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Taking Cigar Photos for Cuban Cigar Website

The cigar photographs on Cuban Cigar Website come from a number of different sources of different photographic standards.

The oldest photographs originate from Cubatabaco catalogues. These images are highly doctored, with perfectly straight edges and wrappers. Modern Habanos S.A. images are often entirely Photoshop creations, and these may have been the 1970s equivalent. They are low resolution, around 75dpi, which is too low for even low-quality printing. These images are generally limited to cigars that were discontinued before 2005.

Trinadad Fundadores

Between 2010 and 2012, all available cigars were photographed with a high-quality camera and light box. These images are available at approximately 250dpi, which is adequate for the web, but too low for high-quality printing. This is the majority of photos of Cuban Cigar Website.

Trinadad Robusto T

Since 2017, cigars have been photographed with a high-quality camera and lighting setup, and are available at very high resolutions (up to 750dpi) - high enough for professional art prints at any scale.

Trinadad Robusto T

Trinadad Robusto T insert

This is the current setup used for the cigar photos on Cuban Cigar Website.

Light-box setup

The lightbox is a Foldio2 Plus with Halo bars (the movable front lights). Originally, a more cumbersome setup with a large light tent with full size lights in soft boxes was used, and still occasionally is when photographing a large humidor or similar, but in general the Foldio delivers better results and is much more convenient to store and setup.

Cigar photography stand

The stand is homemade, and enables the cigar to be lit evenly and without shadows. The other way to accomplish this would be a flat lay, with the subject on a white surface, lit from above and all sides, and the camera pointing directly down on it. The base of the stand is an A4 6mm sheet of acrylic, the weight of which gives the stand stability. The large size of the base also aids with aligning the stand with the front edge of the lightbox (and the camera) to ensure a perfectly straight on photograph. The poles are cut from a 1m rod of 1cm diameter acrylic. The tops of the poles are slightly notched to retain the cigar so it doesn't need to be delicately positioned. This makes it easy to rotate the cigar so that the band is centred, which can be tricky when using a flat lay, particularly with box pressed cigars.

The camera is a Sony A7R III. Realistically, this camera is pretty overkill for product photography, however it is the large sensor that makes the high-resolution images possible.

The lens used is a FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS. This can capture the fine hairs and texture of the tobacco, and the ink bleed on the band printing. For specialist shots it can be positioned close up, where it can capture the structure of mould on the leaf, or any other tiny detail.

This is what the untouched photographs look like. The cigar is fairly evenly lit, in focus, and straight on with no lens or perspective distortion. The background can be selected and removed cleanly in just a few clicks.

Trinadad Robusto T

Common Issues with Cigar Photographs

Cigar with dark shadows and uneven lighting

The cigar is lit from a single light source (in this case bright sunlight through a window), giving very uneven light across the surface, and deep shadows that would be nearly impossible to remove with Photoshop. The solution to this is to light the cigar from multiple directions with similar brightness (ideally in a lightbox).

Cigar on brown background

Textured backgrounds are particularly difficult to remove cleanly.

Cigar photograph with pincushion distortion

Camera lenses, particularly those found on mobile phones, can distort images towards their extremities. In this case, the foot of the cigar is considerably bowed out. On the band, the bottom edge is close to a straight line, while the top edge is curved. The best solution to this is a wide-angle lens, however where that is not possible, moving the camera further away so that the subject only occupies in the centre of the frame should reduce the distortion (at the cost of reduced final image resolution).


Any enquries should be directed to Alexander Groom, either via atgroom@cubancigarwebsite.com, or using the form below.

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