Monday, April 5, 2010

How to Light the Big Industrial Shot

I had an assignment to shoot this photograph for an annual report and as always, I try to avoid photographing exclusively with available light. The reason is that available light in a manufacturing plant rarely compliments a scene that requires good lighting for an effective photograph. On the other hand it is difficult to use artificial light exclusively and have the scene look believable as well, so I use a combination of both ambient and strobe.

The image below shows the scene before I have setup a single light. There is detail everywhere and that is good but ceiling lights are blown out and some of the shadow areas need to be brighter. My approach is to add some overall broad additions to the lighting and some selective spots as well. Here is how I did it.



This next image shows where I placed the lights.


If you look at the final image top you can see where the machine operators are. What was important to the client was the vertical metal panel that goes up above where the foreground operator is. I also have two operators, front and right rear. My first big light is an umbrella (2) and its job is to spread light everywhere on the side of this furnace right above the number 8. I next setup a light panel (3) and shined a light throught it. This is like having a super large lightbox and the idea is to create a large highlight on the vertical metal panel above the operator.

Another light (5) is on a tall stand and raised high. It has a grid on it and its job is to light the end of the furnace where the metal panel reaches the furnace. Below light (5) is light (6) and it is hidden behind the light panel. It also has a grid and is aimed at the foreground operators face to light him up. Another light (7) has a large umbrella and it is placed in the rear right. Its job is to place that nice highlight on the back of the rear operator and also add some fill light throughtout that area of the scene.

Yet another light is hidden behind the furnace (1) and it has a large umbrella. Its job is to light behind the furnace and keep it from going dark back there. Another light hidden behind the furnace (8) has a grid spot on it and it is aimed at the face of the rear operator. The final light (9) is a strobe with a blue gel, also hidden behind the furnace and on a low floor light stand. It places that blue splash of light on the underside of the furnace.

The approach I take in determining how to light these types of shots comes from determining what is the star of the photo and lighting accordingly. The idea is to make what's importan the brightest and then adding selected light to areas that need some definition or fill in on the dark shadow areas.

And it is a juggling act so to speak. You shoot tests and then adjust lights to lighten or darken until you have a good balance of light distribution.

Take my class: Lighting on Location

8 comments:

Dave said...

Great shot, can you infrm me of how tall those light stands are? I am lowly getting the gear togehter to take your class

Charlie Borland said...

Hi Dave-

Those stands are the biggest Bogen's and go to about 12'.

Take Care
Charlie

PixSync - Singapore Photographer / Photography said...

Hi Charlie, Thanks for sharing how the lighting setup was done for your photographic assignment. We run a video production company here in Singapore together with our photography agency. During these past few years, a number of both commercial and corporate customers have been contacting us to provide a suite of video production services to aid with both their internal and external communications purposes. Many of these customers are from marine oil and gas industries. Carrying out an assignment in these environments are always a challenge. Without the proper lighting setup some times, it is impossible to obtain the desired photography shots. Appreciate the sharing.

Tom said...

Nice explanation! Way to many clients think you should be able to just shoot in available light. I expect you left out the cleaning and sweeping too. On a recient shoot, the client kept asking what kind of camera is that? and Where did you buy that seemless paper? Such is life in the digital age. I have a page of industrial photos here if you are interested.
Tom

Pashminu Mansukhani said...

In most of the cases, there is no need to setup the lights required for the machine. Also, the clients should be ready to pay additional. Check out my work here: Industrial Photography India

Charlie Borland said...

Sorry to disagree Pashminu, but available light is often the worst possible light to use as the only light source. My clients want drama in the lighting and that's what I provide and they pay me to do it. Charlie

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