During the workweek you'll find me at Milwaukee Electronics, an outfit that builds circuit boards for all sorts of neat companies around the US. I don't actually build any boards myself, I just monkey wrench website tools for the Screaming Circuits division. The last few years I have been heads down in code, so the photography
addiction hobby has definitely been feeding the creative side of my soul!
But recently I did get to haul my weekend hobby into my day job! I was asked to capture some commercial style photographs of our Portland operation. A nice challenge and a great opportunity to try a different styles of shooting that I'm very interested in.
i did a few test shots around the factory, and to be honest, my confidence was a bit rattled by what I found. This is a very dense industrial shop, with visual clutter amped to 11. Manufacturing efficiency trumps the Hollywood clean room look! Light and lensing would be critical in creating visually interesting shots.
My personal photography kit consists of a Fuji X-E1 paired with the XF 35mm f/1.4 and XF18-55 lenses, four cheap YN-560 speed lights, triggers, an off-brand soft box, a handful of umbrellas and stands. Add to that my DIY collection: a pile of homemade ghetto sandbags, a staples-and-felt soft box grid, and best yet, my flower-pot-turned-beauty-dish! Quite the circus, really. (Maybe someday it can all grow up into Alien Bees, Octoboxes, Pocket Wizard triggers, real Matthews sandbags and C-Stands! Dreaming…)
And, I had a great assistant! Natasha stood in while I lit each scene, convinced our floor staff to pose, and generally took care of all the details so I could concentrate on the visuals. It sure was nice, fun to work with another teammate, and gave the shoot a sense of legitimacy!
So here was my plan….
- Use the 12mm view to capture shots that show machines and foreground action, pushing background clutter into the distance
- Use the 60mm portrait lens to flatten scenes and utilize narrow depth of field to push background elements out of focus
- Shoot from a low angle so folk's heads can be framed against the relatively uncluttered ceiling
- Overexpose ambient light by about one stop, use overhead shade to keep downward light off the subject
- Use a beauty dish and gridded soft box to provide directional key and side/rear lighting
- Fire remaining speed lights at ceiling in background to fill shadows above lighting grid
- Subtract nearly all yellow in post production to help give the facility a clean white look
- Since we are working with actual factory workers at their actual stations, plan for time to develop a comfortable and realistic pose
It's quite a bit of setup for each shot, but I like the results and I think it was worth the effort. I really enjoyed the challenge of planning and building up a shot, much more interesting than walking around with a single bounce flash and getting "documentary" style photos. Good enough that Natasha and I are headed to Mexico in a few weeks to photograph our facility there!
Head over to the Milwaukee Electronics website to see these shots in action...
While we were at it, we did grab some back office shots as well....
Did you know that Fuji makes industrial equipment? Here's a Fuji pick-and-place machine photographed by a Fuji X-E1 camera, which itself contains circuit boards likely assembled by a Fuji machine similar to the one shown here. The Fuji circle of life!