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manufacturing

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.  

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Creating Powerful Industrial Images In Celebration Of Manufacturing Day

HOW THE NEW HOLIDAY WILL KEEP THE AMERICAN MANUFACTURING PULSE PUMPING

This year, October is changing the future for American manufacturing and is bringing a bright side to the spooky month full of tricks and treats. From here on out, mark your calendar for the new holiday on October 5th, Manufacturing Day.

The director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Roger Kilmer says Manufacturing Day was grounded in the need to get as many manufacturing-related associations and groups on board to help spread the word, encourage manufacturers to open their doors, and get the public inside for tours. To carry out this mission, hundreds of factories and facilities across the country will open their doors for educators, students, customers and the public at large to expose their true inner workings.

The manufacturing industry has been the pulse of American progress since the industrial revolution. Connecting the west to the east with miles of tracks began as an idea and became one of our nations biggest accomplishments. Year after year, America turns big ideas into reality inside the factories and chemical plants across out nation. We’ve put the internet in the palm of your hand and electric cars in your driveway. As American companies experience the benefits in re-shoring their manufacturing, it’s time we expand knowledge and improve the public perception of manufacturing careers and it’s value to the U.S economy.

The main issue addressed by Manufacturing Day is the disconnection between the general publics view of manufacturing and the actual truth behind the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing offers great high-paying, professional jobs, yet the public doesn’t view them that way and there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill more than 600,000 jobs right now.

  • Manufacturing workers make more than $77,000 a year on average (about $20k more than other industries)
  • For every 1$ of goods produced, manufacturing generates an additional $1.43 for the economy
  • In just five states, manufacturing adds over half a trillion dollars to the economy

CHECK OUT THE VISUAL STORY LINE OF THE FACTS IN THIS INFO GRAPHIC.

The gift of photography let’s me capture the inner workings of factories and their employees to highlight accomplishment, progress and company objectives. I strive to reflect the hard work and passion that fuels every facility I shoot in every picture I create. It’s where forum meets function to create powerful and compelling images to help companies connect.  View my Lightbox-Imaging Flickr photo stream alongside this blog and enjoy, share and experience industrial manufacturing through my lens.

To support American manufacturing this Halloween, pass out the famous Dum Dum’s and know your made in America Candy with the American made directory website.

To learn more on manufacturing day, visit www.mfgday.com


Making Made In The USA Sexy Again

Re-Shoring Manufacturing For American Companies Now Has A Bigger Appeal Than Ever

Call it re-stabilizing, re-balancing or simply re-shoring. It is the concept of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States and companies are pleased with the outcome of doing so. For the nation, re-shoring brings back desirable jobs that have been lost to decades of off shoring. Businesses that have turned to countries for cheap labor have realized that labor isn’t the only thing they are paying for and that doing business overseas is more trouble than it’s worth.

First off, average wages in China have jumped 10 percent to 25 percent a year, hitting $4 to $6 an hour in some plants. Add in shipping and high fuel costs, and off shore manufacturing is no longer such a bargain.

Take for example the Minnesota company, Calibur11 that brought back the manufacturing of its’ gaming console protection kits to American soil because of the hassle they had dealing with China. Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said, “when you are dealing across the ocean, there are logistical issues and language issues and it’s not perfect overseas”. There are many reasons to bring manufacturing back to the states and one of the biggest supporters of the concept is Harry Moser, the founder of the “Re-shoring Initiative”.

The mission of the Re-shoring Initiative is to bring good, well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States by assisting companies to more accurately assess their total cost of offshoring, and shift collective thinking from ‘offshoring is cheaper’ to ‘local reduces the total cost of ownership.’

Some companies have never outsourced their manufacturing to other countries and they have their reasons for doing so. The upholstered furniture company Southern Motion didn’t see the cost reduction opportunities that a lot of companies thought they’d have going overseas. The furniture industry tends to import pre-made fabric kits but Southern Motion stitches everything in house. Leather and fabric kits need to be inspected and genuinely cared for and there are some parts of the kit that cannot be used. CEO of Southern Motion said relying on his own workers ensures quality of the product and allows flexibility that otherwise can’t be found by relying on work done offshore. Read more: djournal.com – ‘Reshoring’ could boost US manufacturing

So many companies focus on rudimentary costs, not the whole cost, which can add 20 to 30 percent,” said Moser. You may have improved margin by offshoring but your quality may have worsened and your overhead costs may be higher.

Follow Harry Moser on Twitter and support the re-shoring initiative while I leave you with his top reasons on how re-shoring benefits the companies in our nation and the nation as a whole.

NATION:                                                                                                 

  • Brings jobs back to the U.S.
  • Helps balance U.S., state and local budgets
  • Motivates recruits to enter the skilled manufacturing workforce
  • Strengthens the defense industrial base

COMPANIES:

  • Strengthens companies’ ability to respond quickly to customers’ demands
  • Improves quality and consistency of inputs
  • Eliminates the waste and instability caused by offshoring

My Approach to Industrial Photography

EXPOSING THE WAY I WORK INSIDE A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN INDUSTRIAL PHOTOGRAPHER

My eye protection is on, the factory is in motion and my camera is focused on the diamond steel blade router spinning at 10,000 rpm. I kneel down on one knee and raise my elbow to prepare for the perfect shot as the shards of steel thrash out from the machine that sounds like a screeching tiger in my ear. It’s just another day at the office as an industrial photographer.

There are so many facets of photography and people always wonder what photographers specialize in. I’ve perfected the lighting in fashion photography, captured the excitement of a moment as a photojournalist and  have produced many portraits, but my lens is clearly focused on the industrial and agriculture scene. When someone asks me what my specialty is, I simply reply, “capturing everyday life and communicating the ways in which society sustains itself”. Pictures are snapped in seconds but creating powerful industrial images requires fine tuning and practice.

It’s important for me to scout out the location and have a preproduction meeting before I dive into a project. This allows me to plan out the shots I want and makes the overall experience run smooth. I also like to start out shooting the large picture of what the client wants then focus in on the smaller details. My goal is to create a connection between the photographs I take and it’s easier to do that when I expose myself to a project scene or set location for a long time. I can mentally piece the images together then capture them. It’s not a coincidence that I now find myself on manufacturing locations, construction sites and industrial settings with a camera in my hand.

I received my first camera when I was 9 and I participated in a 4H photography project shortly after. As a child, I spent a lot of time on work sites with my father and was exposed to the inner workings of grain elevators and foundries. Industrial photography is a great outlet to showcase my expertise of the technical side of business development because I have a thorough understanding of the inner workings of a business. Whether your company is seeking marketing material, executive portraiture or getting ready to release an annual report, I can capture and provide photographs that represent your company and make a statement.

In September I am attending the International Mining Expo to learn more about the mining industry. I want to reach out to people I can collaborate with and start exploring the different businesses and organizations I can shoot for. I’m in this business to help connect people around the country and to contribute to the advancement of newer technologies and industrial manufacturing.