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Props on Set

Lesson 4 from: Compositing for Commercial Photography

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

4. Props on Set

Lesson Info

Props on Set

This is like candy shop stuff to me. I think we're ready for the props, we wanna talk about props for you and this makes all the difference in the world, and this is where Christina's expertise is. So, ice cubes. You need ice cubes. Just a little head's up, when you are traveling with bags of fake ice, you will be pulled over by the TSA. Just a little side note on that. Yeah yeah-- I'm gonna set this down. Sure. Or you'll get the notice in your luggage that they went through everything. Yeah. So I wanted to show this to you guys because we have, I have four different types of fake ice. They're very inexpensive and you can get these on Amazon and things like that. Today we're using the really clear cubes because the manner in which the background goes through the cubes in the glass is really quite nice. And in fact I'm gonna interrupt you for one second there. More expensive--what is the highest end? Oh okay. 100 bucks? If you get fancy so, a lot of the liquor ads you see ...

the real tight sharpity sharp sharp shots, those cubes individually are about 125, 150 bucks. And they have them in little boxes, they're wrapped in fabric so they don't scratch. Now that might seem crazy, but do you know how much retouching I have to do to make this look like this? It's a lot, and that 150 bucks comes quick. Right. So, measure twice cut once. Penny wise pound foolish. I'm full of them today I keep saying these. But seriously this is what you wanna be looking at. For you retouchers out there talk to your photographers. Unless you just want the cash, I mean I'll take your money. Or, a lot of times, the food stylist might have this. There's this weird division between prop styling and food styling in some cities. So in Hollywood, some food stylists they don't even have these, the photographer has to have that. Or if it's like TV, it's the prop union it's like the prop department you know, it's not my union. You get told that actually. Like in Chicago, stylists do not handle any of this. They don't handle the spritz, that's the photographer's job. The spritz is the condensation on the glass. So this is my little spritz kit. So I travel with all of this stuff and I have all of these different bottles that have different types of spray. And you'll see this on the prop list we have glycerin. So we have ice cubes, we have glycerin. And ice cubes you can have sent all over the world. So those of you out of the United States, you can get fake ice cubes sent to you. We just want you to know that that's, you're not shooting with real ice. We don't want the water all over can you imagine? Right. And then we have shards too. So there's two types of shards. And so there's large and small. Aren't they cool? Yeah! Like she put shards. Not in this one cause we want it clear but I love this it's like toys for me. Food colorings, there's different kinds of food coloring. Oh yeah. And, as I said before, Christina's got a whole food blog and a whole food photography channel. If you guys are interested in that I'd suggest you go check out her blog because she's got all this information. The writing posts on there since 2011 so. And on the prop list one of the thing's you'll see is that giant lime. Now I'm not just referring to having citrus on the shoot. That's for stock. So for retouchers out there, Photoshop users, have your stock in advance. So I use it for color reference and frankly I'm probably gonna drop it in cause I know it's very hard to shoot a very lively looking lime and to light it so the lime looks good. The lime is secondary, the product is the hero. So I know full well as a retoucher I need some backup. So please, have it in your kitty beforehand, get your stock search beforehand. Cool? So hopefully that helps about props. The glasses. This is really important and again I think Christina's really great about talking about that. And maybe we could, as we see the slide you'll see this but we also have a glass we can Vanna White it here for a second. Cheap glasses. What were you telling me about cheap glasses? So with cheap glasses the base of the glass will not be even at all. So the very base where you have the opening, it'll sometimes even be like a slope, it can get pretty bad and so that has to get retouched out. Sometimes just rotating the glass can hide some sins in the glass but if it's really cheap it's gonna be one of those processes where they doesn't really care what it looks like. Yeah. And so, I'm just talking a couple bucks just get like eight or nine dollar glasses or ten dollar glasses. Crystal glasses are really beautiful but then they're 20, 30 bucks, something like that. But, let me interrupt you for a second sweetheart, Yeah So, an eight dollar glass will save you 20 minutes of retouching time. It pays for itself. So I'd like you guys to think about it not penny wise pound foolish kinda thing. The other thing is the shape of the glass and how it refracts and refracts the light. That's really really important, along with the bottle. So you wanna be looking at that kind of stuff and do a test shoot beforehand if you can. Yeah so when I have to photograph a product that has to be in a glass and the client hasn't been really specific about what glass they want, on my prep day, which is always the day before, I'll have the prop stylist get a bunch of glasses. We'll line them up and we'll put the beverage in there and shoot them and then I'll say to the client these are glasses that we have to choose from, which one of these do you like? Like meaning, this is what we have, we're shooting tomorrow, hopefully you don't change your mind on something and hoping you pick something that we like and we agree to. And when you photograph it with liquid in it, it's acting as a lens at this point. So it actually changes the dynamic of how the glass may look pretty radically on set if you can see through it. If you're doing coffee or things like that with cream in it where you just can't see through it at all, then it becomes an opaque thing and now you're dealing with highlights and shadows and you're not dealing with translucency at all. So the beverage can really affect the type of glass that you wanna put that in. And hopefully your client gives you some good clues about what they want and show you a good visual. Like if they, I love it when I get a comp that looks like what we had, that illustration that Lisa made. So I get that maybe like half the time I'll get a comp that's really tight like that and I'll know, that's a pint glass, that's absolutely what we're shooting with. Good. So, makes the job a lot easier. Absolutely. So the other thing I wanna talk about is the angle of the camera. Excuse me I have a little frog in my throat. But do you see the ellipse line of the liquid? This is such an afterthought so many times can't even tell you, and then I have to retouch it. So if you guys would look at that in the beginning, that would be awesome. And then, what are you selling? The other thing that comes up, your angle, depending on again the translucency of what you're photographing. So if you look at the image here where we have three bowls. The bowl on the far right, so that's a product shot for the bowl, right? You're not seeing the food in that at all. On the left side, now we're seeing more of the food so the image has become more about the food than the actual product and bowl that it's sitting in. So whenever you're doing your food photos, if something is really standing out to you prop-wise, that's distracting from your image and you might need to edit that and move it around or change it up. Yeah. Again it's what I talked about at the beginning when I said when you're looking at the set everything looks good. Look we're up here, or even here, that looks fine. When you drop it into the layout, you'll be amazed that it's like oh, you just sold the bowl you didn't sell the product. So, any questions gang? I know it was a lot of prep but measure twice, cut once it's really important for this. Do we have any questions darling? I think we are actually good for now. Excellent. Oh, yes sir? Oh, we do have one. Yeah you're talking about type, could you give us some tips on type or is that later? Oh, I don't touch type I don't do type. Or where to get type? Oh well, I'm sure there's some. I have to tell you I'm famous in my industry for I don't do type. It's an interesting thing. I'm dyslexic. Many photographers are dyslexic and retouchers it's kind of an interesting phenomenon. So that's all client based and Creative Live does have type classes and lettering classes and illustrating classes that you can definitely do. I don't touch it. But when I say get the type I mean you need to know about it you need to know to ask for it. Yeah oftentimes I will get a comp that does have the text on it. And so I'll just have to, when we're actually composing the shot what I'm doing is I'm actually shooting with a large format camera. I'm using a phase one digital back. Okay? So I'm using capture one pro so I can overlay the layout with what I'm actually shooting so that we can completely put the props exactly where we need to around the text. And then they're gonna change it anyway. (laughs)

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Compositing Companion Handout
Delivery Worksheet
Estimating Shoot Worksheet
Retouch Checklist 1
Retouch Checklist 2
Solar-Curves Action

Ratings and Reviews


Super Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Learned a lot from the course.

Anne Dougherty

I love Lisa Carney’s classes! She is casual yet precise, and she thinks like I do! The workflow logic of her process is brilliant. Really brilliant. I started working in PS version 1.something, as the publisher I worked for was just computerizing their department, and I was a total novice. But right from our first day working digitally, we had to create images and files that our novice printers could successfully print from. Lisa’s logic/approach is so familiar! Making things work on a deadline is an incredible way to learn time-saving techniques, and I wish I’d had Lisa crunching solutions with me. I am new to the newest PSCC, but all off her process made sense to me. She moves fast, so it might be a little tough for a total beginner, but she stops and explains things very clearly once she’s gone through it a time or two on a file, so, hopefully everyone can get things solidified for themselves. Now that I am retired and doing my photo work just for myself, her compositing techniques are helping me get to my end results much more quickly. I wish I had a Lisa sitting alongside me, with a glass of wine, while I’m experimenting with my creative composited work. Thank you so much for having her as a CreativeLive instructor/mentor.


I took advantage of Photoshop Week and caught this class live - and loved it! I own other CreativeLive food photography courses, but I really liked the way Lisa and Christina taught the image shoot segment in this one. They show us a little glimpse of how the retoucher and photographer work together, in real time, on the set and I like that. Lisa and Christina are also very giving with their knowledge of how things work behind the scenes as well. Though, the main reason I bought this course was for the info Lisa shared about file naming and file version organization. There are a lot of video's on how to perform functions in Photoshop, but almost none about correctly naming, and organizing your versions. Now, I've got a real base to start from. Thanks :)

Student Work