View Full Version : Cheap Product Lighting Setup
Basically, I might have the chance to shoot a rare guitar (owned by one of the beatles), for a client. The whole setup needs to be portable, as I will be working on-location.
Now, I have zero lighting or studio equipment, so will need to invest. I want to keep it as cheap as possible, im quite happy to DIY it all. I was going to make a backdrop with a large white sheet, and either wood or metal for the support. This leaves me with just the light setup to consider.
From what I can see, I have a few options:
1. Work lights (such as they use on building sites). Although these would be cheap, the colour would be off.
2. Obtain normal lights and buy daylight bulbs for them. I figure I might be able to blag some standard lights (like you would have in your home), from freecycle. I would need to diffuse these though. Maybe buying some reflectors, or I could make a huge light tent, then light it from the outside.
3. Buy some softboxes. Although I want the cheapest possible solution, there does seem to be some good options on ebay (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Studio-Softbox-1000W-Photo-Studio-Continuous-Light-Kit-/260792833223?pt=UK_Photography_StudioEquipment_RL&hash=item3cb876d4c7).
Does anyone have any hints/recommendations etc? Anything would be appreciated!
The final thing, is that the client would like a 360 degree view (so you can spin around it and look at all the sides). This would entail building a turntable of sorts. I was thinking of maybe using a tv turner, then putting a large circular peice of wood on top covered in fabric (say 2m square circle). I would need to support the edges too, but I could use casters for this. I could fashion something else without too much difficulty I think.
It would be nice though to have the guitar look suspended in mid air. Basically, whats on this website: http://www.axlguitars.com/as820wo.html
Any ideas how to suspend the guitar? The best idea I have is to use strong fishing wire. I just need to make sure its not anything that might damage the guitar!
Thanks in advance for any help, I really appreciate it.
Hi, Mr. Agour
I've been dealing with some of the same tasks...selling goodies on eBay. And I've done some strobe photo shoots in the past.
Lots of folks on this RFF forum are pros, so they will have great ideas, I am sure.
Obviously, you have decided to do continuous lights versus strobes. There will be debate over that decision. The backdrop challenges are quite similar, but dollar for dollar you get so much more light from strobes than continuous.
The soft boxes would probably be overly expensive and not really needed, since you would have to have light stands to support the boxes, a massive amount of wattage to penetrate the fabric and then evenly illuminate the space around the guitar. A cheaper approach is to go to a fabric store and buy some simlar light fabric as a diffuser (e.g., wedding gown satin stuff).
You can purchase collapsible light tents of varying sizes, but they are rather cumbersome to use. I used PVC pipe cut into sections to construct a cube of space, with PVC connectors and gaff tape to hold it all together, and found it to be more convenient to carry and use, and then swept the wedding fabric over it, with the light sources set up around the space. You can set a PVC crossbeam in the rear of the cube, and clamp and tape seamless paper to it, but if the object is large, a backdrop stand is needed for a wider sweep.
The cheapest light source would be to use indirect sunlight..but you'd have to depend on it once at location. Paper as a backdrop and reflector of sunlight works quite well. Also, consider buying real seamless paper (e.g., "Arctic White" color), instead of using a sheet as a backdrop. I've spent many an hour trying to steam wrinkles from backdrop fabric, time I could have avoided by using seamless paper. The paper is less costly than you might think...and some strong PVC pipe from Home Depot will support it. But be forewarned: designing and building a DIY lightstand with PVC pipe ends up no cheaper than just buying a real photo backdrop set (2 adjustable stands and a crossbar) for about $125. (...not to mention the PVC pipe approach doesn't instill confidence from one's clients.)
Those daylight balanced neon bulbs they sell these days give off a fair amount of light. More than the new continuous LED lights dollar for dollar, in my limited experience of purchasing and using both. You would likely need at least six of those neons and some cheap fixtures to fully illuminate a guitar-sized space. These are available on Amazon from various vendors, so shop carefully to get a good price. The bulbs can be purchased in a set, which is best, since you do NOT want to have mixed color temperatures in your image.
The work light approach is not any less costly (I've been down that road, too.), and the lights are hot, kinda dangerous, not that bright, and you can't touch the Quartz bulbs, because oils in fingerprints can cause them to burst or something like that.
Looking at the link you provided, it looks like the 360 image is an animated composite of a coupla dozen images (obviously). So, they likely have a nice contraption to support the guitar as it rotates. I wonder if monofilament fishing line would work.
Of course, you have to flood the space with light, to eliminate shadows cast by the guitar on the backdrop....so again, a wider (eleven foot?) paper roll will allow you move the guitar (and any support device) further from the backdrop to reduce shadows.
Just a few suggestions. Other folks will have lots of ideas, I'm sure. Be sure and set the entire set up and do the shoot at home before you get to the client, of course.
Also, maybe post your question on Photo.Net. There is a lighting forum there, and lots of folks have dealt with this issue over the years.
Rather than buy or DIY, you might consider renting lighting equipment - that gives you access to professional lighting equipment.
Not sure where you are at, but large camera shops offer rentals. Also, all of the online camera rental shops offer lighting equipment for rent.
Kxl has a great idea! Renting can be cheaper!
However, you will have to rent the entire set in advance to do photo tests, to make sure your planned solution will work, and then rent it all over again to transport to the client, which means multiple days of rental, and for that amount of money, you could build your own system. (Plus, the rental places sometimes accidentally rent the equipment you reserved to someone else, which is not a nice discovery the day before a shoot.)
(I've been down the Rental Road, too.)
For years photographing violins I got along with two 500 watt hot lights, though I use strobes now, with tiny mylar umbrellas. Treat it like a copy job, the lights over about 45 degrees to either side, about (the instrument's) head height, pointed with the center of their beams downwards at the bottom (most hot lights have a hotspot in the middle, and this puts the edge of the lighting at the top, closer to the light, in a darker zone, and the bottom of the instrument, farther away from the light, lit more from the hotspot), and keep it simple.
Too many lights, from too many directions, will wipe out the wood figure and personality, as will very large light sources. For many years I did the pix for a violin dealer's annual calendar. One year, once, I used large umbrellas. A visiting photographer, flipping through that year's calendar, spotted that photo right away: "What went wrong here?" Beware of soft lights.
For digital work, the color temp of the lights don't seem to matter much, since you can correct later. The lights have to throw a nice even pattern, though (one central hotspot works for you, but a blotchy, uneven pattern is evil). If you can't afford good reflectors, the large-sized mushroom-shaped floods are a good alternative
I assume you are doing what we'd call archival shots. If you want to do something dramatic, anything goes, then. In general, professionals looking at instruments in pictures like to see square-on shots, and not pointed up or down, so that things like the outline are easily readable and accurate, not distorted. This is very different from advertising product shots. People often send us "sexy" shots, which are useless for identification purposes.
Follow the "read more" links here for some violins: http://darntonhersh.com/gallery.php and here are some guitars I have shot, spread all over this site: http://www.koentoppguitars.com/ --just most of the instrument formal shots and various closeups, not the pix around his shop, etc. For all of the various shots I didn't move the lights an inch, but often changed the angle of the instrument itself relative to them.
You can often successfully support guitars by building pilings of pennies under them which won't work on solid body electrics), but be sure to have a spotter. For scary situations, I will rig up a dental floss safety line: easy to clone out in Photoshop, and would almost support the weight of a person. You can probably buy an adequate kitchen/refirgerator lazy susan for ten bucks, for the spinning, if you want to go that way. For the guitar pix linked above, he just holds the guitar from behind, and the arm gets cloned out later. Easy, and less scary. A white background makes everything easier later.
You might also find this useful: http://www.darntonviolins.com/violinmagazine/book/violin%20photography.pdf
Buy several yards of white rip-stop nylon material to erect a tent over the object. Then light from outside the tent. A monolight strobe would be the best because of the output possible. Cut a hole where you'd like to position the lens.
White rip-stop nylon is OK, but a large piece of framed white Plexiglas/Lexan (4x3') and a piece of foam core as a reflector - is even better.
Store the backdrop wrinkled not folded or you'll see the creases in the final picture...
This isn't exactly in the air but a light box is cheap and easy. I made mine and use two strobes:
Yes, the lack of detail on the duck's back is why I don't use large lights.
Check this out:
My friend has someone documenting him in video, and they did it for fun, using one of the fancy Canon SLRs with video, somehow. I suspect there's a ton of editing.
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