In my last post I put together a quick little DIY tutorial for making a really inexpensive set of scrims at home for under $30 that would drastically improve the quality of your product photography shots. You could use this technique for your products that you shoot professionally, or product shots for Etsy, Product shots for Pinterest or other media.
As a quick recap, I made the scrims to soften the light before it hits the product I am photographing. This is one way to make really nice gradients as a rim light where otherwise you would have a hard edge rim light. To illustrate this I am going to walk through a couple of examples below.
In this first image I have 3 lights on, a key light (main light) in the front, slightly above the bottle and very slightly off to the left side (product left). The key light has a 10 degree grid on it to keep falloff to a minimum and really focus on the labels.
The 2nd and 3rd light are each to the side of the image. They are 1'x3' strip boxes (Paul C Buff strip boxes) slightly behind the product and pointed at the sides. You can see on the image (fig 1) that the bottle is decently lit, and the rim lights are very visible. Not a terrible looking shot to start with but there is a lot improvement to be made. The biggest things that stand out to me are the hard edges of the rim light and the ambient light on the background. I realized pretty quickly the background was too close to my product and was getting lit, not something I wanted. I wanted the background to be completely black and I would add a gradient to it to help separate the product from the background and add some depth to the overall image.
For this second image (fig 2.) I have added a scrim between the strip box on the product left side and the product. Here you can see the difference this makes. Right away you can how the rim light is now a more attractive gradient vs. the previous hard edge.
I still have the issue of the other side as well as the background being grey vs. the desired black. At this point I know the scrims are going to do their job and I need to start lighting the rest of the scene. I want to add some light inside the bottle to give it some depth as well as add a light to the background to really separate the bottle from it. As a last piece for this particular shot I want to make the beer really look appetizing by adding condensation to it to give it a just out of the cooler look.
In figure three we see how the final shots were starting to shape up. If you look at the difference between fig 1 and fig 3 you will see a huge change. The gradient would have been a lot more difficult to pull off without my scrims I made. The condensation really gives a great effect (I will do another post and potentially a video on adding condensation very soon!), my condensation is just a mixture of glycerin and water sprayed from a small spray bottle or various atomizers.
I also moved the entire setup about 6' further away from the back wall and added another light with a blue gel draped over it. From this image you can see how the background became much more uniform by being further away from it. This is because the distance kept the light from the strobes falling on the background and partially illuminating it. I also took a gold gel, glued it to a piece of cardboard, cut it to a close outline of the bottle and placed it behind to illuminate the beer from the inside.
If the work of making the scrims seems a bit overkill take a look at Fig 4 compared to Fig 3. You will see the same exact lighting as Fig 3 but without the scrims. To me this shot (fig 4.) just doesn't cut it. The bottle looks nice, background looks nice but the hard rim lights do not. Terrible, no, but they look a lot better above.
I am going to put together a video very soon on the construction of this shot and how you can duplicate it or do something similar in your own space.