Since my vacation adventures are over, it is time to return to the studio to begin a large session of work for Paderno. In this particular session, I have been sent an interesting selection of stainless steel tools. The fact that they are interesting means that they also require a great deal of thought on how to best shoot them. I decided to begin the series with a nifty little coring device for pineapples.
I had no idea how to use the device, but after cutting of the top, I decided to just twist and see what happened. Surprisingly, the tool easily pivots its way through the fruit down to the fruit’s base, leaving behind the core and a beautiful shell of pineapple that could be filled with rice or other fruits to display at the breakfast table. Little of the fruit is wasted, unlike with store-cored pineapples, and the final rings are perfect for a Charlie Trotter quinoa cake recipe I want to try tomorrow.
There are two main types of product photographs: the white background and the hero shot that shows the product at its very best and usually with props that lends a sense to the buyer what the product-lifestyle concept is. In my hero shot work, I am usually not provided with any art direction, as the client trusts me to deliver a vision for the product that matches the client’s overall brand. White backgrounds are simpler to shoot, but they pay 1/20th of a hero shot. A photographer needs to be able to execute the hero with consistency and focus on how the image will be used; that is where the money is, and that is where a portfolio of quality photographs can be built from. My studio specializes in small to medium sized products, as I only have the space and the lighting to cover such products. For larger items, I would need to rent equipment and a studio which would not be cost-effective for a client I might work with. Yes, if Porsche or Conde-Nast called, then the budget for a $10,000 shoot would make it feasible, but my work does not focus on large products. Hermes or Rolex would work though.
Today began with me thinking. Actually, I have been thinking about this first shot for three days. Yes, I was thinking about it when I went to sleep, I was thinking about it when I ate lunch, and I was probably thinking about it too much when I was lying in the sun tanning [I have a pretty wicked sunburn from head to toe now]. I would say the actual set-up and photography process for a shot like this takes two hours, but the buying of props [food] and the creative process adds up. Obviously I needed to find two pineapples out of season, and I decided to use a piece of marble as the base and an $800 silk duvet cover as my backdrop. I wanted the richness of the backdrop to communicate the luxury of eating pineapple [note: until a few years ago, pineapples were a rare treat for North Americans unless they were on vacation or eating them from cans].
I began with the middle photo. I set up a rough styling, took a shot with the ColorChecker, and then while tethered to Lightroom 4 I was able to check the ratio for the final shot. I began believing I was shooting for a square box, but after communicating with the layout designer, I realized the final shot would need to be completely different from my first concept [the first photo]. Fortunately, I have learned over the past few years to leave my set-up until I receive confirmation for the clients and collaborators so that I can make simple adjustments and move forward. Unfortunately, that means my condo/studio looks like a tool shed for a week or more at a time.
None of the shots featured on the blog were the final shot, but the last photo gives an idea where the final image went toward. The product is front and centre, the fruit looks appealing [it tastes so wonderful, especially with a sunburn], and the surroundings are lush, and it should fit perfectly on the colour box it is to be shipped in. One down, sixteen to go. I do love my work, and I always feel privileged to have clients who keep coming back because they appreciate the work I do. Over the past three years my technique has improved exponentially, and will continue to do so as I receive more commissions from companies like Base Camp X and Paderno.