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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 23 Feb 2018 (Friday) 15:54
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Help me improve my lighting!

 
Zefy
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Feb 23, 2018 15:54 |  #1

I have kind of fallen into being the photographer at work. We build and run big experiments and they're difficult to photograph. Partly because of how they're made and partly because of the lack of space. I like to use strobes to limit distracting elements and also to keep any other IP sensitive stuff out of the shot. Most of these experiments are made of acrylic (plexiglass) and they usually make for glare city when you start putting lights on it. I usually rely on having the lights at an extreme angle (usually very high pointing down) to keep reflections out or I have the light really close and use the acrylic itself to diffuse the light.

Coming up with examples of this is difficult as most of the stuff we do is owned by the client, however I have a couple to share to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Hopefully I can get some tips or suggestions on lighting.

The first photo is our water channel. It is about 12m (40ft) long and about 2m wide and the glass section is about 1.5m off the ground. I only had a couple hours to cleanup and set this shot. I have 3 Elinchrom d-lite on the floor right up against the glass shooting into the channel (you can see the on the left) and one with me up on the platform about 10m in the air. The softboxes are the 2x2ft shallow ones. I used some really heavy grad filters in lightroom on the sides to cover up some of the othere experiments and distractions. I'm not sure what I could have done differently to take this photo besides using the ambient light with no flash. But I think it doesn't look very good because everything looks really flat and there are lots of reflections from the lights on the ceiling (which are off in this photo although the room is not dark).

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4657/26573972178_602c2a8b96_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Gufy​77  (external link) work photos (2) (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

The second photo is of the pump system. Three lights, one on camera right and another on camera left to get coverage and the third is lighting up the glass on the far left. All the lights are fairly high up to avoid seeing reflections in the glass. You can see the hotspot the light on the far left made on the steel beam at the top. I think for this I would rather have had softer lights, but I couldn't move the lights further away due to space restrictions. And I didn't want to have a ton of spill... I was thinking about getting bigger soft boxes with possibly grids... thoughts?

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4704/39734551354_15147ca82a_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/23xc​XMC  (external link) work photos (4) (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

This photo is of a laser measuring device. It is used for getting velocity data and it also looks pretty cool because of the intersecting lasers. I exposed to get the lasers nice and bright along with seeing a bit of motion in the pipe flow. I used one d-lite about 4 feet above the pipe pointing down sent to really low power so you can actually see the pipe... Without it the pipe is almost invisible. Going high and pointing down keeps the reflections off. This thing is 25mm expanding to 50mm diameter. You're seeing about 30cm of pipe length. The circular black thing on the left is the laser emitter head. With refracting light in most stuff the light will be brightest at about 35 degrees off the axis of the laser, hence the angle of the camera I have chosen. This photo I'm actually pretty happy with as just an interesting looking photo... But if you've got some recommendations for improving it I'd like to hear.

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4662/39734551514_1fc96cee14_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/23xc​XQo  (external link) work photos (1) (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

And this last one is the other type of photography I do here. Taking studio style shots of smaller components. This thing is about 60cm tall. I have to think back but I think I was using two lights on either side and maybe one speedlight. Except for making it look less crooked (which I don't think it is but it sure looks like it) I'm not sure how to improve. This one was fairly easy because it is a dull colour. Sometimes the pieces are very reflective and/or transparent making them difficult to photograph. Might be useful to have a larger softbox?

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4628/39548714855_0fa75897db_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/23fM​v54  (external link) work photos (5) (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

I've only really used the equipment I own or what I have a work which is rather limited. I'm allowed to get some more items so I'm thinking about getting a big softbox but I'm not sure if that's the right choice as I've never personally used one. I am going to get a couple more speedlights as I find them handy for getting a little bit of light really close to certain features that I want to highlight. I also use them to trigger the d-lites with the optical slave and I use a yongnuo transceiver to control the output of the speedlight. Handy when I stick them in a difficult to reach location... I know these photos are kinda boring as far as creativity goes but I want to try and improve. The amount of research that takes place that completely lacks decent photos is really sad. I'm lacking in studio skills as this is just a hobby for me and I normally only take pictures of cars and racing! Any tips of ideas would be helpful.



  
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NDAPhoto
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Post edited 3 months ago by NDAPhoto. (7 edits in all)
     
Feb 24, 2018 00:30 |  #2

D-Lites in much larger modifiers will give you softer light, although less maneuverability. 7 foot OctoDomes would eliminate all the strong shadows in the tight areas of photo #2, and give nice reflections, but will cost quite a bit. Westcott 7 ft parabolic umbrellas are much less expensive to bounce and easy to set up and take down, but you will need to be careful with light spill so might want to add grids. They’re a bit overkill for your small subjects, so you might look at 6 ft umbrellas instead. Two will evenly wrap any subjects on table top if that’s what you seek. Then use your third strobe as a rim light or with a snoot to focus on detail. You’ll need to upgrade your stands, and rollers would help for convenience. Lastly, I suggest working on your white balance. The mixture of color temperature might be due to the experiments themselves, but you can correct some of it in-camera. Otherwise, you may want to gel your strobes to correct for the distracting source.




  
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SkipD
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Feb 24, 2018 10:16 |  #3

Greg, I suspect the apparent distortion in the last image could, at the very least, be reduced by pulling the camera back to at least twice the distance from the subject. You would probably want to use a longer focal length lens to retain the framing. Twice the distance requires twice the focal length to do this.


Skip Douglas
A few cameras and over 50 years behind them .....
..... but still learning all the time.

  
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Wilt
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Post edited 3 months ago by Wilt. (2 edits in all)
     
Feb 24, 2018 10:35 |  #4

This mention of large sources that are alternatives to 2x2 softboxes, evokes my first reaction to OP comment about 'flat light'...

The sense of depth comes from both focus (DOF zone along with increasingly out-of-focus things) and by light (falloff of intensity), and by shadowing.
Our brains are simply wired that way.

Large sources that deprive us of shadowing, and which also do not fall off in intensity with distance, deprive us of TWO visual clues about depth. When every panel/contour is very evenly lit, that further deprives our brains of the clues to depth.

I find only shot #1 in OP to suffer from that characteristic. And maybe shot #3 is a touch lightweight on visual clues.


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NDAPhoto
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Post edited 3 months ago by NDAPhoto. (3 edits in all)
     
Feb 25, 2018 21:12 |  #5

Large modifiers do not produce flat images when the light is properly feathered. The same principle applies in automotive photography and architectural interiors. Eliminating strong shadows means softening them of course, not removing shadows altogether. The goal is to obtain pleasing shadows, even with dramatic light, just as when lighting people. Typically, this means shadows must naturally fall down, not sideways and hard as seen in #2. That is awkward because it is unnatural. This is also the reason for using larger stands, especially booms, because positioning usually needs to be higher and more versatile. OP will not want to vary the depth of field if he wants to keep the overall subject in focus from front to back. f/8 to f/11 is good based on the scale and distance, similar to full and 3/4 studio shots of automobiles. Exceptions might be close-up detail shots where a shallow depth of field is desired.

Just my two cents, but what do I know?




  
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Zefy
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Feb 26, 2018 14:01 |  #6

Thanks NDAPhoto for the tips! I am going to try a 6-7ft softbox. There seem to be cheaper options in the $300 range from companies like impact and fotodiox. Although the westcott umbrellas are only about $100... I couldn't find any grids for umbrellas though. At least not that big... You're right about the white balance. I don't have colour calibrated monitors (and actually the two monitors I have are vastly different looking) so it's hard to tell sometimes. I tend to photograph on the cooler side... I think it looks more "sciency" haha. I usually want the floor to appear very white (even though it is more of an eggshell...?) but I probably went overboard on the coolness... this is more realistic to what it actually looks like.

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4699/26631876328_a22145fd8e_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Gznj​Zw  (external link) 2018-02-19 water channel-5 (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

And you can see in this second photo that the interior of the water channel is super green. This is because it is first, made of glass, which has a green tint to it. And second, it's half filled with water... It's not obvious when you fill your bathtub, but tap water usually has a really green tint to it. I could have corrected this with gels but I didn't have any and I didn't have much time to take the photo.

IMAGE: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4700/40460545582_04c159d6d8_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/24Dm​Szu  (external link) 2018-02-19 water channel-4 (external link) by Greg Petroski (external link), on Flickr

Personally I prefer having a cooler white balance for these photos... I feel like it's less dirty or something... Now that I see both though I'm not sure.

SkipD - I totally agree on the distortion. I was unfortunately reduced to using the kit lens for the camera and I did have it at 55mm but it wasn't enough. I'm not really willing to use my personal gear all the time at work but we've got a couple more options now including the 18-135 and the sony a7rii with the 90mm... Unfortunately the sony only has the one lens so I can't use it for everything and it's technically owned by a client... It's main purpose it to take bracketed photos of dirt... lol

I will definitely keep using the longer lens though for these types of shots.

Wilt, I definitely don't want to kill all the shadows. Usually the image requires that I have a large DOF just because everything needs to be clear. Sometimes these images are used to reproduce an experiment setup. But I definitely want softer shadows... Like in the first image of this post, (2018-02-19 water channel-5) there is a hard shadow right in the middle of the frame caused by the upside down U shape plumbing... A bigger, softer source would reduce the harshness of that shadow I assume?



  
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NDAPhoto
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Post edited 3 months ago by NDAPhoto. (3 edits in all)
     
Feb 26, 2018 20:50 as a reply to  @ Zefy's post |  #7

I do like your shift of color as a sciency effect with water and lasers. So long as it is intentional and you like it, great! Long ago, I worked on projects with factory robotics, large medical devices or even naval satellite dishes. Boring grays and beige! Adding colored gels for a cover shot or ad was the only way to make it eye catching. The engineers who normally care only about product specs would say hey, that’s cool! You’ve created a similar effect.

A Datacolor Spyder or similar monitor calibrator will take out the guesswork and keep you from pulling out your hair when you need to make sure viewed colors are optimal for everyone, or during printing.

There are definitely cheaper softboxes at the same sizes. The primary difference will be in durability and ease of set up. Light quality will often be impossible to tell any difference. The Fotodiox Ez-Pro (I’ve read) is pretty good. Grids are great and become important once you realize you need them. I think you are on the right track and glad you enjoy shooting in your lab with so many choices.

Edit: My first post wasn’t clear about grids. It sounded like using them with umbrellas, but I meant sticking with octas in order to add grids.




  
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