Just the Products, Ma’am: Reproduction and the Facts of Product Photography

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For the past five years my weekends and nights tended to be spent working on refining my photographic technique, reading about building a professional collection of gear or travelling to foreign lands in search of the next big photograph. My commercial work has made a significant contribution to my lifestyle. Perhaps the question that now sits like the elephant in the room is “what do I want to do now?”

The reality is that I am quite content with the comfort I now possess in taking products, creating pictures and making them into a real representation of what the object is. I can shoot on white backgrounds until the cows leave the fields, and  along the way I have found ways to make the whites white and the colours accurate. I have moved from shooting with a Canon 1DmkIII to a Hasselblad CFV 16, and I have left AlienBees lights behind for Profoto D1s. I can keep an entire studio in two small cupboards of space, yet I possess enough lenses and cameras to shoot pretty much any situation you might think of as being reasonable. But what might I want to really do?

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I have to admit that the answer is nothing. I love photography, and it will remain a lifelong passion, but I have no desire to leave my teaching career to follow random dreams of fame and fortune. Education is what I do best, and the world needs that from me. I will continue to shoot products, musicians, friends and my travel portfolio not because I aspire to winning an award, exhibiting my work or being featured in National Geographic, but rather because I am passionate about  the act in and of itself.  The work is good and that is its purpose.

White background photography for products is not simple. It may seem like you just set up white paper, crank the lights, get your exposure and Bob’s your uncle, but the reality is that reflections, colour accuracy and product placement drive hours of work to get the shot the client expects. Certainly, since I began shooting for Paderno and Base Camp X, I have found myself creating an efficient workflow based on what the client actually needs. The Hasselblad CFV digital back has helped to refine my technique and see a higher resolution file come to life. Generally, I prefer the Hasselblad files to the Canon files in terms of sharpness and colour rendition. The extra 6MP and the size of the pixels are a perfect match for the CFE lenses and 501C/M body. The CFV is not usable in anything but studio lights or strong daylight, but I am fine with that. The poor back screen may only give me an inkling of what the actual image looks like, but I can tether to the laptop for actual accuracy. I am satisfied with my tools, and that is all any craftsman can hope for in terms of weaponry.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 9.30.15 AMThanksgiving will have me canoeing through Algonquin Park. There may be a few gourmet moments, and I might drag along a BCX axe with me for firewood duty. All I really care about is getting outdoors, feeling the landscape in my bones and enjoying the colours of Fall. Time with family and a canoe seems like a plan that requires no explanation or justification. Tonight: carrot cake.

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