How is the photo going to be used?
May seem a simple question but It is very important to know how the photos are going to be used before anything else is done. An image used on social media will have different requirements to one used in print, factors to consider are images size, crop and composition. It’s not great when your image works wonderfully in landscape and when used as portrait too much of the image is cropped out.
It may sound a bit obvious but this is very important to consider how the images are seen as a cohesive set that match the client’s requirements.
Creating an good brief is essential for ensuring a smooth photoshoot,
Knowledge of the brand is essential, the more you can find out the more targeted the photography shoot will be. Even if it is a very simple product photo, the subject still needs to fit in with other imagery in style and composition, for example it could be shot at the same angle and perspective and on the same background to match in with existing imagery on the website on in the catalogue.
This Ted Baker shoot was style to be very on brand, all the props were carefully chosen to reflect the brands ethos and the persona of Ted Baker.
Not all clients will divulge the budget but it is really useful if they do, knowing how much they have to spend will often dictate how the photography can be done. As is often the case there are a lot of different ways to photograph something, some relatively cheaply and some with all the extras and trimmings. On rare occasions the budget is too low to do anything decent or within the brief, so in those cases the work is usually turned down or postponed until the available budget is increased. This can work really well as the client often comes back with a clearer idea of what they want and a better idea of the costs involved.
I always send out an estimate with all the available information about the shoot on it, including possible costs and a detailed description of the licence for the image use. It is much better to be totally upfront on usage and costs before any work is done, your client will appreciate it and it shows your professionalism.
Where if the photography shoot going to take place, in a studio or at a location such as the client’s premises or in a hired venue? Having my own studio is a great asset, it is a good space with a high ceiling and all the lighting, backgrounds and odds and sods at hand needed for a photography shoot to go well.
Lighting and Composition
A photo can be used in many different ways, some requiring a square crop, some vertical, others horizontal. Then there is copy to consider, will there be any type over the image area and if so then space should be allowed in the composition.
Things to consider:
What are the most important features of the product to show?
How will the style of the photo fit in with the companies brand guidelines?
Does it need a specific background or foreground surface and any styling?
Any specialist lighting or lighting techniques needed? Small lights, big lights, projector lights, strip lights, fibre optic lights, flash / LED, high speed flash that stops motion….
Visuals - sketches or reference images to show look and composition required
Sometimes several different photographs may need to be taken to accommodate all the variations on cropping.
A couple of complicated lighting set ups in the sudio below.
Who do you need to hire to add their expertise?
Stylist : They source props and backgrounds and also help with the arrangement of the products and its styling.
Make Up Stylist (MUA) : If a model is hired then an MUA is essential. I have hired a lot of MUA’s, some better than others, now I stick to a small group that I know for sure are experts at their craft.
Home Economist : Essential for a food shoot, they prepare and style the food. They have great skill in cooking the food and preparing supplied food so that it will look beautiful in front of the camera.
Assistants : An extra pair of hands comes in very useful, assistants do all sorts from making the tea to setting lighting up to operating the computer software and hardware (digital assistant). Even diving into the pool to retrieve a fallen lens hood, as happened to me on a shoot in Spain, the assistant dived in (of his own freewill) and was not pushed at any point.
Models : Sometimes models are required, they can be for their entire body as in a fashion shoot or hired just for their hands or feet which typically would be for product photography. There are some great model agencies out there but you do need to be careful on who you pick, I have my favourite model agencies that I have built up a good relationship with over the years which I tend to go to as I can trust them and know that their models are professional. There is extra paperwork needed if child models are hired and this can vary depending on where the shoot is to be done.
Production Company: Production companies are great for those big budget shoot where there are a lot of logistics to consider. They will organise everything from location hire, permits, assistants, stylists, lighting, transport, food etc etc…
Other things to consider
On a product shoot check that the products are prepared for the shoot, if electrical can they be switched on to show lights and are there any special requirements in their operation. It is always better to have the client at the shoot so that they can prep the product and sign off the shots as they are taken. Failing that we can send over low resolution images for the client to review remotely and approve. Technology has now enabled us to send a live feed of the shots as they are taken straight to the client’s computer.
If the products are very valuable will they be insured by the client? This is especially important if they are to be left in the studio overnight. Something else to check is that as the photographer you have insurance agains accidentally damaging the products.
A good studio will have lots of extra bits to help with the shoot.
Things regularly used are:
Grey balance device to get accurate colour - I use a Spyder Cube
8’x4’ Polystyrene boards painted black on one side
White and black card
Reflective card and small mirrors
Wires - various
Tapes - various
Blutak - great to stop things moving around
Clamps and small stands to support backgrounds, reflected cards and products
Various backgrounds to have at hand eg: wood, zinc sheet, acrylic sheet etc..
The draw of odds and sods and shelves of prop plates and bowls in my studio.
Blogs to follow will include content creation for social media, as well as getting the colour balance right, best photography software, types of lighting, retouching and grading and more…