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03-07-2013, 09:43 AM   #1
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Studio shots with no studio equipment

I am trying to take a decent picture of a shiny metal object "floating" in a white background. You know, a typical studio product shot like this-

But, I have no studio equipment. No lighting, no remote flashes, no seamless white drapes, not even an external flash. I do have a K-5, K20, K-01, an assortment of lens good enough to get the job done, and abundant Florida sunshine. But so far the best of my redneck engineering gets only as far as this-


That came from lining a chair with white cardstock paper, tying thin wire from arm to arm to float the object above it, and using a white card angled in front of the K-01 flash to divert it to the left, where it bounced off shiny white paper onto the object. That's why you can see the light source coming from the left and not making it all the way across. I haven't bothered to 'shop out the wire since I'm not happy with the outcome to this point. And the above is after heavy lightening in Levels and Curves to get it this far. Trying to get the right half white blows out the reflective metal even worse than it is.

I'm caught in that loop of the image on the camera looking white, but it comes out grey once downloaded on the computer. I've messed with setting a custom white balance to something close to a light grey, and the whites look white on the camera, but not when downloaded. I could just paint bucket color the background to white in Photoshop, but with the close silvers in the object, I start to lose chunks of it and I don't really like the fake end look anyway. I don't know how to flood the background with enough light to make it render white, without the light hitting the metal object and making blinding glare.

Here is the best of another angle. It is standing on its own on a desk over white paper with more reflective white paper up behind it. K-01 flash was covered with a folded over paper napkin. Still more shadow and presence of background than I want. But I do like the truer "metal" look instead of the over-contrasted version above.



So, experts, how can I get the desired results without any equipment? Granted, I could practically erase around the edges pixel by pixel, but I need at least three angles of this thing and I'd rather not drive myself that crazy.

03-07-2013, 09:46 AM   #2
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I'd go and get several clamp-lamps with the same temperature bulb (cooler the better) and put them all around your subject. This eliminates shadows, gets a nice even light over everything, and shouldn't cost much. Just use the white balance tool in Lightroom to overcome the lamp temps.

I use something like this:


Gives me shots like this (used white printer paper as the background)

03-07-2013, 10:02 AM   #3
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Reflective metal objects with strong specular highlights like the metal objects in your post are very difficult to light for white backgrounds without blowing out part of the object. I'm willing to bet that the example image you posted was heavily edited in Photoshop in order to remove the background and create the "floating" look. It also looks like the item was suspended by string or fishing line which was "mostly" removed in Photoshop (you can still see bits of it on the rings at the top).

Edit: Oh, and when I'm shooting product shots on white background I use one of these with continuous lighting on the sides:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/386545-REG/Impact_DLS_XL_Digital_Light_Shed.html

Last edited by JJJPhoto; 03-07-2013 at 10:12 AM.
03-07-2013, 10:25 AM   #4
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Adjust the "curves" in post - if the shadows are not harsh, a very simple and quick adjustment of the curves will fix.

03-07-2013, 10:31 AM   #5
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You need to diffuse the light somehow ... that will help with shiny objects. And you need lights ... even if is just some house lamps.
As for floating ... fishing strings.

Here is a nice tutorial on how to take photo of shiny objects:

03-07-2013, 11:35 AM   #6
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Build yourself a tent. Use it outside if you don't have an alternative.
How to Make An Inexpensive Light Tent – DIY
03-07-2013, 02:50 PM   #7
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John, brilliantly simple!

When I was putting everyone's comments together in my head, I was thinking of fashioning something that worked like that to take outside. But I'm sure I wouldn't have come up with something as tidy and simple.

Thank you to JinDesu for the lighting idea and JJJ for the picture of what I actually needed to emulate. From Newt's video I was trying to think of what I could use as a sheer diffuser.

I knew that not getting enough light, and then not having the light diffused enough was the problem. Hence my rough set-up of white reflecting papers and using the flash through a napkin. But I wasn't getting enough of either.

I think I will give the light box a go. I probably have enough stuff laying around the house to go ahead and make one. Thank you all for the input and links!

Oh, and the pix I put up were already heavily lightened with curves in Photoshop. Trying to remove the remaining shadow took too much of the tone from the metal. And I did concoct a way to hang the thing, and will do so again in the new box.

Something to look forward to this weekend!
03-07-2013, 06:19 PM   #8
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You might find some more ideas here. Lights | DIYPhotography.net

03-08-2013, 07:03 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wzdevito Quote
I am trying to take a decent picture of a shiny metal object "floating" in a white background. You know, a typical studio product shot like this-
I suspect the example photo in the original post used a light table - and probably a big softbox. The back light of the table is the easiest way to eliminate shadows behind an object and achieve a pure white without overexposure of the item being photographed.

Daylight (6500K) fluorescent lighting is now inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain, and white translucent plastic panels shouldn't be difficult to find at low cost either. A yard-sale used folding card table with the top removed would make a great support for the plastic panel. Just lay the lights under the table and adjust for even coverage. Everything easily packs up and gets out of the way when not in use. Use more of the same fluorescent lights above the table to light your subject so you only have one light type to white balance. I would highly recommend using an incident light meter to set your exposure, or at a minimum a grey card.
04-19-2013, 02:50 PM   #10
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Thank you all for your advice, it got me started down the path of knowing what to look for. With your suggestions, I made this...



And lit it with 4 blinding daylight CFL's. The final pictures came from the K-5 with tin foil reflecting light back on the object front instead of the paper over the K-01 flash (in pic). With editing help from this page, I ended up with something fairly respectable...




That's a long way from where I started and they look great in the document I was making. Thank you all for the direction!
04-20-2013, 03:43 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by wzdevito Quote
they look great in the document I was making
I would agree, very good images, you've got it cracked, onwards and upwards.
04-20-2013, 06:02 AM   #12
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Wow. That was quite the tent for DIY. I am way impressed!
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