Some pointers?
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Old 02-22-2008   #1
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Default Some pointers?

I am still fairly new here.....this is only my 18th post (I believe). However, I have been enjoying reading many posts here, and in other PC forums, for a few months now.

I am still fairly new at commercial photography, but I find that I am drawn to it more and more. I am self-taught and my strongest motivation is an overall passion for photography.

My lighting equipment currently consists of one AlienBees 800 strobe (320 WS), with octobox; one Porta Master 400 (approx. 300WS), with umbrella; one Sunpak 383 flash w/tripod mounting; two 42" x 78" panels with diffusion and reflection materials; one 42" circular combo diffuser/reflector; one 30" x 40" homemade reflector (-inch foamcore with crushed aluminum foil on one side, and white surface on the other). I also have 3 Pocket Wizards for firing the two strobes, and a cable for triggering the Sunpak flash.

There is probably other stuff, but this is the gist of my lighting gear. So, now that I have set the stage, I was wondering (hoping) if some of you more experienced shooters could maybe offer some pointers on how best to set my lighting.?. Here is the situation:

I am anticipating getting the contract to shoot the inventory for a high-end officer furniture company's branch office and salesroom. The pictures are needed for their catalog, as well as other printed materials, and for their website.

Unless they have changed their plans, they expect to create what they call "setups" which will be a grouping of related pieces of furniture. For example, a desk, with a matching chair, file cabinet (or some other cabinet), etc. Judging from past marketing materials, they are likely going to want shots of single pieces as well. So, I need to be ready to light and photograph large desks, chairs, a variety of cabinets, as well as a group of related pieces.

I believe that I have enough equipment, both lights and diffusers/reflectors, to be able to handle this job. Oh, and as I recall, where I will be shooting (their large salesroom) there are white ceilings (maybe 10 feet high + or -) and white walls. One long wall is mostly windows and it is opposite the long white wall against which I suspect we will be shooting. The distance between these two walls is maybe 25 feet, if that helps at all.

So, if I have not bored you with all this information, would any of you have some suggestions as to lighting setups? I would very much appreciate any constructive help/suggestion/pointer you may care to share.

Thank you for at least reading this far.

Peter (Scribe)

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Old 02-22-2008   #2
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Default Re: Some pointers?

You have achieved the hardest part of commercial work... getting the job.

Your next task will be keeping the job. My suggestion would be to hire an assistant who is experienced with shooting large product shots. ( you did budget for an assistant?)

If it was me lighting this set-up I would likely bring in 4 to 6 lights to get accents as well as an over all wash.
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Old 02-22-2008   #3
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Default Re: Some pointers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe View Post
I believe that I have enough equipment, both lights and diffusers/reflectors, to be able to handle this job. (Scribe)
Peter,

I'm afraid you don't have nearly enough lighting equipment. I'd want several large softboxes, several spot grids and a couple of extra lights to bounce into the ceiling.

I'd suggest renting some additional lights and using mostly ceiling bounces. I would say allow for some ambient exposure as well but there's probably a mix of color temps with daylight windows, tungsten accent lighting and fluorescent ceiling fixtures.

Shooting furniture is not just about lighting, though that's a major concern. It's also about camera height, dark wood, glare on table tops, perspective distortion of vertical lines caused by using a too short lens and being too close to the furniture.

I'd suggest that you go to a book store and buy furniture design, interior design, and architectural magazines and study what the professionals do with lighting, lens choice, composition, camera height, background treatment etc.
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Old 02-22-2008   #4
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Default Re: Some pointers?

I agree with Brooks, Peter: you need much more light!

Have fun!
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Old 02-22-2008   #5
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Default Re: Some pointers?

Thank you, Everyone, for your replies.

Brooks, what follows may be one of those impossible to answer questions, but I feel compelled to ask nonetheless.

Assume that I have 4 strobes, with softboxes, along with the reflectors I already have. Also assume that the setup I need to photograph is a desk in front with a matching file cabinet next to it (right of left), a chair behind the desk, and a cabinet behind the chair. Then assume, for orientation, that we are looking at (and possibly shooting) this setup standing in front of the desk.

Can you give me even a rough idea as to how you would place the lights to adequately light this setup. For this example, we'll assume the desk and other pieces are made of a dark grained wood (mahogany or darker), but no glass.

Peter
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Old 02-22-2008   #6
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Default Re: Some pointers?

Peter,

This really is an impossible question to answer without seeing the furniture and the shooting space.

For example, what size softboxes are we talking about?

Are we assuming a 300ws Alien Bees as the flashes?

What is the setting, are you shooting on a white bkgd or do you have a wall or better yet, a corner with two walls to shoot into?

How much ambient light is there in the shooting space?

Can you position the furniture near a large window with sunlight available in the room or is the window facing north with blue sky light coming in?

Are there fluorescent lights in the ceiling?

Tungsten Accent lights?

In other words are you having to create all the light or just filling in for the existing light?
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Old 02-22-2008   #7
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Default Re: Some pointers?

You're right, Brooks, this was an impossible question and I apologize for even asking it. Sometimes desperation is a powerful stimulous. They originally called me. Being hungry for work, I convinced myself that I could do this with what I had already. I am maxxed out on my finances so the question of additional lighting was actually moot to begin with. I just have to accept that I do not have the equipment or skill to pull this off, but it is a bitter pill to swallow.

Thanks again, for your input.

Peter
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Old 02-22-2008   #8
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Default Re: Some pointers?

Not so fast, Peter....

While you might not have the amount of lights for this job your clients are obviously looking to save money so it would be unfair of them to expect a $5,000 job on what is probably a $500 budget.

Perhaps you could use your AB and one soft box off to one side of the camera, as high as possible and feathered to the opposite side of the set. The second 300ws flash could be used as a bounce into the ceiling from the opposite side of the first light.

Buy 3-4 1/2" 4'x8' white foamcores @ $32 each and position these around the set, one in the front on the floor and angled up to bounce light into the front of the desk. Two others, one on each side to bounce light back from the sides onto the shooting area.

If you're shooting digitally and have a laptop computer (if no laptop, consider bringing your desktop computer to the shoot) buy a shooting soft ware such as Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for Nikons, Bible-Pro or Canon shooting software for Canons.

With a shooting software you can shoot tethered and see the images come up on the computer screen AS YOU SHOOT. This is vitally important as it lets you see with great clarity the focus, contrast and lighting. You can then make any changes that you need.

And use a slight telephoto so as to preserve some proper size relationship between the forground and background furniture. You don't want the desk to look huge while the cabinet is tiny.

See if you can go to the location and shoot some tests before the actual shoot.
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Old 02-23-2008   #9
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I don't know what their expectations are, nor their budget, but I do know that I came in low (if not the lowest) in my quoted hourly fee. I did this purposely. Ultimately, the job is supposed to be their entire inventory which includes a number of new pieces. They have to create a variety of marketing materials, including a new catalogue, web site, and some ancillary pieces like brochures, etc. I quoted them $100 an hour and estimated that it could take 2 to 4 hours per furniture setup, including my own set up time, and depending on how many detail shots they would want.

I suspect that their budget is not too restricted. The company HQ is somewhere in Europe and they have several outlets here in the States. They sell high-end office furniture (e.g. desks that go for $5,000, etc.)... However, offsetting this upscale image of the company, while the images on their website were good photos, apparently their webmaster does not know what he/she was doing as just about every single image was rife with jpeg artifacts and acute cases of the "jaggies"...

After my initial meeting, some new guy (head of marketing and newly hired) took over the project. A number of weeks went by after I re-sent the quote to this new guy. I finally got in touch with him and he told me they had been working another photographer. But this photog was only doing some photos for a brochure that they needed to get out right away. He said they chose him because they knew "he would have all the equipment (lights) needed." I thought that comment curious at the time.

He also told me that the other photog was too "pricey" (which told me I was probably the lowest bid, and probably by a lot), and that they still needed to do the whole inventory for their catalog. After thanking me for my perserverance, he later emailed me and asked for my equipment list. I suspect I must have told him what I had, back when I first talked with him a couple of months ago. Anyway, I realized that he was still concerned with what equipment I would be using. That is what prompted me to pose my question here in this forum. I was already beginning to suspect that I was fishing for a 30-pound marlin on a 10-pound line, and the responses I got here pretty much confirmed it.

The money from this one job would be enough to pay off my debts and at least get me even, if not out ahead for a little bit. I would also be able to buy a few more needed pieces of equipment (like lights, for sure). I only started trying to make a living out of photography just about a year ago. I love photography, but I jumped into this with a shoestring budget with frayed ends.

Your last post was encouraging. I was ready to tell them I was no longer in the running. I don't like to give up, but I was trying to be realistic. I certainly did not want to get the job and then find out I really could not pull it off. Besides embarrassing, it could certainly be professionally damaging.

But now I am still willing to give this a try, if they finally give me the official go-ahead. I could still blow it, but at least I now have a better idea of what to do when I get there. I would dearly love to be able to tether to a computer. However, I am maxxed out on my finances so it is out of the question. Of course, assuming I get the job, and can get a deposit (or get them to start paying some of the money very soon after starting the job), I may be able to acquire the means to tether and/or get more lights. Actually, getting more lights after starting with what I have now probably would not be good as the images would not be consistently lit.

Anyway, Brooks, thank you so much for going that extra distance on this one. My usual work ethic is to give my clients the best that I can give them, and I am willing to go to great lengths to achieve this. I plan to do some more studying (lighting theory, etc.), and I now believe once again that I can do a credible job.

Thank you,

Peter
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Old 02-23-2008   #10
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Default Re: Some pointers?

Peter

You are in a position that most people in business find themselves in at one point or another. You have a job/ contract/ client that you are not qualified/ have the equipment/ knowledge to do properly.

Your options are:

Walk away from it... sometimes the safest idea.

Muddle through with what you have and maybe pull it off... not the best idea, as well as negatively effecting your business and your reputation, you will likely get the person who hired/ trusted you fired as well.

Take the job and use it as a challenge and learning experience... the way to grow as a business, but you have to invest in the job, rent the equipment you need to do it right/ hire an experienced assistant to tech you how to light and shoot the set. With this you will not make as much money, but it is an investment.


Something else you mentioned is payment happening during the process... companies usually have long payment cycles... 60, 90, 180 days. You can't count on being paid right away.

Good luck

Glenn


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