Lunchtime Videos! Three Product Photography Tutorials and a Pro-On-The-Cheap

Nothing like a few photography videos to help the chicken nuggets go down.

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I’m just passing the time by on my lunch, since I can’t do much while I’m stuffing my face. Not sure why I am spending so much time researching product photography, but they are interesting to watch.

First is Karl Taylor setting up a product photograph. I posted a video of his previously where he was photographing a wine bottle. In this video he has a slew of cosmetics…

This guy is an absolute master. Everything about his method is getting things right in camera with minimal editing later. I gush every time I see his studio and the gross amount of equipment and modifiers he has at his disposal. I haven’t heard him list how long it takes to get some of these product shots, but I expect that he works for hours on some of them.

He starts the video with an explanation and example of the completed shot and then moves to a time-lapse of the setup process. He loosely arranges the items and positions the main light and adjusts its power until he is comfortable with the results. Next, he starts adding in accent lights to provide contouring and interest reflections on the slick black cosmetics cases and tools.

The key to his intense detail is his step-by-step process, adding one light at a time, his attention to detail and his obvious level of experience. This is not dissimilar to what I do with portrait photography: one light at a time.

Watch this video and you will never have a full wallet again… Tens of thousands of dollars, he says, of equipment to make the shot.

Oh, here, this one will make your bank account feel better.

 

This next video is DIY and extremely budgeted product photography. Basically, he makes a photo tent or box out of an Ikea table. You can purchase tents like these for fairly cheap from Amazon, so I think his actions are a bit counter-intuitive, but this video does describe some useful techniques for lighting.

His “Product Shot Booth,” or a photo tent, is like a miniature studio for photographing small objects. They usually have either bounce or shoot-through-diffuser lighting for all around brightness and soft shadows as well as a curved material, his project paper, that creates a seamless backdrop. An Infinity Plane? I don’t remember the cool word for it.

 

The next video is from Fstoppers. This setup is a step up from the previous, but not Karl Taylor level.

They’re using a really interesting speedlight modifier that they invented, it looks incredibly effective. They’re also using the MagMod speedlight modifier, I’ve heard of this but I haven’t seen it in action yet. It seems really versatile.

Good advice on the step-by-step setup in this video, a look at some cool modifiers and different speedlight brands, and some advice about getting some quality condensation.

3 Reasons You Need to Care About Your Appearance on Social Media

Everyone says you need a great photograph these days, here are some reasons that may convince you.

There are many professions that seem obviously in need of a professional headshot, but not all of us are capitalizing directly on our faces or appearances. Why in the world might a tradesman in a factory or a high school teacher with a secure income need a fancy picture for a website? For these people, the typical uses of a headshot may be unimportant, unless they are unhappy with their positions and decide to go job searching. Instead, one needs to look deeper to the personal benefits of viewing a confident photograph of oneself.

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This portrait involved three lights: two to accomplish even lighting across his body and face, and one lighting the backdrop to get a consistent white with no detail. Mat volunteers with the Pioneer Park Elementary School Panthers Hockey program teaching the kids how to skate and goal-tend. He’s often dressed in a Marlies jersey while helping out.

1. Utility: A professionally produced image shows that you care about your appearance. If you are concerned with how the world views you and take every step to put your best foot forward, people are more likely to expect that of you in other aspects of your life and work.

As our society moves to online resources to make us more efficient and cost effective, so does the hiring process. Websites like LinkedIn are essentially job-hunting and networking platforms and public resumes. For certain professions, these websites and how you appear on them is very important. If you were a hiring manager with an application from someone who couldn’t be bothered with posting a profile picture or completing an online profile, how effective of a hire do you think they would be? Wouldn’t you instead remember the people who had more complete profiles?

If you were a real-estate salesperson, you would want your potential clients to see a confident, charming smile so that they can start to like and trust you immediately. Few people buy from those they don’t like or trust.

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Three lights here: one behind me to bump up the shadows, one at subject right to light his face and one on the backdrop. Michael is working his way towards his CPA and I’m sure he’ll finish well. You should have seen him tear one of my spreadsheets apart. I mean, hours of work for me was a few minutes for him. Barely any research, he just popped real-world numbers like rote knowledge. Michael has a lot of confidence in his ability, and we both feel this photograph helps him show it.

2. Having someone take the time to capture you with your best, most comfortable, relaxed and confident expression is a small investment with a huge return.

People will see your picture and make a judgement. It’s like a micro-first-impression. Like before, people will not only notice the quality of the image, but the quality of your expression and the care in your eyes. If you are looking to do business with people, or sell yourself as a good match to a new organization or potential spouse or death metal band or flying circus, then you need to be present in the photograph. As a professional, it is my goal to make you relaxed, present, and to recognize and capture that fleeting moment of perfection.

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Same Lighting as for Michael, except for a fourth light hitting his hair. Matt is a college friend of mine, he needed a professional look for Journalism work. He loves music and the positivity it can bring to people’s lives. Matt worked on Rogers’ Music Tonight and he’s involved with a band, Mr. Chris and the Gassy Bubbles, creating music for kids.

 

3. Personal Motivation: All that other stuff has been written time and time again about personal portraits, but I want you to concentrate for a moment on how an image makes you feel. If you have a confident image that you can wake up to every day, then you can set your sights easier as a confident person.

No one wants to be considered vane or narcissistic, but we can fight against those vices so strongly that we act in demoralizing ways! Yes, you deserve to have a beautiful portrait, and yes, you can feel good about yourself!

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Same lighting as Michael, a three light setup. Brent is a friend of mine that wanted some updated photographs for friends, family and internet use. He may not be capitalizing on his appearance like an accountant or real-estate agent scoring clients or a band member getting their appearance out to the world, but having a professional portrait where he looks great makes him happy.

Get the best image you possibly can. As a person dissatisfied with every image of themselves, “good enough” has to do for me. I like to ask a friend and have them pick their favourite of the images that I think are “good enough.” We’re often more critical of ourselves than our friends, and having the third party can help us make a decision.

Get the kind of image that when you look at it you say: “That’s me. Today, that’s me. That confident, intelligent, happy, go-getting, unstoppable force. That’s me.” Ultimately, you want an image that gives you pride. Something that shows the best version of yourself, the person that you can aspire to every day.

Good luck!

Thank you to all my friends who have acted as guinea pigs for my projects, allowed me to use their photographs and helped support my business. I really appreciate it!

Watch a pro put together a product photograph for a bottle of wine and be inspired

In this video Karl Taylor describes a set lit with 5 lights and exactly what each one adds to his final piece.

This isn’t a technical video where he is going to talk about power settings and whatnot, so if you’re new to studio photography you won’t be left behind. He describes his set and the reasons for the props he added and why each light is necessary.

Sometimes a Perfect Photo Situation Falls Into Your Lap

I did a great thing, as a photographer, and I hope that I can have many more of these moments and master them and condense them in order to have higher value shoots that work out so very well.
It was all wrong up until the finish. I even threw in a creepy phrase, as I’m apt to do, to add in social faux pas to the mix.  Strike three.

I get a call as I am, if I remember correctly, sitting in studio at my employers’, editing a family’s outdoor shoot photographed by one of the regular girls at the studio. 

An Aside: A Very Irregular Lady, Indeed

I say “regular girl” because my studio is across town, but I cover shifts all over the city. Also, it is seemingly rare for a man to work under this employer, perhaps because of all the work with children and negative stigma and all that. When the DM starts the weekly meeting, she says “Good morning, Ladies.” As such, I must be a lady, just not regular to this particular studio.

The call is from a man inquiring about professional business photos, to update his Linked In. I’m very confident with single subjects, and I spoke to him, in my opinion, a little too “buddy-buddy.” Strike one. Luckily, he was comfortable with me and ok with the price.

On account of my lack of wits, I forgot to mention our hours of operation. Strike two. He came on my lunch, while I was out banking. Luckily, he wasn’t upset when I came back. He walked around, did a little shopping, and came back to me at my best: with a full tummy and all the patience in the world.

An Aside: Business Photos

I’ve always been so frustrated with these things. I once got 3 – 5 people all at once, on their lunch, expecting a miracle. One of them was oddly photogenic. The office “pretty girl.” Everyone else was a challenge and desperately needed a different environment, or more time.

The “pretty girl” could have probably had a more “real” photo as well, but in comparison to her companions it was a work of art. They all joked about how great hers looked, and I noticed she was very self conscious when she should have been flattered.

The leader of the group was one with magical, disappearing eyes. Every time she smiled and focussed on the camera, her eyes squinted and went black. Her, I wish I could have spent more time with because her dissatisfaction with the photography could have been scooped out of the air. She was far too polite and said nothing.

That experience was a serious blow to my confidence with headshots.

I worked with him from, I believe, a standing pose into a far more relaxed stool-top with leg support pose. That’s typically my base for business and seniors/grads. That’s where I get their “Money shot.” I always try out a standing pose, though: some people are fantastic standers. Myself, like so many others, not so much.

Visible is only a 3/4: from about elbow or mid bicep to head with plenty of lead and about 1/4 of the frame of background at top to avoid the photo looking like an ID. An elbow resting on the knee raised by the support brings his shoulders up and forward a little, making him seem more full-bodied, but relaxed.

We figured out the pose, we were both in agreement upon review that it was a good one. The only problem was in his eyes. He didn’t have a true enough expression.

“The only problem I see is in your eyes. Let’s recreate this and see if we can fix that,” I quipped, knowing that all too often people are too damn polite to say whether they don’t like something.

He’s a salesman. I read about marketing and sales and the interactions related. I’m a photographer: we wear many hats.
As he was getting into position, I asked him about some of the best clients he’s ever had. Who was it that he wanted to work with, was my question. What was his ideal? He told me a story of some clients that he was very happy with, and you could see it in his face when he came to a rest. A perfect smile. A perfect headshot.

It’s the same feeling I used to get when I finally landed a trick on a skateboard. Y’know, before I gave up being a delinquent and went straight into grumpy old man.

I believe a great portrait photographer is a great conversationalist. Someone of that nature, in that career, must have a very large ammo bag. Talking points can be as fleeting and inconsequential as viral Facebook posts, but the photographer must control where the content leads — to what emotions. Also, trivial conversation like that can fall completely flat with a person who doesn’t have time to prattle. Seems it’s a delicate balance, and a fair bit of luck.

I was incredibly lucky with this man. His demeanor was perfect, even in the face of things that many others are frustrated by he seemed patient. Stowed it somewhere, maybe. I was lucky that we work in similar fields. Further, I was lucky that I was reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. My question was basically derived from chapter one, and it made that man an incredible photograph for his profile.

He liked it so much that, when it was all said and done with, he admitted he thought the price was high, but after experiencing it with me he wasn’t  upset by it

Thank you, James Michael Taylor of Outlaw Photography (I’ll mention him here because he’s way too far out to be competition) for sharing that resource in one of your emails. Though a small success, you’ve helped create a golden staple in my career. Looking forward to more of our conversations.