Just the facts, Ma'am. And maybe some of that coffee.
In the post called “When Hobbies Collide,” I said I’d already proved that I could take mug shots of hats, guns and guitars, but that isn’t strictly true – I haven’t taken a serious stab at the hats. So today I set up the mini-studio (pictured at bottom), and tried to capture the textures and contours of some hats. My office windows offered plenty of beautiful, diffused light, but I decided to use two flash units because I wanted deeper shadows to add dimension to the images. I got mixed results, as you’ll see. I used a Nikon D300 with a Nikon 17-55 F2.8 lens. The flashes were a Nikon SB800 and an SB600, both with umbrella diffusers. The 800 was in front, above and left of the mini-studio, and the 600 was a little lower and to the right.
Stetson Open Road with the traditional cattleman's crease. I like the way this one takes the light - you can really tell that the brim rises in the back and snaps down in the front.
Akubra Federation IV Deluxe. The darker hats required a lot more flash power, and look more mottled in the photos than they do in real life. A big lesson here is that I need to aim a light at the bow or dodge it in post-processing. The bows are the reason all the hats are photographed from the same angle. Well, that and the fact that I didn't feel like moving the lights once they were set up.
Akubra Banjo Paterson. I have to pat myself on the back because all of these photos get the hat colors right (on my monitors). That's something I rarely see in hat photography. (Yes, there is such a thing. Check out thefedoralounge.com)
This Akubra Stylemaster presented a real challenge, because I wanted to show the bash, the brim binding, and the overall shape in one shot. The color fought me. Again, a snooted light aimed at the bow would have helped.
The future. This Stetson started life as a western hat, and I've been slowly converting it into a fedora (reshaped the crown, trimmed the brim). This image represents another conversion - how I hope to move from mug shots to photographs. I thought there were a lot of details to watch in the mini-studio, but believe me, there are a lot more in a shot like this. The moral: If you're going to make the background part of your image, better pay attention to distractions in the background.
I picked up this Sunpak Mini-Studio several years ago for a client project, and it's been sitting under my desk ever since. It's very handy for small object photography, and the blue background is reversible with a neutral grey backside. The sides and top work as diffusers. I look forward to using this more as I learn about tabletop still-life photography.