Light Painting + Nike Running Shoe = Unique Product Photography Lighting
Product photography lighting can be incredibly complicated but it doesn’t have to be. The first step should always be to analyse what you are photographing, it’s shape, material, colour and so on. Base your initial lighting decisions on that information. With the basics down, you can then start to think of creative ways to flatter your product. This may be something you add in post-production or an element you add on set.
With this shot of a Nike running shoe, I wanted to use something which implied movement and coolness (as in temperature) at the same time. I decided that the correct use of light painting could highlight these two qualities.
Product Photography Lighting Equipment
Relatively simple photography lighting was used for the shoe itself. From memory, sorry no behind the scenes shots on this one, three lights were used. One with a 10-degree grid and reflector pointed at the Nike logo on the tongue, this also slightly brightened the inside of the shoe. The second light was camera left highlighting the back of the shoe and creating a gradient on the shiny parts of the sole – For detailed instructions on creating gradients, check out my latest article for SLR Lounge, click here – The final light was modified with yet another reflector and grid and was pointed toward the main Nike tick on the side of the shoe. All in all, pretty simple lighting.
The interesting part here was the light painting. Before we get into it, I’ll briefly explain what light painting is. If you use a slow shutter speed, you can move a light around within your frame and either paint the light onto your scene / subject or create some form of light trail as I have done here. The effect is determined by the length the shutter is open for and the size, shape, and movement of the light you introduce.
As you can see in the photo above, all I used here was a cheap car inspection light, a CTB (colour temperature blue) gel, and an ND gel to cut down the intensity. The photo was taken in a very dark room over a six second period. When the shutter was pressed, the strobes lit the Nike shoe, and I then moved the modified inspection light to create different light trails. Below you can see a selection of my favourites. In hindsight, it would have been far easier to remove the shoe and then add the trails in post. As the shoe did not reflect the light, there was no need to have it there. In fact, it made it a little more complex in Photoshop, as you’ll see.
Bringing The Light Painting Together In Photoshop
The post production on this image was relatively simple. I always prefer to get things as close to the final output in camera as possible. It doesn’t always work that way and as such it’s vital to be highly skilled with Photoshop, but it’s still a practice I try to adhere to.
The first step was to combine multiple swipes into an arrangement I liked. Sorry, there was some Photoshop trickery with the light painting! To do so, I firstly masked out the shoe itself using a combination of the Pen tool and focus area select. With that mask in place, I added multiple swipes, adjusting their colour with a clipped Hue and Saturation layer.
Side note – Clipping one layer to another is such a useful thing in Photoshop. Hold Alt and hover in-between the two layers you want to clip, a symbol will appear, click. Anything you now do to the top layer will ONLY effect what it is clipped to. Very handy.
As I mentioned before, the reason I should have taken the shoe away before creating the swipes is that it ever so slightly moved. This meant extra work combining the layers together. Not the end of the world but it’s something to keep in mind. If the light painting doesn’t add to the product you could take it away and then composite in post. That way you have much more control over the final photo.
The next part about this edit that I want to highlight is the contrast adjustments. I always adjust multiple areas selectively using masks. By doing so, you can have absolute control over the final look and draw the viewers eye to places of interest; the logos for example. In some cases, I’ll make precise selections, like the one below, in others, I just freehand with the brush tool.
The Finished Nike Photo And Some Alternatives
I had so much fun light painting this shoe that I couldn’t create just one photo! The first photo below is the final version which you can see in my portfolio along with many other images; the rest were created using a combination of different light trails.
I firmly believe that any photographer, with the right motivation, can quite easily accomplish this sort of photo. As we’ve discussed, the product photography lighting used here was not complicated. The challenging aspects here were the concept, as well as creating and compositing the swipes.
Where Can I Learn More About Product Photography Lighting?
If you’d like to learn more, be sure to keep an eye on my blog. Check out my last article which was about the creation of a very unique photo using a technique called Cloud Tank, find it here. In the future, I plan to add lots more articles detailing the creation of many of my photos. Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter so you don’t miss a thing.
[PREVIOUSLY: STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY IDEAS…THE CLOUD TANK]
I also encourage you to look at Photigy.com and all the education they offer. There really isn’t a better resource around for learning product photography lighting, and their online community is excellent.
Finally, as I writer for SLR Lounge I am a little biased, but I have no hesitation in saying that SLR Lounge produce some of the best photographic education around. It’s perfect for a broad range of photographers and there’s lots of free content going up every day. Check it out here.