PHOTOGRAPHER: Aleksey Zozulya
BASED IN: New York, USA
KNOWN FOR: Product and commercial photography
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera, FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS Lens, XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR Lens
Aleksey Zozulya is a commercial photographer based in New York. He has worked with several high-profile clients and also shoots abstract and architectural images. In this Technique blog post, Aleksey gives us some tips for shooting tethered in a studio and getting the focus right when shooting product photography.
I used to have preconceptions about tethering. I thought it was reserved for big studio productions and not worth the hassle for me. I assumed it was complicated, cumbersome, and confining.
However, I recently tried using the FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO with my X-T2 for my commercial still life photography and discovered how it can help you to compose, add convenience, and give you even more control. I now know that professional photographers shoot tethered in virtually every genre.
Using the Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO Control Panel, you have full control over your X-T2. To create a flatlay like the one below, use the LIVE VIEW function with continuous light to determine your framing and focus. Then switch over to PREVIEW mode to check your flash exposure.
My setup involved using a FUJIFILM X-T2 with a FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR lens, a Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT2, a 15-inch MacBook Pro, Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, a USB cable, a tripod, an extension arm, and some studio lights with modifiers.
The primary benefit of shooting tethered is instantly seeing your images on a larger display as you shoot them. This is great for checking focus, but there are other benefits too. It may seem counterintuitive, but attaching your camera to a computer can make things even more convenient. A practical example is when you are shooting a flatlay.
The flatlay or overhead perspective is extremely popular in commercial photography today. It is a deceptively simple technique: raise the camera and shoot straight down. However, handholding the camera over a bunch of items and snapping away isn’t the best way to achieve high-quality results in a consistent and precise manner.
Instead, put the camera on a tripod with an extension arm and get your camera directly above the set. This locks in the framing so you can concentrate on finalizing the exposure and styling.
Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO also has useful tools to help you with composition. For example, you can enable the OVERLAY feature in the Assist Tool side panel to add guidelines or overlays that can help you to arrange your props.
From there, you are free to concentrate on styling and creative vision. Move the props around, add or remove elements to get the best arrangement, adjust the angles of your bounce cards, and keep shooting until you are satisfied.
Another benefit is that you can change a camera setting with your Mac, so you can easily take multiple exposures and blend them in post. With this workflow, it only took me nine frames to get the ideal base exposures for retouching.
Product photography often involves a technique called focus stacking to get the sharpest possible image. When shooting close to a subject, the depth of field is quite shallow, even if you use a small aperture. Sometimes, you can’t stop down enough, or you stop down so far that diffraction becomes a problem.
At times like these, it is a good idea to shoot multiple shots at different focus distances and blend them later to get a shot that is sharp all over. As long as the camera has remained in the same position for each exposure, the shots can be blended in software to achieve the depth of field you want.
FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO can make the process of focus stacking much easier. All you have to do is navigate to the side panel, open the Automated Shooting category, and enable FOCUS BRACKETING. In live view, choose the first eyedropper icon (End-point 1) and click the closest focus point on the screen. Then click on the next eyedropper icon (End-point 2) for the furthest point. The shutter button converts to a BKT (bracket) button and the camera automatically shoots multiple images while adjusting focus. These exposures can be opened as layers in Photoshop and combined to create a single, incredibly sharp exposure.
Diving into using tethering for my still-life photography has been an eye-opening experience for me. It has made composition and camera control easier than ever. The examples above are just scraping the surface of what you can accomplish with the X-T2 when tethered.
Aleksey Zozulya is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photographer.
To see more of Aleksey’s work, visit his website.
To explore the full X Series lineup visit X Gear Chooser.