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Question: Lighting Fine Lenses for Color


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#1 Michael Erlewine

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 16:05

Here I go tilting a windmills again, but I am persistent if nothing else. And I hope some of you more experienced will have some suggestions for me. Not sure whether to put this in the lens forum or lighting, but lighting makes sense.

I enclose three crops from an Amaryllis bulb, one taken by the CV-125 (Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar), one by the CO-60 (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 APO), and one with the Leica 100mm (Leica 100mm f/2.6 Elmarit R APO), all under the same lighting.

As you can see, although the lightning has not changed, each lens takes the light differently. To my mind only the Leica’s color grasp is what the original looks like, or most-like it anyway.

Both the CO-60 and the CV-125 tend to, however so gently, blow out the highlights or at least push it toward white. These are single frames taken from a stack for each lens, so there are no stacking artifacts.

This subject has three small LED Lowel Blender lights set to daylight rather than Tungsten. And they all are turned so low they are almost off. So these are longish exposures. They are turned low and behind translucent umbrellas to tone dowe the light reflection on the flower bud.

My question is, how to best use lighting? Is there a better way to get rid of specular highlights and “shine” instead of essentially making very dim light boxes?

I could have turned up the lights but then the reflections would be must worse. I could use some help here please.

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#2 charlie

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 18:37

My question is, how to best use lighting? Is there a better way to get rid of specular highlights and “shine” instead of essentially making very dim light boxes?


When you turn down the power you lengthened your shutter speed which effectively makes the light source just as bright as it was before you turned it down.
Perhaps it appears as though there is less "shine" because your longer shutter speed introduced more ambient light to reach your subject?

Specular highlights, light source reflections, catch lights, etc are dictated by the position and type of modifier you are using with your lights.
If you are using more than one light then the power of the lights in combination will play a role also.

Think of your subject as a three dimensional mirror, if you could see your light source reflecting in said mirror then it very well may leave a reflection, or specular highlight, on your subject.

#3 Michael Erlewine

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 18:44

Charlie:

If I read you right, I need to use gobos, etc. to block the light that causes the reflection, and so on... instead of lowering the light source. Correct?

Edited by Michael Erlewine, 29 December 2011 - 19:12 .

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#4 charlie

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 19:04

Perhaps.

Lighting a flower like this is sort of like lighting a glass bottle.
It is reflective and round(ish) which will make it difficult to avoid reflections.

Try starting with just one light and use different modifiers how they change your specular highlights.
Bounce your light off the ceiling or off the floor and see how that looks, use gobo and flags and such.
Move the light above, below, behind, in front, and all around your subject until you find some that works for you.

Once you do that then try to add another light and do the same.

Maybe instead of trying to avoid specular highlights you can use them to your advantage?
Try your other lights as accent/rim/back lighting.

#5 Michael Erlewine

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 19:12

I will experiment as you say.

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#6 black_bird_blue

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 19:44

To avoid specular highlights you need as large and diffuse a light source as possible. My macro photography and stacking isn't as accomplished as yours but when I've attempted (rather more prosaic) "documentary" style pictures I've used my two biggest softboxes (about 40" as I recall) next to each other and more or less on top of the flower with a gap only for the lens between them. I used a low ISO, small aperture, a lot of light and cropped in tight on the front edge of the flower. I got a lovely "matt" finish even though the flower was obviously glossy when you looked at it in normal light.

I'm more interested in your take on the colour rendition of the lenses - do you measure a difference in colour in photoshop if you (say) sample an 11x11 grid in a well identified area of the flower, and can you see a pattern in the differences?

It seems reasonable to believe that different glass will have a different chracteristic in terms of the light it lets through at different wavelengths. If it doesn't we're all wasting our money on "quality" glass and focal length and f-stop would completely define the lens, which we know they don't.

Damian
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#7 Michael Erlewine

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 19:51

Thanks for the suggestions. I am an outdoor shooter with natural light, so studio work is something I need to work on.

As for color rendition of lenses, it sure is there. I am not an expert on explaining it, but it is very clear that different lenses treat color differently. In the samples I showed the Leica clearly handles the tendency to get too hot better than the other lenses. Of course, they are all different, different lengths of lenses, etc., even if the lighting remains the same.

I just need to upgrade my skills in studio lighting. Will work on it.


Does anyone know what the downside to soft lighting and longer exposures is compared to turning up the lights and perhaps blocking light in other ways, but having wider apertures. In other words, what is the trade off in performance for using low or higher light in the studio setting?

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#8 charlie

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 22:34

From what I gather with your setup when you turn the power down on your lights you compensate with a longer shutter speed, not by opening your aperture or raising your iso.
Everything else being equal if you were to set your light and shutter speed to get the exposure you want and take a picture, then if you turn your light down one stop and lengthen your shutter speed one stop and take another picture, they should both look identical.

With that in mind your question of "In other words, what is the trade off in performance for using low or higher light in the studio setting?" could also be read as "What is the trade off in using a longer or shorter shutter speeds in a studio setting?"

When shooting an inanimate object I would use a longer shutter speed if I wanted to introduce motion or if I wanted to use ambient light in the picture somehow, neither of which seems like something you would want to do in this case.
I don't see a benefit in lowering your light output and using longer shutter speeds here.

#9 pluton

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 00:36

Michael, based on twenty years lighting for cinema and television, here are a few observations.
If the subject is shiny or glossy, there is essentially no guaranteed way to eliminate speculars. Reduce--yes, eliminate--no.
This is assuming you don't want to spray the object with dulling spray. Don't laugh...it's done all the time for film and TV.
As others have suggested, diffuse lighting is usually preferred for glossy subjects. Technically, diffuse lighting doesn't 'get rid' of highlights. Rather, it turns the subject into one big all-encompasing but lowered-intensity highlight which, as it turns out, is very often a pleasing 'look'. Shiny new automobiles are routinely photographed in large stages using giant 100' square overhead soft boxes. The only thing I'd add to what has already been suggested is maybe to try a single light source from an oblique angle. Maybe try a more powerful source at a greater distance away(effectively varying the size of the source). Have you tried adding a pola filter to the camera lens, or polas on BOTH the camera lens and the light source(s)?

Edited by pluton, 30 December 2011 - 00:36 .

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#10 Michael Erlewine

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:01

Pluton

Thanks for the suggestions and everyone. Since I am an outdoor photographer I am used to finding lit situations I want to photography, not creating them. The natural world, with its sun and shadows, is way more expert than I am in creating shadow and light. In the studio I know how to light interviews and flat copy work, but have not done much product photography or live subjects like flowers, which is what I am attempting to learn here.

I will keep at it.

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#11 black_bird_blue

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:42

Technically, diffuse lighting doesn't 'get rid' of highlights. Rather, it turns the subject into one big all-encompasing but lowered-intensity highlight which, as it turns out, is very often a pleasing 'look'.


That was a clearer expression of what I was aiming to say, thanks.



In terms of the other points, I think a longer exposure with less light makes for a few difficulties - the first is that ambient light starts to matter more. If you want control of the light, that means the subject being lit by your light only. A bright light achieves this more easily because it's usually difficult to turn down that pesky ambient light. If the light is only lit while your finger is on the shutter, so much the better - less energy consumed, less heat. The second is the obvious one of things moving, which may or may not be what you want. The third is very simply the elapsed time. Life is short!

Damian
"The changing of bodies into light, and light into bodies, is very conformable to the course of Nature, which seems delighted with transmutations." - Sir Isaac Newton

#12 Elsa Hoffmann

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 13:50

Very interesting discussion and advice.
I too don't see the benefit in lowering the light output and using longer shutter speeds.
I would also go the route of playing with modifiers - and experiment with lights closer and further away from the subject.
re different lenses - yes - the "better" lenses deliver better iq not only in terms of sharpness - but also contrast, saturation etc due to the coatings and build.
"I drifted into photography like one drifts into prostitution. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and eventually I did it for the money." Philippe Halsman




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