visual images designed to educate, communicate, and sell.

Lighting Technique

What I learned At The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show in Dayton, Ohio

3 Concepts To Improve Your Industrial Manufacturing Strategy

In October, I strolled through the annual Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show in Dayton. Each time I visit here I am reassured that the future of industrial manufacturing is bright. It remains the Ohio hub for manufacturers, suppliers and shippers. Furthermore, the Dayton area has led to many technological innovations. It’s no surprise that the AMTS is hosted in this region over 30,000 square feet of exhibition space showcasing the latest products and technologies shaping the future of manufacturing.

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Good photography shows the product in its best light

This is the reoccurring theme that stands out to me each time I visit an industrial manufacturing trade show. The AMTS was no different. The theme revolves around the idea that the images you choose to showcase your new products make a gigantic impact on the reputation, initial response and overall company image you work so hard at perfecting.

Whether your business is developing new machines and technology or expanding its factory to maximize production, it’s vital to showcase these ‘upgrades’ in a way that adds value to your company. As you develop new technology you must showcase it in the best way possible.

Technology photography  plays an important role to connect the buyer to supplier and vice versa. The real machines may not always be available but powerful industrial images allow industry professionals to gain a better understanding of equipment, faster.

Excuse my bias as an industrial photographer but it’s true

I believe mediocre images tend to make a company look like they are small and that they don’t care about their image. There is nothing wrong with a small company by any means. In fact they’ve been the foundation for many aspects of innovation since our industrial revolution.

On the other hand, notice I mentioned “Don’t care about their image”. If you let your image wither down how can you expect anything to grow. Especially given the fact that your business photography is most commonly the first impression you give off when obtaining new business. There was a lot of nice photography at the AMTS but I was surprised to see many companies with subpar images.

Industrial photography techniques for the low budget

Updating your database of high quality product photos may not be the most economical decision at this point and time in the year. With that said, there are various others methods to get the most out of your current photography arsenal.

1.         Pictures are powerful for SEO: Check out my recent post about the usage of pictures in industrial marketing to dive deeper into the concept but for starters you must correctly tag your photos with the most information as possible.

  • Use ALT text to describe your product. Search engines find your photos by searching the text, not the image. ALT text is the primary text that Google uses to identify images in search results. ALT texts are usually the product name, i.e. 30 ft. horizontal car loading vacuum furnace, or Model MP1200 Melt Indexer.

2.      Take advantage of free and powerful social photography tools: You may be timid to implement a social media tool such as Instagram into your industrial marketing strategy but believe or not, this platform can help you immensely. For your next trade show, call on the employee with the best eye to take snapshots of your new technology and equipment. These product photos can be tagged in Instagram and be shared within your community of followers. In the meantime feel free to follow me for a dose of industrial photos each week. What you see is what you get!

Industrial equipment is large, complex and shiny. Whenever I’m taking photos of technology in action or in my studio I replay the single most important part of picture taking:

The word photography comes from two ancient Greek words: photo, for “light,” and graph, for “drawing.” “Drawing with light”.

Good  photography  combines texture, tone and shadow with dimensional character. This is different with every subject. Through experience I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t and I’m always looking for new ways to light different subjects. The biggest NO NO is on camera flash. Subjects should be lit with directional light. Photos taken with on camera flash tend to look flat and absent of mood and character. This is also known as ‘unnatural’ and most often, the background will be dark.

Good Industrial photography translates the technical language of your engineering and marketing team by producing powerful visual images designed to educate, communicate, and sell.


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The Law Of Reflection In Industrial Photography

HOW TO PRODUCE POWERFUL INDUSTRIAL IMAGES WITH THE PERFECT LIGHT

Robotic arm at work in an aluminum foundry in Detroit

As an industrial photographer every project comes with many challenges to apply the perfect light to my subjects. Machines come in all shapes and sizes, factories are spacious and the lighting is not the most suitable for capturing professional pictures. It’s important to research your shoot location and prepare for the type of light in the facility to know the appropriate lighting equipment to bring. The law of light and reflection that apply to studio work are the same when your on set but you have to use certain techniques and utilize the environment in different ways.

Compared to shooting delicious plates of food and suited up executives, foundries and factories are not controlled environments and industrial photographers must work with the scene in its’ natural state. I have been exposed to a variety of industrial settings. From squeaky clean and sanitized laboratories to dirty mechanical factories safety gear is almost always required. As you approach your subjects and move about the area you must be cautious of moving equipment and employees at work. Eye protection is mandatory for the macro shots of electric equipment, sparks or liquids.

Here are 2 photos I took in a small foundry in western Ohio to show you the importance of eye protection and safety. I observe the area to get an idea of the shots I want then have to clean up and arrange elements to create the perfect scene. I always like to capture the action of the scene when I’m shooting people. 

The most common materials in factories just happen to be the hardest to photograph; pipes, gears, lathes, giant drill bits, valves and the list of metal and steel objects goes on. When your client requests a product shot that highlights their logo, you better reduce the glare and create evenly distributed light. These objects reflect everything.

SHOOTING REFLECTIVE OBJECTS

 “The law of reflection means that the angel of incidence equals the angle of direction. The angel that the light reflects the surface of the object equals the angel of the light being casted on the object.”

Taken in an aluminum Foundry in Detroit

This law certainly applies to shooting sparkling kitchen appliances like silverware and china. You need to focus on the light that is reflected off of the object and create the reflection you see in the object. It’s easier to control the reflection in a studio environment vs. being on set at the factory. Machines are much larger than forks and knives and more difficult to situate. Only Hulk can rotate 2,000 pounds of steel and arrange the perfect shot but his assistance isn’t always available…

Photographing shiny objects is an experimentation process. Try repositioning yourself around the object and test out different angles to get the shadows and light just right. Now that you know the science behind light reflection, here is a list of techniques to reduce glare and shadows on shiny industrial equipment while exposing the ambient natural colors and tone.

  • Set up your lights so they do not reflect any light on the object
  • If I have to use on camera flash I use a diffuser to soften the light on the object. I try to avoid this because natural directional light gives a a more realistic tone to the image.
  • I use a light tent in the areas where light is heavily distributed
  • Longer exposure is required when using indoor natural light so a tripod will be required

You need to avoid reflection in your photographs when the lighting is not suitable to capture the effect of shimmer and shine. On the other hand use reflection to bring out the best in your photos and brighten up your subjects.

Remember the light is not always in your control in large industrial settings and glare might show up even after you follow the above techniques. Here is guide for photoshop to eliminate glare and shadow that could not be avoided on the shoot.