A regular job that was fun and straightforward. Traditional photography lives.

You've read about the Cows and you've read about next generation transportation so I thought we'd throttle back a little bit and look at a job that may seem less glamorous and cutting edge but which, in fact, takes just as much photographic skill and business expertise.  Shooting products.  There's an Austin based company called, Salient Systems and they are a leading provider of IP video surveillance software, video management systems with IP video servers, and hybrid CCTV software.  Their stuff comes in rack mountable enclosures and they call from time to time and ask me to photograph new products.  I do so happily. 

It was easiest for the client for me to go on location.  I bought a short roll of white, seamless paper and then packed up the essentials.  I shot everything with a Canon 5Dmk2 and an assortment of Zeiss ZE lenses.  The lighting was fairly simple.  I used an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 monolight with a Fotodiox 18 inch beauty dish from the left side of the frame.  I tried to feather it so that the penumbra of the light evenly illuminated the front of the chassis. I added a second D-Lite 4 monolight with a 28 inch Fofodiox beauty dish, covered with a white diffuser from the right as a fill light.   I kept the ratio between the two lights about a stop and half apart to provide a bit of modeling for the product.  On the products shot from above and angled I carefully focused about 1/3rd of the way into the proscribed area I wanted to have in sharp focus.  So in the shot above I would focus just in front of the second vent row.  In the days of view camera photography we learned that focus extends 1/3rd in front of the point of actual sharp focus and 2/3rd's behind.  By carefully selecting where you place the point of sharp focus you'll be able to control depth of field.  I used f14 with a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second at ISO 160-320.  I used the high shutter speed sync to keep any room or exterior sunlight from shifting the color balance.

When I got back to the studio I processed the raw files in PhotoShop CS5 ACR and tried to establish a uniform color temperature and uniform look to sharpening and perspective control.  At these ISO's no additional noise reduction was necessary.  I dropped out the backgrounds, cleaned up the products and output 60mb uncompressed tiffs as well as smaller (2.5 meg) jpegs which I immediately uploaded onto a server for my client's use and approval.  In addition to the products here we also photographed a number of technical products that can't be shown because they are currently proprietary.

In all we had 14 shots and I chose to deliver them on a DVD because of the sizes.  It was also a nice opportunity to provide a higher level of service to my client.  The finished work will have drop shadows added and may be otherwise modified by their advertising agency.  At this point my work is done.  Not quite bikini models on a tropical beach but a job in which you could develop a nice rhythm and bring to bear your lighting skills, your shooting skills and your post processing skills in the service of pure commerce.  I like those kinds of jobs.  

I packed just right.  Two sizes of beauty dishes which took the place of a big broad flood and an efficient small softbox.  I brought a bag full of Elinchrom lights (four in all) because the bag was light and back-up is good.  I also never know when capriciousness will strike and I'll want to add more lights to the mix.  I carried three Zeiss lenses, the 35mm f2, the 50mm f1.4,  and the 85mm 1.4 but I knew I'd do everything with the 50mm.  I also carried the Canon 50 2.5 macro and the 70-200mm f4 L but they never saw daylight.  Everything fit on one cart so I didn't bother with an assistant.  I wanted to make the job as efficient and cost effective as possible for the client......and I think it turned out that way.

Just thought I'd show a job that is perhaps more in line with the kind of work we did before the bust and what we may be doing more of after the recovery really kicks in.  And that's good with me.


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Nice job, Kirk, and thanks for the explanation. Just as good as a chapter from one of your books.

Rick Dickinson said...

Very nice work. Thanks for sharing the approach you used.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Darn it Kirk -- posts like this are what make your blog as essential as morning coffee (and trust me that means something to a caffeine addict like myself).

I love the 28" Fotodiox beauty dish on my monolight, and like you did here, used it on a client product shoot. I never considered using *three* of them. Like the little fellow on Laugh In used to say..."veddddy interesting" :)

In my case the go to lens was a trust old Nikon 55mm f/3.5 micro. Cost me a grand total of $50 on the big auction site and is the sharpest overall lens I've ever used.

For paper I bought a $34 roll of 60 inch by 100 foot HP Universal Heavyweight Coated Paper. What a bargain! If you have other recommendations for paper I'd love more options seeing how the price of mine seems to have doubled in the past year. I can't bring myself to fork out several hundred for equivalent "photo" specialized paper rolls though (being a tight wad and a wannabe at this stage).

Great post!

Anonymous said...

hey one true blog about photography that shows the daily life of a photographer is not always to shoot beautiful girl very interesting post indeed.

Anonymous said...

I love to read this kind of stuff because it make photography seem more like a business and less like a romp thru an underwear calendar.