Active Light Vs Passive Light

Active Light Vs Passive Light

Well, you’ve got your product there waiting for your magic, and like all products it has an outside and an inside. If you’re selling either one of these you’ll want the people to see what it looks like.  So you deliberately set up 8 separate strobe banks controlled by a computer to shoot from all sides. Two air conditioners play on the set to prevent the thing from melting under the modelling lights and a one bar heater is on you to prevent frostbite from the air conditioners. Every time you switch it all on, Collie Power Station has to shift down a gear. Who said it wasn’t a man’s life in the regular product shooters…

Or you can just do it with one light source and some reflection. That’s what most landscape photographers use…one sun and a sky as a reflector. and in many cases the mountains and valleys can be made to look just fine.

Steve Sint has it all taped. He will put one main light on a product – either sharp or diffused – and then position up to 5 different reflectors around the subject to send some of that main light back to different surfaces. The advantage of using reflectors that are either silver or white is that they do not make much change to the colour temperature of the main source. They are also not powerful light sources that add another set of shadows at a conflicting angle. The viewer still gets the impression that the lighting is natural. The intensity of it can be controlled by the distance which the reflector is from the surface it lights and the spread is a function of the size of the reflector itself.

Particular care must be taken with reflective surfaces on the subject itself – glass, chrome, metallic paint jobs or fittings all make for areas that will report what is shining on them faithfully. If you have an ugly light source, it will be pointed out well and truly. If you are ugly, you can just bet you’ll pop up somewhere in the reflection too…

What sort of reflectors for the studio? Well, you can use the various round folding types from the shop. You can cut pieces of white matt board, or surface cardboard stock with alfoil. You can get small compact, hand, or dental mirrors.

How do you position them.? Home made cardboard jacks. Pieces of plasticine. Cullmann tabletop clamps and gooseneck arms. Manfrotto 035 clamps and card holders for the larger reflectors or flags. Or you can just handhold them and trigger the assembly off with the self timer. The nature of any product shot other than for the live grenade market is that you have a good long time to set it up and can use multiple shots to get all parts lit and in focus. Today’s multilayered techniques with Photoshop make this even simpler – you can get each layer of a composite perfect and then blend them.

Just make sure you charge enough to cover the time needed. And the language used…

Featured Image: Made with one Elinchrom 250 El with a simple 18cm bowl. One foam-core reflector sheet. Fujifilm X-E2, Tokina 35mm f:2.8 Macro lens. ISO 200, f:22. 1/ 180 sec. Crestline Street, Spokane, Washington, July, 1959 on Kodachrome.

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