One of the more interesting facets of outdoor photography—even product photos—is the fact that once you hatch a concept and capture an image you like, there are days when you start thinking the outtakes are much better than the image with soft boxes, snoots, Pocket Wizards and the setup headache. Here’s an example I’m still scratching my head over with a B. Merry Pocket Ulu Knife I was working on for my Fear and Loading channel on YouTube.com.
The photo is deliberately simple to highlight the striking knife made in Alaska, providing plenty of detail in the company logo and that gorgeous laminated handle. Strobes are to the right and left, triggered by Pocket Wizards from my Canon 5D MkII. One is working through a soft box (right) and the other is snooted to give something of a spotlight effect. The image was taken in my “studio” and works, but there’s so much separation that the knife almost looks like it was dropped onto the scene with Photoshop. It wasn’t, but I admit there was a lot of Photoshop work, mostly to get rid of some of the dust on that blade.
The next day I worked outdoors on a burned tree stump (below). I like the look of backlighting from the sun, but I needed to get enough light onto the knife that it showed well and prevent the highlights Mother Nature provided from burning parts until the image was ruined. It was to the right, below the camera, and shot through a small Pocketbox to minimize glare on the metal.
So I added a strobe, triggered by a PocketWizard, off the camera to minimize reflection and maximize detail. Thankfully, the magazines and companies I do work for like to have options—so both will be submitted.
I’m still not sure which one I like. I’d love to know what you think, so leave comments if you feel strongly about one or the other.