Through experience, you will learn what effects to
expect from lighting. Good lighting is created through
an orderly, thought-out process involving several steps
that should be taken in chronological order:
1. Previsualize. You should form a mental picture
of how the subject should look What should be shown?
What part of the subject should be featured or be the
center of interest?
2. Determine what type of lighting to use. From
what direction should the main light come? Where
should the fill lights be located? From what distance
should the light come?
3. Select the equipment that can best do the job.
What camera 4x5 inch, 8x10 inch, 2 1/4 inch, or
35mm? What kind of lights-strobe, incandescent,
flood, or spot? What accessories are needed-reflectors,
barn doors, umbrellas, and so forth.
4. Establish
the lighting. Is the key light doing
what you want? Would another light do a better job? Is
there enough shadow detail? Is more or less fill light
needed? Are there too many highlights and are they in
the right places? Are the highlights too bright? Do each
of the lights add to the overall quality of the lighting, or
can some of them be eliminated? Will the subject record
on the film as previsualized?
5. Determine
the exposure. What should be the
exposure for the highlights and the shadows? What is
the correct exposure for the overall set? Will the film
record the contrast range between important highlights
and shadows?
6. Check the set. Is light spilling onto the camera
lens causing flare? Is the composition as it should be?
Are important details obstructed?
7. Expose the film.
CREATING THE LIGHTING
For most product photography, the first light to be
placed is the main light, then lights to create highlights
are added, and finally any fill lights. However, the order
in which the lights are placed depend somewhat on the
subject to be photographed. When, for example, the
product is tented, the procedure should be to establish
an overall, high level of illumination first. Other lights
should then be added to better show shape, form, and
bulk of the subject.
You should always start your lighting setup with the
main light. The usual position for the main light in
product photography is high and somewhat behind the
subject. The position of this light is very important. To
establish this light, you should do the following:
1. Darken the set.
2. Through the camera ground glass, view the
effect of the main light on the subject. Have an assistant
move the main light in the general area previsualized for
the main light. Establish the main light in a position
where it produces the most pleasing and desired effect.
Remember, the farther the main light is from the subject,
the smaller the highlights and the sharper the edges of
the shadows. As the light is moved, notice the change in
highlight and shadow areas. It is important for you to
observe the effect of the lighting (through the ground
glass) exactly as the camera will see it. The
characteristics of the main light greatly influence the
overall quality of the picture.
3. Add secondary spotlights as needed to create
highlights and texture. Highlights other than those
produced by the main light may be needed to help
separate and define subject planes as well as to separate
the subject from the background or its surroundings. By
using secondary spotlights in a crosslighting or
skimming manner, you can emphasize the surface
texture of the subject.
Establishing the secondary lights to produce the
desired highlights and texture is more time-consuming
than positioning either the main or the fill lights. When
the subject is a complex shape or has many planes,
several small, secondary lights may be needed.
4. And finally, once the main light and highlights
have been established, the fill-in illumination is applied
to provide the appropriate shadow detail. The fill light
illumination is usually supplied by one or more diffused
floodlights or reflectors. Care must be taken to ensure
that the fill-in lighting does not cast distinguishable
shadows. This problem can generally be solved by
positioning the fill lights close to the camera and at a
low angle or about tabletop height.
Every light you use in product photography
should have a definite purpose in creating the final
photograph. A dominant light source must prevail
without undue competition from other light sources.
If the addition of a new light creates new problems,
then start over again. Remember, the simplest
approaches to product lighting are the best.
Lighting Ratio
Whenever you light the set for small product
photography, you must keep lighting ratios in mind. A
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