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Simple background setup

This is pretty simple stuff, but probably useful to some. Either if you want a simple scene to put your own Blender models in or use it as a backdrop for photography post processing. With this setup you can easily create your own background. Usage is pretty simple, just adjust the material for the background:

 

BackgroundSetupMaterialDiffuse BSDF is the main color of the background. Just click on the white rectangle and select your favourite color. If you want some structure in the background you can use the noise texture. Just drag the right color output (from the Bright/Contrast node) to the Displacement input of the Material Output node. You can adjust the structure using the Scale slider and the brightness and contrast sliders.

Here’s  a sample result:

BackgroundSetupSampleAnd finally, the download for the Blender scene:

Background Setup - Simple background setup.

 

 

The simple lightbox

Today I suddenly had an idea for a very easy light setup for macro or product shots. I was thinking about lightboxes and how to imitate one in an easy way. Building your own lightbox is not hard, but a fixed lightbox can be cumbersome to setup and need a lot of storage space. There must be something simpler, easier to set up and stow away.

In its essence a lightbox is nothing but a highly reflective environment for your subject which can be illuminated from within or from the outside (using transparent material for the walls). The goal is to create a light source that is evenly distributed around the subject giving diffuse light to suppress shadows and highlights. In 3D raytracing such a light source is often simulated by a large hemisphere around the object. Today I realized that in real life this can be your reflective umbrella! What if you put your subject under the opened umbrella together with a speedlite?

Such a setup could look like this:

Umbrella lightbox setup

It turns out that – at least for the scene I was testing it with – this setup works wonderfully! By repositioning the speedlight, you can adjust the amount and direction of the shadows you’ll get. Using differently sized and colored ground material (sheet of white paper here), you can also easily adjust the light even further. Below is a possible result created with this setup:

The pen is mightier than the sword. – Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Ray Ban Sunglass Shoot

Got some new equipment bringing me closer to an amateur studio setup :)

Together with two speedlights with remote triggers, this makes for a decent home studio setup. Used it today for a fictitious product shot of my sunglasses.

Setup consists of two speedlights, one using the umbrella (not fully opened) and the second one pointed at a styrofoam board as reflector. For positioning check out this setup shot:

Post production mainly done in lightroom. Some exposure and white balance adjustments as well as crop. Removed a lot of dust from the shades, then added the logo in PSE.

Blenbo light setup

Playing around with Blender and Cycles again a bit. It’s great how well photography light setups carry over!

Blenbo Light setup - Blenbo character light setup Blender file. Textures included.

 

Photography + Blender = FUN!

Quick post right now as I unfortunately don’t have time to break this down in detail. I played around with compositing in Blender. This means that you can – for example – add virtual objects to photographs. I made a model of this little fellow (inspired by the Danbo) and tried to add him to a macro shot of mine. I think it turned out quite ok, though is still a lot of room left for improvements. Essentially you just have to get the perspective and the light right. And then it’s just compositor magic. Rendered with cycles using CUDA and 256 samples.

Played around with Blender compositing

Download the blend file:

Blenbo Compositor Testscene - Testscene for compositing in Blender using Cycles render engine.

UPDATE: Spent some time to refine this a little bit. I’m still not too satisfied with the results, but hopefully support from Cycles for this stuff will be better soon and things should be easier. For everyone interested just the short idea behind this:

You create a ground plane and recreate any objects in the photo that should interact (have a shadow) with the 3D content. In the example below it is the floor and the lemon. Then I created two render layers, one for the main subject, and one for the scene objects. The first is just your usual combined render while the second is a “shadow only” layer. These two are rendered and then the magic happens in the compositor where image, shadow layer and main layer are assembled into the final image.

Some minor adjustments

And this is to show how the 3D parts are set up:

Wire frame blend

Wallpaper

Been in Frankfurt for some photo shooting with my friend Tilo. We went on top of the Main Tower where there is a observation platform located above the 54th floor. It was super windy and kinda cold but it was a great view. I tried different things, panoramas and HDRs and today managed to put something decent together. This is a wallpaper friendly size :)

Frankfurt by night HDR wallpaper

You can see the other results in my Flickr stream.

How to: bright flower macro

Very simple and easy setup for bright white flower macro shots. What you need:

  • flower
  • two speedlites
  • white styrofoam plates

Place the styrofoam plates in a L-shape and point the speedlites at them. The flower is positioned in the middle of this setup with the camera on the same height as the blossom pointing towards the styrofoam plates. Now adjust the speedlites’ strengths as you see fit (I used 1/16 and 1/8). See this setup shot:

Setup for bright flower macro

And the result:

Resulting bright flower macro

Something new

A lot of time passed, since I posted something here. It’s because I’m in the process of finishing up my PhD thesis which is taking a lot of time away from other (more fun) things. But every now and then I allow myself some time for recreational things like photography. Recently I saw an image at klick.de (ordered some prints there) which inspired me to recreate that. Recreating images that you like is really a good exercise, especially if you have no description of the light setup or camera settings. Makes you look at the image really carefully to try and find out what the direction of the light is, the camera angle and what post processing might have been involved.

The picture in question for me this time was something erotic. A woman’s legs in nice stockings, stretched to the sky and crossed. Together with the vintage style processing this gives a really nice image. You can check it out here.

To recreate this, there’s of course need for some beatiful legs, which fortunately were available :) I set up a white background and two speedlights which where pointed at two large white styrofoam boards to give a diffuse lighting. These lights were located left and right of the camera at a 45° angle to the model, straight forward and simple. I experimented a bit with the power of the speedlights and at the end the one on the right was set to 1/2 while the other was at 1/8. This way I had a little bit more light coming from the right. First result is this one:

Recreating vintage style photography

Post processing involved masking out the legs and replacing the background with a solid color. On this image I then added a texture to the background with very high opacity to just give a slight pattern. Some adjustments to the levels and a bit of vignetting complete the treatment in PSE. I then took it to Nik ColorEfex 3 and applied the Old Photo filter to give the final result.

The second image was a different take on the subject with a different pose. This was to get more attention to the nice shoes :)

Recreating vintage style photography

Post processing was rather similar to the first image, except no texture to the background. I also had to do some sharpening on this one and added a more pronounced vignette. Then again, ColorEfex for the final look.

Quick and not representative sharpness test with and without UV filter

Had this little argument with my friend Tilo who claimed that using a UV filter on your lens will make the images less sharp and generally be bad. So I made a little comparison shot. Left is with UV filter and right is without. Looks pretty identical to me. So if the UV filter is affecting image quality it is under some other circumstances, which are probably pretty rare. If anyone has some suggestions on how the influence of the filter can be made visible, please comment!

Left: UV filter attached, right: no UV filter attached

Full resolution images can be seen here and here.

UPDATE: Used some Google-Fu to see if there are other people wondering about the same thing. Some interesting results came up. The overall statement seems to be: UV filter is theoretically affecting the image quality, but in 99% of the cases this is not noticeable. In very extreme light conditions the effects can be visible though.

Now for some finer points:

Apparently this is a topic that is often discussed, and as always in these cases many people just repeat what they have heard from “someone” without really having the facts to back it up. Personally I will do some more comparison tests to better know in which situations the filter could affect my images in what ways, so I can decide when it will probably be better taking it off. The main reason why I prefer a UV filter for lens protection is space constraints in my camera bag.

DIY lightbox

Ever wondered why those product shots look that much better than the pictures you take of your grand-granddad’s heirloom watch? Most probably because of the light. As we all know, lighting is everything in photography. A lightbox is a neat little gadget that helps you light stuff you want to take a picture of. Well, it’s not suited for everything because of spacial restrictions, so people will most likely not fit in there. But everything else does, like watches, food or that amazing shell you found on the shore last vacation. This little article shows how I built myself a cheap lightbox, so maybe you can take inspiration from this. There’s of course countless other build instructions on the web on how to do this, so feel free to fire up Google and get creative!

Here are the first results I got from my lightbox. Not great, but ok I think. I need another flash light…