It is true that there is relatively little in the way of resources on photographing large items, aside from light painting cars. There’s a deep well of information and tutorials on shooting the small things in life, from engagement rings, wine bottles, to camera equipment, and other devices like mobile phones, but nothing like couches, or other sizable items.
This could be a consequence that most people don’t have too many large items to photograph, nor the equipment they think they would need to do it even if they did. Sean Tucker, hailing from London, England, is a product photographer by official day trade, with a large e-commerce company, and has compiled a 3 part video tutorial on shooting large objects, and wonderfully done. Here within, we’ll feature the first in the series, which deals primarily with set-up, lighting, and shooting, and then later the second and third together which deal with the post processing portion of a shoot.
In part one, Sean speaks candidly, but crisply on how to think about the product and resulting shot. He suggests using a white backdrop for this type of shoot, but as he goes through it, you should be able to see how his lighting set-up etcetera can be worked to shoot large products in a more natural environment, and the theory is solid and adaptable.
The lighting gear used by Tucker is likely more advanced, and or specialized and pricey than you may have, but he makes sure to speak to you about what to look out for, so that you can use the more available speedlights to achieve a very similar look. Speaking of gear, he shoots most of his work on a Canon 5D Mark II, and uses a Canon 70-200mm f/4 without stabilization. He recommends using 50mm or above to remove distortion, and says the less expensive, more pedestrian DLSRs, or even mirrorless options can work just fine.
It’s all a very natural and organic feel to the process as Sean goes through the demonstration, which makes it easier to follow along, and understand. It’s also a nice touch that he includes the moments and shots when things haven’t gone exactly right, and then what to do about it. It’s one thing to see how a perfect shot gets done, but you’ll likely make mistakes, and Sean’s humility in demonstrating this is actually empowering.
[REWIND: Product Photography: $100 Light Blaster – An Alternative to the $3552 Broncolor Optical Spot]
I actually feel a lot of the theory here can be useful to anyone. Just as in art class you begin to learn about theory of light and shadows by drawing/painting a bowl of fruit, this is the same. Some of it is just info you’ll take with you always. It’s worth a watch, and keep and eye out for the next.
There is so much conflicting information and advice on the interweb about how to classify yourself as a photographer. Most vehemently, I hear the ‘specialize or perish,’ chant and sometimes from well established and successful photographers. I never quite know what to think about this because you may very well be extremely good at more than one thing, and there’s likely a market for that. After all, there are famed photographers out there who shoot lifestyle, portraits, fashion, and automobiles and see no need to be pigeonholed. Being a skillful and credentialed interdisciplinary photographer, to me, seems like a good thing – and in all likelihood, there’s still going to be one you’re known more for anyway.
I only bring this up because Sean clearly is a highly skilled product photographer, but on his site, mentions his desire to get into more people-centric work, like portraiture, and he’s quite good at that too. Maybe it’s just me, but I like seeing the other ‘faces’ of a photographer, and I hope more photographers don’t shy away from showing the many sides of their work.