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Sticky OT: Questions and Answers thread

Questions and Answers.

Quite often I receive interesting questions about the particular lighting setup or issue with the particular shot that other photographers are dealing with and such questions is not directly related to any post I have here in the blog. So, instead of sending me an email, please post any off-topic photography-related question here as a reply. Anyone can contribute an answer as well, I am not only the one who knows how to shoot;-).

I’ll start to post here what I have in my mail, questions I’ve received and answers I sent back (with sender permission of course). By default I won’t be publishing a full names, unless you ask me to do so. I promise I’ll be checking this tread as often as my mailbox:-)


161 responses on "Sticky OT: Questions and Answers thread"

  1. Hello,

    I come from the world of studio macro photography and I have an odd issue that I was hoping someone more experienced than me might have some insight into, namely odd shadows. I use a smallhd field monitor as background (I pipe PC output onto it, ie a photoshop gradient) and use 3 synced flashes to illuminate my subject. Typical exposure is 1s which gets both the light falling onto the subject from the flash pop and the light on the monitor.


    When I look at individual hairs on my subject, often there is a dark shadow to one sde of the hair and a corresponding light area on the other. Not on the hair itself but beside, on some virtual plane parallel to the hair (ie not on the monitor plane). The strength of the effect seems to vary a lot, it isn’t related to monitor orientation and actually becomes more extreme on shorter exposures (further removed from the hair).

    I was wondering if anyone had any insight into what might be going on?

    Many thanks

  2. Hi Alex,

    I was recently reading on your web site, “how to advertise” but can’t find it anymore.
    If you don’t mind to share your tips how to advertise, where is in your opinion money best spend for advertising, etc… I am sure bunch of guys/girls who follows you will appreciate just like I will.

    BTW, I like your tips/tricks of trade for product photography.
    Will soon submit few of my images for CC.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Hi Alex, first of all i would like to thank you for sharing so much valuable photography tips & tricks. I have found many useful resources here, thank you.
    I am a photography student and have a project to mimic a shot as in the following link: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=181874365156526
    I have made several attempts:
    1. Threw something into the fishtank
    2. Sprayed water behind the object
    3. Made splashes on the surface of the water
    However, none of those attempts successfully create the explosive and powerful water-blast effect as seen in the link. I understand that the final result will require plenty of work in Photoshop.
    Any advice you can share regarding creating the powerful effect is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you very much for your kind reply.

    • David,
      Yes, these are composite images, so you do a splashes with desired shape and then shoot a bottle. I never have create that exact splash shape with lots of little drops around, so you have to experiment. I can be some h-speed slap on a shallow colored water, so it will create many little splashes around. You have to work it out.. good luck!;-)

      • @Alex Koloskov,

        Thank you so much alex for your advice and your quick reply, I really don’t have any idea how to make that little splashes,but I’ll try again.

  4. Hi Alex, I’ve got a question for you. I only ask because you have been so kind to share a lot of your techniques with us. I have a large movie poster and early Hollywood glamor photography collection. I’m in the process of cataloging the collection for sale. Right now I’m at the point where I need to photograph a large collection of photographs, most 8×10 and 11×14. I need to get the most accurate representation as possible for collectors. Any tips on the best way to shoot photographs?

  5. Hi Alex.

    Your blog has been really inspirational! I still have some questions concearning light.
    I have stared out a product photography bussiness for myself, as the first custemers are jewellery company and a flowershop. The last one works out well and we both are happy. Not so with jewellery.
    I tend to get dull looking pictures. All the silver has a satin effect. How can I get a sharp light on the silver part of the ring, whil not burning out whites and getting my whole room to reflect from the ring. Also how to make the small dimonds to sparkle. Maybe a led lamp? The strongest one I found from local market is 550lm, not enough to couple with my other bulbs, that are 1450lm each. Here is a scetsh of the setup I used. And down below some examples of the ring. Reflection is digitally manipulated. I guess I must shoot the reflection extra in the future, to get it as it shoud be. The ring and reflection are not the same.




    • Nicholas,
      Interesting results, thank you for posting.
      I use more diffused light to create seamless gradient on a cone diffuser around the jewelry, and sometime I made a hole in it to spark a diamond through it with intense beam of light. Little mirrors around may help to fire some sparks as well.
      Right now I am working on LED lighting setup for my new jewelry book, this will be covered there.
      Thank you!

  6. I have been reading your site about the view camera adapters for 35mm dSLR cameras and I am interesting in introducing this into my work set-up. I need the ability to shoot not only individual pieces of jewelry, but also full-page layouts with multiple types of pieces. In the past I’ve shot with a cropped dSLR and a macro lens and pieced everything together in PS, however, I would like to do all of this in camera upon capture.

    I will be upgrading my camera body to a Canon 5D Mark II soon and I am shopping for the best view camera adapter and lens to suit my needs. Mostly I am looking at a Cambo or Horseman adapter, and Schneider or Rodenstock Macro lens (80-100, probably). Would a macro lens also allow me to shoot a page layout of jewelry (8.5×11″), or would I need a different lens to do that?

    When using the dSLR in the view camera adapter, how does it all work? Would I trigger the shutter from a shutter release on the lens, or via the camera body? Also, would I have the ability to shoot tethered to a computer (utilizing live view/ remote control) while using the view camera system? Additionally, is the camera capable of capturing video while using the view camera set-up? Would you also consider purchasing a macro lens (i.e.- 100mm f2.8) to put on the body without the view camera setup?

    I appreciate your thoughts and all of your work on this blog…thanks for your time!

    • Ray,
      I have a video from a Dslr mounted on rails, search the blog “tilt-shift” or similar keyphrase.
      I did not use lens with shutter with dslr, but enlargement lens, so the only camera shutter was working. To use dslr with lens shutter, you’ll need some sync cable, or just set lens shutter to “open” and you your camera shutter.

      As for the macro lens, you need to check lens spec: usually it says what magnification it is good for. I guess any tabletop shots would be OK with macro lens. They are not good at infinity focus, which is not a case.

      Good luck with your build!

  7. Dear Alex,

    My name is Bellamy Hunt and I run the Japancamerahunter website. I follow you on Google+ and was wondering if you would be interested in showing your bag on the ‘in your bag’ feature on my site?
    If you are could you send bag shot with your gear (horizontal and high rez). An explanation of your gear, what you do, contact details etc.
    I thought it might be interesting for you to have a little bit about why you got into photography.
    Perhaps some questions, for example.

    1.What got you interested in photography?
    2. Where do you see your photography going in the next year?
    3. What are your goals when you take pictures?
    4. Do you have an upcoming project that you would like to share with us?

    Many thanks

    Bellamy Hunt

  8. Hi, Alex – enjoy following you on Google plus and your interview on TWIT Photo.

    My question is regarding flashes. I have a Canon 550D (T2i) and an Rokinon E-TTL II Power Zoom flash, but I am willing to invest in a better flash unit. Recently, you posted that the shutter speed doesn’t matter and that the flash is what’s important. Could you expand on this? I don’t see how I can set my flash to a specific speed (poor instructions), and how can the shutter speed not matter? I have read that only the Canon Speedlites will enable high-speed sync with my camera, but you’re saying that doesnt even matter. I’ve tried doing searches regarding all of this only to come up empty handed. Thanks for your help and all that you do!

  9. Hi Alex;

    First of all I want to thank you very very much to share your great and useful photography techniques. With the help of your and other web-sites like yours I started to work as a professional photographer for one year. And I want to ask for a comparison between Canon 550D and 5D Mark II.
    I know that they have lots of difference like iso, dof, size of sensor, built quality etc..

    But I want to know something else. In studio while making a product photography (not jewelry), I think the importance of these futures are reducing dramatically.

    I think this information will be useful for whom working with low budget like me :)

    Not: I know they are not perfect but In my website I shot all of photos with 550D with 2 flashes.

    Thank you very much, and please keep going to share your knowledge in here:)

    • Tugsan,
      Canon 550D is capable of doing everything i do with 5D or even Hasselblad , and difference in image quality will be minimal and unnoticeable for most of the clients. if not for all, if you do not shoot for hi-end ones.
      You’ve got some prety good shots on your website, so you know that this is not a camera is what important:-)
      Thank you!

      • Thank you very much for your answer and visiting my web-site (and if you have, it will make me so happy to hear any advice about my shots or web-site : ) ).

        So with your approval I will invest on a good macro lens not a Mark II.

        Take care and thanks again;

  10. In the Mastering splash: the magic behind our liquid photography I see no mention of how the camera was fired. Did you have an assistant pressing the shutter?



  11. Alex,

    Why did you decide to use rodenstock 90mm lens for you projects. Wouldn’t it be better to use Schneider 150mm f/5.6 Apo-Symmar L Lens? Is 150mm too much and you needed something wider?

    I’m trying to understand large format better.


    • Luke,
      I read somewhere on a forums (i think I had links on one of the posts0 where people were using enlargements lenses with great success.
      I played with it and it was fun. But for a serious work, when I got cambo Ultima and PahseOne DB, I’ve bought Schneider Symmar 120mm HM macro lens. Besides much better quality (comparing to any enlargement lens) it has shutter, which is a must for pahseOne back. In opposite, when I was using DSLR mounted on a rig, I did not need shutter, so $200 used rodenstock was a right choice;-)

  12. Alex, I am trying to shoot a black rubber switch panel which has backlit translucent buttons which are light blue and also has red, orange and green status leds which are lit. I am shooting on a roll of white paper with two 5500 kelvin softboxes… I can’t light it correctly…I have played with Iso sttings and white balance settings…the orange and red leds are barely discernable. Any help would be greatly appreciated…your work inspires me. I’m on a bit of a shoe string budget…

  13. I just wanted to see what you think this is my first time shooting this


  14. @Alex Koloskov,


    Wow thats really nice, really lifted weights off my shoulders! Its been haunting me for a few weeks now. Really really thankful and happy of your reply! :D

    oh, and im not planning on selling stock images :)

    thanks again, Alex :)

  15. Hi there im just starting out but i took 2 photo’s with water just wanted to know what you think




  16. Hi Alex,

    ive been digging through your blog it is really really helpful and really inspiring :D

    my question is… is there like any legality issues concerning images that ill be making for myself (not for some company campaign) which includes brands that i dont have any business relationships with?

    EX: A product photo of a Dior perfume bottle where the brand name Dior is 100% visible and most likely the bottle will have a unique and very distinguishable Dior design.

    Any personal experiences similar to this?

    big thanks in advance :)

    • Guasch,
      I’ll tell you what I know, and I can be wrong:-)
      I do not think there is any legal issue if you shoot for your own promotional work any product with brand. You can’t sell such images or use them for any commercial application, but as a photographer, you are free to legally buy any item with brand name on it and do whatever you want with your purchase.. including taking pictures of it for your portfolio.. not for microstocks:-)

  17. Hi there im just starting out but i took 2 photo’s with water just wanted to know what you think

  18. Alex,

    When photographing table top glass as in this article: http://www.photigy.com/how-to-shoot-glass-setting-the-lighting-for-tabletop-product-photography/ You don’t talk about how you determined your exposure.

    Where did you meter from? Can it be incident metered?

    Where did you point the meter to?

    Or when one goes for the classic glass with a white background and black rim where do you meter that when using strobes?


    • Brian,
      I do not meter my light. I know it pretty well to do a relatively error-free even for a first shot, but for fine tune I use computer screen (I shoot tethered) and my eyes. I see what I got and adjust accordingly. Meter is useless for tabletop shots, IMO: subjects are too small and lights are too narrow.

  19. Hi Alex,

    I had a question regarding product photos. I work with shoes, and I’m trying to find a way to capture images on a white background with the least amount of editing possible.

    Is it possible to photograph images, occasionally white on white, without editing at all? What set up is required?

    This is an example of a non-white image I took, minimal editing

    And here is a white on white image after lots of editing

    Thanks, your images are awesome!!

  20. Hi Alex, just wondering if you can help. I am looking to buy a studio heads but need to ask you about flash duration as I wish to do it splash too. Is it Flash duration: 1/1800th second (t.5) ok to start with? Would that be ok for splash? This is the head I might be considering to buy: http://www.lencarta.com/lighting-store/flash-heads/flash-heads-1/smartflash-200-compact-flash-head Would you mind to replay short yes or no? I would appreciate your help and experience in these field. Keep well Alex, Regards Peter Dudek.

    • Peter,
      I did not know about that particular brand, but 1/1800 t.5 won’t be enough for most of the splahes, sorry. t.5 is not t.1 and I personally found that it stops the splash at 1/3000 t.1 or shorter. (note, this is 5 times shorter than t.5)

      The least expencive but least powerful solution is to buy Vivitar 285Hf: they will stop any flash at 1/4 or lower power.
      I also heard about some very affordable Chinese einstein-like strobes, with a very short flash duration for $150 each.
      Hope this will help. Wish you good luck!

  21. Hello Alex,
    First I’d like to thank you for preparing such informative tutorials. I am a hobby photographer now assisting a family member with jewelry shots. I am trying to achieve a pure white background. I just viewed your tutorial on using plexiglass as a table and will prepare it for my next shots. I would like to know what w/s monolights to use to for a jewelry setup. I currently use 3 flood lamps and one soft box with flood lamp bulb. Because of the greyish results I would like to switch over to stronger lights. Am I on the right track? I use a Canon50D with a Canon EF100mm 2.8L Marco Lens.
    Best regards,

  22. Hello Alex,

    first a big Thank You for sharing all your knowledge and experience with the internet community.
    This will inspire a lot of people.
    I love the art you create and as always I found your website accidentally and bookmarked it immediately.
    I’ve not so much experience in product photography but I love Apple :-)
    And here is my question to a pro.
    Can you imagine how Apple do their wonderful high key product shots? I’ve tried to recreate it but didn’t find a way.
    Would you use strobes or continous lights? And how they get such great and clear bottom reflections of the phone as you can see here at the white iPhone
    Sorry but I can’t add an image because of the rights.
    Maybe the phone reflection is faked? Or it’s glass or white plexiglass? I tried it with white plexiglass but the reflection I get is so weak. And how can I position the lights to avoid reflections of the phone’s surface for a clear look of the App icons. Maybe I need 2 exposures, one for the phone and one for the App icons and then Photoshop it?

    It would be very friendly to here your expertise to bring some light in my darkness.

    Thank you and keep going your great work and sharing it with us!

    All the best,

    • @Holger, I can’t tell anything about all the product line of Apple: they have same style but the products/angles are different, and obviously the lights was positioned individually for each one. There are no universal schema I know:-)
      Continues or strobe? have no idea, as the outcome from both will be exactly the same.. if we shoot still subject (no action stopping is needed). Lighting modifier what makes the shot, not the light source itself.

      BTW, you can always add particular image: it won’t break copyright law as you are not going to tell is that this is your image:-) Feel free to post a link to a particular image from their website.. like I did: http://images.apple.com/iphone/home/images/overview_hero1_20110606.png

      Is this an image you were talking about?

  23. Thanks, always, Alex for taking the time to reply with some very valuable information. You’re a star!

  24. Hi Alex,

    I am a wildlife photographer down here in Tampa,Florida. I saw your post about the “Trigger Trap” and I was just curious if you have purchased one. If so do they work, and would it be a good product for outdoor photographers?

  25. Hi Alex, I have seen only one dialogue here about pricing, and it kind of gave me an answer to the question on my mind. But I will pose it anyway… Do you charge for your creative fee by time or by product? I am about to start quoting on my first product shoot, and am not sure what is the best way to proceed. My hourly could be tough to guess especially as a newbie, since i will probably take much longer than someone like yourself who knows the ropes so well. So I was thinking that a per-product cost might be more accurate for the client? I always keep licensing separate, as you indicated above. If you can shed any light on this for me, I would appreciate it!

    • Barbara,
      You are right, to start it will be easier for both: for you and your client if you will charge per item. You can always include the license in per item price, especially if client has hard time to understand what is that:-)
      I charge per time I spend on the shooting, plus the license. It is easier for me this way.
      Hope it help, wish you good luck!

      • Thanks Alex, I was on the right track and appreciate your confirmation! Any info you can give me about a reasonable per-product cost would be helpful too, even if it’s a range. The company I have to quote for designs and manufactures footwear.

        • Barbara,
          It wold be hard to suggest you any real number: First, I set my prices without looking at industry … My survival is not depending from the money I receive from assignments, so I charge as much as i feel comfortable…
          Second, I do not know all of your price-influenced factors.
          When I was charging per item (I’ve tried this few years ago), I simply was looking at how much time I would need to shoot one item.. and how many total items t would be.
          For example, if you charge $100 per hour, and you think one item will take you to up to 10 minutes to complete the shot, situation would be like this: for one hour you will complete only 3 items, as you will need about 30 minutes (example) to setup the light for a first one. In second hour you’ll get 6 items photographed, and so on.
          Also, look at how similar subjects are: can you shoot all of them without adjusting the light, or a different shape color and texture will require adjustments for each one? How many angles/images customer want for each item? All these parameters will affect your shooting time., i.e the price per item.

          This is how I see it. Again, I do not work with large quantities, so you may need to talk to somebody who knows more about this.
          Wish you good luck!

  26. I really enjoy your site and the tutorials and discussion on desktop photography. Related to your section on using the plastic cone, I have also found a plastic sphere and dog-toy combination quite useful for jewelry work. The sphere is actually a “street light globe” made from polypropylene and available in a number of sizes. (from Lightbulb Emporium – look up SATCO on the site.) The dog toy is a toy ring made of rubber (from e-bay) which allows the sphere to be repositioned (similar to your watch tripod) without having to move the camera.
    Set up from camera point of view …
    Result with two lights …
    Result adding a third rear light to get table top glow …

    I have done a short animation but cannot figure out how to add it to your site … it is here on my site (non-commercial) if you wish to watch.

  27. Alex,
    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I would like to ask for your advice. I have been tasked with doing in house product photography for a consumer good manufacturer that makes gloves, hats and jackets. Unfortunately I have limited photography experience (I’m a graphic designer with some photography education) and am unsure as to what equipment to purchase. What would be a good set up of lights and what type of lens would you recommend? The final shots would be on a white background for use on the web and in our printed material, trade show graphics etc. Thanks, Dave

    • Thank you, Dave.
      The equipment recommendations is a hard thing to do, as I do not know your budget, you photography style and many other aspects which only you know. It is like recommending the car: only you can decide what is the best.
      However, I have this article where I list the basic equipment, some of it I was using before:

      Also, under almost every article I have a list of what equipment I’ve used, it may help you to decide what you may need.
      Good luck!

      • @Alex Koloskov,
        Thanks Alex, I will read that guide. Honestly, I don’t even know what our budget is. This is kind of a fact finding mission. Basically we want to save money by bringing it in house, but we don’t want to sacrifice results either. I have to determine what we might buy that allows us to achieve what we currently outsource. Kind of hard to do when you don’t actually do it. If you were to go to 180s.com you can see our current photography.

        • @Dave,
          If you need to shoot product on a long-term basis, I suggest you to get 3 Alien bees (AB400 or 800) and any 100mm (80-150) macro lens.
          You can Paul C Buff softboxes as well: it it reasonably priced and does the job well. Stands, etc can be bought from PCB as well:

          Go there and see what you can fit in your budget.
          Hope this will help!

  28. Hi,

    I live in Simpsonville SC (two hours from Atlanta), I would like to try a Fujilfilm X1OO in real life before taking the decision to buy one.
    I really have not found any camera store with it.
    If you know a place in the area of Atlanta where I can try it, I would be very pleased to know it.
    Thank you very much.

    • Benjamin,
      Unfortunately i won’t be able to help you with this: I have not seen X100 anywhere on local stores yet. I’ve got mine from B&H… I think in a few month they will be everywhere, as that first “crazy” demand will be filled in:-)

  29. Hi Alex

    Just found your site and wanted to say how wonderful I think it is. Fantastic images and so generous of you to share all the information and insights – not to mention the time it must take you. I do still life as well as more abstract images and found it very helpful.

    A technical question – I can’t seem to access your post production blog at all. All the other links from your main site work fine, but this one Safari just says it can’t find the server. I’ve emptied cache, reset, tried Firefox, but no joy. Can you shed any light?

    Many thanks


  30. @Alex Koloskov,
    Thanks Alex for your Advise I will try it today.


  31. Hi Alex,

    Hope you are well,
    Could I please ask you for small favor !
    I have Curtains that I need to Photograph in my Room So what type of light Modifier Should be used.
    I need the Same lighting that i have Attached the Image Below.
    Will Follow your Advice !


    • Paran,
      I do not see artificial light on the photo you showed me. Looks like the sun was on the right, relatively low (5-6 Pm?). See the light and shadows on a curtain bottom and pillow. It looks like Sun to me. Bright room, correct exposure and he got the shot.
      If you like to shoot the same with the artificial lights, try to highlight the opposite walls and the seeing of the room: reflection from such lighting will give more natural look to curtains. Instead of the sun you can use sharp light (small bare reflector) in the similar position.

      Hope this will help.

      Hope this

      • @Alex Koloskov,

        Here are some more question
        I have attached one more image below
        You can see the light reflection on small pot on the table I think they are using 4 artificial light right ? what do you think about this what light modifier they were using or is this HDRI Image ?

        Sorry for disturbing you.

        Paran [img]http://images.countrycurtains.com/images/set_a/en_us/local/products/detail/010150643_dt.jpg[/img]

        • Paran,
          This is ok, this tread was made exactly for such disturbance:-)
          Yes, I see they might have something from the left, just to fill the shadows. I do not think the shape of the modifier matters here: it can be large umbrella or softbox. Something with diffused light.
          The shape of modifier is important when you have glossy objects.. otherwise, it does not really matter. Size and balance between diffused and directional light is what you need to worry about.

  32. Hey Alex…one more quick question…is the ST-E2 Speedlite transmitter the only way to sync speedlites to studio lights? I have tried various methods and nothing seems to work…thanks! Jim

    • Jim,
      ST-E2 Speedlite transmitter will only work to sync speedlites with the camera. You can’t use ST_E2 to sync speedlites with other monolights (not sure is this is what you mean by “studio lights”).
      It is possible to run speediltes with other studio strobes so by setting speedlites to manual mode, triggering them from a camera through a cable or ST-E2 , and speedlites will trigger the other lights with photocell.

      However, I never had such setup, what I did is this: I have 4 speedlites (need to sell few of them now) and was using all of them with ST-E2, no other lights was used.
      hope this will help.

  33. Hi Alex

    Again thank you for responding to my earlier question.

    I have another one for you if you dont mind sharing your view on. I need to shoot a watch bezel (not attached to watch) and found it hard to position so that I can get good lighting and sharp focus on the diamonds. Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks again!


    • Andrew,
      Sorry, your question is too general to be answered. Bring the want in studio and we’ll see what cane done. :-)

      • Hi Alex

        I have a watch bezel that I need to photograph.

        I have 2 softboxes with 2 speedlights attached, another speedlight used with a diffuser, and a high gloss black perspex and a focus stacker.

        The bezel is circular however is not currently on a watch. It’s just the bezel. I found it difficult to light properly to showcase the diamonds around it’s perimiter. If I place the bezel upright (standing up), it is difficult to get a sharp image and extremely difficult to focus stack as the middle of the bezel is basically a hole (hole is where the watch face would sit). So it’s difficult to get a focus point as you work up the bezel by using a focus stacker.

        Any thoughts? Not sure if I have explained it well.



  34. Thank you so much for your answer…

  35. Hi Alex–

    First of all thank you for sharing your work–I am inspired! My question is, how do you sync your canon at such a high shutter speed to stop liquid and make it so sharp? I have the 5d mark ii and it syncs at 1/200 (I am using white lightning and older speedotrons)..you mentioned syncing your canon 1d m3 @ 1/5000 or so. Is this high of a sync speed only possible on that canon?…I’ve read through everything in my manual can’t seem to figure it out. thanks again, Jim

    • Jim,
      I have 1/250 shutter speed all the time. The stopping action gets achieved by a very short flash duration – 1/3000 -1/10000 of second. There is no other lights affects the scene, so it does not matter what shutter speed I set.
      White lighting and speedotron won’t give you such short duration: The only capable lighitng I know are these: speedlites or einstein or profoto pr broncolor… list is short.:-)
      Thank you!

  36. Hi Alex

    Well what can I say you are an absolute professional and a real generous person by sharing your knowledge.
    I watched your video on the watch shoot as I am due to take something very similar. I do not own alien bees so I was hoping to see what your thoughts on using speed lights instead?

    I much appreciate any feedback about speed lights and any other useful information you may have?

    When are you visit Australia? I would love to see you at what you do best!

    • Andrew,
      I have 4 canon speedlites and prior the “einstein era;-)” I was using them for all my splash and other hi-speed photography. You can find several behind the shoot videos where I’ve was using speedlites with great results. Just dig the blog and you’ll find the info -> http://www.photigy.com/tag/speedlite/
      I hope I’ll travel to Australia one day:-)
      Thanks for stopping by!

  37. Alex,

    If possible could you please tell me how to eliminate or get rid of reflection on the blue SKYY bottle ?

    Thanks much for your time


    • E-640 @ 1/8th on the left, a foam core board behind and opposite the softbox. Overhead E640 at 1/32 power.

    • Shreeni,
      Why you have softbox on the left? This is a glass, and you can’t highlight it, you can only get a reflection from the modifiers. Move it the way so it won;t gets reflected to a camera.
      I have few glassware shots step-by-step explained, similar situations and solution explained there.

      Good luck!

  38. Hello
    Akel studio

    I wanted to ask if you can explain how you think the lights are positioned to get these beautiful shots and the bottom so bright and then if there is an intervention with photoshop

    J have send image with mail. You remember ?

    hello and thanks

    • Roberto,
      Yes, I do remember your email.
      One question: where did you get those images? I feel not comfortable posting somebody else work here without credit to the author. Please let me the author or the place where did you get them, so I can have a link.

      here are few of them (again, it is not mine images, Roberto sent me email asking how it was done):

      Regarding your question about the lighting:
      All of them are beautifully styled, and this is the most important thing.
      My take on the lighting: What I see is usual for such food shots; White shooting table, (can be lit through, from the bottom), 2-3 light from behind-top-sides (you can see the highlights on the edges of the products).
      I usually use a narrow snooted light sources to point to a specific part of the dish from the side-behind to make that “tasty” reflection.
      May be a large silver reflector (or softbox) from the front, to soften the image.

      The pear is most likely shot as-is: it it possible to cut it and assemble pieces together with sort of wires from inside. Photoshop is present, but for minor adjustments and cleaning the image.

      But all of this just my guess. Photographer may have it done differently. The best way to figure our, IMO, is to get a dish with stuff in it, and play with few light sources around: one hour of such experiment will tell you 100 times more then any “explanations” you are seeking from other photographers.

      All the best,

  39. Hi! I am. a Big Fan of your blog! I learned already so much! but i still have one questions. Your Photos Look always so Sharp! how do you do your sharpening? lightroom or Photoshop?? Any Tricks?? ;-)



  40. Hi Alex,

    My question is not about lighting but more about the business aspect which is more difficult for me. How do you find your clients (like Walmart, Shirley Corriher, Wind City2City, or the others) or do they find you? Do you advertise?

    Thanks in advance,

    • George,
      We do advertise, but It depends what we would call advertisement.

      The only thing we pay money for is a Google Ads:
      We have selected very narrow list of keywords and bidding them very high price, which means we’ll be on top of the google search results for these keywords. It cost us about $500/month.
      This is it.
      The rest are my and my retoucher’s blogs (perfectphotoblog.com). We spend huge amount of time working on the blogs and on photography technique itself.
      And this works:
      It builds the brand, I become visible, because of the photography itself and the fact that I do something which nobody does: who else share jewelry and product REAL-life shots, with the lighting and all the stuff?

      So, answering your question: clients find me, I do not contact anyone. The coolest thing that “my” client wants to work only with me: meaning almost no competition. This is the power of brand:-)
      Thank you!

      • @Alex Koloskov,

        Thanks for sharing…..you are very generous with ALL your info, it’s much appreciated!!

        Well what you are doing sure is working for defining your style/ “brand”. Hat’s off to you. :)

        Kind regards,

  41. I tried to follow as much as possible your instructions to freeze liquid drops. My first ever with an external flash. I had the Einstein & 580 EX-II on 1/128th. But images are at best snapshotish. What did I do wrong ?

  42. Hi Alex, I wonder if you can help me choose an appropriate size of softbox? I did just purchase a full set of gear from Paul C. Buff, including 3 Alien Bees, a shoot-through umbrella, and a 30×60 softbox. Holy smokes, that’s a big softbox!! Probably far too large for my purposes and my space. I will be doing product and head shots in my studio and on location. I will have to add gear as I grow, so I have a somewhat limited budget. If i return (or re-sell) the 30×60, what would you recommend as a replacement to start? Another umbrella, a medium (24×36″) or large (32×40″) softbox, or a stripbox?

    BTW, i really enjoy and appreciate all of the great information you share!

    • Barbara,
      Congratulation on your purchase, I know how it is exiting to get new gear:-)
      It is really hard to suggest it for you, as you know much better what size of the shooting area you have and the style of your photography then me. Personally I like a combination of large umbrellas and small stripboxes when it comes to the portraits: large umbrella provides a good fill light, and stripbox can work very well to add some drama to a face, by creating shadow areas. I use 10×36 ones.
      BTW, PCB softboxes are foldable, which can be good, but they are much bigger (talking about “deepness”) then the regular softboxes with similar size. You may want to check a regular ones, if you wan to use softboxes instead of umbrellas.

      Hope this will help:-)

  43. Hi, Alex,

    Thank you so much for your input! I will follow your advice. I have asked for a meeting with the client and will try to see what we can come up with.

    You’re one of the most generous persons I know in this field. Besides being an extremely good professional you show to be a very intelligent human being…. you know what you’re worth, so you’re not afraid of sharing your knowledge….

    Unfortunaly, most people are scared of sharing what they know… silly really…

    If ever in Portugal, say something, we’ll only be too pleased to show you my beautiful part of the world.

    Once again, thank you for your help.



  44. Hi, Alex,

    I have been asked to do a job which I have never done before and would like to ask for your help, if possible.

    I was asked to photograph a couple of sofas by a client who has all his material in a dark warehouse (which I haven’t seen yet but will visit next monday). The client wants the job done there and says that his Creative worker will do the necessary edition afterwards, which means the sofas to be photographed will be surrounded by other furniture :(

    He also wants a couple of female models to be part of the photograph as these photos will be used for their catalogue.

    One other photographer has done this job, but the client did not want any of the photos because he said that too much emphasis was put on the models and not on the sofas…

    Anyway, this will be my first experience in this type of work. I have been photographying for the past two years (having been a laywer before), and am trying to get work in commercial work. I know it’s a challenge, but I want to face it and am not embarrassed in asking for help to do it….

    Therefore, here’s my question:

    How do you (and all other photography friends who might be reading this) recommend I go about this project?

    I have the following equipment: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 70-200mm f:4, Canon 20-153mm f:3.5, Sigma 50mm f. 1.4, Canon 580exII flash, 2x Elinchrom 500 bxri, 2 x Elinchrom 600bx, plus various modifiers.

    Do you think I need a wide angle lens? and if so, which one do you recommend?

    Do I need to take with me a couple of support and take some background material to separate the sofas from the rest of the furniture in the warehouse?

    I know it’a lot to ask… sorry :(, but all help will be appreciated.

    Thank you so much.



    • Ameila,
      I am not really good at giving such advices, as everything is so depends from the particular environment and your own vision on how work should be done that any technical suggestion would only hurt rather then help: you’ll try to “implement” somebody else workflow instead of developing your own.

      I can only throw few ideas came to my mind:
      You can use flash with large softboxes (or PLM umbrellas) to get a good separation of your subject from a rest of the furniture. Try to highlight the scene with flash only, completely overpowering ambient light. In this case you’ll have like a bright spot with a sofas in it.. the rest will disappear in darkness. Models can be somewhere at the edge of the light circle, coming to a scene.. but the sofas in a center.
      However, the overall tone will be “on black” and you need to make sure client likes this.

      The opposite to dark you can have a window behind the scene, and ballance your strobes with ambient to create a nice, daylight- bright images.

      The lens selection will depend from how much room you have; longer focal will give you more separation by shallower DOF, but you simply ma not have enough room to get your composition..

      I suggest you first to sit with the client and create a sketch of what you gonna shoot. Where the sofas, where the models, etc. You can always improvise during the shot, but having a shooting plan will help a lot in your gear selection and overall implementation.
      Client will be also involved and more likely will like the result, as it will be his creation at some part:-)

      For more all around suggestion you can throw the same question on strobist group on a flickr: you’ll get a lot…
      Good luck!

  45. Alex,

    I have been hugely motivated by your tutorials, your blog and you
    excellent writing. Thanks a billion :)

    I have never touched a studio flash in my life so far and now I have
    an Einstein coming in next week (I had ordered AB800, but after
    reading your stop-action stuff, i changed it to E-V2.)

    Currently I have a EOS 7D with one 580 EX-II which is usuallly
    mounted on my camera. With the Einstein now coming in what else I
    would need to setup before I can use it ? I mean how can I trigger
    the E-V2 from the 7D ? What more should I buy ?

    Could you kindly show/tell me if possible how to setup a studio flash
    or point me in the right direction ?

    I am indebted to your time.


    • Shreeni,

      There are few ways to use together speedlite and PCB monolight: you can have one of them synced with camera and another to work as a slave.
      Example configurations:

      First config: Get a PCB trigger transmitter to fire your Einsten: CST Trigger Transmitter and get one of these hot-shoe adapter with photocell to fire your speedlite by Einstein flash: Shoe Slave Adapter .

      Mount both flashes on a lights stands and transmitter on your camera. Speedlite must be in manual mode!

      The second configuration is opposite: you can fire speedlite from the camera (or use an extension cord to have it on a side) and trigger Einstein (slave mode ON). Speedilte MUST be in a manual mode, otherwise it will false-fire Einstein by its e-ttl preflash.

      Hope this will help.
      Thank you for kind words about my work:-)

      • Alex,

        Thank you for taking time to answer. I ordered today a Cyber Commander and 1 CSXCV & 1 CSRB+ from Paul C Buff. The CC triggers the Einstein and the 580-EXII, but do I need a PC cable to connect the Cyber Commander to the 7D ?


  46. Alex –

    Silly me, I asked you a question regarding what make and model boom arm and stand you use, where you purchased it, and then discovered I could not find my post nor your answer. I would like to purchase a quality boom arm and stand my PCB / Photogenic lights. Would you mind repeating your answer? Thank you.

  47. Akel,

    I was hoping you could clarify the strobes you use. You state you use White Lighting and Alien Bee and Einstein flashes. But you state in some of your posts that you use 1600WS units. I assume you mean these are White Lighting strobes. Don’t you mean X1600 instead of 1600WS? The X1600 is a 660 watt second unit, and not a 1600 ws flash.

    • Hey Steve,
      Sorry for the confusion: I was the same victim of PCB way to advertise his strobes. Several years ago some of the manufactures used 2 different metrics for the flash power: effective watt seconds and true watt seconds. WhiteLighting, same as AlienBees had 400, 800 and 1600 effective WS.. Converted to true WS the numbers looks like this 160, 320 and 640 WS respectively .
      Lately it was a court decision (if I am not mistaken), and all manufactures removed “effective” WS shit from strobe specifications, leaving only “true” watt seconds.

      So, now WL X1600 is 640 WS, WL (and AB) 800 is 320 WS, and 400->160WS.

      So, yes, I meant X1600, not 1600Ws.
      P.S Have to update all the posts to remove te confusion.


  48. Have you heard about Clairon Call 2011? Its Especially for commercial photographers and it is an online teleseminar that is FREE. It is being held on February 11 and 12 during the hours of 9AM – 4PM. That is right 7 continueous hours each day!
    Here is the web address to register. You have to register to attend.


    Also, are you a member of APA (American Photographic Artist). It is an organization of commercial photographers. They have a main office in Atlanta.
    Check out their website:



    • Richard,
      I am receiving emails from Selina on regular basis, all goes directly to spam folder: I never subscribed to her mailing list and I hate SPAM. I do not want (nor I can) to judge her skills as a photographer’s consultant, but for sure I do not like her own marketing strategy. I’ve looked at some of her videos on youtube, and did not hear any real advise except advertisements of her books and future seminars.

      I know APA, but few years ago i was a member of ASMP, and unfortunatelly i did not get any good of it.. Currently I am not a member of anything:-)
      Thank you, Alex.

  49. Alex;
    I notice you use various shooting tables. I’m going to build a table using 3/4″ PVC pipe and fittings with either a plexiglass or plate glass table surface. If you were to choose one size to start with, What size table do you find most useful for most of the product work that you do?

    • Richard,
      I found that I mainly need 2 tables: one relatively large (I have one with 79 x 49″ panel for a big products, and one very small, less then feet on each side.
      While the big one is good for non-reflective objects, in most cases it does not work well for glossy objects: the table surface gets reflected on a bottom part of the object, and there is no way to get rid of it.
      The small one is easy to be surrounded with necessary reflectors and modifiers, without adding that white reflection form the bottom.

      So, my small table is not an actual table: I use a different Plexiglas sheets placed on a small tripod-mounted base and bended the way I want. It gives me more freedom then the “fixed” table.

  50. hi Alex,

    Thanx fo sharing your knowledge with us, very helpfull. I posted a question about post-production here:

    thanx in advance!

  51. Alex;
    Going thru my email and having signed up for http://www.photoargus.com newsletter I found one of their links was for “Best of Photoargus 2010.” Going to that link I came across this cheatsheet for portrait lighting. Knowing your strength is in still life but occassionally do a portrait I thought this would be useful. Here is the link:


    The link is little long but you can also go to just: http://www.thephotoargus.com and poke around. They have some pretty cools stuff. Some basic, some advanced.


    • Thank you Richard, I’ll take a look.
      But honestly, I am not a big fun of any tutorials, even from those who know how to shoot better then me: I want to preserve my uniqueness by “inventing the wheel” every time I build a shoot.
      I believe that if you want to build your own brand (band-of-yourself), being different is much more important then being right:-)

      In any case the link will be useful here for those who is looking for it.

  52. Want to see the difference between shooting in raw or JPEG? On your DSLR you may have a setting for just raw, just JPEG or RAW+jpeg. On your menu set the quality setting to RAW+L(max quality jpeg). This records both a raw and a Max quality jpeg file simutaneously. Shoot an image with mid-tones to bright tones but not blown out. Now open both images in photoshop or any other editing software and put them on the screen side by side. Zoom in on both images at exactly the same location. Not just 1:1 or 100% but go 3:1 or 300% and examine the pixels in the same location on both images. The images will blow your socks off. The raw image will have gradations from pixel to pixel while the JPEG image is clumping pixel exposures together. Once you see this difference between raw and jpeg, you will no longer shoot JPEG.

  53. I found out something that suprised me. While reading the book, Photoshop for photographers by Martin Evening, he stated that most camera settings only effect the JPEG image and Not the raw file. A little confused by that statement I contacted Martin and asked him which camera settings effect the raw file. With all the bells and whistles on the Pro-DSLR and any camera that will shoot raw the ONLY thing that effects the raw file is exposure and ISO. All the other bells and whistles are only for the JPEG file. The only other thing that he said you might want to set is a preset white balance but that could be done in post. So, forget about all those menu setting for contrast, saturation, color filter effect etc. None have anything to do with the raw file. Just set the correct exposure, a good ISO and possibly a preset white balance and you have got it ALL, Everything unmanipulated ready for processing in your image editing software.

    Also to my suprise was that the histogram is based on the JPEG in camera processed image and does NOT represent the raw file image so as such it is NOT totally accurate when shooting raw.

    One final thing. Adobe Camera Raw editing software when using Bridge, is EXACTLY the same editing software used in Lightroom 3.0 develop module.

    • Yes, I never set or use on-camera picture modes, etc : I shoot RAW 100% of the time. I was shooting only RAW since my first digital camera (it was sony sybershot), I had it this way long time before I decide to shoot for the money, and now I forgot how JPEG looks like:-)
      True about histogram of the camera, as it converts is to JPEG first. I do not use in camera histogram anyway, as I shoot tethered. I try to set correct WB on a camera to see the “normal” looking previews.

  54. I have been thinking about buying a new lens for my Canon 5D. I’m considering the
    EF 24-70mm F-2.8L
    EF 70-200mm F-2.8L
    EF 100mm F-2.8L Macro.
    I will be shooting still life, from Jewelry to things the size of a brief case, and on occassional portrait but no full lengths.
    I’ve kind of decided against the 24-70 and I’m thinking the 70-200 would do the job and is a super all around lens, but the 100mm macro would probably be more ideal for both the small jewelry and portraits even without the zoom. It would just make me move the camera instead of just being lazy and zooming. Also, I think the 100mm macro will have a better image perspective for both types shooting as well as being able get in to 1:1 macro on jewelry.
    why am I undecided? Well, the 100mm macro is locking me in while the 70-200 will be more versatile in studio and outdoors.
    I guess there is no one lens fits all and I have to decide if the small product and portrait work is most important and needs the dedicated 100mm lens for that work.
    Any opinions?

    • 24-70mm is a great “daily use” lens, I have it on the camera every time we go out. But in studio, I use 70-200 for people: it gives me much better range then 24-70, as everything less then 70mm is too wide for me in studio (with longed focal length it is easier to fit model in a background, etc).
      For a products macro (1:1) is a must. So, I think 100mm F2.8 L IS macro will fit the best as a “one for all” lens for you, if you plan to do a lot of studio product work. It is fast, has good auto-focus and 100mm is great for a portraits. IS will help you for outside shot.

      It will work very well for a products, however I prefer 180mm F3.5 L Macro, especially for a jewelry and small products.
      But like I said: 100mm macro will work great, and I would definitely choose it from your list.

      70-200 Is the best lens I ever had, truly. But it is useless for a product photography.
      Tough decision, I know:-)

      • I received the Canon 100mm f2.8L. Wow…super lens. we’ll be using it for all my table top work. Thanks for the info.

        Oh…some time age you mentioned using a “Business Consultant” who helped you establish your goals and objectives and business plan for your studio. Ir was a women but I don’t know her name. Who is she? Did she do a good job? I’ve seen a couple advertise on line but they look a little shady.
        Any recommendations?
        If you perfer you can email me off line at: [email protected]

        • Richard,
          Great, enjoy the lens:-)
          I’ll pass your info to her. She has nothing to do with photography. But she did amazing job of helping us (talking about me and Genia) to understand what the best in us, as well as what we really want.. I think its called coaching.
          She give us that clarity we needed to see better our path.. BTW, here is her blog: http://daringclarity.com/

  55. In the interest of your great work…and your growing following on this blog and YouTube…
    When you relocated to Atlanta from Ukraine, how did you get started and were you already a self-trained photographer? For some reason it seems to me European photographers and artist are more talented than those born in the US.
    I just looked up Ukraine in the Wikipedia, phew…your country has had problems since the collapse of the USSR! Hope you are not the one responsible for our ecnomic problems! LOL! Are things better today here than there? Do you miss the Ukraine? My family is from Poland and I think there is some Russian in there too. Oh, I’m not related to the famous Polish singer Ryzard Rynkowski ( I think that is the spelling) I can’t hold a tune but my father sure could charm the girls!
    I understand you are self taught? Is that books or mostly on the job training and trail and error?
    How did you get your first commercial shoot in Atlanta?
    What is the highest you have been paid to date for a shoot?
    Is working with your wife in the studio difficult?
    Your wife seems to have a lot of input to the operation. I understand she is a graphic artist and also does photoshoping for you?
    Besides the studio what are her other professional interests? (besides the real job of being full time mother and wife – she must have a lot of energy)?
    Do you have other employees?
    Sorry about all the questions, but I thought the answers would be of interest to your growing following and the word of your great work is spreading.

    Do you think creating the videos is too time consuming but is a necessity to get your name out there as part of your marketing and advertising plan? or is a fun distraction that might be getting out of hand and too much to handle? The reason I ask is because there is a guy who ran a bunch of videos on YouTube under “Prophotolife” and after about a year and some 30-40 videos he gave it up as too much trouble and too time consuming. He dropped from the scene and I recently found out he sold the studio to his partner and has gone to work for another company without all the headachs. His videos are still on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and search ProPhotolife. He has a bunch of great videos but more on the basics. He has a nice style in presenting his videos.

    Speaking of marketing and advertising what do you do in those areas to promote your business?
    How do you make contact and stay in contact with clients?
    Do you target clients with CD’s, cards, photos, newsletters or what?
    Ok..here is the last and the toughest!
    How do you charge for your work? What method or methods do you use? What guidlines can you offer to an upstart commercial studio who wants to do product and advertising photography like you do and establish a pricing schedule or policy?

    • Richard, I’ll answer inline:

      In the interest of your great work…and your growing following on this blog and YouTube…
      When you relocated to Atlanta from Ukraine, how did you get started and were you already a self-trained photographer? For some reason it seems to me European photographers and artist are more talented than those born in the US.
      I just looked up Ukraine in the Wikipedia, phew…your country has had problems since the collapse of the USSR! Hope you are not the one responsible for our ecnomic problems! LOL! Are things better today here than there? Do you miss the Ukraine? My family is from Poland and I think there is some Russian in there too. Oh, I’m not related to the famous Polish singer Ryzard Rynkowski ( I think that is the spelling) I can’t hold a tune but my father sure could charm the girls!

      When I’ve got my bachelor’s degree in Ukraine National Technical University (it use to be Kiev Polytechnic Institute), USSR just went broke, and me and my friends had no job (nor intention to work by our specialty): many guys were making a thousands of dollars (fantastic numbers for those who was living for $100 per month) by just re-selling merchandise from Poland and other satellite countries, as Ukraine has no plants or factories working… The whole country was one huge street market.
      For the next 5 years I was working as a waiter in expensive restaurants and night clubs, guardian at night casinos ( I use to be a big guy:-), manager of publisher company and as the owner of a small business. When I met Genia (my wife) we had times where we did not have money for a food, and survived mostly because we cook chebureks (deep-fried flat pasties filled with minced meat) and sell them in the nearest street market. It was a true fun time:-)
      The first most expensive things we bought in Ukraine was 2 computers (one for me, one for Genia): this is how I become a web designer and later a programmer. This is how we came to US: I “become” a programmer and was invited to US by one of the recruiting agencies.
      We arrived having $400 in our pocket at exactly right time: it was 2001, right in the beginning of the IT crisis. I probably do not need to say that first year in US was not much different for us than our life in Ukraine… at least by money earned:-)
      BTW, the first thing we bought here was a $700 Canon EOS Elan 7E on a BestBuy credit card, my first credit card in US.

      I understand you are self taught? Is that books or mostly on the job training and trail and error?

      Yes, we both (with my wife) self-taught. I did not read photography-related books (was not able to find anything interesting at the time I was searching). So, my knowledge came from trail&error from the job I was doing.

      How did you get your first commercial shoot in Atlanta?

      The client found me somehow over internet (Google probably), the shot was several grocery plazas (Publix) for company’s annual report. It was cold rainy days, and I can’t say I was completely exited about the shoot and it’s results :-)

      What is the highest you have been paid to date for a shoot?

      $3600 for a full day shot, it was about 8 total days when I was working during that month for the client. That was interiors and exteriors of recently renovated apartments.

      Is working with your wife in the studio difficult?

      I enjoy every moment we are together. In fact, I work much slower if left alone:-) We had only few times when we were apart for more then 24 hours during last 10 years. She is my best friend: no other men or woman will understand me better then she does.

      Your wife seems to have a lot of input to the operation. I understand she is a graphic artist and also does photoshoping for you?

      Besides being co-owner, accountant, web designer and (from time to time) stylist, she is our “main” retoucher: all the post-production belongs to her, I do not use Photoshop at all, concentrating only in photography.

      Besides the studio what are her other professional interests? (besides the real job of being full time mother and wife – she must have a lot of energy)?

      If we not talking about her hobbies, all her professional interests falls into our photography studio work: photoshop, blogging, design, etc.

      Do you have other employees?

      None on a full time basis. We have 2 more retouchers and one stylist, we work on hourly basis with them.

      Sorry about all the questions, but I thought the answers would be of interest to your growing following and the word of your great work is spreading.

      I am completely fine with such questions. In any case, writing about myself is always enjoyable, even for such shy guy like me:-)))

      Do you think creating the videos is too time consuming but is a necessity to get your name out there as part of your marketing and advertising plan? or is a fun distraction that might be getting out of hand and too much to handle? The reason I ask is because there is a guy who ran a bunch of videos on YouTube under “Prophotolife” and after about a year and some 30-40 videos he gave it up as too much trouble and too time consuming. He dropped from the scene and I recently found out he sold the studio to his partner and has gone to work for another company without all the headachs. His videos are still on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and search ProPhotolife. He has a bunch of great videos but more on the basics. He has a nice style in presenting his videos.

      For us, videos was always a part of self-promotion, we never tried or plan to get an extra money from an AD placed on our videos or blog (this is what I see on ProPhotolife). I use videos as an addition to my blog articles, and I am trying to keep it simple: less entertainment, more useful information for those who are seeking it.

      First, it was a real pain for me to record a video of myself talking still not well known English, without proper pronunciation and any speaker skills whatsoever. Being an introvert did not help either:-)
      Now I simply get use to it, and it is much simpler for me to talk in front of the camera. Post production time reduced as well.
      Also, becoming a presenter helped me to start feeling better in front of the people I need to talk to: this is where I feel myself most uncomfortable every time.
      Again, speaking of ProPhotolife: the guy was trying to target wider audience, covering the basics of the photography. On such segment there are much more competition on youtube, and he probably could not cover the cost of making such videos.
      I do not try to get more viewers/subscribers at any cost: the idea of my blog and videos is to show a real experience of a product photographer work to those who are looking (same as I was looking for such info few years ago) for such: being specific (I believe) should give me advantage over the rest of the crowd.

      Speaking of marketing and advertising what do you do in those areas to promote your business?

      I do have post about how we promote or business, it should answer this question very well: How we promote and grow our photography business

      How do you make contact and stay in contact with clients?

      So far we pay for Google Ads for advertisement only. The idea of our business to make the name and reputation of a photography studio which does an exceptional work, and there won’t be anyone who can do the same… Meaning our fans will spread the word about us better then anything else, and it will work better then anything else.

      Do you target clients with CD’s, cards, photos, newsletters or what?

      None of this. I personally do not like any greetings, and I want to position our studio as a professionals who can help when needed. We simply do not have time to remind our current or former customers about our presence: all the energy goes to discovering the new ways to make our photography better, out of reach from competitors. Our advertisement is our photography, and we need to be sure we are the best.

      We might be wrong with such approach… time will tell us:-)

      Ok..here is the last and the toughest!
      How do you charge for your work? What method or methods do you use? What guidlines can you offer to an upstart commercial studio who wants to do product and advertising photography like you do and establish a pricing schedule or policy?

      He-he. True, this is the toughest one:-)
      The pricing is very depends from a job, sometimes we can work for free, or charge upper 3 digits number per hour of shooting time.
      Usually we do not sell prints, and trying to avoid “work for hire” and full buyout: the most common usage license we provide to our customers are unlimited and exclusive.
      The price depends from a license: meaning the cost of same job can be 3-5 times different based on the license. For us, scale looks like this:
      Lets say creative fee is $X dollars per hour. For editorial usage it will be 100% in addition to a creative fee, unlimited usage adds 200%, exclusive usage adds 500%… Buyout adds infinity :)

      Richard, thank you for such extensive interview, I can use parts of it on our “about” page:-)

      • Alex;

        Thank you for you direct and straight forward answers. I agree with your philospphy and you have a lot of courage making the move to the US. Congratulations! I’m sure your work will prosper and grow you to great success.

        Don’t worry about your broken english speech. My wife is from Puerto Rico and a native Spanish speaker, has been here for 22 years, is a Elementary School Spanish teacher and you speak better English than her. (Don’t tell her I said that ;-) )Besides, I can’t speak a word of Ukraine and only a few words of Polish and enough Spanish, with the help of a translation dictionary, to get a wife and stay out of trouble.
        Happy New Year to you and your family!

  56. As you are aware, when photographing small objects depth of field is critical. Also, depending on the lens you use and the f-stop, focus distance,as well as the size of your camera sensor, the depth of field can be radically different. Do you know of a source where a depth of field calculator can be found? For example, when using your Canon Mark III with full size sensor, 100 mm F2.8L macro lens and you are focused (measured from the sensor plane mark on the top of your camera) at some distance from your object and at a particular F-stop, are there tables you can look up and determine what the depth of field is for that camera and lens etc for the perscribed “In Focus” circles of confusion?
    Granted, you would not use something like this every time, but it might be handy to know that when you are set at a particular fstop and distance with a particular lens you have about “X” depth of field. Unfortunately, the days of the depth of field scale on the lense barrell are gone.

    • Richard,
      It would be nice to have something like this, but I’ve never seen any formula or diagram showing DOF/focal length/sensor dependency. I have only 3 lens for a macro photography (180mm F3.5, 100mm F2.8 and MP-E 65mm), and after completing few shots with each I can relatively easy predict maximum usable DOF I can get from each lens for a given product size.
      So, I do not think such DOF scale will be really usable. However, it will be cool to know such info for a new lens before considering to buy it.

  57. In your photography you appear to like to use a lot of lights, 3 to 5 usually, sometimes more. In setting up your lights do you photograph each light individually to see its effect? Or, do you just place lights and watch the effect of the modeling light as they’re added without looking at each individual light and its effect by itself? What is your work flow for lighting? I know each image is different and requires different lighting, but I’m sure you have a method you walk through each time.

    • Richard,
      Several years ago I use to set every light individually to see the effect from it, starting from one or two, then shoot, look at the result and add more lights when necessary.

      Now, these days I usually know how many lights I would need and where I will place them just by looking at the shooting subject and knowing what kind of image I need to get at the end. I kind of model the lighting setup in my head before I start working on it in the studio: this sort of thing comes with experience, as I know all my lights and modifiers and usually can predict how they will work for a particular product .
      So, I set the stage with all the lights, and then adjust the position and power of each after first test shot. I do not relay much on a modeling lights: obviously, I use them to set the initial light position, but for the final tune I use a monitor with the actual test photo in it (I shoot tethered).

      Trully speaking, the number of light sources is not that important, as in most cases I can substitute the light with the reflector positioned properly.

      The most important for me is to select the right light modifiers for each particular shot: In product photography, quite often I work with 100% visible reflections from the light modifiers (not diffused reflection like we get from a people skin, but a mirror-like reflection form a product’s glossy surface), which makes the selection of a proper light modifier to be a crucial.

  58. Not long ago you showed an example of focus stacking. In that example, you said there are two ways to do it; by focusing the lens or by moving the camera along the focusing rail. You said re-focusing the lens was the incorrect way and that moving the camera was the correct way. Can you explain why? My thought is moving the camera changes the “size” of the image while re-focusing the camera doesn’t change the size of the image and seems like it would be better for focusing at different planes.

    • Richard,
      I’ll use my previous answer to the same question that was asked some time ago. It will be good to have it here, in Q&A thread:

      When I first read about focus stacking technique, the guy was saying that you have to move camera instead of re-focusing the lens. No explanation was given.
      Later, when I start playing with it myself, I found the answer: When I re-focus the lens it will slightly change a perspective and bokeh will be changed as well, while moving the camera does not change anything except the focusing point. Think about this: when lens focus gets adjusted, some of the internal elements of the lens being moved relatively to each other and aperture blades, right? This inevitably (depending from a particular lens design) change bokeh and perspective, as the distance between the lens front element and a focusing point will be changed (meaning we’ll change a focusing distance).
      Instead, by moving the whole thing (camera and lens) we guaranteed moving only focusing plane through our subject, while the focusing distance remains unchanged.

      Few more things:

      a. Refocusing the lens does not change the size of the image:

      – Not true. Re-focusing the lens will change the image size as well. Try it yourself on some macro object and you’ll see how image gets enlarged when you will re-focus from the closest to farthest point on the subject. If we re-focus lens we move some part of it: it works the same (at some point) as we’ll move the whole lens.

      So, when we move the camera, image size gets changed. But the focus stacking software handles this very well. When I need to have my subject as close as possible, I often start shooting focusing from a closest (to a camera) part of the subject, moving to a farthest. Inevitably object gets enlarged so at the end of the sequence the front (closest) part of it does not fit frame anymore. Photoshop ( I believe any other stacking program) does handle this very well, stacking the whole thing correctly: It simply does not use out of focus part of each image (meaning it does not matter if it out of frame), stitching only areas that are in a focus. So, the whole sequence of “usable” areas will have exactly the same proportions, as the distance between lens and focusing plane (focusing distance) will be the same, right? This means the size of the focused part of the object will be always the same, and software won’t have any trouble stitching it together.

      Hope this makes sense, even with my limited English:-) Try to shoot close to 1:1 macro with both camera movements and re-focusing and you’ll see everything I was explaining here yourself.

  59. thanks Alex for your input and cleaning my messed up HTML tags.
    Ok, I will be visiting yr blog to learn more.

  60. Dear Alex

    I have a question on the text on labels found on some products : An example:

    You can see the text on the label are still quite straight on to the viewer although the label is wrapped around the bottle. But when i try to shoot a similar bottle, I found the text on the label get distorted as they are wrapped on a curve surface(the bottle).

    Do you think the text in the example image was achieved via post processing or through the camera?

    Thanks for your time.

    • Zeez,
      It is hard to be 100% sure what they got on this image, but I am thinking that the label was applied during a post-production. Here is my thoughts: a bottle was highlighted from a top-center, you see the light fall of to the edges. However, I do not see anything like this on a label. instead, label has softbox-like reflection on the edges (especially noticeable on the left), and still a little darker on a center.
      The text, as you noticed, is too straight as well. It can be the way they printed it, but most likely it is a digital label. I even can think of a digital bottle (knowing how it would be easy to do such having a model on any 3d editor).. but you never know for sure.

      I think you should not worry about the text: use a long lens to preserve the perspective and concentrate on lighting:-)

  61. Thank you Alex,
    I am waiting for your new post of jewelry photography :)

    Best Wish,
    Vu Duc Thao

  62. Hello Alex,
    Thank you for your many useful advices, I can fix the problem with DOF by using Focus Stacking that you introduced. Here is the link to the photo i did:


    I have a question about camera setting to take Jewelry, as the picture at above link, I set Spot Metering Selector and Dynamic Area – AF.

    Can you share with us about Camera setting also?

    Thank you Alex,
    All the best to you and your family.
    Vu Duc Thao

    • @Vu Duc Thao,
      Nice photo, but I would go closer, showing more details of the necklace, even if you age going to loose some focus on the edges.. It may bring more drama to a picture. But this is just me:-)

      As for the camera settings: I shoot only on manual mode, shutter speed in most cases is 1/250 sec (camera x-sync). Aperture is set according to desired DOF. Then I modulate flash power to “fit” in my camera settings.
      So, answering your question, I am not using camera metering at all. Focus is always manual as well.

      thank you,

  63. Hello Alex,
    The link http://www.edgarmaivel.com/ you gave me it doesn’t work, can you give me again?

    Thank Alex,

  64. Hi,
    Very impressive work and website!

    I am curious if you are available to offer any insight into the following. If this is more involved than you have time for, I’m open to the possibility of paying you a consulting fee to assist me in finding a solution for the following product photography question.

    Here’s an overview of what I am trying to accomplish.


    Thanks for your your time and for any assistance that you can provide.


    • Joshua,

      To get a maximum texture from the paper product like yours I would use strip-boxes from both sides from the shooting table, positioned low. The light will hit your paper with a very sharp angle (almost horizontally, same as the product), and this will let texture to show off, as every little unevenness will drop a mini-shadow. Have 2:1 or 3:1 ratio between the lights: this will let you to control the amount of shadows: more difference in power between light sources will give you more “sharper” look. You can also have lights from one side only and have a reflector from the opposite side, it should work well too.
      I’ll re-post your example photo here, so reader will know better what we are talking about:

      In general, lighting setup may look similar to the pone I had for cosmetic brush set (full post here), but you have to lower both strip box to a table’s level:

      Cosmetic brushes lighting setup

      As for the camera selection, any camera will work fine, even point and shoot. Check out this post about canon G11, and you’ll see that the lighting is much more important then the camera. You only may need more serious DSLR if you need more megapixel or have to have better linear resolution of the final images, as point and shoot won’t give you that much details.

      You’ll be fine with the work lights you bought as soon as all of them will have the same color temperature. The only problem you may have when you’ll try to create the same light spread as stripbox has.. You probably can modify the reflector to be more stripbox-like: more light spread on one plane wile restricted on the opposite. remember: the main idea is to ave the lights to hit your documents on a sharp angle, not from top…

      Hope this will help, let me know how it will go by posting results here:-)

      • Alex Koloskov,

        Thanks so much, Alex! You are incredible. I tested my new Nikon D90 last night with the 60mm macro lense and it makes a world of difference (as compared to the Olympus E-PL1 with macro lense. With your feedback on the lighting, I feel like on my way to success. Thanks.

        Just a few questions. I have a 700W worklight with a halogen bulb and I also have two separate 250W CFL lights (and also 100W lights). It seems that I’ll have to choose one or the other (halogen versus cfl) and get the same for the other side (I’ll try one side only first with a reflector on the other side). When you say a 3:1 ratio between lights do you mean, say, a 600W on one side and 200W on the other? I’m assuming so but please clarify if you have the chance.

        I’ll look into DIY solutions for strip boxes. Do you have a brand recommendation for an entry level strip box? I’m trying to see what brand yours are in the pics but I can’t quite read what the logo says (I’m sure they aren’t entry level!).

        Thanks again.


        • Joshua,

          Yes, to have a color temperature consistent you have to choose the same type of lights to be used. You are right about the ratio between the lights, 600W:200W is exactly 3:1. However, the ratio can also be changed by changing the distance between the light and the subject, as well as by using different light modifiers. In both cases the amount of light hitting the subject will be different. But like I said, that 3:1 ratio is just an example, the real ratio may be way different. You have to play with the setup to see what works best.

          Regarding DIY stripboxes: try to deform the reflector on the work light you have, sort of “squeeze” it. Cover a front of the reflector with some white translucent cloth to make the light spread more uniform. Than have black (or gray) foamboard covering the light from the top, limiting the light spill, and you may get what you need. This is first what came to my mind when I though about DIY softbox based on work light:-)

          As for the entry level stripboxes: you can find a lot of stuff on ebay, anything around 9-10” x 36-40” dimensions will be considered as a strip box.

          However, every stripbox has a speedring (a connector) designed to work with a specific light brand, and you won’t find anything which will fit your work lights. So, you can just stick the bulb in softobx, or end up buying the strobe monolights to work with.
          BTW, the softbox you see on that setup I’ve posted, is a very cheap and bad quality stuff from ebay (do not see them anymore there). I’ve bough several of them about 7 years ago, when we were starting our studio, and still have few working (this is why I still use them).
          Currently I use Paul C Buff lighting, they have good quality products. If you have a good budget for this shot, better buy samething brand-name, as any noname ebay stuff will(may) break much sooner then you expect :-)
          Good luck!

      • Thanks again, Alex. Great information. I’m testing further and am exploring the lighting ratio that you explained. Still no luck. I have a 250W Eiko floodlight on one side almost on the same plane as the produt with a “squeezed” reflector and have tested placing black foam board above (and above/below). I have another 250W Eiko (same as on right) on left side and have placed in the distance (and further from the ground) to test various ratios.

        My challenge has been to create even lighting and the best way I have found to do that is to use diffusers for each light. I’m testing with white furnace filters (a tip from a photographer) but I will test white thin cloth as well.

        I’m also testing halogen shop lights (I picked up a 700W, 500W and a 250W to test different options). Not much luck yet with those lights.

        With that, I feel that I’m trying to achieve a harder/crisper shadow that may not be possible with this approach. The first attached pic is one that I took (with the bright orange and gray). The other pictures reflect the kind of shot that I am trying to create. What kind of light/bulb/distance is used to achieve this kind of lighting?

        One thing to note. When I put the black foamboard over the light, It does help but it is a balancing act as too sharp of a light angle really brings out the texture of the paper fibers (where there isn’t anything printed). Tough to explain but there are little shadows around the fibers and it doesn’t look too appealing. So, I’m trying to accentuate the impression, but not the paper fibers as much.

        Thanks for any assistance that you can provide with this. I’m willing to invest some $ in the right kind of lighting setup but really need to make sure that I buy the right type of lighting. Also will to do a DIY solution. Or, I can hire you to consult!? :)

        Looks like I can’t upload pics to your blog. I’ll email them to you and you are welcome to attach to this post.



        Goal 1


        goal 3

        • Joshua,
          Well, I little bit confused here: First, you are saying that you want to get harder/crisper shadows, and later you are saying that with black board on top it gets too much of that, right? You understand, that more sharp light will get you more from paper texture. So, may be you need to move that light (the one which gives you too much of the texture and paper’s fiber) a little up and far from the document, so it will soften the shadows. The idea is to find a position that will give you a proper balance between hard shadows around the letters and still sift paper texture.

          Every change in the light angle or distance will change a lot in the output, so just play with the lights. Use dark room, and have an assistant to hold and move the light while you’ll be looking at the paper through the camera viewfinder. Find that position which will work for you. This can be done only by a photographer, and no way remote consultant will help you with such tuning of the lighting setup.

          Regarding these images you attached as a desired examples:
          Based on what I see, photographer had used a hard lights, most likely bare reflectors without any modifiers. Look at the shadows, they are very sharp. The light was small enough (or far enough) to get that kind of herd reflection. Also, you can easily see the angle on which lights hits the papers by the looking at the shadow: I would say it was about 25-30 degrees from the horizontal plane.

          You can use the same approach: get your work lights about 5 feet far from the paper, positioned about 2 feet higher then a shooting table (trying to get that 25 degree angle), and see what you’ll get. Put the light (only one, or to close to each other) only from one side.. use a reflector (start without it) if you’ll get too much of the shadows.

          Hope this will work. But like I said: you need to play with the distance and angles yourself, no way I can give you a right off-shell recipe :-)

          BTW, your result looks very nice to me. reduce the light from other (dimmer side) and you’ll have more shadows. Good luck!

  65. Hello Alex,

    My name is Thao (mr) from Vietnam. I am really interested in all your
    works, especially in jewelry photography.

    I am not a photographer, I am a graphic designer. But I would like to
    take Jewelry Photography. I don’t know much about lighting setup. I
    bought below product at link:


    I use Nikon D200 and Nikon 105mm Macro to take photos.

    I often set at Manual mode, F11-F20 and the Speed also go down to
    1/10 or 1/20.

    With this product equipment, the lighting is not easy to control the
    reflection. So, I would love to ask you, with this product, do you
    have any advices to take good photos?

    Here is the sample photo that I took:


    And one more question about DOF. I want to do like this site:
    or http://www.hartleystudios.com/

    Once again, thank you very much for all your sharings :)

    Some photos I took: [img]http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=44162&id=100000065160185[/img]

    • Vu,

      Let me go though your email step by step I’ll try to comment what I can:

      — I never use lighting tent and never will recommend using it, unless photographer is not looking for “getting best picture” but for bulk shoot for cheap catalogs. Same as you, long time ago I’ve bough several light tens and was trying to use them in my photography.Very soon I’ve realized that tent does not give me the freedom of choosing what and how to highlight, making dull white reflections all over the place.
      As for the lighting, those softboxes will work fine. You may add some narrow snoot-like modifier for them, so if needed you’ll be able to get a very narrow beam of the light.

      — The camera and the lens you have will work good, as soon as you can have life-size macro with it. DOF is a big issue, but with smaller sensor it should be easier to get it deeper. Another solution is to use tilt-shift stuff or do a focus stacking.

      — The only advice I can give you is to use a custom created diffusers and reflectors, positioning them the way it will cast reflection on the jewelry piece only where you want them to be. For example, metal looks good when it reflects something bright (like a diffuser), but the stone looks bad under such reflection, it might be be better not to have reflector around it, but use a narrow beam of light to “fire” the sparks.

      — If you really want to learn how to shoot jewelry, you better look at the REALLY good photos of them, where it is easy to see how each piece was highlighted (by looking at the reflections). Look at the best:
      http://www.alba-longa.com , http://www.edgarmaivel.com.

      I am working on a little “how-to” post from the latest jewelry shot we had. I’ll post it soon here, you’ll see how I build the lighting setup: nothing even close to a light-box, but still very simple and made from zero-cost materials:-)

      Good luck!

  66. Hi Alex,

    I am a novice photographer who does some product photography for friends (for free). However one of my jeweler friends came to me with a look that she wanted for her pics that for the life of me I just can’t figure out the lighting recipe. In a way, I suppose it is like your pen photo in your portfolio (love that shot). However it is on a black background and I just can’t understand how he got the light to fall off like he does (see attached pic). I tried for 2.5 hours yesterday to achieve the same look, but couldn’t even come close. I would be forever in your debt if you did a tutorial on how to come up with this effect.


    • There are two ways to get this kind of background: digitally apply it on a clipped object and with the real light. I’ll show you how I did it with the real light.

      You can’t have such gradient trying to highlight the background directly: the object will be affected (unless you’ll have object hang in the air and have background far away from the object).
      So instead we use a dark but completely glossy surface (Plexiglas or similar). Glossy surface will reflect any panel placed far away, and you will highlight that panel with gradient (spot or linear from a stribox) light.
      I have a very similar shot a while ago, where I’ve used the same technique to get spot on the background:

      Photographing jewelry: the lighting setup, tips and tricks by atlanta product photographer

      More about how I did it here:
      Photographing jewelry: the lighting setup, tips and tricks
      Hope this will help

      • Alex,

        You know I thought about creating the background digitally or shooting just a background and clipping out an object and putting it on it. But then I started looking at his reflections and they just didn’t look like inverted copies of the clipped image. That is what had me perplexed. Everytime I tried lighting the object with a softbox, the light spilled onto the background. I thought maybe using a snoot with a grid to focus the light (of course I would have to buy one first). But as I am writing this perhaps he created a gradient mask and had the background (that might have been fully lit in the original) fade to black, with full mask around the object. Hmmmm that might work. Oh, I forgot to mention in my first comment that the jeweler friend of mine for whom I am taking photos, used to go to this photographer and she said that his background was a piece of non-reflective glass with a black piece of paper under it. I tried that but I kept picking up the texture of the paper through the glass.

        I watched your video about the jewelry on the mirror several times ( I love the finished product….great pic). I actually tried to do the same thing but I have to buy another light to put a gel on to light the background. By the way, how far back from the mirror is the background that the spot is shining on? Is the mirror angled at all to pick up the reflection? I wanted to dull down the reflection a bit on the mirror so I placed a clear piece of plastic (with a very slight dull finish) over the mirror and it gave the reflection a softer look. Also, I don’t have a tilt-shift lens, so I would have to use your great focus staking trick in photoshop to get a deep depth of field.

        Thanks again!!

        • Eric,

          Yes, matte glass may work too. He probably did something like this:

          You are getting texture of the paper because you have paper background too close to the glass. Get it far, and your lens won’t reach it, DOF will not be enough.

          I remember when I’ve tried a very similar setup while working on that bracelet shot, it did not work well as glass started to glow under intense light I had on the bracelet. Only reflection worked well, so, I’ve ended up using a mirror and blurring reflection in PS.
          Everything is depends from particular shot conditions, this is why there is no “ultimate solution ” :-)

        • Hi Alex,

          Read your answer about the set-up you tried with the angled paper under the glass with a light shining on the paper. I tried that and I kept getting too much light from underneath. So I lowered the paper so it was barely angled and used a speedlight above and one from the side. The very slight angle of the paper under the non-refelctive glass gave me a gradient and I was able to adjust where the gradient fell by moving the paper back or forward. I think when I use my studio strobe from above instead of a speedlight the gradient should be more pronounced. Anyway, I am pretty happy with this attempt and at least it gives me a starting point to work on it further.

          I also used your focus stacking technique for the necklace. I just wanted that on black so I took the paper out from under the glass. The table I set up on was also glass and I put a black piece of paper under the table so there would be no shadow. I think the non-reflective glass did a pretty good job blurring the reflection. I only used one speedlight positioned above the necklace. Didn’t really have to do anything to the image in Lightroom except remove some dust particles that showed up on the glass. By the way, what is the best method for cleaning glass? Maybe you can give a tutorial on that someday. Every time I try to clean it I still get particles. I have used lintless glasses cleaning sheets and micro-fiber cloths. There always seems to be particles left behind.

          Thanks so much for your great help with this project. Please keep up the good work!!



          • Eric,
            Very nice results, thank you for posting it here. I especially like the first picture. Did you try to separate background more to get more wider gradient?
            I think your images will benefit if you’ll have more pronounceable gradient on a background… (just my 2 cents:-)

            As for the cleaning, I use a sensor cleaning brush, electrostatic charged to attract dust: once it did a very destructive job to my camera’s sensor, and since then I use it to clean small products and jewelry. The one I have is similar to this one.
            Very nice and easy solution, but.. clean surface does not last for a long, in a few minutes dust is back. So, Photoshop is where you can remove it permanently:-)

            Thank you!

        • @Eric, Hi this is Ramesh,
          I think following set up may give you the result you are looking for.

          Ramesh Kumar

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