Why Tabletop Photography?


Tabletop Product Photography


Lesson Info

Why Tabletop Photography?

still life and product photography is very much alive and where there may be several thousand shooters looking to shoot for fashion and glamour and stuff because that's really sexy and cool and fun and everything there is a lot less shooting for the other so I really believe that product in still life photography has a great life ahead of it um and that right now it's uh maybe one of those not low hanging fruits or what you know you're just gonna have to get up there and find the clients but they're out there lots of them are out there so I'm going to talk a little bit about why I love still life photography we're going to be dueling doing a lot of shooting this afternoon but I want to really talk about why it makes sense to me um table top photography doesn't take up a lot of space and that's a very big plus to someone who's starting out in photography and you don't happen to have you know a nice six thousand square foot you know studio at your disposal maybe only have a living room o...

r a den or something you can shoot our garage you can shoot this stuff in very small spaces we have actually set up a space over here in about maybe eight by eight square we'll be looking at later today so it's really kind of a fun thing to do your subjects rarely don't show up after leaving a text about recently deceased relatives or car failure those of you who shoot models from model mayhem you know exactly what I'm talking about the gear needs air mohr finite you can set up a studio in your garage or in your house on using some basic tools pretty much be done I know with commercial photography my equipment um equipment room just got full fast I mean when I'm doing overall commercial photography people location all of that stuff I'm ending up with you know more stands and you can imagine and booms and everything we're a good table top photographer can really have a finite set of lighting gear maybe too soft boxes cem scrims and then the rest of it's pretty much go as you know doing it on the fly cutting a little phil card for this or a little shiny card for that so it's not a huge capital outlay to get going in it or to add it to your your curtain your current genre um I'm a lighting guy I I'll be sitting at a restaurant looking at how the light plays off of a sugar bowl and everyone around me is thinking I'm you know sort of going into dementia or something we'll start moving the napkin around to you know fill it in and stuff I'm still fascinated about it just like I was when I was fifteen it's never gone away the fascination and still life um just really gives you that ability to play with light and just the tools of light and bouncing light shining shiny things it's fun I mean when I say it's fun I mean from a very kind of a zen like fun thing because you are creating something out of what exists whether it's a flash strobe hot lights or window lights you're really creating something out of a of a medium that is light and as I explained in a subject centric lighting we can't really see light I can see that light up there when I look at it and I can see laurie but I can't see anything in between I look right over there and I see charles and keith I don't see anything in between can't see light can only see what light reflects from something has to stop the light and reflected back to may just think about that for a second how really powerful understanding that is have a light find something to stop it reflect it back to you and then you start to have fun shape dimension texture it's all a blast um I put on here that it can be quite lucrative without spending a lot of money and yesterday we're talking about a gentleman friend of mine who was shooting dropping pops at ten dollars a piece and I said it was two hundred fifty thousand products he sent me a leave you last night said no don was only twenty five thousand products so I inadvertently added a zero to it which he said you do realize that ten dollars a pop to hundreds like two point five million dollars oh yeah it wasn't that much wasn't no but it was twenty five thousand at ten dollars a pop and that's pretty good money um and it took him thirty one days to do the job so it's out there uh jewelry shooter uh friend of mine in new york jewelry shooter rarely bills are rarely bills under three or four thousand dollars per shot for jewelry for what his clients and these air one day shoots you add rights and stuff onto that can really really skyrocket and his studio is very simple very austere studio he's shoots with very simple boxes and does everything else with his his reflective materials he's very stylistic and what he does that's very shallow depth of field so he has created a niche I will say that photography um let's see last week I read that photography was dead and we don't know what we're gonna do after photography and this yesterday I read that digital photographers don't know what they're doing so there's a lot of people out there who just don't have a clue I'm sorry tyra is not dad it hasn't gone anywhere and digital photographers know exactly what they're doing okay um but you've got to do it your way and you've got to do it in a way that other people like if you are doing the same thing as everybody else no and I don't want anyone to think that drug that you've you go into the drop in pop business you know I shoot stuff on white you know for forty dollars that you're going to get rich no no you've got to develop a style but that's in anything whether it's senior photography or weddings or food or fashion if you're not kicking yourself up above your competition you're going to get you're gonna drown in the crowd so it's always the basic tools now you take all that stuff and you work it and make it yours it's real important bye bye weiss a couple lenses all you need it's really true of of uh studio still life photographer if you've got two or three lenses you probably if it's within your style probably fine you're not gonna need those were along tele photos probably not going to be those need those real life wide lenses you're gonna be in the twenty twenty in a full frame situation twenty four twenty eight fifty twenty four twenty eight thirty five fifty hundred maybe one my favorite lenses in the studio is the forty five millimeter perspective control the tilt shift lens because I could do so much with it we have one we're going to be showing you tilt shift lenses and why you would want to shoot it with that you can use them for more than making pictures that looked like a little you know those little goofy I hate those things just uh wide variety clients catalogs websites manufacturing's distributor's all there's just a bunch of people that use this stuff wouldn't when bob makes a widget he needs to get photographs for his sales team than his pr company needs photographs to send out for press release then of course they're going to buy an ad in a couple of trade magazines they need pictures for that that's probably a different type of product photography for each one of those things the distributing company maybe a third party a middleman maybe they're creating their own ads they may need pictures of it you may end up shooting that widget for five six times retail stores point of purchase does salt comes generally from ad agencies that agency's air a big a big buyer but also magazines and also right straight to the client whether it's uh um in finnish when my clients is a restaurant distribution they say so restaurant stuff sometimes I'll shoot like steel grilles or display items you know really it's not very glamorous it's not glamorous at all but it it's it's a good job and they pay really well because not anyone can do it it's a steel um clothing rack like you'd find in a store on white seamless is not just simply put up in umbrella and shoot it trust me I wish it wass sometimes you spend all this time on this photograph you go well there's a where does this display on white seamless gosh I can't wait to twitter that shot out so but it's a it's a blast editorially yes from fashion magazines to rod rial to cigar aficionado which fantastic magazine great photography you'll find still lie from product is really a big deal in the airline magazine I travel the southwest all the time and they have the airline magazine it's their best photography and there is the product and still life stuff so it's it's really it's really a lot of stuff that you could do um put this on here because the stressful atmosphere there was a time when I really love that mine but at one point I had four assistants and two second shooters and a full time dark room guy and a rep and an assistant to the rapping and the studio was just humming all the time and you felt like there were times you felt like the circus master you know you got rings in the air and you just you know you pushing yeah been there done it uh it's kind of quiet and fun when you can get into a space and you can put on your own music you can take the time you need to tow keep tweaking it you can't really do that sometimes under other situations if it's a really big time client sure they're going to give you all kinds of leeway but if you're shooting for a small time client in your town in your city on they've hired a model at you know two hundred an hour for two hours shoo you have well I'm thinking two hours because they're going to start getting kind of pinky and at our four you just added another four hundred dollars and model phase two him and you're still tweaking it if you're shooting a box of cigars or of uh some jewelry take what you need what you need to take the time to do it tweak it tweak tweak it if you've ever played with things you know when I was a kid yes I'd built model cars I think rivelle still mrs mia's a client I mean we built model cars all day long and then it was model boats and all that stuff it sort of takes me back to those times when you're in a place in your kind of tinkering with things that having a blast with your hands and with light and then at the end of it you've got something to show for it your studio is your castle and I believe that in any way situation I talked about it in the last workshop you own your shoot you own the set it's yours the moment you give it up to someone else he lost you'll never get it back on that shoot and a still life situation pretty much the same thing you own that set everything that you do all the people around you they're there to help you create that photograph I kind of need your own hours or great time constraints I mean let's say you're a systems analyst for some big company and you work till five o'clock every day and you really would like to to make some money with your photography to do something you can shoot product from seven o'clock to midnight if you want to if you have one back it up someone's out there one wall if you're within that if you're shooting an ad agency stuff and you're working ninety five ninety five then you know you've got bigger problems that I could help with that's a that's a tough one but generally you know the the distributors of the guy the company down the street around the corner they'll give you the stuff to take back to your studio and shoot they don't necessarily go with you I rarely have manufacturers come over to my studio to shoot and I got a studio so I could shoot it in my living room they wouldn't care if I did they're just looking for it after you build up your clientele then you can figure out howto handle those things those other things but you can do this on your time not necessarily with other genres of photography say architecture you get home at five o'clock in seattle in the wintertime architectures probably a nonstarter because it's dark lifestyle same thing you're stuck two weekends with this stuff you're not stuck to weekend this is ah quick shot that I did for them the for the book it's in the book and I think it's hanging on the wall yes it is just a to show you how much I love music and I play the drums and uh last money I bought a new set of brushes and I had him with me when I was down to studio thought I think I'll shoot my new center brushes and I did so that's a no on old stare drum that I have in the studio and the folks at the studio that I know the guys I show the studio with they just love that snare drum I can hear him go always got the snare drum out again that's they just love it I'm sure they do uh if you love challenges if you love get men to photography getting into the meat of it still life with table top will provide you that in spades it's always a challenge um I think some of the scariest words you'll ever hear from a client is oh this is a really easy shot that's a that's sort of the tipping tip off that oh the second thing that follows that generally is it won't take you long it's a really easy shot plus it won't take you long equals we don't have much money right that's the one that they don't say at the end um and run from those I'll tell you because they're always wrong it generally is not an easy shot uh and it will take a lot longer and uh they said they still have no money uh this is my old standby camera and I brought it in to photograph it um and we had the reason I did is this got all kinds of different surfaces and angles on the cameras are fun to shoot they're really fun to shoot they're really hard to shoot because you can't like the camera what happens if you like put a light on the camera you get speculator just get a little hot spot from the light so in this particular case I didn't like the camera I lit cards around the camera to show the camera so that's a reflected card and that's a reflected card and that's a reflected card and that's a reflected card all of that is reflected cards when you use what I called my subject centric approach and I was I want to do a shout out to dean collins so someone someone's on the chat room going well that's what doing calls yes he did yes the great dean collins absolute master of light that's where I got my subject centric lighting and we miss you dean um you can take all of this and create all these great textures and colors and stuff so so easily now this is a composite by the way this is five shots in photo shop layered five different shots and then we put him in photo shop and just basically painted away so shot number one shot number two shot number three shot number for shot number five and then we just put them all together in photo shop would you like to learn how to do that cool we're going to do that during this workshop um when you have something that you want to take a photograph of you know you you've got the challenge of creating it could I have shot this differently I could spend all day shooting this thing could be a blast it's a it's a twitter cricket um my uh my alto saxophone um which as you can tell it's quite old isn't the coldness cool that's what I love about this saxophone I love to shoot this this old thing I don't play in public there's that sort of restraining order thing it's I don't really want to go into that but um I love to photograph it because of all the patina our job when you're doing tabletop in still life our job is to make that thing looks great and the challenges sometimes they give us stuff that doesn't look all that great brett would you grab that that widget box they were that they made force sometimes we get the most bizarre things to photograph and the client wants us to make him great because as I said yesterday all photography is baby photography it's all baby retiring thank sir can you imagine may handle handed this can you get a shot of this it's really easy it won't take you much time you have it will it's it's black it's ugly it's a thing and my job is to make it look good just like mrs jones came in with her baby you know the one with the slightly droopy eye and you know I've got to make that maybe look good I had three babies I love babies had two beautiful babies and one she got to be beautiful real quick but she's a little wrinkled and she's probably watching right now going uh you get something like this you have to make photograph of it you better know how light works first of all it's black it's ugly it's got little shiny things on it's got a funky shape we've got to create it it's always a challenge we've got to show it to the best so every time you step up to the to the to the camera you're gonna have a challenge in front of you um not necessarily another in other genres sometimes you stand up for you get up behind a camera that's just absolutely stunning model in front of you and got great hair and makeup on her and your job is to just get out of the way and let the picture record this amazing woman you know are more guy or whatever it is that you're shooting and this work for it way have to work for it attention to detail you could be sloppy and a lot of photography and fix it photoshopped later this becomes a little bit more of a real attention to detail kind of work kind of business those of you in project fifty to know exactly what I'm talking about some of the critiques when we start getting into little things that were missed you understand how how tight it khun b in there and that makes it also a challenge and fun and again you don't have you're not constrained by time you know what you've got to get it done in twenty minutes or if you're doing architecture that son doesn't stop it's like oh you know I could I could come back just five more degrees and uh you know no you get to come back tomorrow that's what happens there and presentation is everything when I talk about presentation talking about presentation of the product uh is everything you could take a very wonderful beautiful piece of jewelry or something and make a terrible photograph out of it you have to make it all look good and you have you could also make bad jewelry looked great because that's what you do it's always it's always kind of it's a fun fun business I say creating images that matter for clients that pay it matters to the client do you know if your photograph of your this widget thing here is a good photograph and it causes the people who buy these kinds of switches and things to stop and look at that ad and you your photograph help increase the bottom line of this company's profit by three or four percent that could be millions of dollars we all know a little company down in san jose named apple and apple does not mints any dollars on the presentation of their stuff their books and ipods and things that are photographed they want him to be great because it helps sell product presentation is everything so we take an inanimate object try to make it look good that's our job and we end up with recurring clients uh and many genres of photography you're constantly looking for the next gig in in my town phoenix we don't have a lot of but I called bread and butter clients like you would find in chicago for instance um recurring clients they need this type of work done every month we don't have a lot of that so you're always out looking for the next job if you do it brochure shoot for a local hotel or golf course they run the ro sure they're they're pretty much done for a couple of years we're not going to put that brochure out you know every six months but product manufacturers do it all the time product manufacturers coming up with the next new whiz bang you know right now over the canada nikon and sony olympus they're coming out with the next new his bank's going to photograph it they are marketed to buy companies with brochures hey we'd like to build your next new whiz bang they've got photographs involved so there's a you know most of my product clients are basically fairly steady clients there there also not out looking for the next big thing the next cool photographer like in fashion or beauty you know you get up to the top rung of the ladder you spend half the time shooting and now the other half time kicking the people they're trying to pull you out the top of the ladder that doesn't happen in this sis airily you khun really maintain a good client base and when I say untapped markets abound I would simply saito irene ask iranian would do the project fifty two and we were talking about clientele out there there's lots right there's lots in the pro group when I had him do was to draw a circle a circle around put their house in the middle draw a circle around for twenty five miles and start looking for distributors and manufacturers the next week that came on that oh my god even people in little towns were finding people who needed pictures of their stuff they've been out looking for seniors and weddings and all those things and driven right by the smith distributing company and then they go in and find out oh yeah we have a guy you know eighty miles from us do these tech sheets every month snooze six or eight shots tech sheets well I'm right down the street that save us some time yeah it sure will so there's there's clients out there no matter where you are questions on this I love table top photography and a really do believe as I will show you that once you get to do it you'll find clients we will be talking on sunday about my little specific way of creating that circle what to look for and how to find those people that you can shoot for that's exciting that I love that we're talking about the business of this on sunday as well as as the house tunes all inclusive just okay so a question from our friend same cocks in loveland colorado would tabletop photography ever be considered fine art photography um still life absolutely um gosh I can't think of her name she photographs um she goes she photographs things if she finds uh I I promise I will try to come back after lunch with the names photographs things that she finds and it is a fine art there's lots of fine art still life photographers um there's uh uh edward weston absolutely he took a picture of a bell pepper once I wish I had one of the only times he took the cover picture at least thirty you know why because that's number thirty because he couldn't keep his kids off their front porch is thirty five minute exposure the kids walk across the fortune cameron movie go um but he did several good ones but he also had some trouble with the kids and people walking across the porch during his thirty five minute exposure um yeah absolutely every western there's a photographer who shoots what looks to be like I would say old french still lives you know the flowers and stuff she shoots that and is vastly successful with that that final so there's all kinds of stuff absolutely well shooting this we find our photography I'm gonna go with no this's just commercial so yeah uh key photos is wondering how you make diamond sparkles because when you shoot it can look flat most of the time yes and that was another question from another from er falcons bead their jewelry photographer and have a hard time keeping things from looking flat uh well first of all digitals flat uh second of all if you over softened the way we're talking about big soft box you know if you bring in if you're going to shoot like diamond rings and you bring in a four by six foot soft box you've killed all facets of the diamond ring every one of them's gonna have a reflection of that for my six put soft box so what I do is I keep my light source my soft light source as small as possible to light the ring but the point of it is there's in to take a grid spot or a snoot and just hit the top of that of that diamond with like a little sliver of light that's that's what I've done and I've also used um an led no those little led pen lights have taken an led penlight and after I made the exposure gone in and added sparkles with led penlight and then blend the two together and photoshopped back in film days we would actually use I used a bread spot so you have your jewelry out there and then I would grid spot right across the top of that jewelry to get what a speculum I needed to create a speculum so that's one way we're going we have some very shiny jewelry that we're going to to shoot so it's no they're not diamonds well at least I hope they're not diamonds got a gazillion um over there you know okay uh we'll take it one a clarification question from cat's eye three twenty six and in turn owes photography can you explain or elaborate on what drop and top means yes uh dropping pop photography would be normally it's considered like on a seamless or a little stand up they make product tables for instance yeah and what she'll do is because the client needs cites a grocery store they're going to do they're going to run there their monthly flyer of all the stuff that's for sale to grocery store so you get this little bag and you gotta canopies and you set it down and you take the shot the lighting probably doesn't change unless you and wine bottles and change it a little bit but two canopies you've already lit this spot so you drop it and you pop it and you drop it and you pop it so it's just really fast production type work that's that's what we're talking about us fast production shots that are all the same of different products

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.