Tabletop Product Photography


Tabletop Product Photography


Lesson Info

Product and Still Life: The Modern Challenge

modern still life photography what can I say about modern tabletop it's not what it used to be there was there was a time a long time ago with one light one light only uh and you can still do that you absolutely can but these days they were looking for other things in other ways to create shots I'm using more and more lights now in my still life photography I I purchased some lights recently and realized after I got them that they're too powerful so interestingly enough in my studio where I have lots of very powerful lights available to mei I've been doing more and more with one of those lights and lots of small light speed lights and things so I could get the power down yes there'll be a time when I switch to a different brand of strobes that give me less power power I have I have three norman packs that air two thousand watt seconds each they still work so that's six thousand watt seconds of light and they sit in a corner with dust on them in film days we needed it on digital days we...

round rarely do because we're just not going down to f stops like sixty four and ninety anymore so modern table top of still life photography means working with more concepts more ideas more things that are interesting more things that may present to the client or to the viewer of the ad something beyond just the picture we want to sell some sizzle along with the steak as they say or maybe we want to sell all sizzle because the steak isn't really all that good uh we've all experienced I'm sure when we bought something that doesn't look like that well that's our job we are commercial photographers when we're shooting product I can't think of a single fine art product photographer I can think of fine art product painter can anyone remember large campbell soup can yeah so but he was unique because nobody else self when we go into this realm of photography table top product still life this is what we're doing we are hired guns we have to approach the work from our clients perspective and many a times that that involves working with an art director working with an art director means that someone else has has come full circle through the process to come to you with this ad let me tell you how that works because I've been the guy on the other side of the chair for many years we have had four or five meetings with the client they have not like this idea and they didn't like that idea and they didn't like this idea but this idea they like so then we might have another couple of meetings until we've nailed down what they want the last thing I want to do is come to your studio and have you tell me I don't want to do that that's not your job that's not your job your job is to do what I need to be done because I have just spent two hundred hours and untold amount of time in the agency getting this ad approved we came to you because we want your unique spin on it we want your unique lighting or your unique approach or you're in a unique way of doing it but that's the ad are there other ways of doing it absolutely the higher up the food chain you go in photography the less restrictions air put on you sometimes they'll come to you and you and say here's our concept and we really want to execute that concept that's great that's not us we're not there yet there are some tigers who are when you're first starting out you're not that guy you're not that gal you need to serve their purpose now let's say while you're serving their purpose you can also serve yours once you get there shot once you get the shot that they have come to you four and nailed it to the best of your abilities still bringing your sensibility to the shot that's why they hired you then you can say hey what if we do this or what if we do that they'll love you for that they'll absolutely want to work with you for that for giving them options and giving them something that they didn't even think about sometimes sometimes that's what ends up in the ad they go back to the client the client goes wow that's really cool okay sometimes that ends up in the ad our job is to understand our techniques well enough and this is where technique comes in our techniques well enough to create what someone else wants us to do for instance one of the very first jobs I had after I moved to l a was a server uh farm for uh server company our computer company named wang you remember wang well the server room was about the size of this studio and it was about sixty degrees and there and there were no lights and they wanted a well lit shot of the two people up front and the whole room lit up and I was brand new photographer in l a and I had two lights and that wasn't gonna work um so I had what was going to work normally so I had to figure out how to create that shot with two lights because I couldn't say to the client oh we'll have to get together tomorrow and do it so I can go get some more lights I was told it's going to be two guys standing by a computer if I'd known it was a server room like this I wouldn't have taken the job I wouldn't have put myself in that position but I made the shot I got the shot I ended up screaming a light across the ceiling and let the light come down always carried high speed actor crone with me I basically got the shot as good as I could've got in the shot with two lights could have done it better with six yes but I got the shot and they liked it moved on to the next to the next job weighing unfortunately did not move on to into the next millennia but that was that was in a very tall building in l a remember that I also did a shot in a place where there were diamonds and shoot a a uh a pound and a half of diamonds um and while I wish when they asked me how long to go in that it would take to do the shot I said it will take about an hour when you're dealing with diamond merchants and all that on our means sixty minutes not a minute longer and as we went into the building and came out of the building we were scrutinized by or actually as we were shooting we were people with guns were standing around us you know basically they took it real seriously that and that pound of diamonds had to weigh a pound before any of us were leaving so one diamond off and no one goes anywhere you gotta be able to make that shot and you can't get into the situation there and go oh can I run down to the car and gets you're done you're in there for an hour you even if you finished before we finished in forty five minutes and sat for fifteen cousin our men and our so technique becomes really really important how to get this shot in the time frame you need to do it is important sometimes we could take longer sometimes we we take shorter it's the same with editorial people photography you never know with editorial the the other thing I love to shoot his people and you never know you get on a shot you you may have thirty minutes you may have two and a half minutes so it all really comes down to technique and preparation being prepared for everything that could go wrong uh longer and when you first start out you really can't be someone I wouldn't wanna caution everybody don't wait into your redundancy has been redundant done to size do you like that one irredentist sized we'll have to what we'll use that one you can't wait you can't say well I can't go to a job because I don't have a second body yeah you can roll the dice how often does your body break okay don't put up road blocks for yourself when you're working with art directors they're people too they understand things like that just get as much redundancy and preparation is possible art directors all have different personalities I'm one of those people I love are directors of all personalities they have been art directors that I worked with that I want to strangle and I'm sure there's art directors out there who would have wanted to strangle me but the job is we're all working together to create a really good image and an image that we're all proud of and I really like working with that collaborative team find out what what they're all about find out what they want to do with the picture and ask questions I cannot emphasize more how important it is to ask questions when someone is on set with you what do you want to do with this shot how how are we going to use this shot are we sure we want this white background or were are you going to ever use it as a bleed the more questions you ask the more involved you are with it and you know what if they don't want a whole lot of questions they'll tell you yes that was let's just let's just shoot this you pick up on that and you move on but questions they're great when I get a first call from an art director photo editor usually in my business radic designer or an art director when I get that call and they say let's we'd like to talk about a job the thing I ask is what's the job for what's the time frame what's the concept what's the last thing I asked what's the budget slashed that because for me it's the last thing that I'm considering I don't know if that budgets worth it or not until I get all those other questions answered right well it's a two hour job we're going to shoot a product we're going to do this what's your budget it's this much money that makes sense or it's a two hour job we're gonna do this we have that what's your budget and you kind of go off you know that's for that kind of usage that's that's way low and I think I can then have a bargaining position uh once happened where I asked the right questions and uh well the call came in from new york city I saw it so little color I'd remember caller I d little cars to one to him answer the phone and it was a uh art director for a book publishing company wanting to know if I could shoot an offer in living in scottsdale and this was where lee in my career and I was well yeah I'd love to photograph the author she said well how much will that be and my brain just shut down it's like every little blue screen of death brain was like a I uh she goes you know we usually pay two thousand dollars for this shot okay this was nineteen seventy two two thousand dollars yes I said yes that that would be fine then she said does that include european rights and and she was usually we pay five thousand for european and domestic rights is that okay with you yes that'll that'll work out just fine I hang up the phone day later I go into the shot a week later I got a check for five thousand one hundred and twelve dollars for filming processing it was a long time since till they got another call like that but that one was good asking questions she asked may I made more money I didn't even know what questions to ask so sometimes we gotta educate ourselves you don't have a path to the to the big leagues like we used to the path to the big leagues used to be assisting you go on assist in every major city every major photographer in that city would have won or to assistance freelance assistance all over the place these days fewer big time photographers have assistance in my town um I don't have a full time assistant anymore dave the other guy that shares space with me he used to have four he doesn't have one anymore has a part timer for shoots ken doesn't have one anymore he has a part timer just for shoots for the rest of the time it's all digital and whether we send it out or or do it in in house it's all digital so that's changed assisting was never about learning toe light I hope to tell you was never about learning to light assistant was learning how to deal with our directors and learning how to deal with budgets learning how to deal with cranky clients and learning how to deal with designs and um and project and work orders and pios and getting props and being prepared that's the stuff that's the stuff they can't teach you in school they couldn't teach you in school because it was different every single day and so what you learned was too you essentially roll with the punches you know challenge comes in from here you've handled enough challenge is to figure out a way around it get it done working with art directors it's always going to be a challenge because you got too creative brains in the in the room and you're gonna have to work around it and come to terms I love to come to terms with other creative people because we get something better work with an art director once who was you know it's one of the guys I want to strangle he really pushed me and there would be times when I'd go home and just be so mad but when the shot would come back and I go you know what he was right he pushed me and pushed me and he made me a better photographer became a very good friend of mine after that because I realized that sometimes you need somebody to kick you just a little bit you know I was happy at ninety percent he wanted ninety two and he pushed me and pushed me until I got to ninety two the nice thing is I didn't ever go back to ninety kind of you know you stay there you just keep working that that magic number so it's ah it's a different experience ah when you're working with art directors I like to make personal contact with him and I'd like to send them personal notes yes it's the day of email yes it's the day of text for me it's still the day of here's a photograph I did put a note on the back thank you very much for the job like you get a photograph of the art directors I'm working with maybe put on the block let him know what happens when you put it art directors picture on your block to talk about the great meat shot that you did what do art directors also have how better they have twitter accounts I bet you they have facebook accounts but you they have blog's things that they do and you just flog them they may block you they tell their friends it's a networking thing listen listen listen ask questions and listen listen listen questions on this little bit overview of working with somebody else who has an idea because that's what we're working with sometimes in commercial photography you don't get a toaster oven delivered to you and have somebody say just do your most creative shot not usually in this business not usually anything from the interwebs absolutely don uh question from larry g from tucson for a current photography student what do you suggest continue on with photography school or go the self taught root just wanted to turn out with a bang oh man thank you uh yeah he wants to know whether he should go to photography school or go the room is already in the tardis in john's current target let me ask me ask a few questions and hope larry listen to these questions if you're a doctor do you have to have a medical license yes I gotta go to medical school right they ask you about that matter of fact they'll put you in jail if you don't how about being an attorney about being a geophysicist when's the last time any photographer was asked where did you get your degree we could give you the shoes shot but um we need to see your credentials your credentials your portfolio ask yourself this I'm not going to get in the middle of the country wilhelm already in the middle smack damn innit I don't not a believer in the type of schools because you don't need a credential you do not need it I think if you want to go and get it go and get it absolutely but is is it a must for working in the business now not at all not at all as a matter of fact sometimes I think it hurts photographers because you get four years of someone telling you what to do all the time do this do this assignment do this assignment you know bring back in and then you hit the real world there's no one there telling you do this to this to this so I guess there goes my honorarium from university of arizona who needs it a lot of people have good things to say about going to business school what's going going to university for and studying business old photography is yes that you know if you go to visit if you do go to photography school you don't you're best friends need to be the guy's going to design school forget all the photographers think and hire you hang out with the designers hang out with the future art directors hang out with the future photo editors those you know those are the guys you want to be your buds okay how is that for cold calculating nothing else yep next question from duke park city uh would you present a storyboard to preview the concept they're describing when working with yes absolutely that's ah move their collude boards sometimes storyboards more of a video term but mood boards depending on the level of the client yes yes there's a big controversy about mood boards um is it ethical for you to go on the internet pull down a bunch of pictures of other photographers work to put it there and say this is kind of what we're thinking about is that ethical I'm not getting in the middle of that one that's the question that you and other folks need to answer for yourselves I know which way I come down on it but there is a we've actually gone out and shot um put together productions to go out and shoot to show a client how I would do it yeah absolutely depending on the bigger client would you do that for a three hundred dollar product shot no would you do it for a three hundred shot catalog ah yeah I think I'll take that gamble I would go out and do a little bit of work show what I wanted to do with how I could present it especially if it was something they were asking me for more conceptual look absolutely then a follow up question from m ceo triple seven that's mike in tahoe he's wondering if you have a product let's see if you if you ever add items to the shot to describe the product that's actually yeah sure you want that say you had a metal detector you might take a metal detector in you know put some sand on the floor of your studio and have the metal detector there and have a few things sitting around the metal detector you could have that certainly tto help sell the product and in mike's case it was a widget that by itself doesn't tell a story yes what we're going to jump really quick I promise not to go more than two minutes I have a phyllis philosophy about advertising and that I've always worked when I had my own ad agency this is what I would tell my clients nobody cares about your thing they don't they care about what your thing is going to do for them sell that so yesterday we shot a product shot product sheet that's a tech sheet we shot yesterday that's fine here's there here's our thing but if you're going to sell that thing to the consumer maybe you need to show him what it does where it will save them time or something um so yes if you have something and you can't explain it you know with just the thing you probably need to put it into some sort of context context is everything uh showing me a little ipod player you know I've never seen one I'm really not sure what that is right you show it in somebody's pocket walking down the street listening to music little music notes come out you just described it so you could sell if europe I rode as both lifestyle in product a a possibility right two shots in the project fifty to probe our project fifty two group were given a mall all the time given layout's where they have to shoot the concept and the little bottle of pills sitting on the drop in pop thing so yes absolutely context is everything yeah um assisting are being an assistant is kind of going by the wayside how do you suggest we start how do you suggest what avenue should we take if we're not able to be an assistant well I'm going to say this and I don't even I'm not even gonna preface is with at the risk of being self promoting I'm going to say that you have to get with professional photographers creative live we talked about it yesterday for six hundred thousand dollars library of creative lives is a two year internship with you just choose the instructors wisely in the areas that you want to learn and then you go out and do it then you start to try to work with as many photographers is you can never ever offer to work for free once you've gotten to a point where you you got a sellable skill and you're a photographer and you couldn't go out and help somebody try to get in get those freelance gigs never for free I'm never gonna have people come up all I'll assist you wanna assist you for free um you know what you don't know what assisting is then if you want to do it for free you're obviously confusing that with shooting and hanging out and having a lot of fun it's this thing means three trips to the car to bring up eighty pounds of gear assisting means getting there early and getting things done and staying late while the photographer goes home assisting is hard hard work um so understand that and then go and find there are there are assistant ships out there um what any of the people in this room be ripe for an assistant ship I don't know I mean when she was clear a certain age you know it's kind of like you want the coke you go get it so it's it's ah it's a little bit different but you can get out there and work around them find workshops that offer you really behind the scenes education not pie in the sky real behind the scenes education and they just go out and do it yeah it is tough it is tried tough charlie houston phoenix we have a situation probably fifteen years ago I bet you there were one hundred full time assistance in phoenix and I'll bet you there's less than twenty five now so that that's the nature of everywhere though okay sure so this is from speaking of age this is from ana in miami and adams do you think that age is important in this profession do you believe clients will hire a younger photographer because he or she may be more energetic and innovative or what they hurt someone with more years of profession on the back or is it even important this is controversy sunday that's right that's right she's asking does ageism exist in this business you betcha you absolutely bacha I can walk into skateboarder magazine I could have some really cool shots in my book but I'm going to guess you're not gonna hire me I'm their grandfather right granddad makes some ghoul shots but they really want to hang out with someone so they're going to come on a shoot with me they were gonna hang out for two days they may not want to hang out with me yes ageism definitely exists in certain areas in product and still life photography no no that's the cool thing about got it I'm I'm really also honest with people you know if you're sixty three years old and you know you've been a truck driver all your life you want to move to new york city to be a fashion photographer wow you've got a long hard road ahead of you you want to move to new york city and droop and do product why not who cares it's not glamorous it's not hanging with the starlets it's not all it's do you do good work do you do really solid excellent work that's what it's about so ageism yes but probably not as much in this as I think other john was maybe fashion or editorial or sports

Class Description

Don Giannatti returns for a special workshop on tabletop product photography. Don starts with an introduction to tabletop lighting - tools, scrims, DIY gear - and how to organize your shoot around a tabletop to bring everyone up to speed. Then Don will teach you the basic concepts of Tabletop Product Photography. Finally Don will ramp up to more advanced topics adding extras such as kicker lights, snoots, and grids that can bring your work up a notch.