If you’re a product photographer, you’re probably aware of just how true the maxim “time is money” really is. You’re probably also aware of how time-consuming fixing a poorly-lighted image in Photoshop can be. Luckily, getting great photos in-camera doesn’t necessarily need a lot of technical know-how. In the video below, professional photographer Karl Taylor takes us step-by-step through a complicated product shot, showing us how to get the best in-camera image possible:
There are a number of different reasons for getting the best in-camera images possible. Not only does it save you hours of time in post-processing, but it also allows you to get the most authentic-looking photos possible. Photoshopped photos look, well, Photoshopped, and this can seriously undermine the intended impact.
“The closer you get the shot to perfection in camera, then the more it looks real—because it is real.”
In addition, working towards making your in-camera shots as perfect as possible will substantially increase your skill as a photographer and potentially provide inspiration for shots you might not have thought possible when relying on post-processing as your primary means of getting a decent image.
The key to being able to get the best shots possible in-camera? Knowing your lighting gear and how to manipulate them to get the lighting effects you’re looking for. And as Taylor illustrates, you don’t really need to have a light meter or know complicated light ratios (for those with the equipment to control the instruments in that way). You just need to know the look you’re going for and be able to recognize whether you’re achieving it, and if not, what you need to add or change.
Being able to control every aspect of your light beam really helps. In this video, Taylor uses Picolites that allow him to direct the light to precisely where he wants it to go. Picolites, which retail for over $1,300, have shutters built in for shaping the light (much like the lighting instrument used to light live theater). You can also buy a number of attachments for them, including a projection attachment that you see below. These allow for an even minuter control of your beam.
While having top-of-the-line gear is ideal, most of us don’t have the budget a lighting set up even remotely similar to what Taylor is using. That’s why it’s important to really understand the gear you do have and how to shape the light with barn doors, snoots, and grids. If you haven’t yet invested in a lighting system, buying instruments that allow you to easily control the intensity of the beam is also critical for successful product lighting, as the varying intensities of the light and shadows are what will give your image life.
In the end, the ideal is to reach a place where you’re only using Photoshop to fix minor mistakes and brush up minor imperfections.
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