Saturday, November 10, 2012

A little taste of home

A family friend who has just been back to the UK for a visit, brought back a bottle of Spitfire for my son, so I figured I'd hijack it before he could drink it, and use it as a subject to practice my lighting on. This was the result of my first attempt - I can see some areas for improvement, so I'll have another go at it if I can persuade him not to drink it first...

I want to try and find some software that will allow me to do some setup diagrams - until then, I'll just have to try and describe the setup for you - but I've included a photo of it below.

The whole setup was done in the kitchen on the worktop, with a very DIY studio.  First off, I draped a white cloth across the worktop, with enough hanging off the back to form a backdrop.  Then I placed a sheet of glass (rescued from a broken scanner) on the cloth to provide a reflection.  I propped up a breadboard at the back and draped the rest of the white cloth over it as a backdrop.  I had the camera on the tripod level with the label on the bottle, giving a nice low angle so the rear edge of the glass wouldn't show.

For lighting, I used a speedlight off-camera with a radio trigger.  This was placed to the right of the camera, slightly in front of the bottle, to provide a bit of a highlight, but pointing past the bottle and onto the backdrop.  I used the omnibounce and flash spread set to 14mm to get an even spread across the backdrop which was less than 1m away.  The flash was set to 1/16th power.

I set the camera to 1/160th and f/5.6 in manual mode, and using my 18-55 lens, zoomed in to catch some space above the bottle, and an equivalent amount of the reflection below.  I took a test shot without the flash to make sure I had eliminated any ambient light, so that the only light in the picture would be from the flash - mainly being reflected back from the backdrop.  Unfortunately, being lit from behind, this put the front label in shade, so I used a sheet of white paper as a reflector right next to the camera lens on the left, to reflect some of that light from the background onto the label and illuminate the front of the bottle.

Of course, the most important detail was to leave the beer in the fridge for a few hours, to ensure I had some nice condensation on the bottle (though this could have been added at the end using a water spray), and that it was nice and cold when I drank it (oops, sorry son!).

Here's the setup picture...

So - I mentioned I felt there was room for improvement...

  • The background is extremely white on the right, but has a slight blue cast top left as the light started to drop off - I'm wondering if I could exaggerate that a bit,by using a snoot or some other modifier to restrict the light from the flash, or zoom it in to 105mm rather than a wide 14mm spread, and have a more dramatic graduated background.  My son suggested having a Union Flag instead of plain white.
  • The highlight on the right hand side is a little too bright, but taking the flash down a stop made the whole image too dark.  Perhaps a diffuser between the flash and the bottle would have helped.
  • There is still a darker area right the way down the middle of the labels - especially noticeable on the Spitfire outline on the neck label.  Perhaps a bigger/better reflector would have put more light on the front.
  • The neck label is not quite in line with the main label. I may be able to rectify this by taking a second shot after rotating the bottle slightly so the neck label is lined up with the camera,and then combining the two shots in Photoshop (10,000 miles is a long way to go to buy another bottle which IS lined up).
Let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas how to improve it.
Happy Snappin'

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