How to Create Long and Even Highlights with Softboxes
Product photography is precision work and certain skills are required to create the perfect highlight. This article will shed some light on this subject.
When lighting reflective objects, often times the light sources themselves will show up in the shot. Therefore, the size and shape of the light sources become very important. What we want are highlights that accentuate the shape of the subject. For instance, if we are shooting bottles of wine, we want long and even highlights that follow the shape of the bottle. And for that we use softboxes.
To create the main image (1) in this article, we used four softboxes: one Profoto RFi 2×3’, one Profoto RFi 1×3’, one Profoto RFi 1×4’ and one Profoto RFi 1×1.3’. The casual observer will not notice all these lights and the reason for this is, of course, that the highlights follow the shape of the bottle. So how did we do that?
Well, the first thing we did was to place the larger RFi 2×3’ so that it creates a large, window-like highlight on the right-hand side of the bottles and the glass. The second image (2) shows the effect of this. The exact position of and distance to the softbox is very, very important. Move the softbox just a few inches and the highlight will change size!
We then added the RFi 1×4’, which is a strip softbox that creates a long and narrow reflection. As you can see in the third image (3), adding thicker highlights to one side and thinner to the other really helps add dimension to the bottles and the glass.
For the same reason, we added yet another, even thinner, light source to the left side: the RFi 1×3’ equipped with a Profoto Stripmask. As you can see in the fourth image (4), we now have a very thin, almost white highlight running along the bottles and the glass. That is the Stripmask in action!
Finally, we added a backlight. For this we used the RFi 1×1.3’ equipped with a green gel to pick up the colors from the bottles.
On a final note, it is also worth mentioning how even the light from the softboxes actually is. Just look at the highlights in our main image. If the light was even the slightest uneven, the highlights, which are simply reflections, would be uneven too. But they are not.
Here’s a look behind the scenes.