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In the Shooting with Wireless Flash series, award-winning photographer Jim Sugar demonstrates his approach to using off-camera flash in a variety of lighting scenarios, sharing practical tips along the way.
In this installment, Jim sets up and shoots a product shot. He demonstrates a variety of inexpensive lighting tools—clamps, gels, and other light modifiers—to light a product (in this course, a bicycle) in a way that accurately shows its color and other details. Next, he photographs the product using Adobe Lightroom's tethered shooting mode in order to be able to immediately assess his exposures on the computer screen. The course wraps up with a some tips that apply to product shots of all kinds. With its focus on lighting technique rather than specific strobe models and menu commands, these techniques are applicable to any brand of strobe and camera.
I have only short three exposures so far, but each exposure is better than the preceding photo. But I want to try it one more time just to see if I can make it better one more time yet, and I think I can. And the advantage is, I still have one more strobe left. So now what I would like to do, is to take this strobe, and put it on the floor, take the one in dead center that's lined up with the center of the bicycle on the foreground, and move it over, and have two parallel strobes on either side, firing into the four, And seeing what I can do, by adding a single light.
And I think by adding a single light, I can take the photograph and make it better still one more time. And by better, I mean brighter, more accurate in terms of color, and just a better representation of the product. So let's just try that. So I have one last SP800, because we only have five strobes at our disposal. And again it's attached to this Justin clamp. So all four of the strobes on the floor are working on Justin clamps, and I put it in place, and now I aim it down.
Again, I want to keep it out of the frame, and so I know that at this distance from here to here, that this strobe will be out of the frame. So I have got this light bouncing into the floor, and now I am going to take this light and move it over, and put it at an equivalent distance on this side. And by doing that, I think that I have got a symmetrical positioning of the lights in the foreground, and symmetrical positioning of the lights in the background. But I now have more light coming from the bottom.
So again, it's butterfly lighting: top or bottom lighting. We have light coming from the top; we have the light coming from the bottom: sources. One large source from an umbrella, and a single source from the bottom with two origins of light. And I go back to the computer, and I go up to the Capture button. Hit it with a one click, and this photograph looks awfully good. Now I think that by adding the light a couple of things happened.
I have created greater detail on each of the two wheels at the bottom, which I like a lot. So here, if I go up and look at the bottom of the wheel, the wheels look really great, and the spikes are really well defined. And if I go over and look at the other side, it looks great, but it's also balanced. The two wheels are balanced. I like what the light did on the overall look of the photo. I left the light on the top alone, and now I've added just light from the bottom.
I think I can make it just slightly better. And what I want to do is to take the exposure down on the bicycle, and leave the exposure on the background alone. So if I go back to the camera, and I go back up here to the SU-800, I can go up here and I can change these buttons in such a way that I have affected only the two floor lights that are bouncing up into the bicycle, but I have left the backlights alone, which is what I have just done.
So I am going to take a picture one more time, and this time, if I have gotten it right, the bicycle is going to get slightly darker. The bicycle got slightly darker by about a half stop, and the white stayed the same. So with the slightest change, the fifth exposure, the image looks great. The bike looks great. The background is clean. It's very white. The photograph works well as a stand-alone image, and it also will work well if the client chooses to put it into a background.
So if I magnify the image, and look at it carefully, I can see that I've gotten really nice limelight over all the horizontal surfaces here. And then I come down to the wheel, and the front wheel looks good, the spokes look good. Each one is individually lit. I come back, and I've got a nice catch light here on the bottom. I come back to the rear wheel; I can see that the light looks really great. And I know that I was able to make this very simply, and I was able to light the bike in such a way that the products looks great.
And the product was made to look great through the light. So we had four lights on the floor: two of them bouncing into the foreground that was lighting the floor. The floor in turn was, the light was reflected up or bounced up, and lighting the bicycle. Two more lights lighting the cove in the background. And the fifth light was a light from overhead, a bounce light, that was coming into this umbrella that's brought in very, very close to the top of the bicycle, And it's lighting the bike, from top to bottom. And I was able to do it five lights.
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