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MobiWorkshop MW4 - Tripping the Light Fandango - by dscheff

dscheff

MobiLurver
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Jeffrey
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
Among other things I’m very fortunate to be able to capture images of the floral creations my wife creates for her clients. Of course, I want them to be portrayed in the best possible light and look as natural as possible.

To enable this, I prefer using available light such as the clear light of sunrise on a cloud-free morning, the harsh mid-day light (sometimes), or the warm, hazy light, of the afternoon and evening. This tutorial will concentrate on only using natural light.

I have windows on two sides of my loft that face east/west. So, the position of the sun gives me quite a bit of flexibility. Depending on the subject I can create interesting scenarios that take advantage of this free lighting: light that, when intelligently used, can look every bit as good as controlled light.

One of the benefits of working with natural light is that we are not bound by the Inverse-square Law: the law of lighting that states the power of the light will be inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So, if we take a distance of 2 and square it, we get 4, the inverse of which would be 1/4 or rather, a quarter of the original power - not half. We can go into this at another time when hardware is involved.
IMG_0674.JPG


Anyway. With this is mind here is my “studio”. Nothing fancy.

I like to use Elmer’s tri-fold and single sheet Foam board in all black and all white as my main backdrop when shooting small items like a vase of flowers, an arrangement, or a still life. Depending on the light this arrangement is placed either on a couple of barstools, or the dining table: it’s a quick and easy portable photo studio…

For larger items I use a black muslin, or roll paper, backdrop draped over the dining table. I have two large multi-surface InterFit collapsible Reflector/Diffusers that I use to corral the light where I want it.


I like to use Elmer’s tri-fold and single sheet Foam board in all black and all white as my main backdrop when shooting small items like a vase of flowers, an arrangement, or a still life. Depending on the light this arrangement is placed either on a couple of barstools, or the dining table: it’s a quick and easy portable photo studio…

For larger items I use a black muslin, or roll paper, backdrop draped over the dining table. I have two large multi-surface InterFit collapsible Reflector/Diffusers that I use to corral the light where I want it.

The light today is a bit on and off, so I placed the “studio” on the dining table: I had to move Dawn’s stuff over to one side as she is well in the thick of things

The great thing about the tri-fold is that one can adjust the wings to allow light to flow across the subject. I have found this to be about the best method for my needs, along with the silver reflector to throw light back from the other side to counter or highlight a particular area.

This is today’s setup: black tri-fold background, one black foam board sheet, one white foam board sheet, silver reflector, two tripods, an iPhone 7+ and an iPhone 8+.

The sun comes and goes so I am just going to try and make the most of what I have.

Setup.JPG


In this image you will see I have two tripods, and a dining chair, in play. The white foam board is, in this case, raising the light over the entire area, while the silver reflector is highlighting just the flowers in the vase. Well, it will by the time I’m finished. Note: the white foam board was moved a lot closer because the light almost went away. Pay no attention to the Christmas lights around the window...

Stepping back I am happy with this set up as I can move things around to get the optimum light in all the places I need it.


Here is the raw image. When I’m happy with the result I take several shots with the app I decide on. In this case Chromatica.

Light01.JPG



I turn the subject left and right until I get the look I want: I’m thinking of painting a Lazy Susan black to make me, well, even lazier. I like to make adjustment to the EV between -0.5 and -1.0. This is a kind of safety net as I can always bring up the underexposed areas in post but cannot tone down the overexposed on days where the sun is not being obscured by clouds.

In this image I like the way the light is reflecting through the bottom of the vase and might try to capture this in the final image if I can.

As with all things “natural” one must move quickly. The sun was indeed obliterated by clouds and it looks like I will need to revisit this again another day.

Flower02.JPG



Here is a second subject in a solid vase that lends itself to a simpler lighting mode.

IMG_0920.JPG



You can see from the shadow that the light is coming from the right. I held the reflector about 30 degrees to the window to aim sunlight on to the leaves. I bent the reflector to my will and used a remote to trigger the app. I find that by placing my subject at around 45° and the reflector, if needed, at the same level from the camera, I avoid those most of those contrast shadows.

Chromatica allows me to run in manual mode, such as it is on an iPhone, to allow for more control. In this frame you can see the over exposed portion of the image. I drop the EV to -0.5 to -1.0 to compensate.

IMG_0912.PNG


-1.0 looks pretty good.

IMG_0915.PNG



-1.4 is even better and is the setting I chose. The benefit of shooting underexposed is, as already mentioned, to give me more flexibility in post processing. I use Snapseed more than any other app on my iPad Pro (old model). I like it because it is easy to use, has the right tools for the job, and can be used easily on my iPhone too. Oh, did I mention it’s free?


IMG_0916.PNG




Here is the, raw, finished product.

IMG_0899.JPG



Here is the finished product after post processing in Snapseed. Basic editing was performed. Adjust highlight, contrast, and shadow. Add a small vignette to obscure the corners, Crop square, then lift the overall light a smidge

IMG_0902.jpeg


As you can see there is not really lot to it. I think the challenge of getting set up and captured before available light changes, or goes away, is what makes this fun :)

Here are some links to the foam board I use:


https://www.amazon.com/Elmers-Board-Multi-Pack-Black-16x20/dp/B00K257VWI/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1549129478&sr=8-15&keywords=elmers+tri+fold



https://www.amazon.com/Elmers-Board-Multi-Pack-Black-20x30/dp/B0006VRTZM/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1549209004&sr=8-4&keywords=foam+board+sheets



https://www.amazon.com/Square-Jellyfish-Tripod-Mount-Compatible/dp/B01M11QFSK/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1549209075&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=square+jellyfish&psc=1
 

Attachments

Last edited:

FundyBrian

MobiStaff
Site Staff
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Brian Townsend
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
Thank you for doing this. This is a very nicely done presentation. Seeing the overview of the set-up really helps to see how things fit together. I have often admired your flower arrangement photos and I always found the lighting very well done.

Your mention of a lazy Susan reminded me of a studio photographer I knew years ago. He made a 5 foot diameter turntable for his portrait studio. He found it was much easier to reach out one foot and slightly turn the model rather than trying to explain to them what he wanted. They always go the wrong way.

There’s only one problem I can see. Now I have to look at another camera app, just when I’m trying to cut back. Chromatica looks pretty good from the write-up.

I’m anxious now to try photographing some flowers. The only problems is that it will be months until we have fresh flowers again. I’ve got lots of rocks, though. Hmmm...
 

dscheff

MobiLurver
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Jeffrey
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
Thank you for doing this. This is a very nicely done presentation. Seeing the overview of the set-up really helps to see how things fit together. I have often admired your flower arrangement photos and I always found the lighting very well done.

Your mention of a lazy Susan reminded me of a studio photographer I knew years ago. He made a 5 foot diameter turntable for his portrait studio. He found it was much easier to reach out one foot and slightly turn the model rather than trying to explain to them what he wanted. They always go the wrong way.

There’s only one problem I can see. Now I have to look at another camera app, just when I’m trying to cut back. Chromatica looks pretty good from the write-up.

I’m anxious now to try photographing some flowers. The only problems is that it will be months until we have fresh flowers again. I’ve got lots of rocks, though. Hmmm...
So cool to see the magic behind the man. :notworthy:
Thank you both. I’m evolving ;)
 

terse

MobiLifer
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Ted
Device
iPhone Xs
dscheff -- So in the second picture, the one that shows your setup, you're using the reflector (rather than just turning your setup around) because the light from the window would be too harsh?
 

dscheff

MobiLurver
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Jeffrey
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
dscheff -- So in the second picture, the one that shows your setup, you're using the reflector (rather than just turning your setup around) because the light from the window would be too harsh?
Yes, and I did end up turning the whole setup slightly to the right after the clouds covered the sun. The windows on the right, two, and a big double sliding door, have no blinds. There are also the two rectangular windows and another large one behind the foam board. The glass is tinted somewhat on the outside but that doesn’t stop huge amounts of light from flooding in. It can get pretty harsh too. So turning the rig one way or another does help to temper the harshness.
The studio photographer Brian mentioned had a great idea ;)

That small reflector is perfect for directing light but it is by no means foolproof: sometimes I look like a tipsy ninja trying to balance everything ;)
 

FundyBrian

MobiStaff
Site Staff
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Brian Townsend
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
Yes, and I did end up turning the whole setup slightly to the right after the clouds covered the sun. The windows on the right, two, and a big double sliding door, have no blinds. There are also the two rectangular windows and another large one behind the foam board. The glass is tinted somewhat on the outside but that doesn’t stop huge amounts of light from flooding in. It can get pretty harsh too. So turning the rig one way or another does help to temper the harshness.
The studio photographer Brian mentioned had a great idea ;)

That small reflector is perfect for directing light but it is by no means foolproof: sometimes I look like a tipsy ninja trying to balance everything ;)
I’ve had good luck indoors using sunlight coming through a window and also using a diffusion panel to soften the light. It still has direction but isn’t quite so hard. Depending on the subject, soft light or hard light will suite your purposes. For a window lit portrait of a person then soft light is ideal. Adding a reflector to the shadow side gives you control over contrast.

I have 2 or 3 diffusion panels of different sizes. Something around 2 x 3 feet is easy enough to make and set up. I have the parts for a bigger one I used to use that was 3x5 feet with its own stand with wheels. The smaller ones have a wooden frame of about 1/2”square cross section. I also screw on a piece of metal to the bottom that has a standard 1/4” x 20 thread (the standard tripod screw size) so the panels can easily be mounted on a light stand or tripod. The diffusion material is simply attached around the edges with a staple gun. The diffusion material needs to be truly white or neutral to prevent messing up the colour balance. This becomes even more important if you have more than one light source.

You can get white rip-stop nylon fabric by the yard or metre at most sewing or fabric stores. Also, a white plastic material, like shower curtain material works well, too. All white, no pattern. The plastic is easier to clean if necessary.

When your diffuser is close to the subject the light is very soft, seeming to wrap around the subject. A little farther away and the light is still soft but has more direction.

If you have a particular window you like to use you can make your diffusion panel to exactly fit the window and then just stand your diffuser on the window sill, leaning against the window.

Another option it to replace the material on a window roller blind with your diffusion material and just pull down the diffuser when you want soft light.
 
Last edited:

ImageArt

MobiLifer
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Ann
Device
iPhone 7 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
Among other things I’m very fortunate to be able to capture images of the floral creations my wife creates for her clients. Of course, I want them to be portrayed in the best possible light and look as natural as possible.

To enable this, I prefer using available light such as the clear light of sunrise on a cloud-free morning, the harsh mid-day light (sometimes), or the warm, hazy light, of the afternoon and evening. This tutorial will concentrate on only using natural light.

I have windows on two sides of my loft that face east/west. So, the position of the sun gives me quite a bit of flexibility. Depending on the subject I can create interesting scenarios that take advantage of this free lighting: light that, when intelligently used, can look every bit as good as controlled light.

One of the benefits of working with natural light is that we are not bound by the Inverse-square Law: the law of lighting that states the power of the light will be inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So, if we take a distance of 2 and square it, we get 4, the inverse of which would be 1/4 or rather, a quarter of the original power - not half. We can go into this at another time when hardware is involved.
View attachment 120265

Anyway. With this is mind here is my “studio”. Nothing fancy.

I like to use Elmer’s tri-fold and single sheet Foam board in all black and all white as my main backdrop when shooting small items like a vase of flowers, an arrangement, or a still life. Depending on the light this arrangement is placed either on a couple of barstools, or the dining table: it’s a quick and easy portable photo studio…

For larger items I use a black muslin, or roll paper, backdrop draped over the dining table. I have two large multi-surface InterFit collapsible Reflector/Diffusers that I use to corral the light where I want it.


I like to use Elmer’s tri-fold and single sheet Foam board in all black and all white as my main backdrop when shooting small items like a vase of flowers, an arrangement, or a still life. Depending on the light this arrangement is placed either on a couple of barstools, or the dining table: it’s a quick and easy portable photo studio…

For larger items I use a black muslin, or roll paper, backdrop draped over the dining table. I have two large multi-surface InterFit collapsible Reflector/Diffusers that I use to corral the light where I want it.

The light today is a bit on and off, so I placed the “studio” on the dining table: I had to move Dawn’s stuff over to one side as she is well in the thick of things

The great thing about the tri-fold is that one can adjust the wings to allow light to flow across the subject. I have found this to be about the best method for my needs, along with the silver reflector to throw light back from the other side to counter or highlight a particular area.

This is today’s setup: black tri-fold background, one black foam board sheet, one white foam board sheet, silver reflector, two tripods, an iPhone 7+ and an iPhone 8+.

The sun comes and goes so I am just going to try and make the most of what I have.

View attachment 120266

In this image you will see I have two tripods, and a dining chair, in play. The white foam board is, in this case, raising the light over the entire area, while the silver reflector is highlighting just the flowers in the vase. Well, it will by the time I’m finished. Note: the white foam board was moved a lot closer because the light almost went away. Pay no attention to the Christmas lights around the window...

Stepping back I am happy with this set up as I can move things around to get the optimum light in all the places I need it.


Here is the raw image. When I’m happy with the result I take several shots with the app I decide on. In this case Chromatica.

View attachment 120267


I turn the subject left and right until I get the look I want: I’m thinking of painting a Lazy Susan black to make me, well, even lazier. I like to make adjustment to the EV between -0.5 and -1.0. This is a kind of safety net as I can always bring up the underexposed areas in post but cannot tone down the overexposed on days where the sun is not being obscured by clouds.

In this image I like the way the light is reflecting through the bottom of the vase and might try to capture this in the final image if I can.

As with all things “natural” one must move quickly. The sun was indeed obliterated by clouds and it looks like I will need to revisit this again another day.

View attachment 120268


Here is a second subject in a solid vase that lends itself to a simpler lighting mode.

View attachment 120278


You can see from the shadow that the light is coming from the right. I held the reflector about 30 degrees to the window to aim sunlight on to the leaves. I bent the reflector to my will and used a remote to trigger the app. I find that by placing my subject at around 45° and the reflector, if needed, at the same level from the camera, I avoid those most of those contrast shadows.

Chromatica allows me to run in manual mode, such as it is on an iPhone, to allow for more control. In this frame you can see the over exposed portion of the image. I drop the EV to -0.5 to -1.0 to compensate.

View attachment 120274

-1.0 looks pretty good.

View attachment 120275


-1.4 is even better and is the setting I chose. The benefit of shooting underexposed is, as already mentioned, to give me more flexibility in post processing. I use Snapseed more than any other app on my iPad Pro (old model). I like it because it is easy to use, has the right tools for the job, and can be used easily on my iPhone too. Oh, did I mention it’s free?


View attachment 120276



Here is the, raw, finished product.

View attachment 120279


Here is the finished product after post processing in Snapseed. Basic editing was performed. Adjust highlight, contrast, and shadow. Add a small vignette to obscure the corners, Crop square, then lift the overall light a smidge

View attachment 120280

As you can see there is not really lot to it. I think the challenge of getting set up and captured before available light changes, or goes away, is what makes this fun :)

Here are some links to the foam board I use:


https://www.amazon.com/Elmers-Board-Multi-Pack-Black-16x20/dp/B00K257VWI/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1549129478&sr=8-15&keywords=elmers+tri+fold



https://www.amazon.com/Elmers-Board-Multi-Pack-Black-20x30/dp/B0006VRTZM/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1549209004&sr=8-4&keywords=foam+board+sheets



https://www.amazon.com/Square-Jellyfish-Tripod-Mount-Compatible/dp/B01M11QFSK/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1549209075&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=square+jellyfish&psc=1
Great to see this, Jeffrey. Unfortunately most of the product photography I need to do at the moment is for my sister and it’s in a mall with no windows so I have to use LED lights. I did some tests at her home some time back with natural light and it was certainly much better but impossible to move all her stock home to do it.

However, I do intend to set up something at home in the future and this will be most useful. Thanks! :thumbs:
 
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