Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Product Photo: Electronic Device with screen

Sometimes taking a photograph of a product just isn't enough. You have to show what the product actually does. In the case of an electronic device with a small screen, such as an mp3 player (in this case a Sandisk Sansa Express 2GB), the screen will not likely be very bright. Using flash to take a photograph of a device such as this therefore becomes a matter of balancing the flash light with the ambient light (the screen).

First, we need to see what exposure we need to get a decently bright looking screen. Just a matter of trial and error till you find it. In this case, I got an exposure of 1/15s @ f/5.6, ISO 400. This unfortunately means that the lights on the ceiling above are starting to come into play which normally isn't the case with flash product photography. You can see that the orange background I'm using has been lit darkly by the ceiling light.

This problem is swiftly dealt with by switching off the ceiling light so it doesn't mess with the exposure. Unfortunately this means working in low light with just the light from another room shining in so I can see what I'm doing.

Next step is to light the background. I decided before hand that I wanted to use the background to draw attention to the product, so I wanted a streak of light across the background right behind the product. To do this, I used a snoot on a flashgun and fired it across the background, such that it shines up the back of the paper.

Not quite where I want it, so I adjust the snooted flash a bit to the left so the streak appears higher in our image.

That's pretty well sorted for the background, so now it's a matter of lighting the actual product. I got a small gridded softbox that I've made and used in previous product photos I've posted here, and positioned it just to the left of the product shining across the front.

This proved a little heavy. You can see it's over-lighting the controls, and given we'll want to show up the screen, this isn't very helpful. Not only that, but the background shows a bit of a dark stripe where the light from the softbox is creeping in right at the bottom. To fix this, I moved the softbox further left and further back. This means the spill will be more evenly across the background, leaving the lower area a little touch brighter, and the product will show only the slightest hint of side lighting to pick up the shapes and contours of it.

This is starting to look the part, but you'll notice the product name and the lower edges of the controls are orange. This is because the softbox is lighting the orange paper below the player which is then reflecting up in the shiny edges. To sort this, I get some white reflectors. One goes underneath the player so rather than orange, the reflections become white. The second one is to add some fill to the edges on the right to bring out a little more of the depth of the control layout.

That's much better, and just about how I want it. The only thing left is to take a version of this shot which has the screen switched on. Having played with the player, I knew there was a menu option named "Music" which was kinda cool, and I thought was a good choice of screen to show.

With a bit of PS aided magic, the jack plug and clamp which support the mp3 player disappear, leaving the mp3 player floating. Now you start to see better why I opted for the stripe on the background.

Here's a couple of setup shots for you to look at


Branden said...

This is fantastic! The final image is great, and the setup shots are priceless. I just purchased my second strobe (Vivitar 285HV) as well as some Elinchrom Skyports, in fact they just arrived yesterday. This blog has already given me some great ideas. Thanks again!

n506 said...

Glad to know it's of use to you, and thanks for taking the time to say so. Always great getting feedback!

I'd be interested to hear how you get on with the Elinchrom Skyports. I can't really justify the money for pocket wizards, and the ebay ones aren't awfully great. I'm looking at either the skyports or the bowens pulsar triggers, but I'm seriously thinking it might be worth holding off till summer and getting a set of radio popper junior triggers, if they do come to market.

Anonymous said...

I've learned a lot from your videos. The way you can achieve an effect or certain reflection.

I know it is time-consuming to take photos and to make a 'making of' .

Thanks for that.