Tabletop Photography – Low Key with Black Acrylic and the Honl Traveller 8

Hi Friends,

My wife is an incredibly talented and creative person.  I’m continously amazed at her gifts.  I get to participate somewhat vicariously by shooting product photos for her website at Most of the time, I use my high-key, all white tabletop setup with the acrylic shooting table – underlit – with an SB-800 / 3′ softbox for the key light.  The result is usually something like this:

Tonight, I tried something different.  Chiaki made some beautiful Christmas / holiday cards that just cried out for something other than my usual bright white background.  Searching around for other props for the set, I settled on a simple dark red background sweep.  And, rather than shooting on the translucent white acrylic, I substituted black acrylic.  Now, while white acrylic reflects with nice “Apple-esque” result, black acrylic is like a mirror!  The cool thing about black acrylic though, is that it also tends to pick up the color of the background.  So in this case, using the red paper sweep (properly lit) results in a nice, dark red spotlight effect:

I wanted the background to taper off to dark red / black, so I had to change my lighting scheme a bit.  I usually use a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight in a 3′ octagonal softbox for the key light.  It’s a terrific, soft, even light source.  But I found that in this case, that configuration threw too much light on the background – lessening the drama.  So, I needed a way to narrow the light source. Enter David Honl’s “Traveller 8” softbox:

I’ve used it numerous times for portrait work on location, but this was a first for product photography. This collapsable, portable light modifier was just the ticket for throwing a narrow pool of diffused light on my subject without dumping excessive photons onto the background.  Clearly, it’s going to become an even more frequently-used bit of kit!

Thanks for dropping by!


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