Fitting a “square peg” into a rectangular “hole”

by | Apr 26, 2016 | Product photography

How do you photograph an essentially square object so that it looks good on a vertical magazine cover? Let’s reflect on that.

The challenge came from Amy Brown, director of communications for Birns Inc, a longtime client that manufactures high-tech products for the marine and nuclear industries.

The subject was their Millennium Connector, some cool tech that combines both electrical and optical connections.

Two things about the image:

  • the company logo had to be prominently displayed
  • it could be glammed up a bit to make a more interesting for a cover shot

I had shot this before, both as a plain “documentary” image that engineers want to see (“Just the facts, ma’am”) and another jazzier version with dramatic lighting and star effects.

My solution to the composition was to double the image height by shooting it on a reflective surface. A second reflection from a mirror behind would add to the width. The yellow cable rising up would add more height.

Then came the fun part. When the color doesn’t have to be representative, I can use just about anything to light it. So I used a set of small LED lights I mostly employ as accent lights when photographing swimming pools at dusk.

Here’s a shot of the setup.

  • Two bricks hold up the sheet of glass with a black card beneath
  • Two small LED lights illuminate the connector from either side
  • The key light is a blue-gelled LED constrained by barn doors and pointed at a sheet of textured acrylic–the stuff used underneath fluorescent drop ceiling light fixtures. I chose one with a pebbly surface that would produce interesting reflections.
  • A mirror behind the connector creates the background from the reflected acrylic.
  • Finally, I placed a LED strip light at a slight tilt right below the acrylic. Its warmer tones created a slight gradient at the bottom.

The rest was toning in Photoshop.