Homemade Studio Lighting V2.0

2 weeks ago, I made a post about the do-it-yourself (diy) studio lighting that I did to keep me busy, but also to help me learn more about how to use artificial lighting in a home studio setting.

I posted some results from those shots on the subsequent post as well as on Instagram and Facebook. For the better part of those 2 weeks, the fact that the straws were multi-coloured seemed to have very little if any effect to the final versions of the shots…

Until …

I did one shot perpendicular with a glass that I had big expectations for. It looked fairly good on the camera. It was the one shot I was expecting the most from and was going to be the centrepiece to that day’s shoot. Until I saw it on the computer screen. The colours of the straws were reflecting off of the glass and were – with my editing skillset – an impossibility to eliminate with my photo editing software.

Back to the Drawing Board

I had thought at first, “Well, let’s not do that type of shot again.” As a person trying to improve to the point of landing product photography clients, this type of thinking will not cut it. Having to sacrifice quality because I didn’t want to make a new one is a horrible idea.

Out to the stores. Store after store, coloured straws, coloured straws. No one even sold all white straws. But as luck would have it, a last ditch “Hey let’s take a look here, it can’t hurt to try,” unveiled a jackpot. Not only did they have packages of straws that were of one colour, that colour was black!

It also provided the chance to select different sized bowls for the reflection dishes.

Knowledge is Power

My wife was more than generous in helping with not only the cutting of the straws, which took the most amount of time the first go of it. She also strung them on the tape to make the honeycombs for the bowls.

I had bought many more packages of straws this time because I also wanted to make one for my makeshift strip box. Knowing what I could do with the strip box and the parchment paper as a diffuser, I wanted even more control over that light.

My wife had finished the one for the bowl. I had thought that if I was to attach another bowl and cut a small circle at the bottom and join them top to top, I could make a type of snoot. So she made a smaller honeycomb for the (UFO) snoot.

Another change I made to this version was the back of the bowls. On version 1, my mindset was to try to use items that were in my recycling bin as much as I could. This included a thick grey plastic bag that had been used as a postal envelope to cover the back of the white plastic bowls to eliminate light leaks. I thought that the double layer was a bit of an over-kill so I used only one layer. But on the bowl that would be the front of the snoot, I used the black electrical tape that I used to put the straws together into a honeycomb. After shooting, I realized that the black tape blocked out the light, like I wanted, but it was also doing a MUCH better job than the reflecting dish on the back end. So I took off the plastic and taped it, too.

The Test

After testing out the 3 new lighting choices that my wife and I had made, I can say that 1) version 1 helped out a lot in my understanding of what I need, and 2) version 2 is working better than I could have imagined.

The next step is to start finding different things to photograph. The plants, water, and smoke are great starting points. I think they make for great practice. I think they are also great as exercises from which to build a solid base of fundamentals to expand into more complicated stagings. Stay tuned.

How To…

If you’d like to see how these were done head over to the original issue for the steps to do it yourself. The strip box ended up being a little different. If you’re interested in the steps to the strip box honeycomb, leave a note in the comment section and we’ll post an update!

Stay safe and have fun!

Catching the Splash

In my continued efforts to learn and practise how to use artificial lighting for the purposes of product photography, I decided to try to catch some bouncing water drops.

I tried and shot just over 100 frames before real life called and I had to leave the house.

Image from the camera.

It isn’t just about learning how to use artificial lighting and how to set things up for a product shoot, it’s about learning how and practising to use editing software.

For those of you who have followed my path to this point know that I have done very little when it comes to editing photos using software on the computer. To be honest, the complicated ones, like Photoshop just scared me. But I also knew that if I was to advance anywhere in photography outside of my personal Facebook page, I would have to learn how to use it properly. Now I don’t use Photoshop, I use the program Affinity Photo. I absolutely love it. There are a lot of similarities to Photoshop in both layout and features. It doesn’t have the power that Photoshop has (yet), there is a reason why Photoshop has become a verb. (I’ll have to do a review at a later date.)

Back to the task at hand. I posted some of my results on Instagram stories. One friend had sent a message that she was trying to do the same but without the same results. So I decided that I would make a quick behind the scenes video showing my set up and a brief explanation on how to get the shot.

I have stung this video together. I know the quality both video and editing need a lot of work. Baby steps, baby steps. One thing at a time. It’s still a huge improvement from what I’ve done in the past. As I continue to do these at home shoots, doing more of these type of behind the scenes may surface.

If you have any questions about what I did in this video, or any other questions feel free to ask away in the comment section here, on my Facebook page, or on the YouTube video comment section.

Have a great day and good luck!

What’s it going to be?

There’s been something on my mind for quite some time. I think it is something that a lot of people need to stop and give a long hard thought about.

I, like many of you, wander around the vast space that is the World Wide Web looking at images that many of you have photographed. I also read the same articles and blogs as you. There’s a chance that I’ve even read yours. I also read a lot of the comments to many of the articles. It’s always interesting to me to see the debate that most articles stir up, usually accidentally.

There’s one topic that isn’t much of a debate, but I’ve noticed a trend that contradicts what many people either think, and definitely say.

Background

Over the last little while, the big mirrorless versus digital single-lens reflex camera debate. Which one was better? Will mirrorless ever replace DSLRs? Are DSLRs dead? Is the mirrorless camera a trend? Surely you’ve seen them, heard about them, and maybe even threw your views into the fray.

As funny as it may sound to you now, for those of us of a certain age, these were pretty much the same questions being bantered around about 20 years ago when the digital camera entered the market and prices started to drop within reach of the avid amateur.

This post isn’t about this argument. I want to bring in the smartphone into the conversation today. There’s no denying the fact that the photographic abilities of today’s smartphone have come a long, long way. I look back at my first device that had a camera-my Sony Clié NR-70- and thought that the photos were good enough for my trip to Mexico instead of bringing a camera. (Unfortunately, I have no idea where it or the photos are now.) Upon my arrival to Korea in 2003, I didn’t see the need for a cellphone. I went my entire first year without a cellphone, instead using that money to buy my first camera, a Nikon F-65.

My second year here, I started to see a need for a phone and bought a second hand one. It was the Samsung V-200. I still have a few files saved from the camera on that phone. At the time, they were good enough for grabbing the spontaneous shot while you were out with friends or that first in-match 180,

My first league match 180. I was so happy.

or a surprise fog over the mountains behind the Olympic Bridge.

Horrible quality by today’s standards for a cellphone. Horrible composition by any standards.

The Gap is Getting Smaller

Today’s smartphones’ cameras and image quality are very good. Can they do the same as a mirrorless or DSLR? As of the date of this post, not yet. Will they ever? Only time will tell. But that gap is much smaller today than it was in 2004 when those photos were taken and Nikon’s 6 megapixel D50 was still a year away from being released.

That gap is so small that I know first hand that National Geographic magazine has published photos taken with phones in their stories. My jaw hit the floor when I was told this bit of information. One of the photographers that I talked to even went so far to say that most of the photos he takes are now done with his phones instead of his camera.

What are you really trying to say?

Photographers are a strange bunch.

Let’s try to figure it out, shall we?

On one side you have: “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

On the other side, that same person (not you, but others) will turn around and rip into someone for not having a pro-level DSLR camera to shoot with.

So what is it? The camera doesn’t matter, or it does?

Another hot topic that gets a lot of people’s blood boiling for some reason is when someone writes an article or post about that one non-photographer person who compliments a photo with the comment on the lines of, “Wow, that’s a great photo, you must have an expensive camera.”

I will guarantee that one of the adjoining comments will be, “Wow that was a great meal you must have an expensive stove.” followed by “Wow, that’s a great painting, you must have expensive brushes.” (Which actually falls in a little bit of their own ignorance as much like the camera, the better quality brush, paint and media, the better quality…well you get the idea, but we’ll save that one for a later post.)

For those keeping score, they get upset when someone judges a photo based on the camera, saying that the camera is only a tool, but they get upset when they compliment the fine tool that they have, and they get upset when someone else’s tool doesn’t match the price of their tool.

But that’s not all

This is the thing that confuses me the most…

If the camera is just a tool, and it doesn’t matter what tool or camera you have, why do many people feel the need to post a photo and writing “I shot this with my phone.”

What game are you playing?

It often feels like when someone posts a photo with “I shot this on my phone,” they are doing one of 4 things.

  1. Apologizing;
  2. Showing off, or;
  3. Building an excuse;
  4. Hiding.

At first, when I first started reading this, if felt like it was the photographer’s way of saying sorry for the poor image quality, or it was a shot that needed a telephoto lens but was greatly restricted by the ultra wide angle of the typical phone camera.

Then it dawned on me that some of these photos really didn’t have much wrong about it, and it almost started to feel like some people were writing it to say, “Hey look how good I am. I got this photo with my phone and it’s a lot better than the photo you got with your $4000 camera/lens combination.

Then it got to the point where photographers would use it on a photo that they were proud of and think is a strong photo in composition, light, colour, and interest. But when another person not nearly as enthusiastic about it would comment that something needed to be corrected or changed, it becomes a way of saying “I could have done better if I had my ‘real’ camera.”

Then it turned into a way of saying “Please don’t post any negative comments about any aspect of the photo, my fragile ego can’t handle it.”

The Obsession

There is an obsession with camera gear. I get it. I’m also curious as to how the newest lens or camera can help me. (I’d love to have that new instant wood camera with the bellows in my hands just to play and experiment.) But if gear doesn’t matter: “The best camera is the one you have with you,” then why is it so important to tell other people that you shot it on a phone?

Just Enjoy

At the end of the day, I feel a lot of photographers both the creator of the photograph and the audience of said photograph, need to get past the gear and just appreciate the photograph for what it is… a photograph.