Hi, this is Jay P. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at doing a product shot on location. We’ll look at lens choice, camera settings and then we’ll talk a little bit about why shooting on location, focus stacking and how we lit this. So let’s get started and see what we can do.
Special thanks to Saal Digital that’s sponsoring this series from The Slanted Lens. We’re going to make a great print for the Red Wing Store. Let’s see what it looks like!
When I shoot products on location I like to take two lenses with me. Number one is a 100 millimeter macro or some manufacturers do a 90 millimeter macro. The reason being is maybe I want to get in for a tight detail. Maybe it’s a small bottle of perfume. I just want the option to be able to get in closer and have a very close focusing distance so I can get in close to a smaller object. Now obviously boots and this all, the logs and everything here, I don’t need a macro lens. But I’m going to be backed up to about 50 millimeters. The reason I chose 50 millimeters is because 50 millimeters gives me the best rendition of the mountains behind there. If I shoot a 35mm and take a look at this, the mountains are 100 miles away. If I shoot a 100mm the mountains are cropped out. All I see is just background. I don’t get the production value of the mountains in the background. But when I go to 50mm I get a beautiful rendition of the foreground, mid-ground and the mountains in the background. So for me, I carry a 100 millimeter macro and a 24-70mm. It’ll cover you every time. (Today I used the Tamron 35-150mm Lens.)
I’m going to shoot at 100 ISO. I try to be on 100 ISO all of the time. In this situation because we’re outside and it’s bright I want the least amount of light and the highest amount of quality. I don’t want any digital noise. 100 ISO.
So for the aperture I’m going to give myself a little bit of depth of field. I’m going to keep the boots completely in focus. I’ll be almost f/8 at f/7.1. And that keeps the boots in focus. It lets the bag and kind of the mid ground fall out of focus some. And the mountains fall way out of focus. I’ll also do some focus stacking at f/2.5. So I just focus stack the boots so they’re sharp and that lets the background and mid ground fall way out of focus. We’ll take a look at those two. My sense of it is we’re going to like the one with just a little more depth of field. It just has a nice transition. The background still becomes simple and nice back there at f/7.1. But it just doesn’t fall completely off so we can’t see anything that’s back there. So let’s take a look at those two, f/7.1 and there’s focus stacked at f/2.5. I think I like that f/7.1 but they’re both very nice.
Next I’m going to talk about shutter settings and then we’re going to look at how we lit this. So stick around for that, how we lit this.
So first off, shutter. I’m going to start with 1/250th of a second. On Sony I can use one 1/250th of a second and I’ll just set it there. I chose my aperture at f/7.1. I raised and lowered the power of my strobes to where I like the exposure at f/7.1 so that that intensity of the strobes matched the aperture I chose. Now at 1/250th of the second the scene was a little too dark. So I’m going to start to lengthen that shutter to brighten the scene. I think I ended up at 1/125th of a second. But that is never a constant. The sun comes in, the sun goes out. The cloud cover becomes thicker or shallower. The light changes intensity. Which means that your shutter is going to be changing all the time to keep the amount of ambient light that you want in the scene consistent. So you are going to have to change that shutter periodically. I shot most of mine at 1/125th of a second. I may have gotten to a 1/60th of the second. Never below that. So it just depends on the scene and how bright it is. If it was super bright out here 1/250th of a second would have been fast enough. But today it’s cloudy and 1/125th of a second was pretty good.
Why should a person shoot products on location versus in the studio? There’s several different reasons. Number one is showing the products in use. Showing the consumer where the products are used. So a pair of shoes or a pair of boots walking in the mud. You know, a tent out on the hillside. I mean, those kinds of things that show you context. This is where the product is used. That is a powerful message to the consumer. It also has an opportunity to show juxtaposition. A pair of dress shoes on a little rock in the mud. That’s like dressy place, messy place. It gives you that kind of juxtaposition that can be very interesting. It also allows you to get beautiful blurry backgrounds because you can make a background further away. It allows that background to fall way out of focus and just looks absolutely beautiful. I also love it because it just gives you production value. Look at all these mountains back here. That is all production value. It gives you a beautiful look. It also can have a very, more of a natural look, more of a natural light look outside. I use strobes almost always when I’m outside because I want to clean up the products. And it does start to look a little more like studio the way I shoot. Some people don’t shoot that way. They shoot and make it look very natural like it’s window light or the natural light. Or we just found these items here sitting on the side of the road, you know, kind of thing. But shooting outside on location is about getting your products out where it gives you production value. It gives you interesting backgrounds and just makes for a different product shot that has a different kind of application. So that’s why I shoot out on location.
Let’s talk about the composition here. I want you to understand composition on a very simple level here when it comes to products. And that is, we do not want things in a straight line. We want things to go up and down. Look at this, the way this comes in. We have a small rise and fall here of the camera. We’ve got a toe that comes up and then we come down to this object over here. Then we come up to the high and down. These fall in the rule of thirds. This is the upper rule of thirds, lower rule of thirds. We don’t want these shoes to be level with each other. We want them to be higher and lower. So we raised one up here on the end so we have some different height of these two. They’re not straight across from each other. Also these toes point back into this point, into this. This right here gives us a triangle with these three items. So we have the compass, the shoes, the camera. It gives us a triangle. The bag in the background is just meant to be some mid-ground back there to just give us something before we go into the leaves. But it’s about creating height. We don’t, we want to create height. That’s why we put these logs in here so that we would be able to get this back shoe up on one log. We put one log on top of another so that that back shoe could go up and this shoe could come down. We put a rock underneath this one to tilt it back towards the camera so we could see a little bit of the top of it and it wasn’t completely profile. So it’s about creating a beautiful kind of rise up height and bringing us down. And nice kind of arabesque with some of the leaves in the front here. So we took the laces and tucked them inside and that helped to clean up the shoe to make it look right. We made sure we tightened the laces so that they’re all about the same tightness because those kinds of things will really show in something this close. So it just becomes a really beautiful rise and fall of the images. That’s the goal, nothing straight. No horizon, straight horizons. We want stuff to incorporate a rise and a fall. And that’s composition when it comes to products.
For this shot that we’re going to give the Red Wing Store, it’s a high resolution metal print. It’s super sharp, incredibly sharp. It’s rigid and water resistant. So you can really put it up anywhere, outside, inside, it doesn’t really matter. But it’s UV direct printed with seven colors. So it’s going to be a beautiful look. It’s going to be interesting. Something a little different. It has an aluminum subframe so it’s going to be very rigid. This metal print can be used for signs or advertising boards. It’s just something to be very useful to the Red Wing store. So high resolution metal print.
So I’m going to do some focus stacking now. I’ve been shooting everything at f/7.1 which is really, it gives me quite a bit of depth of field. But because the mountains are so far away, I mean they’re across the valley, they fall out of focus and they’re really pretty simple. It gives you that nice out of focus look. But I’m going to do some focus stacking where I make a very shallow depth of field. So the bag, the secondary bag, that’s in that mid ground. And the flowers in the background will even fall more out of focus. The reason you focus stack is to give you a shallow depth of field look, but keep your entire product in focus. So I will focus on the front of the boot and I’ll just slowly step in about six or eight shots. And I’m going to go all the way open to f/2.5 on this lens or f/2.8 roughly. And I’m just going to focus in one step at a time about six or seven different shots from the front of the boots to the back of the boots. Then I’ll merge those images in Photoshop. And it’ll give me nice sharp boots with a really shallow depth of field. We can take a look at that compared to the f/7.1 which is a deeper depth the field and just see which one we like the best. So focus stacking, I have to put a three-stop ND on the camera because it’s so bright out here in order to get to f/2.8. I’ve got to put a three stop on. So, let’s get that focus stacking shot. So I’m using the Nisi, three stop ND. I like just your fixed stops, three stops, nine stops because they’re much better than the variable. It just gives you beautiful color and just brings my stop down. So I’m going to do this focus stack in the old-fashioned way. I’m going to focus on the front of the boots. Then just manually move my focus in to create a series of images that I’ll merge together later in Photoshop. Most modern cameras nowadays have a focus stacking feature where you focus on the front and it’ll automatically move the focus in for you and take a series of images. And that’s going to be a much easier way to do this. But we’re doing it the old-fashioned way. Here we go.
So when you’re lighting products outside there’s a couple of things that make this much more successful for you. The first thing is, I try to keep direct sunlight off of my products, always. If there’s direct sun, which we don’t have today, but if we did, the direct sunlight, I would put it behind the products so I get a rim light. You can’t always do that because sometimes you’re looking at a certain background you really want and the sun isn’t exactly in the place you wanted to give you a nice backlight. So I’ll either do one or two things. Create hard shade. Take all the light off from the product or put a translucent up. Which allows, if I have sunlight behind, allows that sunlight to be soft and give me a little bit of rim light. I can use that rim light and make it part of my lighting. Today, I just put a hard shadow up. I just put this up to give me a hard shadow and now I can light my product underneath there and not use the ambient light. Other than just fill light. As I lengthen my shutter it’s going to bring the fill up. So the first thing I did is I put up my table to be able to work in the shade. And then I added my key light. It’s a soft box, square box. I like to use square boxes for products because they give nice lines on glass. They give nice highlights on, you know, different products. So I think square is better. Round is better I think for people. Square box is better for products. This is a three by four. That three by four is going to give me a little bit of look. I’m going to push it slightly behind the product and it’s going to come from the back. So it looks right here. I’m just behind my product and it’s going to give me highlights and it’s going to roll into shadow towards the camera. Now my camera being out here, my camera being out here is going to look into the shadow side. I love it when you look into the shadow side. Now all of this falls into shadow. We get some nice highlights from behind. But that gives me just a beautiful soft light on the shoes and kind of rolls towards the camera. So slightly behind the shoes, rolling towards the camera. Now I’ve got a rim light from behind here which is, I’ve got a warm full CTO on it. I want this to just give me a highlight on the shoes from behind. Now I’m going to use that two different ways. I’ll use it just as a rim light on them from behind. A little brighter, a little harder than my key light. And I’m going to shove it right in the scene so it looks like a sun. Like a big ball of sun back there. And again it’s going to just make that look interesting. It’s going to flare, which is going to bring all the shadows up. It’s going to open up the shadows, that flare and just give me a different look. So there’s a little different look. So there’s how we lit this. It’s two lights and a scrim to be able to create a shadow to work in. I would trade this out for a translucent if the sun was doing a rim light from behind. And that’s how I light products on location. Now I can go in and put mirrors in and do all kinds of other things if I’m going to finesse this. But generally speaking outside you’ve got enough ambient. You just lengthen your shutter and it opens up the ambient and starts to look very nice. If you feel like you’re not getting enough ambient on these shoes, then take a reflector, walk that reflector in. Bounce the light back into those shoes and it’s going to open up the shadows and look really pretty. So you don’t need to add another light. We’ve got plenty of lights here. Ambient really is our fill light. We’ve got a key light on the shoes and a rim light and then the ambient using the shutter becomes our fill light.
So let’s wrap this up. If I’m shooting products on location I’m going to take a 100 millimeter macro and I’m going to take a 24-70mm. That way I have the option to get that background the size that I want it in the frame. I’m going to let the shutter lengthen and shorten to be able to bring the ambient up to give me the ambient that I want. I’m going to make sure my light is behind my shoes. I’m going to make sure my shoes are in the shade or a translucent to soften the light so I can control the light that’s going on in here. I’m going to put all those things together with nice composition and we’re going to shoot away. This has been fun. I love doing this kind of stuff. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you see the value of shooting products on location because it is really a beautiful way to work. It’s a unique way to work because most people don’t do it. You have studio products or you just, I mean that’s just studio products. This is a unique look and I think people that are doing this have a real advantage in the market. Because people think it’s very interesting. So I hope you enjoyed this. If you want to see some of our other lessons about lens choice and camera settings check out one of these lessons. So keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’!