Saturday, March 1, 2014

Elegant Product Shots

Also in this issue:
  • So How Sharp Is This Lens?
  • Homeless for 5 Years
  • Welcome a New Member of the Team
  • A Surprise Gift
  • More!
Elegant Product Shots

I'm quite engrossed in book writing right now, and to support the effort I took these two brochure-worthy product shots using the A7r and a Minolta 100mm macro lens (with LA-EA4 adapter, of course.)

These shots are easier than most people think.  All it takes is one wireless flash off to the side, preferably with a diffuser like a white sheet in front of it to soften the light.  In my case I used a softbox designed for wireless flashes which does the same thing (see photo below).

The unglamorous setup: Just one softbox.  Black camera on a black background.  Everything on manual because no camera ever made would get it right on 'auto'.
Basic Setup

Now that your light is nice and soft, you'll have to take your camera and flash off of AUTO since it will try to make everything look 18% grey and overexpose EVERYTHING.  Here are the settings I used:
  • Flash set to Manual Output mode, 1/2 power
  • ISO set to 100
  • 1/160th at f/8
The settings guaranteed that the ambient light wouldn't show up in the shot - just the light of the flash.  I used an F20 flash to trigger the flash behind the softbox (this being a still subject I didn't mind the wireless flash delay quite so much.)  This gave just enough light to illuminate the subject but keep everything else black.  Doing low-key photography like this was difficult in the days of film but with the instant feedback of digital you can experiment and get what you want in less than 30 shots!

So How Sharp Is This Lens, Anyway?

People have been raving about the Sony / Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens, which pictured at the top of the blog.  DxOMark said it was the 2nd best lens they ever tested.  How much better could it be than my Minolta 50mm f/1.7?   I did a 3-way comparison to find out:

I took this shot using the Sony 24-70 OSS “Kit” lens, the Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens with LA-EA4 adapter, and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens.  Then I pixel peeped into the two yellow rectangle areas in the photo above – one close to the center of the lens, one off to the left edge.  All three images were shot at f/11.

Click on the image to see a larger size.
As you can see they're all pretty close in the center but the differences are remarkable near the edge.  (Not surprising; zoom lenses have always entailed compromises.)  But still, the Zeiss' reputation is upheld in this comparison.

In the Next Cameracraft

Image copyright (c) Michael Yamashita
It’s hard to convey the breadth of Michael Yamashita’s accomplishments in a nutshell.  He’s been shooting for National Geographic for 30 years – longer than any other photographer.  As probably the most prolific photographer of everything Asian he’s published 10 books on its vanishing cultures.  He’s produced several award-winning documentaries on the National Geographic Channel on the nearly forgotten Admiral Zheng He, the Great Wall of China, and even retraced the steps of Marco Polo’s infamous journey, which produced a documentary and a book which has been selling strong for 10 years.

In the next issue of Cameracraft, Michael tells about the "minders and fixers" which can be a part of every National Geographic assignment.  Subscribe today and be inspired for tomorrow.

Seminar and Book Update

There are so many projects going on right now that I'm intentionally not planning any seminars for the rest of the year.  However I will make myself available to any photo club that wants to bring me out.  Right now I have club in Durango, Colorado scheduled in September.  (I did a seminar for their club in 2012 and it was so well received that they want me back.  How can I say no? :-) )

Here are the books that are in the works:

  • The Spanish Version of the "Ways to 'Wow!' with Wireless Flash" is DONE and available here!
  • A7 / A7r by Yours Truly
  • Fujifilm X100s by Tony Phillips
  • Olympus E-M1 by Mike Hendren
  • Sony RX10 by Bob Scott
  • Sony Alpha 6000 by Mike Hendren

Want to be notified when these titles are released?  Drop a line to and let us know!

Homeless for 5 Years

This has little to do with photography, but everything to do with experiencing life.  Two years ago I got the chance to meet two homeless sisters who are well-educated, articulate, and traveling around the U.S. living in the moment and surviving off of bartering and through the kindness of strangers.  I was so fascinated by their story that I wrote about it, thinking it was a story worth sharing.  This blog post is already too long, so I've moved the whole story to here.

Welcome to a New Member of the Team

DR is the tall one on the right.
I’d like to introduce DR Rawson (, a long time friend and now my colleague here at The Friedman Archives.  DR’s position is as “The Friedman Archives' Possibilist.”  What does a Possibilist do, you ask?  Here’s the answer in DR’s own words:

“Every business needs someone that is always looking outside the box at the many different ways an individual or brand can extend their presence or influence.  It is the task of the “Possibilist” to seek these out and discover the possibilities that exist within."

DR will also be helping answer the email we get from loyal fans, some upcoming ebooks, and so much more.  DR will help fulfill my goal of offering the best customer service on the planet.

Welcome DR!

A Surprise Gift

Okay, so this was an unusually long blog post.  For persevering to the end I'm offering an unexpected gift: 10% off any downloadable product from  Just use the coupon code TwoWeeksOnly during checkout.  Enjoy!

Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. Re: The lens comparison.
    The middle set (Minolta 50 / 1.7) would appear the better one to me but that contrasts with your statement that the Zeiss "upheld its reputation" I remain puzzled.

    Jaap Stil

    1. The middle one is a tad bit brighter, but if you check for sharpness you'll find that the Zeiss has a narrow lead in the center and a wide lead at the edge.

  2. I love the story of the 2 girls discovering USA. I am a tad jelous.
    I am/was an adventurous photographer.
    I am really looking forwards to your new books on The Sony a7.
    I have an a77 set up and might try and sell it all for an a7 as arthritis has got so bad I can not handle the weight of the a77 as well as I could!!!!!

  3. Hi Garry,
    As it happens this blog post is the last thing I'm reading before heading to bed and moving tomorrow. You inadvertently reminded me that I have to update my address with Cameracraft too! Can you suggest a contact link for this? Thanks and keep being you.

    1. You can send a change of address to me and I'll forward the info to David. Have an uneventful move! GF

  4. I hate to be positive but I do like your work. Your books on RX100 and RX100 M2 are about the best camera books I have ever read. You tell what you do with camera and why. Nice approach.

    I'm by no means a good/competent photographer even though I developed my first film prints about 50 years ago (Kodak Tri-X) and I'm doing digital ever since Sony Macica cameras.

    It's nice that you occasionally also go totally off-topic like your story of the 2 girls -fascinating stuff.

    Overall? I hate to be positive but I just like what you do.


  5. The only thing missing in your photo comparison comments using the Zeiss 55mm and the Minolta 50mm f/1.7 is the Minolta can be had for $80 on ebay and the Zeiss costs $1000. Your pixel peeping rshows the excellent quality of the 1980's Minolta lens!

    1. True enough! The Zeiss may cost 12x more, but it's hardly 12x better in quality. Most people miss that.

    2. I have the Minolta lens (assuming that you are talking about the AF version) and I enjoy it. Out of curiosity, did you shoot the Minolta in crop mode?


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