Industrial tabletop photography: We gotta be creative!

While working on a product photography field quite often we shoot a plain and not fancy products, and in many cases this is not an advertisement or magazine cover shots. Subject on a white (plain:-) background, this is what most clients want. Which is fine, this is a part of a job I love:-)

However, every time I am trying to convince my clients to go as creative as possible: I know that catalog or website dictates the simplicity of product’s representation, but making something a little different may be beneficial, IMO.

So, this time I was shooting insulation materials for company called eShield. Different thickness insulation, used for.. as I understand, manly for covering home’s attics and walls. It suppose to help to stay home warm and cold when needed, and engineering background tells me that it should work very well.  It was a pretty regular rolls of foil-covered insulation, different size rolls. The most important was that the client was fine with non-white background. No props, only the product itself was needed.

constructional product photography example atlanta
constructional product photography example atlanta

I’ve decided to shoot all the rolls on a glass and create a gradient halo-like lighting on a gray background. Take a look at the setup below: it is pretty basic, and reminds me another cool shot we had a while ago: a designers tabletop lamp. But that was a different story:-)

product photography lighting setup for construction materials: insulation roll
product photography lighting setup for construction materials

I’ve used  wide spot light on the background, aimed low. BTW, that thick glass was not thick enough (did not want to check its maximum strength) so I had to add a support on the middle of it, on a photo it is right on front of the background spot light. Undesired, but necessary addition for a post-production routine.
Two stripboxes on both sides of the roll(s): Right one, positioned slightly forward from a side was firing through a diffuser to create a large soft filling. The second light (on left) was a little behind on the side to create a brighter edge on the roll. A soft reflector (diffused was used instead) was added on the left on a side-front position to brighten left side, as it was not enough light there, especially on a company’s label.
A beauty dish on top just to add a little bit light from the top of the roll, it was almost unneeded. If you look at the the roll, every light and reflector is clearly visible on it.

Below are some of the results from this shot:

industrial product photographer atlanta example eShield
industrial product photography atlanta example

The only one trick I did here: the company’s label was not looking good at the roll becasue of the wrinkles, and I have to cut a piece of sheet metal and stick label to it. Then stick bent metal to a roll. We did it for the most ugly ones. After this it looked almost photoshoped-like, unnaturally clear.

This one was showing thickness of the material, we have done each of them both ways, horizontal and vertical. We did not try to make it look perfect as it should look real:

studio product photographer: constructional materials by alex koloskov
studio product photographer: constructional materials by alex koloskov

studio product photographer: constructional materials by alex koloskov
studio product photographer: constructional materials by alex koloskov

Pretty basic shot, right? However, I glad that we were able to step out from a very common “product on white” composition, and we got such images. When I can’t do anything to make product look sexy, I do it for the background.

I do not shoot portraits, but usually I am fine shooting our clients when they ask me for a portrait. Below one of the shots we did for Terri, the President of eShield.

photigy client portrait photography

I’ve utilized almost the similar lighting setup as we had for a products: two striboxes behind the model as a hair lights, background was lit from a bottom with another stripbox to create an even gradient. Main light was a Beauty Dish positioned above and slightly on the left from the photographer with 30º honeycomb grid attached. Simple:-)

I also made a portrait of myself while testing setup, will post it here after Genia will add her crazy PP on it:)

Camera gear:

Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F18, ISO 100


20 thoughts on “Industrial tabletop photography: We gotta be creative!”

  • Alex, Do you set up your lighting at the location or do you have the product brought to your studio? I’m a big fan of what you do and enjoy what you do with portraits, especially with your family! Thanks for reading this!


  • If you keep Terri’s portrait online I bet he won’t give you any new business in the future; the portrait is so unflaterring and badly posed – it is not enough to be well lit and (too!) well focused; make you and Terri a service and remove the image from the blog.
    Richard gave you already good pointers how to improve the portret; I understand that Terri selected the image but it is you fault – you should have deleted it before he saw it. :)

    • I like this shot, it may not be the best from the sequence, but again it is very subjective.
      I like the style, and this is how I like to shoot portraits.

      The whole idea of our business is to shoot only the way we want. Meaning if you do not like it, you are not our client. Simple and easy for both: photographer, who can truly unlock his potential and the client, who like photorgapher’s work :)

      EIDT: Must say that I do not want to do people portraits at all:-)

      Thank you!

    • @MrL, I think it’s a Great Portrait. As an actor, and headshot photographer, If Mr. Koloskov went wider it would have taken away the edgy composition that works so well with this photo. Not to mention that the “Flattering” look rule applies to certain genres, and mostly (Women)

  • Alex – I know you were trying to please the client, but in your opinion, would it have been weird to add a *green* filter to your low background spot light? It could have illustrated the green/environmental aspect of the product and the green in the label might have popped a bit better too. Thoughts?

  • Nice shot. I know things can be done hundreds of ways. Maybe you are being cautious with the gray background. Since the ad is selling the product would it have been better to have a tight grid spot directly on the background behind the product label with greater falloff to darker gray. I think that would have caused the product to “Pop” more and focus the viewers attention to the label. The lighting of the product it self is really great! I’m going to print and paste this for my to copy receipe book ;-)

    With regard to the portrait. I’m sure this was a curtesy shot after the product shot was done and just some icing on the cake. But, Anyway…Lets look at his face. Wide jaw, small nose, considerable wrinkles in neck and jaw. Lighting – split lighting with a beauty dish slightly camera left and just above the camera height.
    How to improve – Raise camera 4-6″ to lengthen jaw and nose – lens about eye level or forehead level.(currently nose level) Turn head 45 degree to subject’s right – eliminates wide jaw and narrows face and eliminates flying ears. Do not break cheekline with tip of nose. Turn body 45 degree right. Move beauty dish more camera left to loop light (short light)subject which will also narrow face. Increase lighting ratio between Key (beauty dish) and strip kickers to 4:1 or more. Use tighter grid on background and “Halo” head and shoulders for seperation from background. Substitute a softbox or umbrella for the beauty light to eliminate the skin texture. It will take 10yrs off his photo. Beauty dish light is only good for young models with perfect skin. Use your 100mm and shoot 2.8-3.5 focused on eyes so focus falls off quickly and ears are more out of focus. Add a hair light. Allow backgound to go darker-tighter grid or darker background paper ie, black.
    Hope this helps.

    • Richard,
      Yes, you are right: it can be done thousand ways:-) That back spot may be moved behind the product, and I am sure it will work like you said. I’ve positioned BG spot under the glass to make that divider line between glass and background look more attached to a product: this way its like a base of the light pyramid (or cone), and the product is in the middle of this, supporting that cone.

      Regarding portrait: I know that 45 degree turn works better, and we had it done with all the different positions. But this one the client selected ho have. I also had camera positioned at slightly different height (was shooting hand-hold), but again, this is what clients wants. I did not want to add much of portraiture for this post, therefore do not have included different compositions of the portrait. However, I agree with you: getting a little bit from above (eye level) will work better here.
      I do not like your idea of having 4:1 light ratio between key light and stripbox kickers; this way it will spill too much lights on his chicks and ears. IMO, having 1 stop difference between stripboxes and BD works the best here. But again, there are so many different ways to get it done:-)

      BTW, I think it is hard to judge the portrait without looking at person alive or the different (including casual) photos: you do not really know how face was looking like “before” the lighting applied.

      Thank you for the comment Richard, I enjoy your every post here.

      • @Alex Koloskov, Re; headshot – If you post a contact sheet of the other shots you did it would give the bloggies an opportunity to make valid comparisons before making suggestions about lighting and positioning of the subject. It may be difficult to critique without seeing the other images. Sometimes, and I have found very often clients are not always right about what they see. It’s more about how others will see them, even if they are paying the bill. They need to be gently persuaded in the right direction or the image should be deleted in camera so they don’t see it.. Make the choices for them ,works for me. The post processing is too harsh and unflattering for this subject type, too much texture. If you were shooting an editorial style for a cover shot and an accompanying article I could see this being used in that way. Only thing is his expression looks animated and unnatural, although his eyes are smiling his mouth looks forced. Some people just look or suit a gentle smile more so than open. Maybe it’s me but it looks like an awkward expression. Bottom line is to make people look more physically appealing in a portrait. This is an edgy look but not flattering edgy. Good communication between the photographer and the client will elicit the necessary natural expression and is the highest priority even with bad lighting it will make a much better portrait. Guaranteed he looks better in natural daylight.

        • Tom,
          I understand what you are saying, and I know you are right.
          But because I am not in a portrait business, I am not really trying to “please” every client I do a portraits: Instead, I am preserving my style: sharp, a little edgy in PP, with strong bright lighting. This is how I like to shoot when I am in charge of composition and output.
          Also, I am not very good working with a non-professional models: I know I have to talk a lot to “open” a personality and capture it at the right moment. But I am not good at this, probably because I do not like talking a lot:-) This is why I shoot products, not a personal portraits.
          However, I still enjoy a lot working with professional models: last week we had a shoot for a uniform catalog, 5+ hours shoot with models working for us. It was fast, easy, and I was getting exact pose and face expression every time I pull the trigger.. without talking at all :-)

          Thank you.

          P.S I’ll answer your email soon.

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