I have a nasty habit – or not so nasty habit, I’ll let you decide – of solving all my lighting problems by compositing separate frames in post. It’s super easy because you can just set up your shot, place your camera on the tripod. and move the light around to get different highlights and shadows until you have every part exactly how you want it. If you plan on trying this tactic, there’s a few important things to keep in mind while you’re on set.
1. Go into it with a plan.
You don’t want to go into this kind of project blind. It can be easy to say “oh I’ll just wing it on set,” but that can get you into a lot of trouble with something that has this much work in post. You’ll want to know exactly the frames you want to shoot so you can go in, set up, and start lighting everything how you need it. My advice? Sketch it out. Most photographers go into their shoot with at least some idea of what they want. It will really help you here if you know exactly what frames you want and will save you a ton of time! You’ll spend a good chunk of time getting the lighting right and you don’t want to waste any time of set trying to figure out the next step. Plan as much as you can ahead of time. The time you save on set you can use to capture those few sparks of inspiration in the moment. You’ll thank me later.
2. DO NOT move anything, this is not a drill.
It’s extremely important to not move the product, your camera, or any other aspect of the shot once you start shooting. You strictly want to move the light and nothing else. This will make things about 1,000 times easier once you get into Photoshop to start putting everything together. The closer everything lines up, the less work you’ll need to do with transformations, masking, and other tricks to make each part of the frame fit in the right spot.
3. Try more than you think you’ll need.
With the checklist you made in the planning stage, it’s easy to only shoot the bare minimum. This can be a problem when you’re in Photoshop and looking for a different shaped smudge to fit behind your foundation brush. If you have a bunch of shapes, shadow directions, etc. you’ll have more to work with later when you’re compositing. It will also save you the hassle of creating a fake shadow after the fact. (Check out this video to see what I’m talking about)
Try this out for your next still life shoot. You’ll be surprised with how much you can achieve.