Any­one who has ever tried to remove a bot­tle of per­fume “as in an adver­tise­ment” must have come across this: no mat­ter how you turn it, no mat­ter how you set the light, the pic­ture turns out to be flat and inex­pres­sive. And if you ever fell into despair and thought that it was impos­si­ble to shoot a spec­tac­u­lar sub­ject with­out a ton of equip­ment and your own stu­dio, do not close the tab. Today we fig­ure out how to shoot a high-qual­i­ty object with the help of one LED-lamp and straight arms.

Top left — the most clas­sic shot that can be obtained with a sin­gle top-front light source, top cen­ter — the final result of the com­pos­ite, the rest — the frames that were used for assem­bly / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

First, let’s deal with our main term for today. Com­pos­ite pho­tog­ra­phy is a method of join­ing mul­ti­ple takes of the same shot, shot in dif­fer­ent light, some­times with dif­fer­ent set­tings.

This approach is use­ful in prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy in sev­er­al cas­es:

- we’re film­ing com­plex object. For exam­ple, sneak­ers in which there are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als — and one shines only in the back­light, the tex­ture is vis­i­ble on the oth­er only in the side light, and the third looks expres­sive only in the upper;

- when shoot­ing glass objects (spir­its, drinks, cock­tails);

- when you want to com­plex scheme of lightbut only at hand one flashor worse, an old flash­light.

For exam­ple, let’s take the vin­tage Smena‑2 as the main object. It has leather-like plas­tic parts, a met­al part, tex­tured knobs, and a shiny lens with a bluish anti-reflec­tive coat­ing.

Leather-look plas­tics need side-slid­ing light to show the tex­ture. The lens needs bot­tom-front, oth­er­wise it will not glare. How­ev­er, even these two con­di­tions are already in con­flict: the low­er-front one will kill the tex­ture of the plas­tic, the side one will give strong shad­ows in the lens area. Let’s try to solve this prob­lem and shoot the per­fect pic­ture of “Changes” using the method of com­pos­ite pho­tog­ra­phy. Go.

The final pho­to that we will col­lect from five dif­fer­ent takes / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

How to set up a cam­era. Since the fin­ished pho­to will be assem­bled from sev­er­al frames, the cam­era and the sub­ject must be sta­tion­ary. The cam­era should be placed on a good tri­pod and be care­ful not to move it acci­den­tal­ly between shots. Place the sub­ject on a sta­ble table.

How to shine. As for light, you can shoot with both pulsed and con­stant. If shoot­ing takes place at home, you can, for exam­ple, use a flash or LED light for pho­tos and videos. Both options are com­pact enough to be held right in your hand.

In this case, the flash is less con­ve­nient. First­ly, syn­chro­niz­ers are addi­tion­al­ly need­ed for it so that it can be used by remov­ing it from the cam­era. Sec­ond­ly, the light from the flash is vis­i­ble only in the pic­tures, and with­out expe­ri­ence it is dif­fi­cult to under­stand where it shines and what pat­tern it will give.

Such light sources are enough to get good pic­tures at home / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

LED lights are more con­ve­nient. First­ly, they shine con­stant­ly, and the pho­tog­ra­ph­er imme­di­ate­ly sees how the light falls on objects. Sec­ond­ly, many of them allow you to smooth­ly adjust the col­or tem­per­a­ture and pow­er (and some of them also have RGB diodes, which allow you to take pic­tures with col­ored light if nec­es­sary). Also, if you are shoot­ing against a dark back­ground and work­ing in the dark, con­stant light will allow you to see what is hap­pen­ing and not trip over a tri­pod.

An impor­tant point: do not use ordi­nary flash­lights. First­ly, inex­pen­sive mod­els have a very nar­row spec­trum, which is not suit­able for high-qual­i­ty shoot­ing, and sec­ond­ly, the light spot from the flash­light is very uneven in bright­ness, with a bright dot in the cen­ter and a sharp stepped tran­si­tion to the edges, it is very dif­fi­cult to even­ly and accu­rate­ly with such a flash­light illu­mi­nate the object. The max­i­mum that such a flash­light is suit­able for is to gen­tly high­light a small detail. For exam­ple, in our case, the front lens.

If you are shoot­ing with­out an assis­tant, hold­ing the light in your hand and try­ing to reach the cam­era shut­ter is not very con­ve­nient. You can use the self-timer or the inter­val shoot­ing func­tion, if there is one in the cam­era, you can use the wire­less remote con­trol. Many mod­ern cam­eras have wifi, you can con­nect a smart­phone to them and con­trol the cam­era from it.

Read also:

Impulse and con­stant: a guide and light­ing schemes for begin­ners in the stu­dio

Types of light for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er: how they dif­fer and what they are for

Stu­dio light­ing: what it con­sists of and how to set it up

If the cam­era has a swiv­el screen, you can turn it towards you and see how the light falls / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

How to set up the cam­era. Cam­era set­tings should be fixed using man­u­al mode M or the expo­sure lock but­ton. Aut­o­fo­cus should also be turned off so that the cam­era does not refo­cus between frames and does not lose focus.

Read also:

Learn­ing to shoot in man­u­al mode

The expo­sure should be set frame by frame with a lead­ing, front-side light. And when shoot­ing fur­ther, adjust the illu­mi­na­tion by chang­ing the pow­er of the source and the dis­tance to the object / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

How to shoot. Next, you need to take a few shots, chang­ing the posi­tion of the light source. More pre­cise­ly, as much as nec­es­sary to show the “Change” in all its glo­ry. We have this:

  • draw­ing from the top right, draws the main vol­ume of the body;
  • rear left rear top, helps to unstick the object from a black back­ground and empha­sizes the met­al details on top of the cam­era and on the latch on the left;
  • draw­ing on the left side, shows the “leather” tex­ture on the side;
  • fills the low­er-front, illu­mi­nates the lens of the lens, gives an easy fill­ing of the entire scene;
  • draw­ing from the top left, extracts part of the lens from the shad­ow.
The light falls on the cam­era like this / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

It is best to shoot with a mar­gin. We shot 10 frames, only 5 are involved in the final com­po­si­tion. But it’s always con­ve­nient when there is plen­ty to choose from.

Shoot­ing a glass object will not be much dif­fer­ent than shoot­ing an object with dif­fer­ent tex­tures. The only thing to pay atten­tion to: do not be afraid that the light appears in the frame behind it. This set­ting of the light allows you to well high­light the liq­uid inside the bot­tle, and we will remove the lamp itself in post-pro­duc­tion.

The only shot where the spir­its them­selves glow well is the one where the lamp stands right behind it / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

Let’s open the result­ing images in Adobe Pho­to­shop. First, let’s take a pho­to in which the sub­ject is more or less even­ly lit.

Main frame. The cam­era is vis­i­ble, but there is no tex­ture on the left side of the body, part of the lens and lens­es are not vis­i­ble / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

Add the sec­ond frame to the same file as a sec­ond lay­er. To do this, sim­ply drag it out of the fold­er and put it on top. If you didn’t have prob­lems with the tri­pod, the cat didn’t run over it and the chil­dren didn’t kick it, the frame will stand exact­ly where it needs to be.

The sec­ond is a shot with back­light, which allows you to high­light the alu­minum details on the top of the cam­era and on the latch on the side. Select blend mode Light­en / Light replace­ment — thus on this lay­er only those parts that are lighter than on the low­er one become vis­i­ble.

The trans­paren­cy of the lay­er can also be adjust­ed if nec­es­sary / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

Add the third pho­to to the third lay­er. This is a shot with light on the left. It adds tex­ture to the left side. We also set the lay­er to Light­en mode and apply a black mask to it. We can­not use only the blend­ing mode, as we did on the pre­vi­ous lay­er. Because light will appear where it is not need­ed and the pic­ture will become flat and inex­pres­sive.

Click on the mask icon while hold­ing down the Alt key — this way we will imme­di­ate­ly get a black lay­er mask / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photostore.Expert

After that, select the mask, and with a soft translu­cent white brush draw those areas of the image that should be vis­i­ble.

If you press the \ (back­slash) key, the mask will become vis­i­ble in red and it will be pos­si­ble to more accu­rate­ly draw the desired areas / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

In the same way, add all the remain­ing 2 lay­ers, work­ing with the mask by anal­o­gy. At the end we get this image.

Bot­tom right — the final result, the rest — indi­vid­ual frames for the com­pos­ite / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert