These past couple of weeks since our return from holiday have totally flown by! I know, I know, everyone says that and it really isn’t interesting but when it happens to you it seems a bit weird.
So, in the world of a pro photography, what has been going on? Well, quite a lot actually. Processing has been the by-word of these weeks. It takes so much of your time and is so much fun, when you are in the right frame of mind. I have had two ‘strands’ to process to get to two different ends. One is straight, what I call, “medical” product shots. These show off the object/item as it truly is. A clinical shot, often/usually taken on a white background, colours as accurate as possible and designed to appear in a brochure/website showing off the item in a simple but beautiful way. High-key the books will call it. The other ‘strand’ is the “marketing” or “arty” shots, aimed at selling the product/object in an advert or other such collateral.
Both have their benefits and interests. For the medical shots I have been mostly shooting guitars and other musical instruments for web and leaflet reproduction. Whilst many think these images are relatively easy, they do need a lot of care and time taken with the lighting. Again, I split these type of shots into two. One is a pure brilliant white background and the other produces a white to light grey gentle gradient from left to right or vice versa. Nearly all are shot at around aperture of f8-f11 at 1/160th shutter speed, always at ISO100 and using tripod, mirror lock-up and a cable release. These last three are essential for crisp images despite what you hear about flash freezing the subject! Manual mode is the order of the day as it leaves everything flexible and easier to manage. Lighting is always awkward with shiny objects such as musical instruments so effort is required to ensure that reflections are in the right place and non intrusive. Medical shots can be shot on a white-ish background as nearly always the subject is ‘cut out’ and the background put back in either as pure white or a gentle fade. Care needs to be taken to use dark card on aspects and areas of the guitar (or subject) that you don’t wish to have white reflections on and this fiddling can take many precious hours. When aiming at a predominantly white background it is best to use high white studio vinyls and light both sides and maybe to the rear as well. I do use a product lighting cube also when necessary.
The processing of these shots can be very time consuming as you cut out the object carefully. Trust me, slap happy short cuts do not work and never look convincing in my opinion! The object then usually needs de-dusting using the spot heal and clone brushes as unless you are using a hermetically sealed environment, dust as always, remains a photographers enemy! Finally, you have to adjust the normal areas such as levels, saturation and odd elements of dodging, burning and sharpening.
The ad shots can be much more fun. The example below, produced recently for Simon & Patrick guitars and due in the shops in a couple of weeks was produced after an inspired session with the client. I rushed home that day in order to capture the feel of what we had discussed. Others are more structurally planned but all should be free to allow some flexibility and licence to allow the idea of the look to breathe and develop. The majority of my current work develops almost daily and to my mind, the images become stronger and more attractive. The purpose of an advert in any location is to make the viewer stop and ponder, even if only for a fleeting moment. On the street, on the underground, in a magazine. If one of my images makes you hesitate and look again, I have achieved my goal with the imagery. Simple as that…
My next few days are designing and processing more images. We are re-launching a brand of instruments and have to design for online (website) and in-store promotions including light boxes, T-shirts and posters etc.
I have found enough time to watch an excellent performance by Noah and the Whale at Bristol Colston Hall, sadly without camera for once! We also have picked up Poppy our new VW T5 van that has gone through a full re-spray. She looks wonderful but the downside is that in order to protect the paint, we need to thoroughly wash and then fully polish the new paintwork, not once, but twice. Well, one down but man, these vans are large!
Oh and the title? Why, it is the name of the brand of guitar famous in the 60’s/70’s (and originally manufactured there) we are busy gearing up to relaunch.
Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar, taken at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.
Shaftesbury guitar 'medical' shot for web and brochure use