Product vs. Still Life


Tabletop Product Photography


Lesson Info

Product vs. Still Life

we're talking about two genres here product and still life still life and product are different but similar most product is still life right by the very nature that it's a product is probably in animate the product itself his inanimate thing I can't think of any that art but it's not necessarily still life is not necessarily product this is a product shot this is a player for your like little boom box for your ipod right this is a product this is a still life this is obviously a saxophone but probably not for sale since it's you know thirty something years old it's all you know patin it up and everything it becomes much more of a thing that is pretty in and of itself so still life is when you're photographing something the subject itself is what you're photographing and product is what you're photographing probably for commercial purpose is to say ok this is something that we have for sale or we want to rent or what have you it's a thing for commercial purpose this photograph exists ju...

st because it's aesthetically pleasing so they're both still life but still life by itself the term probably leans more toward the art of it in product product his king we have to make the minister's eh you know this is a fairly simple shot of it there was some challenges to doing this photograph believe me this is a composite over here on this edge I had to do a second shot will bring this edge in because in the studio was very black over there on I couldn't get a card into that for a physical reasons so I just brought it in said that a second shot and in lighted in photo shop but it's you know it's got the grill it's got the best of this you know if you know what you're doing it doesn't take very long if you didn't know what you're doing and be kind of a challenge to play with to get it but it's a picture of a tool you want to play music on your ipod this is it and I try to make it look really nice in reality that's a twenty two dollars piece of plastic it's not when you see it you kind of go really doesn't look his nice is that photographed on yeah that's the job um so that's what we create there you're asked to make these things bigger taller they've got toe look larger um I did a lot of product photography for a company that was a distributor for like xerox machines and we call him xerox machines but you know samsung makes something everybody but this was one of those places and they wanted to use models so went down the modeling agency and I'm looking through the talking to them looking through the headshot book and realized wait a minute these guys are going this is a little copier about this big I'm gonna put a five foot eight girl next to it and it's not gonna look all that big so I went back to the client said maybe we should think that through so we ended up getting a model who was five foot for that copier looked great five foot eight it was much smaller member of volkswagen the little volkswagen bug back in the day that have the model stills of the only short models every got jobs and you know it's not gonna put up five eleven model next to a volkswagen because you'd be thinking she can't fit into that thing so our job is to make it more majestic make it better make it shiny er make it mohr appealing to the person looking out the ad or the website or what have you to make him buy because the purpose of our photograph is to increase sales in product way have toaster evans this is steve collins toaster oven shot and it is a monster of a thing to shoot it's really really difficult all the curved edge is everything now we're we're not showing logo's on this so he opened it up so you wouldn't see the logo um but when you're doing this what do you sacrifice do you sacrifice the muffin for the toaster oven or do you tat sacrifice a toaster oven for the muffin if you have to give one up he sacrificed the muffin the toaster oven is the product that is what we're photographing and steve's this is one of pictures that's in the brochure and steve talks about all the little things he did to the shot to make this shot work he didn't simply just set it up over there and hit it with a light it's not quite that easy um and that's a shot that could be used in a catalog or ah you know website you know toaster oven website by this oven whatever you get to learn about design of of the items that you're shooting two you start to learn after doing it for a year so you start to understand product design and what curved edges do and how tow light silver against black you know because if you're gonna have a highlight to the black uh you're also um now bringing that black up closer to the silver range you've got to understand how to make products still look black even though you've got the secondary speculum and for the highlight in it it becomes a really kind of a neat learning history still life which I love I do a lot of still life work because it just keeps I think it keeps you sharp is a photographer I mean I really say that out loud if you do it just keeps you sharp many many fashion photographers also did or do product photography irving penn from all the way back irving penn irving penn did pretty much two things fashion and still life and so uh it's emotion with light it's the most it's emotion with shadow it's emotion with your composition it's creating something out of literally nothing I have a non going siri's of dead flowers I love shooting dead flowers so in my family when okays get kevin out you know for dance competitions it's always a moment for dad to go whole just give it a couple of weeks they like I'm winner fresh I like them when they're dying um and you can create entire stories very famous photograph by arcane was of pablo casals thie cellist and arcane wit was sent on location to do this photograph of public castles when he got down to I think it was bermuda where castles lived um maestro had been struck an ill and was in the hospital so you know you know the first rule of editorial photography right gets shot you know probably going in crashing in and getting maestro in bed in the hospital with tubes in his head that's not gonna work so he set up a cello in an anti room with all the light flooding and just this cello leaning against the chair it's not only emotional it's also incredible portrait of public saul's without him even being there you put that picture up next to a headline says public assaults you said everything you know because he was the cello you know you talk about me that was him so isn't that an interesting way to think about it still you could do it a portrait of somebody and still like you could do someone's life in a still life he could do everything you want to do in a still life what if what if there was somebody in your life is no longer with you like my parents I have done a still life of my parents it's mementos from my mom and dad and stuff and it means a lot to me other people look at it who have looked at it's all that's really cool doesn't mean the same thing to them because they don't know what it is but it means it's a lot to me so you could do great things with still life fun photographic things I played drums a love drums so I photographed jumps whenever I can I'm thinking maybe I could you know if I get enough drums I can write him off you know as a business expense because I needed to take pictures of him that's a good story I'm sticking with that uh it made it may pass the irs but I don't think I'll pass the wife test no she's gonna see right through that one just going to see right through that one way make a photograph we try to tell a story within that image we try to tell a story of of what it's been way try to sort of story what it's going to be and we have the tools at our hands our light shadow and a very cumbersome thing called camera this thing will not show us behind things it's very limited with its focus you know we can look at things and scanning with her eyes cameras is ah picks on you know cameras are are reductive aren't they they reduce down so the very nature of doing still life with the camera is to deduct and reduce down until you can just find that that place when I'm doing still life what I like to do is start with a lot of stuff and try to end up with on lee what needs to be there kind of is unlike in a way when you think you know what's the essence of this item when you're shooting product and you've got a really good client who understands what you're what they need to have happen you'll find so many of them they just want the essence of what is happening what they want to sell perfume is a great example you can't photograph a fragrance so you can either photograph eh like a celebrity or a lifestyle with it with two associate it or you photograph the bottle and if you think they don't spend a ton of money on bottle design it's just so important that you know is fragrant shops in the middle of malls walked by next time and think of it from a product for tiger standpoint look at the bottle shapes everyone who needs to catch your eye with that bottle shape right first thing wine bottles they wanted he wants his bottle shape think they can catch your eye and the story go oh that's cool it's kind of you know it's a round bottle with a little top at school that they caught your eye that's what they need to do your job is to help him do it right help him do it helped that product become familiar help that product become something that they see and spend as much time as you need to make that product look great now this this image I put on this image on here because it could be a still life it could be a product shot could be a product shot for the brushes could be a product shot for the snare drum could be a product shot for music for snare drummers could be a product shot for a course on learning how to play brushes on a snare drum could be a product shot for a lot of things could be a still life could be just I bought a new pair of brushes and I thought they were cool when they took a picture of it how do you think I got them to drum to light up you're gonna ask questions market still life yes you do more for yourself you know it was a huge commercial market for it if you go through the magazines and you looking um almost any magazine from real simple oprah was that what's her magazine o o magazine um uh house and garden uh I dearly miss metropol in home got it was my favorite magazines and it's no longer with us um even to vogue there's still life all through it um editorial still life is huge on that's I'm separating editorial still life from of course editorial food which is still considered still life but we're really I'm really talking about everything kind of butt food but you had food into that mix and it's it's huge um uh like real simple magazine I would fetch is probably ninety percent still life cigar aficionados probably ninety percent still life so um there's a huge there's a big market for it that's why I was one of the reasons why I love this course that to be able to teach this course is because there is really markets for this stuff and I think there's there's markets for photographers who have full time other jobs trying tow you know what's what's the number one thing people swing into rights kind of weddings right you got a full time job you could kind of swing in the weddings because they're saturdays you do on saturdays well this is the kind of working due any time any time except my except am she has to have a son upset because she only uses window life itself I am destined trusty desk lamp in the lamb pissed you know talking about cultural icons when you're doing still life there are cultural icons that you can pull on and you know you can think of things like doing a still life with um like victorian plates and platters and things that's going totally trend that view of that image right the props that you use around it are going to totally different than if you go over to the store and get a lot of modern danish black and white q b kinds of things you start to create identification tze through with it through your props and you can highly motivate people to go down the way you're thinking with that image with those different kinds of props and stuff that you use so we are used to still life painters were painting still lives way back right after the renaissance they started painting things like grapes on a plate and I hope by the way I hope each and every one of you has an opportunity at some point to go to a great art museum and see some of the paintings charles and I happened to go to moma uh in new york and we went up into the painting exhibition and you're looking at these paintings the light on these grates by the door and it's our shot just like oh my god he's got the highlight from the door plus he's got the little secondary catch light on this side of the grape that would have been the light from the bowl on the great it's all done he painted it in fourteen sixty two when we think everything's you know new hot and fourteen sixty two he understood phil cards and reflective surfaces and subject centric lighting he was all over it so it's really really fun to take your lighting brain to the art museum and go and look at that post renaissance work and where they were actually painting light it's really fun we have something that painters didn't have we have a something built into cameras that painters didn't have what is that depth of field most the renaissance painters painted everything in focus right wasn't in fact there's still probably less than a couple of hundred foot painters who actually paint depth of field when they paint depth of field one of the what they called realists or photographic what's that somebody help me out was to call if you're a painter and you paint something it looks like a photograph photo realism full realism yeah one of the reasons one of things that makes it for realistic is what they paint in depth of field so way have that in cameras sometimes that's a lot of fun sometimes it's not when you need to get this and focus on that and focus and the cameras at an angle and all you can get five point six it's not um I put on here weaken see things we've never seen and I'm talking about when you create a photograph a still life of something a bowl of apples that we have over here you create a still life photograph of that you're going to show somebody something they've never seen I've seen it done where you you can go into a place and photograph the things that are in the place put the pictures on the wall and the people will stand there and go wow those air beautiful never realizing that that thing they're looking at has been right over there for the last fourteen months they've been working at that office um I had a wonderful opportunities some shots for a tv show where they come in and redo it room in your house is like it was like a mini model makeover are home makeover and what we did for the photography that can help me do the photographer they wanted all these black and white pictures to run all around the room so I went all around the neighborhood just that one little isolated block downtown phoenix and I photographed things like the street sign and um the cracks in the sidewalks and they made these great little square prints about this big about twenty of them and they framed him all around this room and you stood in I was like you know there was my work but I was still kind of pressing looked really cool in the folks where did you get this it's like oh that that's like out on your phone your lawn that's your street sign down there they were amazed because they've never seen them that way why because we reduced them we took a reductionist aspect we took what they see their and we reduced it down to just that point that you would never do with your eyes unless your photographer you know when you're out with your significant other and you're driving down and me and you you make the mistake of going stop look at the light on that tree my wonderful wife been with me for thirty two years she just she's dutifully stops and says yes way go now and how many of you have photographs in your head you never took is that amazing ability we have us humans you can see it oh my god and but you're on the freeway going seventy miles an hour I have like so many that I can remember wishing I could have taken that picture and they live inside my head and aiken see them vividly sometimes about on occasion actually been able to go back later and get it except the lights never the same it was great that day kind of sucked the next day when I got back because it was morning um and I and I put on here try shooting something you love in ways you've never tried if you're a photographer and you have another interest maybe it's fly fishing maybe it's shooting clay pigeons or uh quilting or something uh whatever your other passion is try putting that down on film you'll be really amazed by a how much fun you have shooting the tools of your trade um are your your hobby but you'll also discover things about your hobby you probably hadn't even thought of because it forces you to create something new I love photography uh this is uh tucker jones I forgot tucker sorry forgot to put your thing down here this is tucker jones I told him he couldn't put any labels on the stuff he put in the book so he fixed that duct tape is there nothing it can't d'oh grable shot by tucker of ah bottle of something there and that the duct tape makes the shot just really cool s oh it's a great concept that he came up with on this is a a woman's shoe uh I have in my studio I have eight or nine pairs of women's shoes and their size eights so they don't fit so don't even go there but I have these shoes because I like to photograph women's shoes they're fun they have shapes and and stuff and they're a super big client one thing that changes in women's fashions all the time shoes you know pants length skirt links they used to go up and down a lot now pretty much they're up they're down the middle there whatever whatever and it's all in style at one time but shoes wow they change all the time that is a pair of nine dollars shoes from a payless shoe store nine dollars shoes tried to make him look better than nine dollars shoes there was a thing going around on flicker on the uh strongest form a long time ago to shoot chase jarvis's ten issues and they got sent to me so those are still life shots of chase jarvis's old tennis shoes awesome awesome uh you know a lot of people like did they put him out somewhere like in locations but I read the title as shoot chase jarvis's finishes so I shot tennis shoes however you take a pair of tennis shoes and stick him out on a white piece assume list probably and it's not going to be all that interesting right who could do that everybody so I took it I just took it apart piece by piece and just started doing the detail shots of it because that's sort of to me represented what the subject wass don my mitten why that project happened taste drivers don't know why it happened I think chase offered up his somebody on I don't want to tell stories you know that that's not true but I think it was somebody on that forum mentioned that they'd love tio like walk a mile in chase's shoes or something and chase jumped on and said I'll send you my shoes and you can shoot him and so became this big thing I was thinking you had a project no I think it was just for the flicker I think it was just for the flicker form guys on if there's anybody out there who remembers the project I'm sure they're there they're jumping in because I know several of them are watching but I was I was part of the project and I took myself off the list and they magically appeared one day um and I said okay I'll do it chase was here I'd say recognize those um so product in still life are different but there but they're similar in um in the subject matter you can make a still life shot by the way out of this if you really you know wanted to do something artie let's say wired magazine called and said we need a shot of a bunch of hdmi cables you know we do a story on there's too many cables in the world and we want to go wireless what better way than to take a bunch of these things with cables coming out everywhere going all over the place and make a shot different colors and make a shot to go along with this story about too many wires that's a still life is it not are they out there does that sound like a shot you've seen course it isthe they're out there all time in all forms of magazines and I would say to anyone go grab a magazine at barnes and noble grab a coffee and go through and count the product shots vs the other kinds of shots uh by the way in the magazines that I did the second most used photograph in those two magazines that I looked at were travel photographs travel photographs I'm wondering if uh craig's listening travel photographs maybe was a travel photographer out there to come into creative live and travel around the world I know a great assistant um that formed on I already know I already know I won't fall tim kemple around and watching photograph surfers all over the world I mean that would be very cool job mat magnus haig they're digging assignments like could you go camping in the most beautiful place in the world and get some shots of our stuff I could do that I would love to do that you know so great people out there having fun doing photography and and mixing um adventure photography with basically product shots you know you go out and shoot pictures pictures of people backpacking with those backpacks but you're also going to some pictures of the backpacks in the wilderness you know so product our beacon be done all in all sorts of different areas

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.



THere are some courses in CL i think of as not covering a to z but covering -z to z. THis is one of those courses. The value proposition is over the top. The instricutor: Don Giannatti is so experienced he's a relaxed in his knowledge and practiced in cutting to the chase to provide answers to really good questions about set ups for product photos (vs. art/ still-life). The topics: complete workflow from first principles in order to understand what we're trying to achieve with table top work, Don Giannatti makes it clear that we're using light deliberately to give shape to an object. Example insight: using a white card (or black) reflector is not the same as using a silver/gold reflector. The latter create a new light source; the former shape the light that's there. Can imagine the arguments but the demo brings the points home. Or how about NOT using umbrellas for product shots. Or for "drop and pop" product shots, how to do that without umbrellas and tents "that's 50 dollars a shot right there" says Giannatti. Example tool demo: one of the joys of this course is that such an expert does most of the class using readily makable tools like scrims from shower curtains and baking paper. The specialist tools like a modifier on a flash is well within the range of an aspiring commerial table top photographer. And Meaningful Demos LIGHTING/composition what are some of the most challenging and compelling things to shoot when building a portfolio/photographic experience? Can you shoot shiny stuff - like bottles and jewlery. PHOTOSHOP making photoshop unpretencious and accessible, Giannatti presents examples of how to fix bits of a shot, as well as - and this one is worth the price of admission - how to put together a composite of a guitar product shot if you only have one limited sized light to light the whole thing. We also see where highlights can be added - and how. Some basic knowledge of Photoshop layering, masking and brushes would be good to have, but one can work back from seeing it applied into those basic skills. BUSINESS We start with light giving shape to objects as a demonstrable principle, move into how to use light structurally for bringing out something fantastic about that product - that as Giannatti points out - puts bread on someone's table, so respect. From these demos we go from light and camera to post to produce the finished image. Now what? or how have a product that needs shooting? That's the business of product photography. In these excellent sections on Business, Giannatti details the heuristics of hard graft to get gigs: where to look for contacts, frequency of approach, engaging with social media (you don't have to, he says, but effectively, it's gonna cost ya). "Doing just these few things you're already way ahead of your competition." I can believe it: they are many of them tedious, but can also well believe they are what pay off. COURSE BONUSES JUST FOR SIGNING UP - for those who subscribed to a live broadcast, all the slides were provided in advance (you can see this offer on class materials) Now that's classy. What other CL courses have done that: given something to participants who just show an interest to sign up? (It's that gift thing kevin kubota talks about in his workshop on photography business - makes one want to work with that person: pay them for the value they create, eh?) TRUST/VALUE Instructor Personality Throughout each part what's delightful is just the EXPERIENCE of this instructor. He's put together a thoughtful course from light to lighting to parts to gear to post to business. There's immediate trust: plainly this man has made a living from what he's talking about, and has addressed almost any immaginable scenario. There's a great demo towards the end of the course of working with students to take shots. The value to folks watching is to see how he helps us all think about how to problem solve (the mantra for the course) to find the shot - to use light card after lightcard to wrap the light to bring out the countours of the material. Even when he says "that's just not working" - there's not a sense of the people shooting having failed - but an opportunity to think about what's been learned - to keep working the problem. There's a whole lot of HOW in that interaction that is highly valuable. Thanks to the participants in the workshop to be so willing too to do that work. This is the kind of course you leave feeling like ok, i can do this - or at least i have the tools and some knowhow now about them to start to work these problems, to start to create value in these kinds of shots. I am already just from being here a better photographer now. Related CL Course: This course feels like a terrific complement to Andrew Scrivani's Food Photography. And no wonder: both take place in small areas and use light in similar ways. A contrast is that in editorial food photography - scrivani's domain - there's a focus on skills to work with what's there; in table top/product, one can enhane - knowing how to do that effectively/believably is where the skills - learning to see that - come in for this kind of work in partiular . If tabletop/product photography is a space you wish to explore, or you just want to be able to practice working with light in the small, and see how to bring you will be delighted with this -z to z deep dive introduction.