Tuesday, June 10, 2008

product photography suicide mission

So, we have two facilities at Soapier/First In Line Soap. Not because we have two names... pshh. That's just silly. One is our retail store, Soapier. The other is our manufacturing facility for our whole... sale.

So, we have two facilities at Soapier/First In Line Soap.


On top of being the pseudo web genius everyone takes me for, and a graphic design specialist (this is true), I also take product photography for the company. Not all of it, some of it was outsourced. But the other half, all me.

And I suck at photography. I mean it. If I was there that day when Oswald got shot, you'd have gotten this instead.

A picture for the ages.

Now, I have two killer cameras. One, I've already talked about, from my NY trip. The Canon Powershot SD 1100. It rocks.

The other... it's called the something-something. I have it at home, and I do not have a photographic (HA!) memory.

If you laughed at that little pun, stop reading and leave this place immediately. If your level of scorn and distaste for me has risen, read on. Things can only get better.

I can color correct something until the cows come home. And normally I can get something looking exactly the way I want, from a photo I shot. Or, I can fudge it. Either way, I'll be reasonably happy.

Today I shot some photos with the new camera, and was not happy. I couldn't get a single thing to look right, and I'll tell you. Product photography is something worth paying for.

In our case we have a good 100 different products that need shooting. So be it. I can do the art direction, I just need a photographer with the right equipment to shoot what I want to accomplish.

So, the guy we used, we'll be using him again. Hopefully this week. We'll see how his schedule is.

Here's the thing about product photography. You're not just shooting your product. You're shooting the best representation of said product.

Many years ago, I was working at the Food Emporium, on 3rd Avenue and 31st Street. This woman came in, about 35 or so. Blonde, bubbly, and she had six containers of cool whip. No ice cream, no nothing.

So I asked her what all that cool whip was for. (insert eyebrow waggle)

She said "I'm a product photographer. This week I'm shooting an ad for Colgate."

"Aaaabout the effect of sweets on teeth?"

She smiled. "No. We can't get those perfectly formed swirls from toothpaste tubes. We use cool whip. It helps us get those peaks at the end that they seem to so easily get in commercials."

Imagine my disappointment. 6 tubs of cool whip. 1 Blonde. I was 20.


But that little encounter taught me a lot. About disappointme -

About product photography. Getting the best representation of your product might not mean a full shot with all the packaging and a white background and that's it.

Maybe it's a close-up of the texture of the product. Maybe the photo is tilted, showing only little label.

We bought 7 different kinds of tile today, and they are awesome. I couldn't wait to shoot on these things... and we hit another wall. The other thing that product photography needs is proper lighting.

We didn't have that. We did get some 150 watt bulbs and put some fabric by them to diffuse the light. My friend from Brooklyn, Liam Schatten (an awesome photographer in his own right), who now lives in Atlanta...

Heyyyyy, don't get down on Atlanta, now. It's got to be better than Florida.

He gave me some pointers, but the fact was, every single photo came out with an orange tinge. And we were shooting our Cucumber Melon Sweet Sugar Scrub. It's orange.

Not good.

So, we call in the pro. And hope his lighting system, which is pretty good, can solve this problem. Like most things, if you get the problem solved for the first set of photos, the rest should be a piece of cake.

I'm sitting here and I want to dissect that saying "piece of cake."

Cake isn't easy to make. It's got the powder and the eggs and the oil and the mixing and the glaven!

I have a question for all the scientists out there. More of a request. Can you guys come up with some kind of cream or spray so that hair doesn't grow on corpses any more? Because that's seriously creepy.


I'll post more on product photography as I take them, receive them, learn lessons from it.

See ya.

John - Retail Hell - ish


Liam Schatten said...

Oiy vey John,

Thanks for the compliment. Why is it when people are having issues they just keep struggling and never call me.......Okay shooting photography with your bulbs and diffusing the light with fabric is fine. Orange color to your shots means your camera is set for daylight 5000K and you are shooting bulbs which are 3200K. Set your camera or color balance to tungsten and you'll see an amazing difference.....Duh!

Anonymous said...

Hey liam ur an idiot