Product shots are not easy

Discussion in 'Color' started by KillRamsey, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    A friend is making a new "boot" lockable storage trunk for bikes, and I'm helping her get some shots. We keep trying to meet up in the evening after work when the light is perfect, but it keeps getting cloudy. Happened again yesterday, but we went ahead and shot. And I left my entire work bag at home, leaving the house with just the Xt1 and 18-55 slung across my back, so I didn't have the 35, the 56, or the 50-230. I did what I could about the flat light in post, and tried to avoid bare tree branches in the shots to disguise the fact that it's early Spring here and there are no leaves yet.

    Product shots are deceptively hard. Geometry and composition are more or less EVERYTHING. I suddenly had to help pose her, and get all the little details right (dirt, smudges, backgrounds)... things you never worry about doing photojournalism. It's humbling.

    Some of it:

    Her center stand was WAY too tall, kicking the front of the bike (and thus the boot) up at an angle. And the cilantro was already starting to wilt. sigh...
    [​IMG]BucaBoot product shots by gordopuggy, on Flickr

    It helps that she's tall and stately, and has flaming red / orange hair. The orange channel brings her skin tones up a little, and makes her hair pop nicely.
    17246035345_f54e648d32_c.jpg BucaBoot product shots by gordopuggy, on Flickr

    17059837759_62c9f5c967_c.jpg BucaBoot product shots by gordopuggy, on Flickr

    17245480291_f4d8330222_c.jpg BucaBoot product shots by gordopuggy, on Flickr

    I had her brother sit on the bench for a few, and I like them. The beard goes so well with the PBR.
    17058263248_70ef90046b_c.jpg BucaBoot product shots by gordopuggy, on Flickr
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  2. nippa

    nippa Top Veteran

    Aug 7, 2010
    Cheshire UK
    I saw a guy the other day taking a product shot of a bicycle.
    He had it standing upright with half of its wheels in a lake using the reflection to mimic the part of the wheel underwater.
    Lighting ,background and lake surface texture all made for an interesting shot.
    Credit to him for thinking about how to liven up a Bike Shot

    I can visualise your friend speeding along background blurry with hair flying ( no helmet ) and a slow shutter speed racing to a party.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
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  3. Some nice work.

    There is a lot of pressure doing a product shoot. Get it wrong and it can really hamper a product.
  4. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    I can get that shot pretty easily, with help from the wife and our cargo bike. And it would be great. Just requires the coordination of our time, and right now we're days away from moving to a new house around the corner, so I've had to sneak these shots in right after work, across the river from my plant, so that I could get 45 minutes in. They needed something NOW, and we'll work on more involved stuff in the coming weeks once I get settled. Hell, I don't even have access to my 56 f1.2 lens, because it's packed up. :)
  5. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY

    You take good photographs and I can find no fault with them on a technical level. BUT, I've been on the other side of this -- directing the photographer.

    Here are several thoughts:

    1. The product is the focus of the photography. So remove as many distractions from the product as possible. Throw the background as far out of focus as possible. Choosing a more open area might help. A long lens and a big f stop might help as well. Trying narrowing the field of view to show just enough context so that the viewer can know that the product is attached to a bike and little else. The woman doesn't really matter and probably doesn't need to be shown. An overhead view might be interesting to try.

    2. The why-to-buy is that this is lockable storage for a bike, so at least one shot needs to show it locked.

    3. Product photography doesn't exist in a vacuum and probably will need to work in concert with words. You need to discuss those words with the client. Is it easy as 1, 2, 3? Sleek, secure and lightweight? A marvel of engineering? Is it easy to attach and detach from the bike? Your photography needs to come alongside the marketing concept. You probably also need to know the technical parameters of where the photography will be used . . . the web, print advertising, etc.

    Product photography is challenging, and it doesn't take long to discover why the guys and gals who are good at it get the big bucks.

    I hope this helps.

    Cheers, Jock
  6. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    It does, and thank you.

    They had someone shoot product shots for them last year, and are / were fairly happy with them, but that was the first prototype. Now the lid and handles look different, and they also want "fresh stuff" for the web. So I asked them to have a wish list, and we discussed it before the shoot. Each of these basic scenes is something she was looking for, except the last two. I got low and wide for the next-to-last to give her a lot of blank white space so she could use this for a banner / header, and then I placed her brother in the PBR shot (after I got shots without him.)

    We were at the same bike ride a weekend prior, and they brought the bikes with the boxes attached. I shot a few shots more akin to what you're suggesting - I used the 35 f1.4, maxed out the aperture (hooray electronic shutter), and blurred everything but the product out more or less. Upon review on a monitor, the depth of field was really TOO thin - I had a slice of the box in focus, nothing else. That lead to what you see here - moving the backgrounds farther away / shooting longer / stopping down a little to get most of the bike crisp.

    We're figuring out another afternoon where we can try again. Having some distance on these shots helps... they change on me as a week goes by. :)