Proper Product Photography

by Dave Curtis on January 24, 2015


chairProduct photography has been around since the dawn of cameras, and so has advertising and ad agencies. That’s good news for today because they’ve spent billions over the years determining what works best to convert advertising into sales. In some cases the beautiful setting surrounding the thing for sale makes it more appealing. In most cases though, the object is to remove all distractions from the scene and provide either a white or a black background.

White dishes and silverware don’t show up well on white backgrounds – they wash out, so black is the best choice. Most other objects will do best on a white background. The horizon should be invisible. Making the horizon invisible only requires that the white floor of the background not meet the wall white wall at a 90 degree angle. So a surface needs to be prepared that is curved. For my examples I’m using a wide roll of engineers drafting paper, Wide-Format Media, CAD Bond, 36″x150′.

You might think 150 feet is a lot, but as you work you’ll find that the paper gets spots of dirt on it over time so you’ll be glad you have more to create a clean surface cheaply.

For this post I’m using a makeshift setup at a nearby business that sells products in a set price eBay store. Used and consigned objects are for sale, so the work has to be done quickly. I’ve got four light sources. Two elevated (one left, one right) and two front left and right. They’re all using 100 watt semi diffused daylight fluorescent bulbs of the exact same color temperature and all other lights in the room are turned off during photography. The other lights are turned off because they are a different temperature wavelength and that will make white balancing impossible. I do work in post in my graphics editor whenever the situation allows or is warranted. Especially for the expensive items. Here are a few examples of what I’ve done this morning.


You can see the difference here at these last two – the “newer cast iron horse drawn fruits and vegetables cart” that the image fairly pops now that I’ve corrected the color balance for the black. There are still shadows in some of the images but that’s ok for these. Removing all shadows requires a much more elaborate setup with more lights, more diffusion, and arranging reflectors for each shot. It also requires more painstaking post work in the editor to remove any areas that are darker.

Now to show you how much of a difference we’re talking about, remember that chair on the top right hand side of this article? Well this is what it looked like before I edited it in post:

Prior to color and white balancing

Prior to color and white balancing

Yes it takes time to master the techniques of photography, lighting and digital editing in post, but compared to having to use an air brush in a dark room the ease of performing this work (and the cost of having a professional do it for you), both the time and expense are now far less than ever before.

Part of optimizing a site is optimizing transactions. And purchases often rely on packaging – so how do you package the photographs on your web site?

Just keep those rules of thumb in mind regarding the lighting temperatures, invisible horizon, and doing some editing in post and  you’ll be on your way in no time to producing professional quality photographs of your shop products.

VIDEO Directing The Perfect Client

by Dave Curtis on January 29, 2012

If shooting video were only about shooting inanimate objects it would be easy. But it’s not. It’s about shooting people, animals, vehicles …things that move and scatter in different directions, often away from each other and more often than not all at once and unpredictably. Shooting video is also about lighting and getting excellent sound which means three point diffused lighting and turning off refrigerators, fans etc during shooting. The perfect client will take direction when it’s explained that turning off an appliance and wearing a lavalier mic is important and makes the difference between an amateur video and a professional quality video. The perfect client will listen when it is explained that shooting a scene when a garbage truck is coming down the street, a wood chopping machine is running, a weed whacker, leaf blower or power saw is in use outside (even when the windows are closed and the scene is being shot indoors) or when shooting outdoors it is too windy (bad for microphones even when covered with a blimp and/or a dead cat “fuzzy” cover!).

The Perfect Client

Scenario: We agree a month ahead of time that you would like a video shot of something very strong and important for your new company’s marketing efforts to succeed. The opportunity might be something you’re aware of ahead of times such as a celebrity expert figure in your niche coming from thousands of miles away to visit you and they’ve agreed to allow you to video them in an interview. Something like this could really give your company a nice a boost in popularity and gain you some respect and authority.

So I direct you to start thinking of how you want this to be video’d since it’s your guest and your property and your business. Three weeks. Two weeks. One week. I remind you of how everything is a factor and that meeting with me to go over ideas will be a good idea.  – weather (will you do it indoors or outdoors?), wind (outdoors is always a gamble), lighting (not seated with the sun behind you or the camera will be blinded)…. and now it’s the day of the event and the perfect client is ready. Questions for the interview have been prepared and the guest speakers have been briefed as to who will be sitting where (lighting not behind them, head not turned away from the camera – lol – showing your head to the back of a camera and speaking away from the microphone PROBABLY not a good idea, and yes, it has happened to me before believe it or not).

The needed direction has been supplied and the people involved have bothered to prepare before hand and think about what they’re going to be doing. These are perfect clients.

The video below is as good as any I’ve seen for describing some of the behind the scenes parts of video making. The video below involves the making of an actual film and not an interview or product demonstration, but virtually all of the same factors do come into play, even if only for consideration during the planning phase.

That’s a good video of a sane person describing how a director in control working with trained actors gets things done.

The reality of most video shoots on location at client’s businesses is quite different though, so when you’re hiring your own videographer or paying Brighthouse $1,600 to shoot and edit a 30 second video for a commercial (not including television air time) and you don’t want to be wasting your time and money getting garbage in return, the perfect client understands GIGO. Garbage IN Garbage OUT because the standard industry reply is that “The camera doesn’t lie.” Shooting a video is a lot more complicated than baking a cake. If you expect to serve it to the public, make sure you have and follow a recipe and whatever cooking directions you’re given carefully.

Back to Lighting and Sound Recording

Shooting video requires not just the camera(s) but good lighting and more than one microphone.

Scott Eggleston is the Frugal Filmmaker (Youtube link: ) So if you’re shooting ANY kind of video at all, even if just as a participant in the video, watch Scott Eggleston’s videos – you can learn a lot.

So if you try to be “The Perfect Video Client” (AKA the “Director’s Dream Actor or Performer”) you’ll have a very pleasurable experience, the job will get done faster, at a lower cost to you (or whoever is paying to produce it) and it will wind up being higher quality.

Even expensive films are shot on a budget – and without direction and following direction they would stink.  So if you want the perfect video understand what it means to be the perfect client.

Somebody should DO something!

August 26, 2011

Whatever your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus problem is? This is the page for YOU. Somebody should get up, go out and physically DO SOMETHING about it.

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Since 1980 – Saw Grass Studios

February 23, 2011

Saw Grass Studios: Video, Photography, Billboard Design, Web Graphics, Banners and Graphics Ads. Sawgrass Studios is all about art. The art of photography, of digital editing, of videography for the web, for custom DVD creation, for videos of company special events and custom graphics including billboard creation. Billboard graphic ads, online banner ads such as […]

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