Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have a friend asking me to create a setup to take shoe photos. So, I'm trying to pick up a perfect camera + lightning setup. As always budget and shooting space is limited. The photos should look close to this one:

enter image description here

As you see, I don't need a solid white background, I need a shadow from top left and effect of "bright" photo.

Here is think what I've came up with:

Camera: Nikon D3100, for perfect balance price/quality.
Lense: default from Nikon D3100 kit (18-55mm VR).
Scene setup:

One big softbox at left side:

enter image description here

Table with sheet of white paper. (I'm thinking about getting it instead of light cube, because some boots might not fit in cube. Or should I just get a very large light cube?):

enter image description here

And one simple reflector at left side (or just another white sheet of paper).


What do you think about this scene setup? Is one light + flash enough? What would you get?

Also, secondary question: should I choose another lense or this one would be fine too?

Thank you.

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A little comment: Buying advice is not commonly welcome - but this is really "product photography" - which does not have a great answer from a quick search... photo.stackexchange.com/questions/35047/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4631/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/27493/… –  DetlevCM Jul 8 '13 at 12:26

2 Answers 2

Softbox above and slightly to the left. you have non- moving subject so light shought not be a constraint. would suggest that you mount camera on tripod to increase the sharpness of the pictures. One light is probably going to give a bit to much contrast. Use white reflector (anything you got handy sheet shirt etc). to right of subjuct to pride some fill. After getting the desired exposure from your main light move the fill reflector closer or further to get your desired contrast.

You planning on buying all this just to shoot shoes? I am gear junkie myself but for this shot you probably have all the gear you need lying around your house.

Play around with the light and see what effects you can create. starting with one light and a reflector is always great way to hone your understanding.

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Yep, its just to shoot shoes :D But there are a lot of them. About 1000 pairs, and coming more, so I want photos to be perfect and consistent. Thanks a lot for help. –  Marvin3 Jul 7 '13 at 21:32

It does look like the shoes were placed inside of a sizable "light cube" or "light tent" but they tend to produce very flat light, which doesn't look to be the case here.

See how the horizontal line in the back is darker on the left and and brighter on the right? The light from the right looks like it's from a diffused fill light placed further away from the shoes, probably angled toward the backdrop, or a reflector in a similar position but closer. Now note the shoes are mostly lit from the left of the camera and above judging from the shadow inside of the heels and the soft shadows at the toes. In fact those toe shadows look like two shadows crossing, which would mean two light sources or in our case a light and a reflection of that light. Also notice the light on the outside edge of the front shoe: it's very bright in the middle but still has a slight shadow line at the heel, which means it was directly to the left the shoes and maybe a little nearer to the camera.

I can't find a suitable lighting diagram, but it's appears basic enough. I suggest that whatever setup you use to mark off where you place the camera/tripod, light equipment, table/platform/backdrop and shoes. This way you can quickly get it set up fairly accurately should you have to move anything. I also want to add that a larger light source relative to the subject creates softer light, so going with a large softbox will help get look seen in the photo you referenced.

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+1 for lighting analysis. Great catch on the toe shadows. –  TroyR Jul 9 '13 at 6:31

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