Mike’s Hot Honey – Lighting Tutorial

Product Lighting How-To Made Easy!

I usually try to make these behind-the-scenes/tutorial posts as short and to the point as possible. The hope is you are able to get all of the information you might be looking for without all the fluff. So, let’s give it a go!

I was recently introduced to Mike’s Hot Honey and instantly fell in love with it. If you like spicy things then I strongly recommend this product for pretty much anything you could put honey on, and maybe even a few things you normally wouldn’t. 

In order to show my appreciation for their honey, which helped me through a rough cold season (hot honey and tea, yum!), I decided to give thanks by taking a fiery product photo!

Step 1 – Styling

I used some old crates as the backdrop. I also had some old glass doors I previously aged and distressed to use in the background. For the table top, I used some old palette wood that I then burned with a blow torch to give the visual suggestion that the honey was so hot that it was burning the table top. 

Step 2 – Staging

Get the products in place – There are tons of great tutorials out there that show how to become a successful food photographer – this will not be one of those. All we did was place the hero product front-and-center and then offset a plate with some toast, butter, and drizzled honey to the side of it. I “toasted” the bread using the earlier mentioned blow torch and then used a metal rod, also heated with the blow torch, to burn some lines in the bread, mimicking that old school toaster look.

Step 3 – Lighting

This is the part I love the most. We used 4 separate lights for this image. One Paul C. Buff Einstein, two Alienbees, and one old school Vivitar 285. Yes, an actual 285! We ended up using this old flash because it’s easy to hand hold and it has a very reliable optical slave attachment that makes it so I don’t have to deal with an additional radio remote. For the other three lights we are using Paul C. Buff’s flash commander system.

The lights were set up as follows:

  • Strip box to camera right, gelled orange – this is our main light as it contributes most of the light to the scene
  • Strip box to camera left, un-gelled and acting as kicker light to give the honey bottle some separation from the background. 
  • Octobox on an C-Stand, hanging above the table, pointing straight down. This is our fill light as it just helps even out some shadows
  • Hand-held Vivitar 285 speed light used for highlighting small details. 

Here is a diagram for those of us who are visual oriented learners.

Step 4

Start taking pictures! This is the stage where you are adjusting your lights so they work in concert with each other. For our picture the ratio of power from Main Light, to Kicker to Fill was something like 1 : 0.5 : 0.25

Basically that means from most power to the least, each light was about half the power of the last. Your ratio will be different! Experiment! But this is a good starting point if you are trying to recreate a similar look. Also worth remembering; the distance of your light source to the subject also determines the apparent power of the light, so be sure to play with power levels and distance!

Step 5

Keep taking pictures! This is a composite job, folks. Our final image is actually something like 18 separate images stacked on top of each other. Remember that hand held Vivitar flash I mentioned? Well, I would move it from one picture to the next, trying to find small details to highlight. When you are working in a studio environment and have a limited amount of flashes to use then this method is a life saver. By taking multiple photos you can create the look of a massive studio with 10s of flashes. You can do this whole product shoot with just one light if you wanted to!

Step 6

Bring the files into Photoshop and start compositing! The gist here is to stack all of your exposures as layers in a single file and then use masks to save the best parts of each photo. Then go in and add the small details, like fire and embers, that really bring something like this to life. Here is the final composite!

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial product, portrait, and fine art photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Northeast Ohio area. 

Shades of Difference and Direction « Joe McNally’s Blog

 

Source: Shades of Difference and Direction « Joe McNally’s Blog

Hard sun, big silk, beautiful light. Pretty simple. Take a nuclear blast of sunlight and tame it by interfering with its blazing, destructive path with a simple swatch of white material, and it arrives at your subject’s doorstep (face) as cuddly and friendly as a golden retriever puppy. Get fancy and add a simple white fill card to bounce a small amount back and up into the face and you got dead bang gorgeous, wraparound light. Friendly and glow-y. Below, shot at 1/3200 @ f/1.4, Nikon Z7105mm lens.

Now, I dealt myself a pretty easy hand of cards, here, having Rae Stoetzel in front of my lens. Easy-going guy, great face, fun to work with, patient beyond. (Just like all of our photo subjects, right?) But easy-going was the watchword of our workshop up on Prince Edward Island, at Dave Brosha’s beautiful, patina laden barn. Pictures everywhere up there. So thankful for the invite to come and teach. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

This is a Lastolite 6×6 Skylite panel on two c-stands overhead of him, interrupting the flow of hard sunlight, baffling it, and smoothing it out. The silk, mind you, is hovering just out of camera frame, very close to him. That’s the key. Get it as close as you can. There’s a fill board under him, kicking up some fill, and I’m shooting at 1.4 with that great looking barn for a backdrop. Boom, we’re done. Shoot like this all day, except for the fact of the sun moving, making it necessary for you to move the silk. Which I have done on jobs. Literally, all day. Move the silk. Luckily, that is usually a 12×12 silk, on a frame, supported by high rollers, which have wheels.

Okay, great light, easy-peasy, as has been said. But, shooting all day like this would have a sense of sameness to it. How do you take this gentle, overlarge swatch of light and shift it, play with it, directional-ize it?

Enter the Profoto B1-X, fitted with a 4′ RFI Octa softbox. First, the B1-X remains, for me, the quintessential big flash for location work. Yes, you can go bigger, and sometimes you need to, but the B1-X, at 500 watt seconds, pretty much covers the waterfront and then some on maybe, like, 90% of potential jobs? Easy to use, versatile as hell, and a dead bang dependable wireless transmission system makes this light indispensable.

And then, put the 4′ Octa on there and it’s magic. The 4′ size makes it big enough to be big, and small enough to maneuver, for instance, under a low slung silk. Hand held! All BTS pix shot by Annie Cahill.

The result is you have more exposure leverage over your background, and you can punch and swing the the direction of the light just about any which way, without robbing the essential soft quality of light the silk presents. The Octa fits right into the light pattern. Big and soft, but with a bit of punch.  Below shot at 1/2000 @ f/2.8 with the Nikon Z7 and 105mm lens.

Simple, subtle, effective.

Photoshoot: Robert

Senior Portraits Photoshoot with Robert at Tam O' Shanter Golf Course and Park in Canton, Ohio.

How To: Christmas Pet Portrait Recipe

Christmas Pet (And People) Portrait Recipe

As with our Halloween Portrait How-To, we’ve constructed an easy to follow recipe for some awesome Christmas Pet Portraits that will sleigh the competition. 

Here’s what you need:

  • A Pet (dog, cat, fish, or whatever else you can bribe with food to sit still)
  • 3 Light Sources- We’re using studio strobes, but continuous lights or Speedlites will work too
  • Light Stands
  • Solid Color Backdrop or Wall
  • Something festive
  • Colored Gel or Light
  • Camera

The trickiest part of this concoction is the 3 light set up. Here is a BTS photo:

 

Quite simply, what’s happening here is that we have one light with a gridded soft-box and red gel pointing at our background. Even though the backdrop is gray, the fact that we are using a red gel on the light means it will be appear to be red when we take our photo.

The second light to the back-right is another gridded soft-box, in this case a strip-box, pointed at the back edge of our subject. This is used to help separate your subject from the background and to supply a little extra contrast. 

Our main light, the big one in upper left hand corner, is an octobox that is placed above our subject, looking down at roughly a 45 degree angle. 

There is one other thing in play here that may not be obvious right off the bat, but do you see that white fluffy material I am using as snow on the table there? It sort of acts like a reflector and bounces a lot of the light from our main light back up into our subject – that means we don’t have to use a fill board, or a forth light, to fill in shadows. If you’re not using a light colored material for your subject to sit on like we are you may have to use a bounce card or reflector to achieve the same results.

Let’s get our model, Sophia, in here and take a picture!

Wow, that was easy! Now, obviously we glossed over some things like lighting power and ratios, but the truth is it all depends on your set up. For example, with our medium gray backdrop and deep red gelled light, we had to turn our background light up to full power! However, if we were going with a lighter pink gel, or even a background that was already the right color, the power settings would have been much less.

Same goes for our model. Sophia here has black fur, so again we have to pump a little extra light to draw out details, but a lighter shade of fur would take less oomph to illuminate.

If you’re looking for a baking metaphor here it is, the basic ingredients are the same, but the baking time and temperatures may vary (it’s the best metaphor I could come up with, sorry!)

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton and North East Area of Ohio.

Band Portraits in the Black Key’s Rehearsal Space

How to Take Portraits in a new, untested environment.

I had a really amazing opportunity to take some band photos in a space that, surpise, turned out to be the Black Keys’ rehearsal space! How cool!

I wanted to quickly run down how this photo is taken since it’s really illustrates a few basic, but important aspects of location scouting a planning.

Scouting

When you’re in a new location, you’ve got to make time to just look around. This being the Black Keys’ space, you know it’s going to be filled with character, but you still have to find the spot that’s going to work with your needs. Our needs were we needed a location that would work for both group and individual photos. We were moving fast since some of the band members had limited time — a specific factor like that is going to influence your choice heavily, so be ready!

Lighting

Once I settled on a location (a cool hallway filled with touring gear) I send the band off to their rehearsal and started to set up my lights. I knew I was going to to use 3 lights and my plan was to gel two of those lights with complimentary colors. 

Main Light

The mainlight was a 51 inch reverse-bounce umbrella known as a soft-lighter. I set that up at the beginning of the hallway, facing down towards the band. I am using this light to both fill in shadows (so it’s acting as a fill, to some degree) but also make sure the main features of our subjects aren’t overly washed with color from our other two lights.

Fill Light

Our fill light is an orange gelled Alinebees 800 with a reflector dish pointed at the wall. I am using the wall as a bounce so I can effectively turn it into a massive softbox. The light is just about 1 full stop of power less than our main light. 

Ambient Light

There’s a technique I don’t see used EVER in photography, or at least it’s never mentioned, and that is the use of a strobe as an ambient light source. Just to define what I mean by Ambient — it is a source of light that lives everywhere through the photo. That may not initially make much sense, but in a practical sense your ambient light is the light that you control using your shutter speed. We all know that even when you’re using a lot of strobes to light your photo, you can turn your shutter speed down far enough so that more light bleeds in from the environment – that light is the ambient light. 

The cool thing is, you can actually use strobes to control that as well. The only two rules to creating ambient light is:

  1. That your ambient light strobe washes evenly throughout the photo
  2. That your ambient light strobe’s power is higher than the natural light but weaker than your main flashes.

To tackle rule #1, making sure the light reaches everywhere, I had the flash pointed at the ceiling. This meant the light bounced up and then cascaded down throughout the photo evenly. 

Rule #2 is easy, you just dial it up or down until you only see it’s influence in the shadows of your subjects. In our photo you can see the ambient light (gelled as a deep teal) on the walls and on the shadow side of our subject — Perfect!

Taking Photos

The next step is the easy part! And working with a group a guys like the Yankee Bravo crew just makes the process of taking photos easy and fun! Over the course of about 30 minutes we worked through several different set ups and then we were outta there! I’ve attached the lighting diagram so you can get a rough idea of where I had everything placed and the final photos are here to show you what we were able to create!

It was an amazing experience, and the band (Yankee Bravo – go check em out!) were just the best group of guys you could ask to work with. The space was amazing to work with as well. Just everything about this shoot was so amazing!

Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial, Advertising and Portrait Photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, and North East Area of Ohio.