One of my speed light died a few weeks back. My trusty 3 light setup crashed in a “flash”! I had a deep empty space in my camera bag that could not be filled by a speed light. I needed two! While I waited for my budget to allow this, how could I light different parts of a subject, from different directions, with just one speed light? Composite image to the rescue!
Today, we’ll walk through on how to shoot for a composite image of these small speakers, with just one speed light.
Photography Level: Advanced Amateur
Post Processing Skills: Should know how to work with layers and masks
Camera Equipment: DSLR / Point & Shoot Camera with flash and/or a hot shoe for external speed light
Studio Accessories: 1 x Tripod, 1 x light stand, 1 x diffusing material (like a thin white bedsheet, white satin shirts work better), preferably a set of wireless flash trigger (wired will also work, but it has to be a very long wire as we’ll be moving the speed light)
Lighting Equipment: 1 x speed light (I used 2, but one is enough)
Alright, lets begin! What we’re going to do is take multiple shots of the same product, each time with different lighting, and then finally make a composite in post processing software.
As it is with any lighting situation, you have to solve the following first.
- Where do I put my light? If using studio strobes, turn the modelling lamp on. However, with speed lights, you are pretty much guesstimating. One way is to have someone light the product using a flash light, while you look through the camera and instruct them on the placement. Once you like something, your speed light goes where your flash light is.
- How do I keep it there? There are multiple studio accessories available for this. Most commonly used are light stands.
- How do I trigger it? Once again, there are many ways, most popular ones are listed below:
- Use a wired connection that connects the on-camera hot shoe to the speed light
- Use wireless triggers – transmitter on the camera and receiver on the speed light
- Use the on-camera flash to trigger the optical slave on the speed light(if available)
F = ma (a.k.a. stuff that shouldn’t move):
In short, your camera and the product. Setup the product on a solid base, and your camera on a tripod. Try to move the product and the camera in the 3 dimensional space to see which angle works best for you. Cause once we lock in on those, you need to ensure that their position changes exactly as much as the perception of those who, since “Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom” came out, still think that India is a land of snake charmers and elephants are the preferred mode of transportation.
Let me walk you through my process. Here’s what I shot first.
I soon realized that while this angle is “heroic”, it won’t work as there’s no visible product branding. These could be any company’s speakers right now. The manufacturer’s logo is only on the top of these speakers. Here’s the problem – having the camera up and looking down on the product, gives a timid perception of the product. However, that worked in this case as one of the features of these speakers is that they are quite small.
Once I had the camera angle and the product setting locked in, all I needed to do was to not screw with it. I was using less number of speed lights (one/two) than what was actually required in the desired result (more than one/two). I couldn’t afford accidentally knocking the tripod over or nudging the speaker. So, high energy pets were kept out of the studio, and activities like spinning and dribbling a basketball were avoided (how boring!).
Also, set your camera settings, set focus, and then switch to manual focus. We don’t want any movement here, even the focus ring as some lenses have focus breathing.
Stuff that should move
We’ll be lighting this product using different placement and modifiers. So the only thing that will move is the speed light (and the modifiers, if any). Here’s a series of lighting diagrams and their respective results SOOC. In my workflow, I kept the speed light shown in #1 below constant in every shot, while I used a second speed light for #2, 3, and 4. However, if you do not move your camera, focus, and product, you don’t need a second speed light. All photos will stack up perfectly in the post processing software.
#1: Right edge of the speakers:
#2: Left back edge of the speakers that is glossy:
#3: Left side of the speaker that is matte:
#4: Top of the speaker that is glossy and has the logo. You can use diffuser instead of a softbox:
#5: LED band:
Lastly, I took all these “pieces” in the post processing software, tweaked exposure and white balance, and then masked for specific parts of each image. Here’s the final result again:
If you have made it this far, I can only hope that you had fun reading this. Let me know if this was of any help and I’ll make a better effort at posting more soon. Cheers!