Sunday, 12 August 2007

Product Photo: Wristwatch on Black Background

We start with the black base that we're going to have for the image. It's a smooth food preparation mat which I got out of the local supermarket. For speed and simplicity, I have a small light box which cost me £10 (on special deal - normally £20 at maplin - seems to be a deal going on instore). It folds flat for transport/storage, and can be set up in seconds when needed. This too expensive, or awkward to get? Just use the strobist approach for next to free. For convenience though, splashing out is well worth it.

We then add two flashes on either side, both at the same low power (we're just wanting to add highlights, not actually light the watch). They are zoomed in so that they don't fill the entire diffuser, giving a softer edge to the watch highlights.

Nowhere near it, but it's a start. We next add a single flash in behind the watch, to the left hand side. This fires upwards and bounces light off the top diffuser of the light box. It is similarly zoomed in, and relatively low power.

The above image is pretty close, but the light isn't very even. We need to fill in those dark downward shadows to create a more polished look. For small products like this, I have small reflectors made up from foam core board. I have cut them to allow a small piece of foam core board to act as a stand. They can be positioned and angled wherever required. You can see them more closely in the video at the end.

That's the final image. With a bit of photoshop work to take out the light on the bottom black area, a quick curves adjustment and cropping, this is the final product shot.

Here's a couple of setup shots.

Here's the shoot video to see all the stuff in between, and also get a closer look at those little reflectors.



Compliment for Your Work.. is Fantastic

One Question .. Sorry Who is this Celtic Grups ?

Regards MAurizio Bruno

n506 said...

Hi Maurizio

Thanks for your kind words.

As for "Celtic Grups", you've lost me...I don't understand what you're talking about?




Hi Mister Neil

Thanks for your reply.

I looked at your blog ..... in the month of August 2007 ... you have created a file You Tube where you've got a nice music .. I was wondering who that was playing.
here's the link

However if you do not remember is not a problem.

I admire your work very photography ... it would be nice for me to do good as your photos .... to my subjects.


Hi Mister Neil

Thanks for your reply.

I looked at your blog ..... in the month of August 2007 ... you have created a file You Tube where you've got a nice music .. I was wondering who that was playing.
here's the link

However if you do not remember is not a problem.

I admire your work very photography ... it would be nice for me to do good as your photos .... to my subjects.

Regards Maurizio

n506 said...

Ah right, all becomes clear.

Well the music is by a well known irish band, which begins with "C" and ends with "orrs". Wouldn't want them to do a search and find this, so I'll not write it out fully :p

Hopefully they won't mind me using a little of their music though, given I'm a big fan and bought quite a number of their CDs and videos!


Hi Neil

Thank you for giving me the information ... a very beautiful music.

No worry is not their agent .... LOL ....

Greetings Maurizio

Pongky said...

Hi Neil, very inspiring video and setup for very few bucks (except the 3 flashes) - to me, if you can afford 3 flashes, you can afford a decent lightbox =)

I also wanted to ask, you didn't have a flash on your camera, so how did you trigger the 3 flashes to fire simultaneously? Those look like 580ex flashes to me?

Please let me know, I have 2 580ex and would love to put them away from my camera body - but the only way I can think of doing is that is to use an external sync cord.

Thanks in advance!

n506 said...

Hi Pongky

Perhaps by the time you've afforded three flashes, you might not have much for a lightbox! That said, everything I did can be done by any flashgun which has manual power settings, and some method of triggering it off-camera. Even desk lamps and some ND filter gel can do the job, if you've got a tripod for the lower shutter speeds required. Light is just light - how you choose to produce it is up to you. Obviously, given I have a few speedlites kicking about, that's my obvious choice.

I actually did have a flash, of sorts, on the camera. It's called the Canon ST-E2. It's basically a small flashgun with an infra-red filter on it, so it doesn't affect the exposure of the image. It allows the camera to communicate with the flashguns and trigger them. Not quite as versatile as a flashgun, which has more "master" controls, but handy in that it's small. As for the flashguns, one was a 580EX and two were 550Ex flahguns.

Alternative methods of triggering would be a small manual flash on the camera, and other flashguns capable of operating as slave flashes. Nikon, Vivitar and others make flashes which can do this. Canon have their own system as usual, but being coded, it means other flashes won't make it fire (quite useful when shooting with other photographers).

The other option that doesn't involve cords would be radio triggers. You can have anything from the "ebay" triggers which are very cheap but quite poor, right up to professional equipment like pocket wizards. In my opinion, these are overkill for a setup like this, where there's plenty of ceiling and walls to bounce light about, and therefore trigger optically, without the need for additional equipment. In more complex larger setups, where surfaces to bounce light aren't available, ambient light is very bright, or flashes need to be places out of sight, radio triggers are of course very valueable, and I use pocket wizards for this type of work very regularly.

Given you have two 580EX flashguns, you already have the capability to have one as master and the second as a slave remotely. Keeping with Canon therefore, given that's what you have, the ST-E2 is the cheapest upgrade path, allowing you to either use E-TTL flash power control (camera decides), letting you control power ratio between the two flashguns, or you can set the power on the flashguns manually, then use the ST-E2 just to trigger them with a coded signal (won't trigger with just any flashgun from another photographer). Next up would be another 580EX, which will offer advantages like full manual control from the 580EX on the camera, so you don't have to physically touch the other two flashguns. Great when you want to place the flashguns up out of reach, for example during a show of some sort. Beyond that, there's radio triggers as I mentioned, but you'll also need to get a hold of hotshoe adapters with a cable to plug into the radio triggers unless you have the latest 580EXII model, because the previous model didn't have a PC socket to plug into.

An example of such an adapter is the following:

If you have any other questions, or want me to explain anything I've said more fully, just drop me another comment and I'll get back to you!

pongky said...

Hi there, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in such a lengthy post, thanks for the tips. After doing some multi-flash shots last night, I have come to realize that I needed to get something to trigger them wirelessly - and by googling I did read about the ST-E2, what a wonderful little device - allowing you to focus assist in pitch darkness thanks to the IR assist, and more importantly - trigger flashguns. I was hoping to get something less expensive, as photography doesn't pay my bills (as yet =) ) - so about $200 for a used one on ebay is kinda expensive. I got these 580ex for less than that each - but I do see the value in the compact form factor of the ST-E2.

Anyway, again, thanks for the writeup - now I know my options. For now, I might just get a regular sync cord until I have the bankroll to buy a ST-E2. Sheesh, photography is one money-sucking hobby eh? Are you a pro?


n506 said...

The ST-E2 does only one thing better than a 580EX flashgun as a master controller, and that is it sits nicely on the camera and is light. In every other way, it's not as good. You mentioned focus assist, so just wanted to say, don't expect it to be as good as what is on your 580EX. It isn't.

As for price, I just had a look, and they do seem to have gone up in price. I'm sure I only paid about £120-130 for mine, but I could be wrong. They're now about £160 unless you're buying from hong kong.

It's unfortunate you've already got the 580EX flashguns because it limits your possibilities with optical triggering. There are other flashguns could fire from a straight flash, which can be provided by any number of small ST-E2 like devices, but without the complicated encoding circuitry to make sure it only fires specific flashes.

A sync cord will drive you nuts pretty quickly. If you're only wanting to work with small setups, you might be worth looking at something like the "ebay" radio triggers. You'd need two receivers and one transmitter, which depending where you buy, would set you back about £30-40, which isn't bad. They'll be a bit annoying, and depending on which ones you get, you might get some misfires, but they'll do the job for unpaid fun. They'll also reduce your sync speed to 1/125s rather than 1/200 or 1/250s because the radio system is just a bit slow on them. Just not up to the job if you start doing it seriously. Nothing worse than equipment messing about when you've got a client watching...

Anonymous said...

Can you tell if the Dunlop guitar pedal images ( ) were produced in a box like the one described, or is that some kind of PhotoShop effect?

n506 said...


I had a look at the Jim Dunlop page. Some of the reflections look a touch fake, but I think it's just they've darkened them towards the bottom and possibly blurred them a bit more.

They will have either been photographed in a light box like the one I described, or they'll have been using a setup of large softboxes and reflectors. The end result is essentially the same though. It's just cheaper to keep the light source closer and therefore smaller with a light box. In many cases where products are larger though, I'll set up large softboxes, or even large diffusion frames depending on how much space I need for the product and how soft I need the light across the product. Even if you have a 30' frame on both sides of a truck and one hanging in above, you're still just effectively lighting the same way you would light a wristwatch.

The reflections will just be a shiny material for the base. The standard for a really good reflection is a piece of glass over a black paper, which creates an almost mirror like reflection. There are then a variety of materials you can use depending on how diffused you want the reflection.

darrell moddy said...
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