Blend Studios were recently commissioned to photograph a new product range for the exclusive hat company, Panama Hats. This long-standing company, with an international reputation has a long tradition of creating classic fedoras, such as those in the images above.

A simple enough object to show off you might think, but in reality, capturing the essence and detail of even the simplest of objects, is not as simple as it first seems. With this particular product photography shoot, highlighting aspects of craftsmanship and quality was the objective.

From this point, amongst latest news, we’ll be using this blog to provide our customers and fellow photographers (professional and amateur alike) some of our photography lighting tips for shooting single items.
Our lighting set-up for this project was a little more involved than merely setting up a couple of lights either side of the camera at 45º (which is called copy lighting) and shooting them set to the same power. This would achieve unprofessional images that would look too flat, with no contrast so therefore not showing any of the texture.

Achieving contrast and getting the right photography light is what is needed in good product photography, to breathe some life into the objects you are photographing. Contrast accentuates the texture and the quality of the hand-woven straw in these artisan objects; showing off the dimples emphasise the hat’s character. You get a real sense of what this fedora might feel like to the touch through attention to the technicalities of lighting and the use of white background photography.

The key to really showcasing these hats was to have the light cut across the different textures to provide highlights and shadow. As a professional photographer, you have full control of how bright the highlights are and how dense the shadows are. Watch this space for a later posting when I will be sharing my photography 101 on how to achieve and manipulate lighting to achieve subtle through to dramatic contrast ratios (shadow to highlight).

The photographs you see here in the blog were achieved with three lights. All three were 80cmx60cm soft boxes. These create quite a hard light (depending on relative distance), which provides us with the necessary depth to show the texture. For those that are in the know, the closer these are in relation to the subject, the softer they’ll become.

One light was placed above and slightly behind the hats (1). This creates the shadow and emphasises the dimple features on the hat which give the fedora its distinctive character. This was the key light and gave the images an overall “base” exposure.

The second light (2) was placed behind the hat and just off to the camera right to give a “kiss” of a highlight on the bows and sweep light across the right hand side of the hat.

The last one (3) was placed off to the camera left to add a bit of light on that side of each of the hats.

All three lights were placed approximately 1m away from the product.

We were really pleased with the results, but more importantly, so are our clients. We are pretty confident that these fantastic images will really help show off Panama Hats’ latest collection of exquisitely made fedoras.

So, to the tech talk… The lens was set on f16 to provide a decent depth of field (i.e. how much of the object is in focus), whilst retaining the quality of the image. Camera: Canon 5d mark III Lens: 24-70 2.8 Mark II. Flash: Bowens Quadx