Project 1 Review: Product Shots

Hi again, it’s been quite a while since my last blog post.  For about the past month and a half or so I’ve been working on getting some new product shots together for my portfolio. Yesterday was the last day of finalizing edits and uploading my favorites to the website. Check out my Product Shots page for some new images, I’ll also link a few here in the post.

Product Shot- Belt
Today I’ll be reviewing this project and talking about the process I went through to get from my planning stages all the way to the final product shots. I have a feeling this post might be kind of a long one.

Back in early April/May I was starting to think about what I wanted to try and accomplish for myself this summer. Usually what I find happens when I have a large block of free time is I’ve really only planned my schedule a week or two out. The summer then just becomes more and more of waste of time and then at the end of it I wonder what happened.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I work best with lists and calendars. For short term goals my head usually magically fills up with stuff I want to do right before going to bed so I write them down in my phone and look at them first thing in the morning to remind myself what I have to do. Some people can just wake up and think “okay I have to do this, this, and this” I can’t really do that. If I try to get up and just think of something to do I draw a blank, my head doesn’t work like that in the morning.

Doing this long project with product shots was interesting because I’ve never really had to habituate on one mindset for so long. I’m used to doing one or two conceptual images and calling it a day and moving onto a different idea. I think the most time I’ve ever spent on one picture was about a week off and on. I knew going into this first project that I wanted to do three projects and conveniently I had all of June, July and August to do it (Minus time for portraits/headshots/client projects). I mapped out each week of summer in word document so there were 15 weeks with two product shots and two conceptual images a week. This format worked really well for figuring out what I needed to buy/borrow for supplies and products before I even started shooting.

The shot list looks like this: Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.26.22 AM

You can add more or less information depending on what you’re trying to do. For me, having any type of list or outline is a huge help compared to having nothing.

I shot the first eight or ten product shots in the first week and decided that since I was in that zone it would just be faster for me to shoot all the products first and get into a groove doing that before shooting or editing anything else. It seemed easier to me at the time to do it that way all at once especially since I don’t have the largest studio space to work with.

I photographed every product on this little product table from Amazon. Despite a lot of the negative reviews it has worked amazingly for me, I’m also not trying to break it down and set it up every single day on-location somewhere. I can imagine the difficulty of trying to make this table portable but for sixty bucks it is nice to have your own designated product table.

Towards the end of shooting 30 product shots it definitely got kind of monotonous. It’s also important for me to differentiate here that if I wanted to do 30 product shots I could’ve easily done them in a day if I wanted them all to look the same, with the same lighting and backdrop but I don’t think that looks good for a portfolio. For portfolio pieces (and unfortunately pretty much everything I photograph) I like to take the time to make it as perfect as possible. To me it’s sort of stupid to go through all the trouble of shooting something only to go halfway with it. You might as well take your time shooting. Take your time editing. Obviously if you never finish anything then you’re taking too much time but still, take a reasonable amount of time and put the effort in. A lot of people will disagree with me but my argument is that it’s your photograph, it’s your work, other people are going to judge your skill level based on your work so go ahead and make the best work you can. I cringe when people ask me to send them “all the photos” or say “you don’t even have to edit them” don’t give in to those people, make them wait for the finished product.

Product Shot- Lamp
I finished shooting all 30 products around June 10th and started editing the following weekend. The reason I was able to acquire so many products is largely because I love going to thrift stores and buying a million things for five bucks. The caveat to my method here at the beginning of the project was that I knew I was going to have to edit a lot more on thrifted items as opposed to buying something brand new. If you have a ton of money you can go ahead and spend all sorts of money on stuff just to shoot it but I decided to throw a little more time towards the backend of this project and save a little money upfront.

I did end up spending a significant amount of time editing. I was planning on it but just me being the way I am I always go a little nuts with the healing and clone stamp tools on things like dust and scratches. Most people would probably have never even seen a lot of the dust and stuff if I left them in there because of things like image resolution and viewing sizes on the web. Unless I give you the option somewhere on my website or on Flickr you’d probably never otherwise be able to get up close and look at every little detail. However, editing all that little stuff gives me peace of mind because it would’ve bugged me if I left dust in my pictures. I also plan on printing a lot of these images out in a printed portfolio and I’d rather not realize while I’m clicking print that, “gee, I probably should’ve edited all these little tiny things out.” So I guess the amount of time spent on editing would’ve happened sooner or later anyway and I hate going back and changing an image months after I’ve called it finished.

The reason I liked doing all the shooting first and all the editing second was that I got to establish a rhythm setting up and breaking down all my equipment. I can do it now almost without thinking about it. I also got to edit all the images together at the same time and make sure they didn’t all look identical. I think if I had finalized each image one by one without looking at them all together I could’ve just made them look too similar without realizing it. Doing things this way allowed me to choose between all 30 images and decide which ones would look better together and not waste as much time editing images I was never going to use. You’ll notice I didn’t actually upload 30 new product shots to my website and that’s because I narrowed down the 30 I shot to my favorite dozen or so images. In the future, on the next project, I’m not going to shoot everything and then edit everything. Now that I’ve tried that method it’s a little extreme. Taking a happy medium would’ve been better. Shooting a few things and making some edits sooner, like within the same week, before finishing the shooting period would’ve given me more of an opportunity to go back and reshoot or shoot something else entirely. Starting the editing earlier would’ve helped make the daunting task of “okay now I have to edit 30 product shots” a little less daunting.

Product Shot- Wine Bottle

I would’ve liked to finish 30 product shots and upload 30 product shots but you can always kind of tell when you’re going through things that some images stick out more than others. Some products get cut because I shot two of the same type of product and picked the better of the two. Some stuff just clearly doesn’t look that good. I don’t think shooting a stapler was the best idea because it’s still just a boring old stapler no matter how I light it. At the end of the day when I’m looking at my work I’d rather have quality over quantity, that’s why I didn’t put nearly half of the products I shot in my portfolio. Still though, I ended up tripling the amount of product shots on my website. I feel much more comfortable now saying, “Yes, I do product photography” and I do stand behind my work, that’s the point of doing a project like this.

It’s more important for me to feel confident in my work than it is to have a million pictures online. I like that I don’t have many images from class assignments on my website. I try to show that I do spend most of my time trying to improve my work by doing things on my own and creating my own projects set with my own goals.

As for the next project I don’t really want to talk about it too much right now but I am excited to finally have some closure on this first set of images and move on to something else. After a month and a half of working on a bunch of product shots I definitely got obsessive about it, which initially is kind of a good thing. I wanted to make sure I picked a project that would be challenging while still pulling some great work out of it and I think I did that.

Until next time

-Alex

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