This week I decided to anticipate my usual weekly post with recent photography. During the holidays I found some time to catch up on some photography projects, which is how last week’s post comparing full frame and crop sensors came about. Another project that had been waiting for a bit was to play a bit with product photography. Specifically there was this bottle of German brandy that I didn’t want to open before taking a shot. And since it’s winter (well, sort of, over here) it’s the right time.
Now this type of photography is something I really enjoy, but sadly don’t do enough of. It’s as technical as photography gets (except for remote sensing type stuff) and hits a chord with this academic. I also find it to be rather meditative, tinkering around to get things just-so. A few years ago two friends of mine (if you’re reading this, hi!) gave a practical presentation on flash lighting at the photographic society, and I was hooked. Soon after that I also enjoyed going through a copy of “Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting” that another friend and colleague lent me. This is a fantastic introduction to setting up lighting for photography, and I think it’s a must-read for anyone wanting to get into that kind of thing (a.k.a. strobist).
Only thing is that unless you have a fixed setup this kind of photography can take a while. I think I spent about six hours on this shot. Half of that was fighting with my strobes’ wireless trigger, which (for the first time ever) decided not to cooperate with my camera. So the strobes would dutifully fire away as soon as I press the test button on my trigger, but wouldn’t acknowledge the camera signal. After lots of circuit testing I figured it’s just a bad contact with the hot shoe, which is hard to fix. Thankfully I had other options, so all was not lost. Meanwhile, I have an adaptor in the post that should help me resolve the problem.
A particular kind of shot I really like for bottles is this dark-field arrangement. Of course you need some light through the bottle itself or whatever inside will just be black. And you also need to play around with specular reflections to give the bottle some shape. In this case I set up a single strobe camera left, with a soft box attached to diffuse the light. You can see its large specular reflection on the left of the bottle. I cut a piece of cardboard in the shape of the bottle, and placed it behind the bottle at 45° to reflect enough light through the bottle itself. Finally, a small white card at the back (camera right, just out of view) provides the specular reflection on the right of the bottle. This nicely defines the shape. Processing was very simple, just minor tweaks to the tone curve. All the work was done in camera. Now all that remains is to open the bottle.