Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

Nothing fancy today, I’m just going to show you how to get rich. Not really, you’ll have to pay me if you want me to reveal that secret. I will however show you how to take a decent product shot if you want to sell some stuff.

I decided to sell my SB-400 since I don’t think it will see much use anymore. The only thing I used it for was my macro work and now I’ve changed the setup for that as well. So, before putting up an ad I wanted some shots that would make my product look good; first impression is important. For most of my previous product shots I’ve gone the low key route with fairly hard rim lights. This time I wanted to do it differently, with softer light and a high key background.

The kind of look that I went for could very easily be accomplished with a light tent. If you’re shooting small things you can even build your own from a cardboard box and some white paper. However, by doing it the way I did, I feel that the light gets more direction and defines the shapes better. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember when shooting small gadgets; you really want to define the shape and get a nice 3D feel going. Without further ado I present to you the setup shot (pause for shocked gasps).

We have two LP160s in umbrellas, one on either side, and a YN560 in softbox in a table top position (aimed straight down). Since my light sources are rather big, in relation to the subject, they produce very soft and nicely wrapping light. The reason that my rim lights are standing behind the subject like this is that I don’t want the light to wrap around to the front, which is something that would be guaranteed to happen if they were placed straight to the sides.

Another reason for their placement and direction was that I wanted them to blow out the background. I don’t have anything I can use as an infinity spread (a seamless background that makes it look like the background keeps going forever) so I wanted to see if I could get things blown out enough to get the same effect. Didn’t really work so I just shot everything at an angle that made sure the board the subject is on was the only thing showing up in the background. Same effect but different way of doing it.

SB-400Finally we have the main light coming in straight from above. Again, the position of the light is to bring out shape. Hade the light been more in front we would have lost some of those defining details. For the first shot in this post that’s all I used but for the shot to the left I had one more light. Nothing fancy, just a bit of fill from the popup flash, unnoticeable unless you see the same shot without it. The reason it’s needed in this shot is of course that the other lights don’t quite reach all the way into the shadows, so something is needed to bring out the detail a bit.

That’s all there is too it, quite a simple setup despite the number of lights used. I can also inform you that I got several replies the same day I published the ad and sold it pretty much immediately. The money will be used for my next gear related purchase. It’s an expensive hobby we have…


SB-400 SB-400 SB-400


10 Responses to “Make it sell”

  1. abu zar

    an expensive hobby it is… thanks for sharing your setup.

    quick q for you : how do you trigger all the 3 flashes together since these are off-brand flash ?

    • Rifqi

      Most of the time I have one flash on camera and I use that to trigger the rest of them via the optical slave. In other words: when the on camera flash fires the rest of them will see that and fire as well. I don’t use the popup for that since I usually don’t want the on camera flash to add anything to the scene. If I’m using all my flashes and don’t want the popup adding light I fire one of my LP160s via a miniphone cable, which I connect to the camera with the help of a little adapter. It’s a very cheap solution that works well enough when you’re working indoors. Outdoors I prefer to use an on camera flash to trigger the rest since it makes it easier to move around and work over greater distances. I’ve been holding off on getting a radio trigger since I’ve never had any trouble doing it this way and for the price of a couple of radio triggers I can add another couple of flashes instead, which I plan do to eventually :p

      • abu zar

        thanks for sharing..so you would have guessed by my questions so far that I’ve very limited understanding of artificial lighting at this point 🙂 and I am trying to come up with a gear strategy that
        a) is relatively simple to begin with, is flexible and allows me to master the basic techniques first so to speak before graduating
        b) works best with what I have currently have (canon body 5DII with a 580 Ex II)
        the reason I mention my gear is to see if adding a bit to what I have is a better alternative than starting afresh.

        My goal is to do the following :Use the 580 Ex II either on the camera or off it (i was thinking an E-TTL cord) as a master and the other flash (a cheaper 3rd party alternative – for example the LP160) as the second flash and then use the wireless trigger mechanism to sync the 2 flash (line of sight is OK for now). Now here’s my confusion: my understanding is that E-TTL (canon specific) use pre-flash as a way to trigger the slaves. and canon speedlites that work as slaves understand this code and work just fine. Would the 3rd party flash get confused and fire the flash per-maturely hence failing this setup ? If yes how do you work around this?

        Let me know if I should rather email you than spam this post 🙂

      • Rifqi

        Let’s keep the discussion here since there may be others who can benefit from the info as well.

        Flashes are definitely a bit of a jungle so it can easily be confusing when you get started. There are basically two choices here: stick to the expensive brand flashes and get all the bells and whistles or do your wallet a favour and go for cheaper 3rd party units. As a comparisson how much the price can differ I can get 8 YN560s for the price of 1 (yes, you read that right) Nikon SB-910. Would you rather have 1 or 8 flashes? Of course you’ll have to make tradeoffs, you lose all the fancy TTL stuff and how big an issue that is will differ depending on how you use your equipment.

        Back to your question. Both the brands that I use (LP160 and YN560) have three modes: Fire when you tell it to fire (cable or hotshoe), optical slave (fire when it sees another flash) and optical slave that ignores preflash. I haven’t actually tried that last one since I don’t have any TTL flashes but what it means is that you should be able to use your main light with TTL and then set up a couple of other flashes on manual power that ignores the preflashes from your main.

        Another way is to just ditch TTL alltogether and go manual on your 580 Ex II, that way there won’t be any preflashes.

        Yet another alternative would be to look into something like the YN565. It’s basically a YN560 with TTL support (both Canon and Nikon) and I think it sells for around the same price as a LP160. You can’t use them as a commander but you already have your Canon flash for that. I don’t know how reliable the TTL on them are since I haven’t checked any reviews yet.

        There, I’ve either helped you or made you more confused :p

  2. abu zar

    you did help clear a lot of things.Thank you very much for the detailed response 🙂

    it was a coincidence that between my question and your answer I was on the YN series of flash (trying to make sense of their various model #’s. all i figured out was that 560 is cheaper than 565 and if I have one master the 580 Ex II, I should be able to work with other cheap lights). I am assuming the basic differences between YN and LP would be in build quality and reliability. The S2 mode (on both models) seems to answer my wireless syncing problem too. So I’ve another noob question. I do see a possible use of the master in High Speed sync at some point (read summer days). If the slaves do not support HSS, i am assuming they are as good as useless (in HSS mode ) ? If so, does reverting back to the OEM brands is the only option left or are their other 3rd party options that support HSS. Did you ever feel the need for syncing > 1/200 s and if so , what strategy did you come up with. I should probably go through your blog again 🙂 and I will do so after this question to see if it will help me with some of my questions. Oh and I have many of those now – including a recommendation on a good softbox and thanks once again for taking the time to answer my questions. Really appreciate it !

    • Rifqi

      I don’t know of any 3rd party brands that support HSS. I don’t think normal slaved flashes will work with a master that’s running in HSS since, as I’ve understood it, the flash kind of pulses to get those short burts, which means the slave would just get confused. There are actually many times when I wish I could sync faster than 1/200 but I have a different solution planned for that. For a bit less than it would cost me to get a single SB-910 (Nikon’s flagship flash) I’ll be able to get a really good, variable, ND filter. With a ND filter you can just shut out as much light as you want while still keeping a large aperture for shallow DOF and a shutter speed that lets you sync your flash. You’ll of course need to pump the flash power up but the same is true for HSS, the faster you want to sync the more power you lose. The beauty of a ND filter is that it works with any system, so you can add any flash or even switch to a different camera and it will still work. There are of course cheap ND filters around but quality is important since you’re adding extra glass between the lens and whatever you’re shooting, so that’s why I plan to spend a bit more and get the best, then I’m all set.

      Keep the questions coming, I’m happy to help. The camera bag category might be of particular interest to you if you’re looking through old posts.

      • abu zar

        yes the ND Filter is a smart workaround (and I happen to have the SinghRay vari-ND Filter) but as with most things it adds one more step to a process that is already getting lengthier.. that is the only drawback to using one.

        On a related note I have found the X100 (my walkaround camera) which has a built-in ND Filter (3 stops i think) and also has crazy sync speed built-in (having leaf shutter allows that and does not have the 1/250 s limitations a DSLR has) with my canon flash (in manual mode) to get some interesting results. I am guessing with the off-camera TTL cord I ordered and an extra flash or two (YN560 most likely) , this can make for an interesting lighting setup (all manual though). this has more details:

      • Rifqi

        Give me give me, that’s the filter I plan to get. I don’t think it will add that much complexity for me though. I’m already used to doing everything manually and the filter will basically replace the aperture when I use it. Just set the aperture I want and then use the filter to control the exposure. I would love to have the sync speed of that x100 though, awesome.

  3. abu zar

    I have that filter but probably don’t appreciate it as much (mostly use for cotton water effects). I guess this is not going to dampen your spirits but don’t forget that filter comes in a size that will require step down (or up , i don’t really get the terminology) rings for all your lens. goes to prove again that nothing is perfect and there is always a compromise (HSS would cut down power)

    • Rifqi

      Yeah, I’m aware that it will require adapter rings to fit all my lenses. However, the alternative would be to get several filters for each lens and that would make the cost go up rather quickly. Another alternative would of course be to just replace my flashes with HSS capable ones but, like I mentioned before, just byuing one of those would be the same cost as the filter. So for me, even though it’s a very expensive filter, it’s the cheapest and most flexible solution to my syncing problems.

      As you’ve probably noticed from my photos I’m not the kind of photographer who goes out and just shoots stuff. I set things up and take my time to create that single shot I have in my mind. So another minute extra in setup time to add a filter is pretty much a non issue. Another photographer will have a different view on things, it’s all a question of style, preference and, sadly, money.


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