irrelevant in practicality.

I'm going to sound like your grandpa now...In the good old days incandesent bulbs were manufactured to standard that the CRI was always above 90 and most of the time with brands like GE were in the 95's. I wasn't until we began with LED and CFL that CRI became pertinent.

Ok, thanks. That is what I thought, but was having trouble confirming it.

Kelvin Temperature at it's best is 5500 Degrees K. Daylight light bulbs in stores now days can be as much as 6500k. That is a disgusting color of light, not flattering to anything. I have been doing little projects here and there, but just using flash/studio lights. I did do a small project about 500 miles from home with 4100k bulb with CFI in the 80's....they looked just fine. I guess what I am telling you, don't get to caught up in the technical aspects....get close and se what your results are....you will be surprised.

Yeah. I agree...I've never quite been a fan of 6500K. That tries to replicate "daylight" as you mentioned, which accounts for the copious blue light from a blue daytime sky. I've always preferred the neutral to very slightly warm "sunlight" which would be 5500K, and accounts for direct illumination by sunlight. You don't really get any color cast with that temp, but you can usually tell the blue color cast of 6500K.

I was mostly concerned about the CRI with regards to consistency of color. The original lights I bought don't seem to be in stock at the moment...and if I want consistent lighting, I wanted to make sure that if I bought I different brand the color would indeed be correct (i.e. any 5500K CRI 90 light should do).

I actually like 4100K light as well! It is not "orange" or even "yellow" per-se...but it has a real nice warm look and feel do it. I have 4100K bulbs in my bedrooms and family room. Love that soft light!

I am somewhat of skeptic...When I bought my studio we had a portrait studio, a commercial studio in the same building, a color lab, a B&W lab, a Camera store, and Camera repair people. It was fun, truly a zoo, but fun. We had 11 people and me. I came to realize that sometimes we had to make do with this or that. Whether it was because we were waiting on parts in the lab machinery or making my own snoot in the commercial studio. The Camera companies were hard to work with....I closed the camera store in 2010. I felt horrible doing it, but it was not profitable and really never had been. It was more like a hobby than an income. Camera companies didtate prices (MSRP) which is about a 7 to 8% profit. They didn't care if you made money or not, as long as they did. I notified Canon and Nikon I was closing my account and they truly didn't care. Now they are a pittance of what they formally were. 95% of all photos are taken on a cell phone. Our once great industry had a convention that served folks worldwide, with fantastic trade shows. 100,000 attendees. Now that is gone and has been absorbed into CES, I was in las Vegas two weeks ago after CES had just closed and I was told the attendance was 25% of ten years ago. Companies are not as interested in getting you a better product than they are selling you things to survive. Technique always wins or technical....produce high quality images and you will win every time. Do not ignore the technical side, just concentrate on good images. Who cares how you got there.....have good clean and correct exposure and you don't have to worry about metering and under/over adjustment. One more story....In the beginning of my career I shot a Hasselblad 500c. I was poor and it was expensive, I got some decent images and entered a Commercial competition....I felt good about the images as did the other 100 people that entered, I'm sure. We all got smoked by someone no one knew that had a little studio in big town. His photograph was awesome.....I cornered him as struck up a conversation. Here I was with a degree and all the right stuff, ran around with friends that were big in the industry and this kid took that image with two Smith Victor photo floods and a twin lens reflex and not a great one at that.....he had learned from books and this was his first convention.....I changed my opinion of myself and my approach right there.....I will remember that kid until my dying day.....I don't think he ever had great success, I never saw him more than twice after that. But basically that was my epiphany.

Thanks for listening to an old man....I always tryed to use a good marriage of effort and technique. When you get old, try and pay it forward by helping folks, like on this forum.

Yeah, I've heard the same kind of story from others, that camera companies are hard to work with and make profitability extremely hard. I don't think there is a single camera store left around here... There used to be half a dozen at least, plus a scattering of truly specialized and more hard-core camera stores that had old guard guys that knew EVERYTHING about photography, of every kind, from old old film cameras, classic bellows field and landscape large format cameras, to digital (this was over a decade ago now I guess), and had every kind of lighting thing you could imagine (or at least, that was what it seemed like back then). Some of those guys could process any kind of film, enlarge it to just about any size... None of those camera stores exist anymore. Its really sad... I guess that's kind of the same for almost anything these days, though... Online megastores are crushing every mom and pop store they can. I don't think I've seen a bookstore in years. There are no longer any ham radio/electronics stores around, not even Radio Shack (they abandoned and betrayed their true hardcore customer though, in favor of selling cheap phones and crappy batteries, so its not surprising.) There is only one real computer store left around here: Microcenter.

Its really sad what the internet has done to main street these days. And what these huge companies we have now have done to the smaller sellers, sapping up almost any room to be profitable. And of course, what smartphones have done to the photography/camera industry. Its been decimated by it all... Sad thing is, no matter how good they get relative to themselves, the ultra tiny sensors used in smart phone cameras cannot and never will hold a stick to a larger format sensor, or for that matter to larger formats of film. You can only do so much with a tiny fraction of a fingernail's worth of light!

I agree that technique is paramount. That is why I'm doing all this research about lighting. Trying to learn the techniques that work... Having good technology can help too, though. I think, someone who demonstrates great skill with poorer quality technology, would demonstrate phenomenal skill with higher quality technology. Wonder what that kid would have done with your Hassy 500c. ;)
 
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jrista

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Well, I finally have some free time. Still playing around with the reflective low key photography. Took these photos of three sets of five pens I made for a customer recently:

Blue Mahoe and Chrome.jpg


Goncalo Alves and Chrome.jpg


Walnut and Chrome.jpg


One of the challenging things with this dark environment is background. I had to process each of these photos to remove reflections of the surrounding reflectors and lights. Dust is also a huge issue. Even after cleaning the field to the point it appeared to my eyes to be clean, in the photos, especially after a light bit of sharpening, there was still a ton of dust particles. So I did some dust & scratch removal with photoshop and some carefully placed masks. Also a bit of healing brush where the dust & scratch filter did not work. In the end, the photos cleaned up nicely, but yeah...dust is a REAL problem with this low-key photography stuff...
 

moke

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Jrista- Those look nice, and yes P/S is a fact of life when it comes to low key and especially on a reflective surface......not to be critical, but a huge key to low key is separation. Make the pens really pop...more top/back light is needed. If you look at the tops of the pens, you need more separation from the background. Make the end of the pens reflect more. Make no mistake this is a very good effort and would probably be acceptable in most studios, but to really get that over the top look....more power to the boom light.

I always liked low key for the drama in which it creates, but in portraiture and some Commercial, I began to use it less and less it. Because, in a low quality publication, like a newspaper or some low end brochures it required, it just got muddy or blah. So when the customer requested a low key and it was going to be used in Newsprint I pumped the "boom" light up even more. Remember though, it's a garlic light....at some point too much garlic will spoil the meal. It's a fine line.

I do applaud your efforts...good job...but you are definitely capable of taking this over the top. Your efforts of lighting a myriad of reflective surfaces is awesome! Make no mistake the addition of that light is going to complicate reflections...... You are so very close.

Edit...I forgot to mention that your pens are nice too!
 

leehljp

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I don't know the technical words nor techniques as Mike has written, but I am learning from him. But what he said - that is what I noticed that I can't describe correctly.

Mike: "Top - Backlight". That is what is missing to me.
 

moke

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Dec 30, 2009
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Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Hank....the reflection along the right side of the pen is called a highlight....I would like to see that "go over the top" that way the top of the pen has a highlight too.....I call that a Boom light, but in a small product setting like this, it would really not have to be on a boom. Some folks call it a hair light even though it is not on hair...They use the hair light reference because hair is on the top of our head...well most folks....and the light is used for hair in portraits too.
To make a comparison to hair, when the hair has a slight highlight on it, it stops dark hair from blending with the dark background. We call that "falling into the background" In extreme cases, it may look like the face is just hovering without hair. When the highlight is on top, it makes the subject pop off the page or often referred to as 3 dimensional....
 

jrista

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Aug 12, 2021
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Colorado
Jrista- Those look nice, and yes P/S is a fact of life when it comes to low key and especially on a reflective surface......not to be critical, but a huge key to low key is separation. Make the pens really pop...more top/back light is needed. If you look at the tops of the pens, you need more separation from the background. Make the end of the pens reflect more. Make no mistake this is a very good effort and would probably be acceptable in most studios, but to really get that over the top look....more power to the boom light.

I always liked low key for the drama in which it creates, but in portraiture and some Commercial, I began to use it less and less it. Because, in a low quality publication, like a newspaper or some low end brochures it required, it just got muddy or blah. So when the customer requested a low key and it was going to be used in Newsprint I pumped the "boom" light up even more. Remember though, it's a garlic light....at some point too much garlic will spoil the meal. It's a fine line.

I do applaud your efforts...good job...but you are definitely capable of taking this over the top. Your efforts of lighting a myriad of reflective surfaces is awesome! Make no mistake the addition of that light is going to complicate reflections...... You are so very close.

Edit...I forgot to mention that your pens are nice too!
Thanks! ----^

Moke, you are dead on about the tops of the pens. Their darkness presented quite a challenge to masking off the true background to eliminate the reflections there. And the tops of the lens do blend right into the background. I don't even like that aspect of the photos myself. I have more lighting and reflection gear on the way, with more tripods to hold more reflectors and such. I am still watching videos of other people doing low key/reflective product photography. There are so many ways of doing things out there. Interestingly, some photographers place a blackout card or something behind the subject to block light. They only bother to cover the area of the product, and allow any background lighting to still flow around that blocker. They then simply erase the parts of the light that extend around the blackout card in photoshop. So many ways of doing things...

This is a long-haul journey. ;) I'll be working on perfecting this for a while. I plan to share my experiences as I go, hopefully to help others who follow along, and I welcome more advice in the future.
 
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moke

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Dec 30, 2009
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Cedar Rapids, Iowa
The blockers are refferd to as "GOBO" for "go between". I am sure you have heard that term before. THe other way of doing that is "barn doors" THose are attached to the lights, and literally look like doors.....The gobo's are not attached to the light. They work better but are a PITA to mess with!
 
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