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I'm looking to take some images of deconstructed products arranged neatly. I believe its called knolling. However I want to be directly over and parallel to the items.

The items will be layed out on a desk and I need to be able to view them all as well as part of the floor.

This example shows something similar to what I would want to take a photo of, except not from this angle!

What equipment will I need to be able to achieve this? However it will be on a much larger table

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    Do you mean something like this? Jan 19 '14 at 13:17
  • Sounds like you want a copy stand. A tripod set up suitably, perhaps on a table with the stuff on the ground might do it. Jan 19 '14 at 15:47
  • @BartArondson yes exactly that! however on a 1m by 2m table filled with a deconstructed product.
    – Curious
    Jan 19 '14 at 19:10
  • @OlinLathrop hi exactly this, but I doubt it will work for a large table. It does however tell me how i should set up my lighting. I have 4 flashes that I can position around the table to give it the best even light and a couple of umbrellas to
    – Curious
    Jan 19 '14 at 19:11
  • So you want to mount the camera higher up than most tripods will go, with some flexibility for adjustments? A C-stand, a super clamp and a tripod head should do it. Plus a sandbag for the base of the stand, so it doesn't tip over when you extend the arm. See discussion here. Jan 20 '14 at 7:27
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I suggest a C-stand. It's a heavy-duty light stand with an extensible boom, normally used to hold video lights or studio strobes.

It's simpler to adjust and move around than something more permanent like a ceiling mount.

The advantage over a standard tripod is that

  • It's taller, up to 3m (10') is common.
  • The boom arm lets you offset the camera from the actual stand, e.g. to reach over a table.

C-stand

C-stand, image from Wikimedia commons

C-stands are frequently rated for a load of around 10 kg (20 lbs), while a DSLR with lens is around 2 kg (4 lbs), so the weight should be no issue. It's no more than a standard studio strobe monoblock.

To attach the camera, the simplest option is probably a super clamp and a tripod head. (If you have something else to attach the clamp to, you could skip the stand.)

You'll probably also want a sandbag for the base of the stand (for stabilization) and may need to hang something on the other end of the boom as a counterweight, depending on the weight of the camera and how far you extend the boom.

See also this discussion on mounting a DSLR to a C-stand.

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    Please note that, contrary to what seems to be popular belief, a C stand does not necessarily have a grip head or a grip arm. It's just the base and the upright (usually a double-riser). You may find kits that include the grip head and arm, but that is a kit, not a C stand proper. If you are using a grip arm, a 3/8"-16 male pin is all you need to attach a tripod head; a 1/4"-20 male pin will allow you to attach the camera directly. Note: the grip arm is just a 5/8" tube; it will vibrate like hell, so watch your shutter speed.
    – user2719
    Jan 21 '14 at 21:08
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I don't know your degrees of freedom.

*1. You could build a frame with a 1/4-20 thread mount on top, and maybe light mounts as well. We use Alutech profiles for our setups, where you can slide the mounts in the profiles. That is tall enough to give you the focal length needed to not warp the objects. If this gets close to the ceiling, you can ceiling mount the 1/4-20 thread. To avoid going too high, you can place the objects on a board on the floor, instead of a table. Given the difficulty to reach the camera controls and see results up there, use tethering. I take the mounting screw from a tripod for these setups when I need to mount a DSLR.

Alutech

Alutech2

You can even mount things on a tractor this way: On Tractor!

If this is overkill, you could make it from wood, where you can also adjust the placement of camera and light by drilling different holes.

*2. You could also glue the subjects to a board and place the board upright. Your placement of objects are then set "in stone". That has an advantage, that you can recreate the scenes.

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If you have 4 flashes (and if you can't get it with just one flash bouncing off the ceiling), I'd set them at each corner, point them at the ceiling facing slightly towards the center of the table. Then setup your camera on a tripod high above the table to minimize the shadow from the camera and to minimize the apparent angle in the shot.

It may be necessary to tip the tripod over the table a little bit to keep the tripod itself from showing up in the shot depending on how much down angle you want.

It also may be necessary to use umbrellas or reflectors to return the light before it reaches the camera if you are getting too much shadow from the position of the camera. In this case, I would recommend increasing the amount of angle they are facing in at so that you get good even coverage of the center and all angles of each part.

It might also not hurt to use a ring flash to fill in the center if you can get your hands on one, though it may not be necessary depending on how much space you have to diffuse your 4 flashes over.

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  • 4 flashes at each corner would be a pain to set up (four lightstands required, four sets of batteries to monitor, sync cables etc.). Not only that but you'd get four hard shadows per object, like sports players in floodlit stadiums. What you want is one big umbrella, or just bounce a single flash of a large white ceiling.
    – Matt Grum
    Jan 20 '14 at 15:36
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    @MattGrum - I agree one light may be sufficient, but I was running on the fact that the OP mentioned he had 4 flashes he could use and explaining how to best use them all if he needed to. In that case, corners would give the most even lighting. Note that I didn't say to aim them direct, they were all either ceiling bounces or umbrellas. I'll update to mention one may be sufficient though.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jan 20 '14 at 16:13
  • @AJHenderson I also have two 33" umbrellas that could come in handy and the four light stands. I'll be the only one working on this shoot and the space is either at home or free so its not a problem with setup and time. Thanks for your input, I'll be sure to try both options. The ceiling will be pointed and dark wood. I
    – Curious
    Jan 20 '14 at 21:58
  • @user3115600 - yeah, if the ceiling is dark, then you'll probably have to use umbrellas. The big trick is still the same though, you want to diffuse the light as much as possible, so give the lights as much distance to soften out as possible and adjust positions as necessary to deal with any shadows you get. It may be tricky in a residential space though since your surface area is rather large for the amount of vertical clearance you have. It should be doable I think, but it may take a lot of tweaking to get it right.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jan 21 '14 at 14:06

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