Brian's Photo Blog — Article 257
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The Fine Art of Product Photography
Wednesday 26 June 2013   —   Category: Other Photographers
Earlier in the week when I was taking product photos for the article Olympus TG-2 Converter Lenses Introduction, I was learning how hard it is to make them look good, especially when you don’t have the proper equipment. But even when you have the right tools, it still takes a lot of experience and expertise to get great-looking product shots.

My first product photos of the Olympus TG-2 were taken with the subject sitting on the spare table in my home office, illuminated by four compact fluorescent bulbs hanging in a cluster above. The light was so harsh, and the shadows so deep, that I quickly realized I needed a different approach.

Fortunately, I still had some leftover equipment from my video production days in the early 2000’s. I’m SO glad that I never got rid of my Impact Multiboom Light Stand and Reflector Holder — it’s SUCH a versatile tool! To it I attached another piece of awesome equipment — a Manfrotto Super Clamp.

Then I unfurled my newish Fotodiox 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc in order to put the diffusor disc between the light source and the subject I was photographing. I had owned one of these 5-in-1 discs back in my video days, but had gotten rid of it. But when I took my daughter’s portrait last year without one, I discovered that it would still be a very useful tool to have in my kit.

Once I attached the diffusor to the clamp, I found that the 42-​inch disc could not be supported by the clamp alone. So I dug out my heavy-duty Manfrotto Bogen 3246 tripod with it’s sturdy Manfrotto 3433 head. I bought this years ago for video production, and rarely use it for pho­tog­ra­phy because it’s so heavy — but it makes a great second support stand!

A white foam-core board to set the subject on completed the set-up. You can see my temporary studio in the photo to the right. The diffusor in front of the lights made such a big difference — and the fan spinning above it didn’t even blow it around! The softened light resulted in less intense highlights on the camera I was photographing, and in much softer shadows. You can see the final results in the five photographs of the camera in the right-hand column of the Olympus TG-2 Converter Lenses Introduction article.

This challenging experience brought to mind an article I read last month on The Verge Web site entitled The illusion of simplicity: photographer Peter Belanger on shooting for Apple, which explores the techniques and equipment used by a high-end product photographer. After reading the article, be sure to watch this video of Mr. Belanger in action:

His professional expertise and equip­ment are light-years beyond my feeble amateur attempts! As I was browsing Mr. Belanger’s online portfolio my mouth was literally hanging open in awe when I came to the breathtaking photo shown to the right. The lighting and composition are exquisite! It takes a true artist to get such stunning results from such an ordinary stack of dishes which you might find at a multitude of restaurants around the world!

I am pretty happy with how the photos of my Olympus TG-2 came out, even though they are not up to the standards of a professional photographer. But after viewing Mr. Belanger’s work, it’s painfully clear what separates the men from the boys! Hopefully his photos will inspire me and I can learn from his expertise and apply those lessons to my own photography.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 257
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