How to achieve this?


TPF Noob!
Jun 11, 2006
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I am looking to improve some catalog photography I am doing.

The pictures I am creating are ok but I want to improve them (see below)

The set up I am using is a white background with two lights on the background with the subject in front and a large soft box front on to the subject. The camera I am using is a Cannon EOS. Im using a trigger to set the flashed off on the lights and stand underneath the soft box or just to the side of it!

I would love it if someone could advise me on how to get the photos like the second picture, it looks lighter, sharper and more alive to me??

What I have done:

What i am trying to achieve:


I am no studio expert but it seems that the 2nd one get more lights on the models. Yours are a tad darker. Either that or the 2nd photographer did a better job with post processing. I really think the images you have right now can be like the 2nd one with proper post processing.
Well, Im no expert, but I believe your photos are underexposed. That could be part of the problem. Also, if you had more light on the background (wheter it be another light, or turning your lights up), that would help. The light in the second set is also put together differently. The light is coming from camera right. I would also guess there is a light camera left, but behind the model facing towards her back. Overall, the second set of photos just has more dynamic lighting. Move the light from directly infront of the model. Also, touch up on your PP skills. Something tells me this is playing into it as well...:thumbup:

I think you're doing the job on the camera end -- nice work.

I agree what you're missing is there in after-processing. Hope you don't mind, here's what I mean:


I put your original in Photoshop. Made a dupe layer and applied a slight "soft light" blending mode. Then I sharpened it with a high pass filter. Both processes raised the contrast. I lightened the white background a tad and then fine-tuned Levels. Is this more like what you're after?

Take Care,
NJ joe.. Imagine what you can do if you had the RAW.
Pretty standard catalog photography. One thing many newbies today would not see or think about in today's umbrella- and softbox-crazy world of internet lighting lessons and strobism is what the catalog photographer is using for his separation light: a separation light is NOT a hair light, but something else, and what this guy is using is part of all complete, professional lighting systems. He is using a large-ish parabolic reflector with a grid and barn doors, and probably a diffuser in front of the flash head + grid...this gives him the ability to position the model in front of a light gray seamless, aim a flash head at the background paper to modulate it with light, use a large, soft source as a main light, a reflector, and then to aim a fairly soft but just ever-so-slightly hot light at the model's side, to add a crisp, bright highlight that is NOT from a large source, but a smaller source.

11 inch parabolic reflector + 20 degree grid + diffuser + barn doors makes a wonderful separation light that gives the model's dark side (the shadow side,away from the main light) that nice outline on light that conveys a real sense of depth and dimensionality. If a subject like the woman shown is lighted properly, there's no need to fake the effect with post processing....actual LIGHT is used to shape the subject... the subject above, the young woman in the floral print dress, there is no highlight on either side of her...she looks 2-D...a separation light would "separate" her from the background...clantar (joe) did a good job of bumping up the contrast and doing what he could in post, but the shot is lacking a light on the model, and is also lacking the background light that the original catalog photographer set up.
Um, Derrel... can you repeat that again, but write a little more slowly please...


Thanks for the background. I have no studio experience and have always admired the beautiful control over light that the studio pros have. It makes sense, what you describe. If I'm to educate myself in this kind of lighting, are there sources that are accessible? Probably the best way would be to find a studio photographer who is willing to explain the hows and whys... However with the workload I have, that will probably not happen in the near term. Second best would be a good book or video. Any pointers or suggestions? And yes, I do realize this is not a case of learning all you need to know in a couple of hours...

To the OP, sorry about the thread hijack, but it seemed appropriate to ask this question here.
Set up a large light source, elevated, camera right. Say a 60 inch umbrella or a very large light panel. Pop 400 watt-seconds through that. On the background, aim a flkash head set to 100 watt-seconds fitted with a 50 degree reflector with barn doors at the gray paper, on a slight diagonal, to make the gray background a little bit whiter in the middle of the paper. Set up a large V-card reflector to camera left, very close to the model.

Then, from the back, left side of the seamless paper, aim an 11.5 inch parabolic reflector fitted with a set of 2-way barndoors, and a 20 degree honeycomb grid, and a plastic diffuser, with the light set to about 50 watt-seconds. THat light is the separation light, and since it is coming from a parabolic reflector, not from a softbox or umbrella, the light will be "hotter" than the diffused, large-source light from a 60 inch umbrella; the smaller the light source, the more it acts like a point light source. And an 11.5 in ch parabolic reflector that has a shiny inner steel surface is pretty "hot" and "hard", but the 20 degree honeycomb grid fitted to it will tone that down quite a bit, and then adding the mylar snap-on diffuser will further soften that "small,hot,hard-ish" light, and you need only about 50 watt-seconds with a 400 watt-second main light when the separation light is coming in from the back/side angle.

A HUGE amount of USA catalog photography is done in the Chicago, Illinois area. Chicago is the home town of Speedotron, a company that was a pioneer in studio flash, beginning in 1939. Much catalog work is done using Speedotron equipment, due to the huge Chicago-area connection...

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Speedotron Products Accessories

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