For awhile I actually had time to go to photo club meetings. One of the last ones that I attended was a Nikon Users Group in Sarasota, Florida. The space was hosted by one of the local camera stores. You can see where this is going already. We bought quite a bit of equipment there so I think we paid our “dues” for the group anyway.
The gentleman that was running the group was the store manager. The focus of the group wasn’t really to sell stuff; it was more to learn how to use Nikon specific features to help improve your photography. The manager went to photography school so he had quite a bit of knowledge to share. There were photographers there with entry-level cameras up to the pros. We all learned from each other and came away with something new to try. Since the manager went to college, it was decided that the group would have “homework”. We did the usual stuff like rule of thirds and blurring out the background for example. We would assemble a couple of images on a thumb drive and show them to the class and explain how we achieved the results. Everyone was enjoying the “homework” and we all learned something. Then came the curve ball. When our fearless leader went to college, one of his assignments was to photograph “white on white”. This meant that we needed to photograph a white object on a white background, but keeping the detail in the subject. All of us that had been doing this for awhile kind of chuckled to ourselves. We left the meeting with our assignment in hand.
Photographers do this all the time. You see this technique on TV and in magazines. These usually are for make-up ads and you will see type set on the one side telling about the product. Having done some of this kind of work before, I knew that my background was going to have to be around two stops lighter than my subject. Here is what I came up with…
On the drive home I passed many golf courses. Then it hit me, golf balls are white, most of them anyway. The next day I went to Wally World (Wal-Mart) and picked up a cheap four ball set. My wife was shopping around and found me a golf tee. I had my white golf ball and white tee. How was I going to hold this together so I could photograph it? Simple, we had a party the week before and had some white Styrofoam cups left over. I tipped the cup over and pushed the tee through the bottom of it. That solved how the ball was going to be held in place, now for the lighting. All I had at the time was my constant lighting system. This system doesn’t have a ton of control but some. I had my background white paper in place and turned all of the switches on. This was “full power” out of this particular system. I pointed the softbox towards the paper and this lit it perfectly. Next, I used my posing table to hold the cup and golf ball a few feet away from the background. I placed another light on the subject and only turned on a couple of switches. This was “half power”. I set the camera on a tripod and composed the shot. I exposed for the subject, which was a little darker than the background. As you can see from the photo how it came out.
Now that I had everything set up, all I had to do was place objects on the table and shoot away. In this photo, I wanted to take it up a notch. I put white copy paper down on my black posing table and then put a piece of Plexiglass on top of the paper. Here was my thinking; I wanted a reflection of the subject. However, I didn’t want to do it in Photoshop. As I have said before, I’m getting lazy, if I can do it in the camera I will. I placed the silk rose on the Plexiglass and composed the shot. As you can see here, the Plexiglass is giving me a perfect reflection, and best of all, no Photoshop work needed.
Lastly, I wanted to try one of those make-up looking ads that you see on TV. With the set up in place from the rose shoot, I placed one of my wife’s make-up bottles on the Plexiglass. Composed the scene and took the shot. As you can see from the photo, I got the reflection that I was going for. Once you have the lighting set up, it’s just a matter of swapping out your subjects and you know that they will all be the same.
The next month I returned to the users group with my images on my thumb drive. I was expecting to see some similar images to the ones that I had shot. Ironically, I was the only one who had photographed these kinds of images. Don’t get me wrong the other photos were great. I guess I took it to literal. I was told after the meeting was over that this is what he was looking for. This is what’s great about going to meeting like this. Everyone has a different way of looking at things and coming up with different solutions. I had to laugh as the two questions that I got from my images were, “How did you get the tee to stand up?” and “How did you do the reflection in Photoshop so realistic?”. I went through what I explained here and it was like the “ah ha!” moment for some people.
If you belong to a photo club, I suggest trying a themed homework assignment. It will be a great learning and entertaining experience. Don’t be afraid to try different angles and use basic household items. You just never know what you will come up with.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean