Back in the studio with lights

I’d like to start this post by saying “Thank You” to my wife and business partner Sharon for her constant support on this photography adventure.  It was because of her that we’ve established a studio location which affords us the opportunity to make full use of our light equipment without having to continually drag it out.

With the onset of colder weather here in Colorado my desire to be outside shooting is very low, having a studio location has been a huge benefit.  Recently I was looking for photography ideas and stumbled upon an article about photographing smoke.

Having done this type of shoot in the past I thought it might be fun to revisit this subject.  There were a couple of things that I identified during the planning of this shoot.

1.  Would like to use a “safe” source for the smoke.     

    2.  Want to reduce strong smell created by smoke

In the past I had used incense as a smoke source.  While this is a relatively safe source, the odor from incense can be very pungent and takes a long time to dissipate.  I also considered using a candle, but this poses many of the same issues as incense.  It was looking like I might be forced to use one of these two sources when it dawned on me that Sharon has an essential oils mister. SCORE!

Now that I had a safe source for smoke (or mist) in this case it was time to set up the lights.  For this shot I used two lights (one on each side) with matching stripbox light modifiers and grids against a solid black backdrop.

So why did I chose to light this using side lighting?  The primary reason was to retain definition in the smoke.  Had this image been lit using a light straight on from the front it would have flattened the mist losing detail.

Another issue with front lighting is minimizing light from falling on the backdrop.  This is where the grids on the stripboxes help limit where the falls, as you can see from the small strips of light on each side of the mister.  Without the grids the light would have wrapped around the front edge.

Now that I had the image it was time for post processing.  In order to make the image more dramatic I decided convert the base image to B&W and add some color to the mist.  The great thing about the process used to add color in Photoshop is I could change it to any color that I wanted.  This gave me an idea of combining three copies of the one image and using different colors.  Here is my “patriotic” edition.

Sharon and I have been asked in the past about how to reduce light hotspots or reflections when doing product photography.  Not only does this lighting setup provide a very dramatic effect it can be extremely useful for product photography.

Using the same setup as above I decided to do some test shots of my guitar.  Moving the lights slightly closer to the camera but still parallel to the subject I was able to achieve good front lighting without creating any harsh reflections.

This image perfectly demonstrates my previous point about side-lighting for product photography.  The finish on the guitar is very glossy which if lit from the front would have produced reflections of any light source which would could be distracting.

As you’re already aware I’m a big fan of using external lights for photography, both indoor and outdoor.  That being said I would like to  encourage you, the reader, to experiment with different lighting angles.

If you have any questions regarding the equipment or techniques used please feel free to contact me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.