This is a book for the serious photographer who wants to produce their own product shots. Harnischmacher is a studio photographer who has mastered the art of controlling light for high-end still life images. The book is richly illustrated, showcasing his work and demonstrating the techniques he uses in the studio.
It is highly technical with reference to a wide spectrum of tools and accessories which separate the men from the boys - light-shaping tools, reflectors and diffusers, light composition, reprography, light tents, soft boxes, strip lights, honeycomb filters, light brushing, strobe lighting - the list is impressive. The book is comprehensive and covers just about every aspect of desktop photography from displaying surfaces and backgrounds to the use of smoke and fog and how to set up a studio.
In reading this book you will begin to appreciate that tabletop photography involves much more than placing an object on a tablecloth and snapping it with a compact digital camera in flash mode.
In his preface Harnischmacher states, "Tabletop photography actually belongs to the domain of studio photography, which usually involves expensive equipment, large studio flash systems, and sophisticated accessories. But it doesn't have to be that way." Realistically, if you were to set up from scratch using the equipment, extras, computer and editing software that are demonstrated in this book, you could expect to fork out quite a few thousand dollars. It is hardly budget photography. More like low-end professional studio photography. That said, it does demonstrate that there is a cost involved in producing top quality shots. The secret is consistent, quality work to maintain total control over the light and the environment.
There are many excellent tips that those less flush with funds can utilise. Harnischmacher is innovative and comes up with some clever solutions to recurring problems such as unwanted shadows and reflections off smooth surfaces. What is missing is a chapter on shooting in the field using the most simple of tools such a hand-held reflector and bounce flash.
It is an excellent book which will open your eyes to the complexity of tabletop photography. At the same time it will challenge you to revise the way you approach still life and product photography and inspire you to a new level of creativity and skill in this overlooked art.
- Gordon Hammond
Tabletop Photography, Cyrill Harnischmacher, Rocky Nook Inc, 2012, US$24.95.
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