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Creativity, Not Gear!

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I’m here to tell you that you can shoot professional, even commercial photography with little or no kit at home on the dinning table.

Creativity, Not Gear

Sure, we’d all love the latest kit, but the reality is that with some thought and resourcefulness…you don’t really need it.

I shot above picture for a one of my food clients to promote an amazingly tasty innovate Fruit Tea which is frozen and contains real fruit. It was needed quickly, so here’s how I used the dining table, some upside down chairs, less that £100 of lighting gear and a flashlight.


Step 1:  Create a backdrop.

I stacked the chairs at the back of the room and draped them with my trustee piece of black velvet.

I have a shower curtain if I shoot white! Both items are a cheap and incredibly versatile.


Step 2: Introduce the lighting:

For this I’m using my Minimalist Super Cheap Strobist kit consisting of two Yonguno speedlights, wireless triggers and 2 x Lollipods as light stands.

The speed lights are positioned above the cups, facing towards each other to create a curtain of light. The table is positioned far back enough that no light spills on the backdrop.

I cannot throw it out of focus, because I’m using F11 to get rid of the day light and give sharpness, but flashes will be so quick that they will freeze the motion.

The camera is positioned low so that the £3 piece of black paper from the local art shop blends into the black velvet draped over the chairs.


Step 3:  Settings and refining:

I’m shooting at ISO 100 for quality,

1/200 th as it’s as fast as I can sync,

F11 to kill the ambient light,

manual focus for constancy,

flashes on manual and 1/3 power to enable three rapid shots before a recharge,

my zoom somewhere between 50-70mm to fill the frame still leave enough room to squeeze behind the camera and not burn my bum on the open fire behind me!

It took a few test shots to position the lights to get the effect I wanted, but that’s just part of the fun.


Step 4: Secret Weapon:

The theory is that I will shoot each cup separately and them blend all four together, you might call it cheating, but I only have two hands!

So three things are critical:
The camera must be in manual focus and not move (self timer is my friend),

The curtain of light is narrow and I need all of the fruit and water to be on the same vertical plan,

The black paper and cups cannot move, so no slipping and only two takes per cup before they are full.

So, my secret weapon:  I placed a small very bright waterproof flashlight in the cup pointing up to provide a visual guide for where the water and fruit must fall. I used a Fenix PD22 which is an awesome pocket light.


Step 5: Trial Error & Photoshop:

After that it was just a matter of trial and error.
I practiced once off camera and managed to pour the water and drop the fruit without any spillage.
I blended four individual shots (one per cup) and the client loved the final result.



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