Shooting a Commercial Image With Trash and Walmart Gear

Nov 11, 2014

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Shooting a Commercial Image With Trash and Walmart Gear

Nov 11, 2014

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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The heart of DIYP is about creating much from little, using what is on-hand or can be cheaply fashioned to achieve quality results. That is exactly what this post is about. Not gun control, not gun rights, or even the timeless tradition of hunting. As we know, there is no better way to send a conversation with an American into verbal bloodshed than by mentioning the Second Amendment, socialized healthcare, or the fact Tampa Bay actually has an NFL team.

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I attribute a great portion of my rekindled interest in photography to the late Bill Simone, a phenomenal commercial photographer whose work for one of my previous employers was dynamic and emotive, especially to a young adult whose previous exposure to photography had primarily been relegated to a 35mm camera. Some of my favorite images from Bill were simple, single-light setups that seemed to draw the viewer into the photo, and they looked great in a glossy catalog!

New photographers so often want to jump into multi-light configurations with more strobes than a Belgian dance club, but there is something to be said about the simplicity and beauty of single-light images.

I’m currently working on pulling together a creative shoot with a client who manufactures and sells custom tree houses geared largely towards hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. After a recent conversation with them, and bearing in mind the current hunting season in our state, I was struck by the idea to throw together a little inspiration of my own.  I wanted the image to be warm and sentimental…almost…timeless.

Not being the patient type when hit with an inspiration, I wasted little time in trashing my office while turning it into an impromptu (and cheap) photo studio.

The Pieces

  • Piano Bench — came along with the free piano we picked up a couple years ago
  • Old Boots — a dumpster-dive find (and, yes, I wear them, too)
  • Painted Plywood — another dumpster find…I knew it would come to use for more than drying small animal hides
  • .410 Gauge Shotgun Shells — from a box that I keep around the house which I picked up at Walmart for $11
  • .410 Shotgun — this is an old Stevens (from somewhere between 1930 and 1965) that my father passed along

The Setup

  • I needed a large diffuser to shine my light through, but, having none in my possession (read: I should really buy one), I dug out a white bed sheet. While I used a cheap backdrop stand for the sheet, there are counteless ways to contrive a similar configuration without a proper stand.
  • The lights I used were some cheap halogen work lamps that I got from Walmart for about $30 that I also use for video work. I extended them to about five feet off the floor and angled them at a 45-degree angle through the sheet.
  • I was getting some reflection and conflicting color temperatures from a sliding glass door in the room, so I draped a black bed sheet to block that out.
  • Since I don’t have a proper gun rest, I used a body pillow (sitting atop a kitchen chair) and an old sweatshirt to help stabilize the shotgun for the shoot.

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Think it looks crappy? Well, that’s because it was. Abso-friggin’-lutely nothing aesthetically appealing about the setup.

The Shot

After playing with camera angles a bit with a 50mm lens affixed to my still-cheap Canon Rebel XS body, I settled on one that looked right and mounted the camera to a tripod, dialing in at f/18, 0.6 second shutter, and 400 ISO.

I shot four frames (using the 2-second camera timer since my shutter remote is AWOL), using the gold side of a 42” eBay reflector to block ambient light and bounce some warm hues onto various portions of the configuration. Of course, you can always make your own reflector, too.

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The Post

After importing into Lightroom, I exported the frames I wanted into Photoshop. Making sure all layers were aligned properly, I began painting the bits and pieces I wanted from each frame onto the base image. From there, it was simply a regimen of cloning and healing to remove unwanted elements (such as blemishes on the piano bench), extensive non-destructive dodging and burning, and wrapping up with high pass sharpening and the adding of text.

In the End…

The end result was this image, communicating heart and sentiment, a feeling of handing down something great from one generation to the next. It was an image created with trash to embody treasure.

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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13 responses to “Shooting a Commercial Image With Trash and Walmart Gear”

  1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    Beautiful shot.
    More posts, like these, please.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      We’ll try to keep ’em coming!

  2. Greg Silver Avatar
    Greg Silver

    What camera did you shoot with?

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Perhaps I should have mentioned that, too… It was shot with a Canon Rebel XS — the bottom of the bloody barrel :-)

      1. Greg Silver Avatar
        Greg Silver

        Kudos – great shot. Just shows that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a camera body/lens to take an exceptional image. Very inspiring!!!

        1. Allen Mowery Avatar
          Allen Mowery

          Thank you very much! The concept that I wouldn’t have to spend a fortune on gear to progress in photography was a great revelation early on in my career. As I’ve discussed in other posts, sometimes there is no way around buying expensive gear for certain applications, but the belief that it is necessary across all application is bogus.

          Thanks for reading!

  3. marco Avatar
    marco

    great shoot, nice explain. Now it time for me to work

  4. ravi p Avatar
    ravi p

    blending in multiple reflector highlights is a great idea! looks great

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      I mean, one could always have multiple reflectors in place, but that’s just extra time, extra gear, and extra nuisance (in this case).

  5. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    Do you have any problems with heat from the halogens?

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      The halogens definitely get hot, but I don’t keep them close enough to anything to pose an actual fire hazard. Depending on the temperature of the room, your main concern might simply be the comfort level. However, seeing as how I refuse to turn any heat on in the house (even with overnight temperatures already reaching freezing), the warmth was actually welcomed.

  6. Bkmdano Avatar
    Bkmdano

    This is really good.

  7. Simetría Comun Avatar
    Simetría Comun

    Genial, sería bueno ver mas fotos sobre el esquema de iluminación.

    Contratulaciones.