Figured this could be a fun and educational little idea to try for the beginners – clean product style studio shots without all the fancy equipment.
Goal: take a clean black background/base shot of an object of your choice.
-Any DSLR with any lens (I’m using my D5100 with 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 ED VR as it’s the closest to a beginner kit lens as I have)
-Preferably a black glass shelf or any similar piece of surface
-some black poster boards or large pieces of cloth to cover enough space behind your subject in case the light spills over into the background
-a white LED flash/light of some sort. Cellphone torch light can be a great alternative that you’re likely to have handy!
-a paper towel to use as a diffuser if necessary
-a very dark/pitch black room to use
-a tripod or some way to secure the camera in front of your subject
Here is what I did for this project, aforementioned camera setup on a tripod, a black glass shelf and 2 pieces of black cardboard to act as background covers, 1966 50mm f/2 as the subject, macro ring LED light as the main light, and all of this inside a closet.
Onto the experiment! Auto or manual focus the camera on your subject (and flip the lens to manual focus if you’ve pre-focused using auto), dial in the exposure settings, flip on your flashlight, turn off the room lights.
Now is the tricky part – the actual painting. Your shutter speed determines the time you’ll have to wave your light around, but will not affect the overall exposure as long as you don’t overdo it, so setting it longer than 3 seconds to give yourself some more work time is perfectly fine.
I couldn’t quite capture the key lighting method doing everything with only 2 hands, but you want to light the subject predominantly from the top, and from the front only briefly to avoid your light spilling and revealing the background (black or not, the more it shows up the more you’ll have to touch it up later).
If your lighting looks a bit harsh on the subject, try wrapping your flashlight in just 1 layer of paper towel to act as a softbox/diffuser.
Here are 3 examples I did to show you how moving the light around will affect the final image:
1) Simple above the subject, right to left swipe
2) front right of the subject swipe towards above on the right and then across to the left like in example above,
3) starting with the front right of the subject, swipe up towards above to the right, then quickly to the left, and then swipe the light down lighting the front left,
There is no right or wrong way to do this, so play around until you get the look you want. Generally, even lighting is the easiest to achieve if you pretend that your subject is inside a ball and your flashlight makes circle shapes touching the surface of the ball. Wax on, wax off.
Got the shot you wanted? Then onto the touchups in Camera RAW.
Here is what you will get before,
And here is the after with the simple tweaks right there on the sliders,
Generally tone down highlights to kill having hot spots if you want to increase the exposure, and play with shadows enough to help darken the background of your subject.
Final should come out something like this
And as a closing, here are a couple shots I did both using the right light and my speedlights (virtually same results, just a different approach)