aircraft. It is used extensively to show damaged,
defective, and unsatisfactory equipment-from aircraft
engines to zippers.
The discussion on illustrative photography in this
chapter is limited to those aspects that apply to studio
work. In this sense, illustrative photography should be
considered as product photography. The techniques
given here are not necessarily "locked up" in the studio.
They can be taken outside the confines of the studio and
put to good use in the field.
Product photography, then, is the making of
photographs for the purpose of illustrating or explaining
something about a product, either in whole or in part.
The three types of format cameras and the lighting
units used to accomplish product photography are
discussed in this section.
The variety of subjects encountered in product
photography requires a camera with a long bellows
extension, vertical and horizontal swing adjustments,
tilt, rising front, and lateral shift and both long- and
short-focal-length lenses. All of these features exist on
a view camera.
The view camera is the primary tool of professional
product photographers. An 8x10 view camera is usually
the largest size in use today. Photographers that want to
produce the highest quality photography use it. Its large
film format and adjustments help to produce clear,
sharp, nearly distortion-free photographs that are in
complete focus.
Large film-format cameras provide high-quality
images because the negatives or transparencies do not
have to be enlarged as much as smaller negatives. A large
film format in and of itself does not necessarily ensure
high-quality product photography. Long tonal range,
from highlights to shadow detail, is required. Lighting
ratios must be calculated and adjusted with care, and
exposure calculations must be precise. Lenses of the
highest quality, which are spotlessly clean, enhance the
photographic quality of any size format.
Most Navy photo labs do not
have an 8x10 view camera; but most of them do have a
4x5 view camera, and you should use it for most product
photography. Whatever view camera you use, it must
be supported on a steady tripod.
­If for some
reason, such as a need for speed or limited working
space (such as inside the cockpit of an aircraft), a view
camera cannot be used for product photography, then a
medium-format camera should be your next choice.
Some photographers choose other than a
large format camera simply because they are
willing to sacrifice quality for convenience,
rather than use a view camera. They
probably have the attitude of "it's good
enough for government work." Do not fall
into this trap. Instead, always strive to
produce photography of the highest
professional quality. As we have said before,
you will be known by the quality of your
photography more than anything else.
Maintain the attitude that "nothing is too
good for the Navy."
Medium-format cameras can be hand-held, focused
rapidly, and many images can be produced in a relatively
short time. The film size, however, is not as conducive
to high-quality photography as the 8x10 or 4x5 formats.
The main disadvantage of a medium-format camera for
product photography is its lack of adjustments to correct
­Finally, we have the small
format, 35mm camera. Because of its small film size,
many photographers do not even consider it for use in
product photography, particularly in the studio. It does,
however, have its place in product photography,
particularly when a large number of exposures must be
made in rapid succession or when working space is very
limited; for example, inside the intake ducts of a jet
Which of the three format cameras-large, medium,
or small format-should you use for product
photography? There is no best camera to use; there is,
however, only one best camera to use for each
assignment, and you must be able to choose the one that
best meets the needs of the photographic assignment at
The lighting equipment most commonly used for
product photography is incandescent lamps and
electronic flash or strobes. All lighting units have one or
several of the following means of controlling light:
reflectors, lenses, barn doors, diffusers, snoots,
umbrellas, or reflector boards.

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