The Axeman Cometh: White Background Product Photography


The majority of products are shot on white backgrounds. The reason for is that white tends to show colour accurately, and can be more easily close-cut for catalogues and flyers. In the past three years I have shot well over one thousand such images for Paderno Cookware, and have a series of products to capture tomorrow night. Tonight, however, was the final series of images for Base Camp X.

Axes are a challenge. There are the reflections inherent in the blades and the lacquer finishes. There is the real problem of accurate capture due to Scheimflug issues that can make one end of the product appear weirdly short. One also has to make sure the product actually fits on your light table. Fortunately, I was able to correct all of these potential issues by using white and black cards to cover off the reflections, a medium soft box as my main light with an medium white umbrella as my second light, and by shooting directly overhead on a ladder. For these I used the Canon 17-40mm lens because V. borrowed the 24-70mm that I usually use for this work, as she was covering an event in Quebec. The 17-40mm is not on the same level as the 24-70mm in terms of sharpness and contrast, but it did allow me to shoot at 35mm, which was ideal for these larger axes.

For these particular captures I wanted vibrancy and accuracy. The Pioneer axes featured a less reflective, smaller head but a curvy handle, whereas the Titanis axes feature an oversize head that will nicely capture lights in a different way. It was the first time I had shot from a ladder, and since V. was working in Hamilton I  needed to ensure I had the capture by tethering into Lightroom 4. Being able to see the actual capture from the ladder saved me many, many dangerous trips up and down the ladder with my expensive camera gear. I solved the issue of sharpness by shooting with a shutter speed of about 1/200th at f.18. The Profotos D1 were able to cover the area, but I would have loved a third light to fill out a few shadows on one side. Beggars cannot be choosers.

The end of school is close. Marking is done, marks are in and my comments are half done. The hotels, restaurants, and flights are all booked for the next few weeks, and I just need to work through the week until graduation on Friday. My few minutes before bedtime have been spent reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick for the second time. I purchased a sumptuous Folio Society limited edition of the novel in March, and it is just a glorious reading experience. On the second read through the characters have come alive and mean so much more to me than they did eight years ago. Call me Ishmael.


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