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This Is One of The Most Indispensable Studio Tools

Studio photography more often than not rhymes with flash photography. Product and still life photographers can sometimes have tens of lights set up for a particular shoot. Keeping all of them at the same colour temperature can be a challenge, and it most certainly is if you mix different models, different brands and different types of lights. That’s when a kit of colour correction filters comes in handy.

Those square of translucent plastic sheets are meant to be put on top of you flash head or at the end of a modifier. They can warm up the light (using a CTO filter) or cool it down (with a CTB filter). I found that the colour temperature of small speedlites is cooler than that of bigger and proper studio strobes. Putting a ¼ CTO filter on the speedlite’s head will warm it up so that it gets to the same level as the strobes. Some kits come with several square sheets of different colours. What I did with mine is that I stuck a thin Velcro strip at the top and bottom of a properly sized sheet. I then wrap the flash head with the complementary end of the Velcro. That way, I can easily stick filters on top of the flash. These filters can also be used to stylize a shot by placing, for example, a red, green, or even magenta squares in front of your strobes. The resulting effect can sometimes add interest to an otherwise boring image. This Rosco kit is perfect because it contains lots of material with which you can easily work.

These colour correction filters are one tool that I definitely recommend every studio photographer to have. Correcting for the different colour temperature of different light sources is not something some enjoyable to do in post and can literally take a few seconds to do in-camera.



What other studio tool can’t you live with? Let us know in the comments below!




How to Make Sure that Your Shots Are Always Perfectly Aligned

In still life and product photography, you sometimes need to take perfectly aligned photographs of a product in order to clearly show its design. Here are some tips on how you can get the most aligned shots.

  • First, always use a tripod. This goes without saying; you need a stable platform in order to make fine adjustments to your setup. I prefer 3-axis heads over the other types available.
  • Don’t try to eyeball it. While you may have the impression that your shot is nicely aligned, once you go on the computer, you’ll inevitably realise that you were wrong.

  • Use a lenght-measuring software on your computer. If you are photographing with your camera tethered to a computer, use program like PixelStick to measure the distance between two lines. For example, drag some guides in Capture One to the 4 vertical edges of a product and make sure the distances between the left edges and the right edges are the same. This tip is probably the most important of the bunch.

  • Get your camera leveled. Most cameras come with a built-in digital “artificial horizon”. It makes it really easy to level your camera.

The Best Type of Tripod Head for Product Photography

A solid tripod for still life and product photography is undeniably one of the most important tool. It helps you keep the camera in the exact same place for when you are doing focus stacking. Also, it helps you ensure that you can have the perspective that you want to have. Along with the legs, there are quite a few different types of tripod head on the market. Here is the one I most prefer and why.

A three-way tripod head

A three-way tripod head

The 3-way tripod head lets you independently control the yaw (turn it from left to right), the pitch (turn it up and down) and roll (same motion as pitch, but turned 90°) of the camera. The roll motion is particularly useful for correcting if your subject is not perfectly straight. A ballhead can achieve those motions too, but in a much less precise way. Because of the fact that you can lock in each axis with the screw/handle, a 3-way head also tend to be sturdier and not so expensive because of its simpler construction. Further, I like the presence of a bubble level, though this is less and less required because of the fact that many new cameras have a digital level built-in. Finally, they tend to not be so heavy and do not take too much space (however, I have to give this one to ballheads).

Some product and still life photographers prefer ballheads, but, personally, I like 3-way heads better. If you want to have the most rock-solid tripod head ever, you can always buy Arca-Swiss’ “The Cube”!

What types of tripod legs/heads do you prefer? Share you thoughts in the comments below!




Why Shooting at f/22 Won't Make your Shot Sharper

In product and still life photography, you usually want your subject to be in focus from front to back. You know that the larger f/ number, the more of the scenes that is in focus. So, naturally, you may think that photographing with a small aperture (anything above f/14, really) is desirable as you'll have less focus stacking to do and the result may even look more natural.


However, I would agree that such a setting wouldn't be ideal. Here's why. Every lens has an aperture where it is sharper. You can notice this easily by shooting at something like f/1.4 and then, with the same subject, go up to f/5.6. You will see two things; first, the focus point is sharper, less soft and, second, the depth-of-field  is larger, more is in focus. The reason why the in-focus part looks better at a higher f/ number is diffraction. The trick to keep in mind is that a lens will perform better at the aperture value just under the point where diffraction starts (at larger apertures, like f/1.4, it is another phenomenon that causes a lens to render a soft-ish image). Here's a video that explains in a lovely manner how light diffraction works :

Every camera has a different lens aperture where diffraction starts to happen. Most of the time it's around f/8. That's why 95% of my shots are at that aperture.


Now, capturing images at f/8 will require more files to have a complete in-focus image. However, it will be sharper throughout. You always have to factor in if the added sharpness will make up for the added time requirement!



My Folder Structure for Commercial Product and Still Life Shoot Organization

It’s no secret that you absolutely have to make several backups of your work. We’ve heard way too many stories where someone lost years and years of work due to a fire, hard drive malfunction or even having their storage media stolen. Having a good backup isn’t just using a large and reliable hard drive; you have to use a specific folder structure in order to be able to find your stuff down the road. Today, I’ll discuss my particular folder organization for commercial product and still life photography.

First off, what I use is fairly industry standard. It is, for the most part, the same hierarchy that Capture One automatically creates when you make and new session. In the session folder, which I name using the date and the name of the project (YYYYMM_PROJECT NAME), there are four subfolders, Capture, Selects, Trash and Output. By the name of it, all of the shots go to the Capture folder, good or not. I personally do not use at all the Selects folder, I prefer to stay in the Output folder. The Trash folder is where files used by Capture One usually go. The master session folder in placed into a folder for that job’s particular client. A copy of the gig’s invoice is also included in the master session folder.

Finally, the Output folder is where the action happens. In there, I create (most of the time) 3 sub-folder, named Output 1, Output 2 and Output 3. The first of them is where all of the selected shots will be exported. Those can be ready to be worked on in Photoshop (in which case there are only two subfolders) or will constitute a focus stacked image. All of the focus stacks images reside into the Output 2 folder. Those will then be worked on in Photoshop. There can be a few images per shot (with different exposure, colour temperature or parts that will be masked into one final file). When the image is ready to be delivered to the client, it gets saved to the Output 3 folder. As described by this blog post, I export three (or four, depending on the need of the client) different versions of the same image. There is the master PSD file, the high-quality, single-layered TIFF version, the compressed and ready for web use JPEG file and the transparent background PNG shot (which is as web-ready as the JPEG). All of those get their own sub-folder in the Output 3 folder. For example, in the PSDs folder, there should only be one .psd (or .psb) file per product image for that shoot.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 22.40.02.png

This folder structure is not perfect and could most likely be improved upon. However, it works great for me and I can always find the exact file that I'm looking for in a snap.

How do you organize your photographic files? Share it with us in the comments below!