This toy was shot for Hi Fructose Magazine. I wanted to do something simple and clean, but not just a plain white background. For some reason the natural habitat of this guy seemed to be the freezer.
Lighting: Two off camera Canon 580EX flashes which were controlled by an ST-E2 transmitter on the camera. The ST-E2 allows quick adjustments of flash output right from the camera position. I did a test shot of the existing light in the freezer, and checked the white point in Camera RAW — 2800K, a standard Tungsten bulb. I decided to leave the tungsten bulb for a highlight and warming effect, but the value was reduced with a piece of tough frost taped over the bulb. By reducing the lighting on the foreground only, the background became brighter relative to the subject. Leaving the two flashes ungelled at their normal color temperature of 5500K produced a subtle warm to cool transition from right to left. Various flash positions and output values were tried until I got the lighting effect I wanted. I tried lighting from underneath with a blue gel but the effect was too much. Being able to try different setups and review the results made it easier to refine the lighting until I was happy with it. I really need to look into tethered shooting with a laptop in the field.
Focal length: The amount of uncluttered background space was small, and I didn’t want to give the freezer too much of a workout. I chose a 135mm lens which gave me a clean background, and enough working distance to be able to close the freezer between shots without moving the camera position. Yes, I did take the toy and flashes out before closing the freezer. After a few initial test shots at f/4 and f/5.6 I quickly realized I needed much more depth of field to ensure the entire toy was in focus. I bracketed the aperture on the test shots, reviewed them on the monitor, and ended up at f/11.
Post processing: A RAW conversion was made for exposure, white and black points, and color temperature. To make sure the background was just on the edge of white with detail, I selected the background only and applied a Curves adjustment. Using the color sampler and info palette in Photoshop is a great help here. Next any background imperfections were cleaned up with the patch tool. The image was then mildly sharpened using some techniques from Bruce Fraser’s Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2. I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the techniques in this book here on my blog, and also in an upcoming review on the online photographer.