The Digital Photo Guy

Eliminating Shadows in Product Photos

by on Mar.11, 2011, under gear, Monday Morning Tips, Webcast, Workshops

Why a Good Flash is a Good Investment

Which photo below resembles your photos on eBay or Craigslist? If you said the one on the left, not to worry, most online ad photos look like that.

  

The one on the right was taken with the same flash with the same camera on the same tripod at the same time. The difference is Multi Mode (Nikon – Stroboscopic.) You’ve seen photos where a gymnast is captured in multiple positions throughout a jump. The first photo is taken as the athlete leaps up, the second a moment later in mid-air, a third as he/she tucks into a spin and so on until the gymnast sticks the landing. The flash fires a series of bursts, each freezing the gymnast at a point in the tumble. That’s cool but not something many people do on a regular basis. However, Multi (Stroboscopic) is very useful for making photos like the right vase.

With the vase positioned and camera in Manual Mode, set the aperture to about f/16 or f/22, shutter speed to about 2-3 seconds and Drive set to 2 Second Timer. With the flash off the camera (you’re just holding it in your hand) and the switch at the bottom in the OFF position, set it to Multi (Stroboscopic) Mode and dial back power to about 1/32 or 1/64 to start with a strobe rate of about 8-12 flashes/second. Turn down the light in the room so it’s reasonably dim but not so dark that you can’t see the camera and vase.

To set a Canon 550EX, press Mode button repeatedly until Multi is displayed in the LCD. Next press the Sel/Set button until power level flashes (1/64 in photo) and adjust it using the +/- buttons. Next, press Sel/Set again until rate flashes (7 Hz in photo) and adjust using the +/- buttons.

Commercial Break

Don’t forget to register for the Composition Webinar with Gloria Hopkins or the HDR Webinar with Rob Sheppard.

You know better composition will do more for your photography than any new camera or lens! Just admit it and sign up for Gloria’s webinar. While you’re at it, register for Rob’s webinar on HDR. If your HDR photos look like cartoons, you need to ask Rob what you’re doing wrong. Register for both at the same time and save 20%.

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Release the shutter and wait for the 2 second timer. Just before the shutter opens, press and hold the Pilot button. The flash will start to fire at whatever rate you’ve programmed (8-12 flashes per second.) While the shutter is open, sweep the light back and forth across, over and under the subject.

To adjust exposure, dial the power up or down or increase/decrease the rate. You can also adjust the Zoom in or out. Out (24mm) spreads the light over a wider area while in (105mm) narrows and focuses the light in a narrow beam. Press the Zoom button to adjust zoom (duh!)

That’s all there is to it. You can now produce magazine ad-like product photos with your flash. The point to all this is that only good flashes have these functions. In Canon, that’s a 580EX or older 550EX. In Nikon, we’re talking about SB-900 or older SB-800. Various Sigma flashes also have this function.

One last tip. You can simulate this with a strong flashlight but you’ll have to set the white balance because flashlights don’t normally produce daylight balanced light. You also probably need to keep the shutter open longer depending on the flashlight power.

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