Self Initiated Project:
Create between 5-10 final advertising/commercial images to a professional standard.
For this final term I decided to use this project to build and improve my technical and practical skills by focussing on advertising and commercial photography. This genre of photography fascinates me and is the route I want to follow in my future career. By using this term to improve my skills in this genre, it will help me progress further towards my goals and aspirations of being a commercial photographer.
Below is a mind map of things I had to consider.
My main interest is in commercial and advertising photography. I have done a little bit of commercial photography before, for my personal work and really enjoyed the whole process of shooting, editing and retouching. In this project I will try some more complex techniques and try to create professional-quality advertisements. This project will be a very technical based project which I really enjoy as I love the whole process of shooting and retouching.
Below are the first set of images I have created.
For these images, all of the splashes are real and shot in camera. The first image was all created all in camera and simply tweaked the basic settings in post production such as highlights, shadows, exposure, clarity and sharpness. The second image is a composite made from 3 separate images, the bottle and splash at the bottom of the image is one image, the splash on the left of the bottle is another image and the splash on the right side of the bottle is another image. The third image is a composite made from 6 separate images. Each of the oranges are individual images, the labels on the bottle is another image, the orange of the bottle is another image and the glass is another image.
I did spend a lot of time creating these images from shooting the images to retouching and post-production. I spent a lot of my time experimenting with lighting, shutter speeds, studio strobes and flash durations. There was a lot of trial and error which I learnt a ton from. I found this quite fun as it forced me to come up with solutions to problems I faced during the shoots.
Once I was happy with the images, I decided to experiment further by turning them into advertisement posters or magazine advert pages. I did this in Photoshop and included the brand logo, and information about the product.
Below are the advertisement posters I created from the images shown above.
I am pleased with how they look and its allowed me to experiment with using text on an image. I really enjoyed trying to create a cohesive looking poster by using the correct font and colours to match the mood/ feel of the image and incorporate the company logo into each one. My background of product design and graphics came in handy when trying to find fonts to match the images.
For my second shoot I decided to try something a little simpler by trying some simple still life.
Below are the final images from my second shoot.
Overall I am very pleased with how they turned out and really enjoyed taking my time to construct these images in the studio. I then took them into post-production where I made a few basic adjustments to colour and composition. After that I took the image on the left into Photoshop to do a little bit of retouching. I cleaned up any dust on the product and background. I then airbrushed the product a little just to sharpen the detail and make it look a little cleaner. After airbrushing I noticed that the imperfection in the glass of the product was creating some unwanted colour gradients. So to overcome this I used frequency separation to get a more even colour gradient across the product without making it look unrealistic.
After presenting all of these images in the seminar, I received very good feedback and some new ideas. One of the ideas was to use what I have learned from creating these images and apply them with another type of photography such as portraiture.
I was a little apprehensive in trying this as I knew that I wanted to focus on advertising and commercial photography. However I did try it and came up with this result below.
With this image, all of the splashes are real and created in camera. I simply added a splash from a different shot into this to create an angelic figure. I personally don't like this image because it doesn't fit with the rest of my images in the sense that its not advertising. However even though I did not like it, when I presented it in the seminar I got very positive comments about it. I think I could take this style somewhere in another project but for this project I don't see it fitting with my style. I did enjoy making this image but because of time constraints I didn't really have time to find other models to try this with.
Research & Practice
I am constantly learning and experimenting when I'm not doing university work as it is how I enjoy spending my time and developing my skills. For this project I spent the majority of my time looking through video tutorials on how to do advertising photography and how to use different lighting modifiers to achieve certain results. I will link a few of these videos below.
YouTube Video Tutorial Links:
Of course there were many more videos that I watched but it would not be necessary to link them all. Whilst I found YouTube video tutorials extremely helpful, I found that they just showed the shooting process and not a detailed view on the editing process. So I decided to join an online course where an industry professional took you through every step of his workflow from setting up, lighting, shooting, file management, colour correction, retouching and post-production. This really helped me as they also included all of the RAW files which they were using in the video so that I could follow along with the video. This allowed me to learn the techniques I needed to apply to my own work and images. Below is one of the images included in the online course which I used as a practice try for the editing process. For me I learn and retain more information if I am watching someone else do something rather than read about it. I am more of a practical hand-on person which is why I enjoy this type of work.
As you may tell, the image on the left is the before shot and the image on the right is the after shot, once I had retouched and edited it. By doing this as a practice it allowed me to go through each step so that I could understand everything which I would do to my images. I found the entire process extremely interesting and enjoyable when you see the before and after images.
Brian Rodgers Jr.
Brian Rodgers is a commercial advertising photographer and digital artist based in South Bend, Indiana. He is an award-winning American Advertising Federation commercial advertising photographer and digital artist. His work has an emphasis on the post-production element in which he specialises in product and architecture photography. He has worked with both large and small-scale companies and businesses. He also does automotive, architecture, portraiture and video production. His work really inspires me to want to create work in that 'high-gloss-prefessional-standard' which he does. I really like how his images look so clean and crisp especially the ones with the splashes. Below are a few examples of Brian's work.
Brian has worked with a range of different companies from small to large-scale. I really love his work as its extremely eye-catching and colourful. The images themselves are very cohesive in the fact that the digital art which he adds in post-production looks real and ties in perfectly with the products. I personally tried to incorporate splashes into some of my images to experiment with creating them in-camera with real liquid and short flash durations to freeze the action. This was very tricky to do as timing is everything.
Brian Rodgers Jr. Website Portfolio - https://digitalartthatrocks.com/product-photography-southbend-indiana
Karl is a photographer based in London but travels worldwide for his client and personal work. He has a large studio in London where he regularly shoots. He has 20 years of experience and is known for his immaculate attention to detail and precise control of light. He is recognised as an industry expert and is a global ambassador for Hasselblad Camera Company and Broncolor Lighting. He shoots over a range of genres from advertising, product, beauty, fashion and landscape for his commercial clients. In recent years Karl has been known for his incredible ability to teach and explain complex subjects and techniques very clearly. Because of his clear instructions he has become a consultant and presenter for Hasselblad Camera Company, Broncolor Lighting and Adobe as well as his training being used by top universities and educators worldwide. Below are a few of his images.
I love Karl's work, it is so clean and crisp with his attention to detail. I love how he spends hours just experimenting with his lighting to see what effect they have on the product. In his YouTube tutorials he goes through his set-up and how he uses different lighting modifiers to shape and control the light. I like the fact that he tries to do as much as he can in-camera to save hours of time in post-production. He spends longer setting up his lighting so that he can make it look as best as possible in-camera. In his tutorials he regularly uses projector lenses on his lights which allow hime to shape the light how he wants. For example he uses them to create extremely narrow beams of light just to illuminate tiny details of a product such as the tip of a make-up brush or a label. These lenses allow him to focus the light beam down to millimetres in diameter, which is just incredible.
Karl Taylor Website Portfolio - http://karltaylorportfolio.com/overview/
Information to Help Me
This section is filled with information that will help me when I come back to this in the future whether it be next term or in a few years. Looking back on this information will help me see how I have progressed and how I can improve my technical skills if I need to revisit something.
Firstly, below are a few hand-drawn lighting diagrams on how I shot certain images.
I shot the bottle and the glass at the same time with a studio strobe with a gridded snoot modifier. I shot multiple frames hand holding this strobe and each frame moved the strobe to light different parts of the bottle and glass. I shot a few from behind to backlight the product. Then I shot the oranges being dropped into the fish tank of water separately using the octagon as a backlight and the flashgun as a fill-in for the smaller details on the surface of the orange. I then composited these in seperately in Adobe Photoshop, cutting out the bottle and glass, masking out the oranges and splashes as well as creating shadows, masking in other frames to reveal certain details of the bottle and retouching.
For this shot, I managed to create it all in-camera in one frame. It was just a matter of timing and trial and error to capture the frame. There were over 2000 images which I did not use as they were my test shots. I just made a few basic adjustments to colour and exposure settings.
I shot this image using the one strip softbox diagonally above and infant of the product. This gave an even soft light across the whole product and all of the splashes. I created it from three images. I shot the splashes on the bottle individually and masked them in in Adobe Photoshop.
For this image I shot it all in-camera which I prefer doing as it saves time in post-production. It also makes for a cleaner looking image in my opinion. I only used one studio strobe pointed to the ceiling to bounce the light off the white ceiling which created a nice soft even gradation on the shiny plexiglass. All I did in post-production was basic adjustments and a little bit of retouching and frequency separation. One thing I don't like about this image is the reflections in the water droplets. In the droplets you can see the details of the room such as where the light bounced off the ceiling. To overcome this I should have used a large scrim (piece of diffusion material) over the shooting table and directed the light through it to create an even and reflection free image.
This image was also all created in-camera. In post-production I only made some basic adjustments to colour and exposure as well as a little bit of retouching to clean it up. One thing I don't like about this image is the fact that I couldn't get my camera directly above the product as I don't have a tripod with a boom. This meant that the camera was pointed diagonally down at the product meaning the perspective was slightly skewed. You can see this on the top left corner of the image where you can see the side of the plexiglass. To overcome this I should use a tripod with a boom arm or simply shoot it handheld.
For this image I used one large octabox softbox on a boom stand above and off to one side of the model. I then used a flashgun directly off to the other side as a fill in light. Once I took my test shots I made up the liquid and began throwing it on my model, trying to create different splash shapes each time. Once I got into post-production I decided to mask in another shot to create this angelic figure. There are many aspects I don't like about this image but the main one is that it does not look clean. There are too many droplets of liquid that distract from the subject. I could easily fix this in post-production by masking in the base layer but there are other mistakes which would take a while to correct. One of these is the left 'wing' looks unrealistic as it looks exactly the same as the other side. I could correct this by spending a few more hours on this image in Photoshop or just doing a complete re-shoot.
Helpful YouTube Video Links
Karl Taylor - How to do Product Photography
Karl Taylor - How to Delicately Light a Shoe
Karl Taylor - How to Freeze Action
Martin Botvidsson - How to Photograph Perfume Bottles
Brian Rodgers Jr. - How to Photograph and Composite a Commercial Beverage
I found these videos some of the most helpful videos I have ever watched in regards to product photography. For me personally I learn more from watching someone do it and then trying it myself, rather than reading how to do it. I learned that you don't need to rush anything, take your time and experiment with different lighting and modifiers. Its mostly about trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn't, what looks good and what doesn't.
Overall, I have really enjoyed this project. I have learned so much in this short space of time and feel that I have stepped up the quality of my work. This is probably because it is something I am interested in and enjoy doing. However it is mostly due to the fact that I have learned new skills and a new way of working when it comes to commercial and product photography.
I personally think that my work this term is some of my best and my favourite images that I have ever created. I feel that it has been a very successful project because I have learned so much and developed my technical skills and ability through researching tutorials and finding new ways to do things. One of the reasons why I have really enjoyed learning new skills and developing my technical ability is because I used my own studio equipment at home, which has allowed me to use it whenever I want and spend hours in my studio, just experimenting with the different lighting. Having my own studio has really helped me to understand different studio equipment, different ways to control and manipulate light and also just get used to using my equipment more and getting comfortable with it.
I used this project as a way to learn and improve my technical skills and ability and I have definitely done so! As you can see below are some of my old commercial photographs which I have done and you can see how much I have improved since making them to now - this project.
In my opinion these old commercial shots are technically very poor, with awkward composition, strange reflections and gradations and poor lighting. I feel that these old images are nothing in comparison to what I have created this term but of course I didn't have the knowledge I do now when I created them a few years ago. I think it is very helpful when you look back at your old work and you critique it and look at it differently now that you have a lot more knowledge about the subject. Its been helpful fo me to reflect back on my old work and just see my improvements in composition/ framing, lighting, post-production skills etc.
If I was to do this project again, I would definitely like to try using one of the studio cameras from the photostore at the university such as the Mamiya 645 with the 60MP digital back on as I feel it will really improve the quality of the final image. It will improve the sharpness and quality of the image as it will contain more pixels. There is nothing wrong with the camera I use at the moment but I think using this 60MP camera from university will just give me more information to work with as well as giving me experience in working with such large files.
Another thing which I would like to try if I was to do this project again would be creating a still-life scene by constructing different sets for each product. I would also like to experiment with different compositions and angles. Below are some ideas and examples of images I would like to have a go at creating.
These images were created by an NTU Alumnus named Benjamin Swanson - His website is linked below.
Overall I am extremely pleased with how my images have turned out and have found this term very very helpful for me because it has allowed me to focus on developing and improving my skills in the area that I am interested in as well as giving me an insight into the industry itself, which is where I want to be in the future. I think that I have met what I set out to do and created a set of advertising images that are to a professional standard. The techniques and information I have learned in this project will stick with me for my future career and really help me progress with my work.