Commercial Lifestyle photography sounds like a dream gig, but how do you bring an inanimate object to life? I have always appreciated the challenge of taking ordinary objects and making them jump out of an image. . People take photographs of “things” all the time, but how can you make ordinary goods look desirable, utilitarian, and beautiful? Enter: The Still Life Photo Shoot
We recently did a two day shoot for Gotham Steel Cookware, an industry leading cookware brand creating top notch products for the kitchen. This photo-shoot was not a walk in the park by any means. When it comes to lifestyle photo shoots, even for products, there is a vast amount of planning that goes into the success of this campaign. I thought this was an excellent example of how a little pre-planning can go a long way when you get to the set. Here are my six things to remember when planning a still life photo-shoot “On Location”. – Note: Each of the 6 items listed below are important & not necessarily in the order we put them here.
First things first – before you plan anything else, make sure you have a solid location to use. The location needs to match the brand atmosphere, is it Modern? Retro? Hip? Etc. It should have the right visual fit, easy access, , electricity and any special needs you may have for a particular still life photography shoot. Sometimes the location will be at the client’s office, and sometimes it will be at a completely separate location. Be prepared for either scenario, and know what things your location has or may be lacking. In our case, we went to Gotham Steel Cookware and used their facilities to capture the essence of the brand.
If you find yourself at an offsite location, there’s a chance you’ll need to take some extra steps to successful. You’ll want to secure permits and permissions beforehand if they are necessary, including signing legal production releases. Make sure you have a permit for the location if it’s required. City offices are often helpful resources for figuring this out. Luckily, we didn’t have this concern for the GSC shoot, but I’ve been burned on this in the past!
Have all your gear set out and ready to go so that you aren’t rushing to pull everything together at the last minute. You may find that you need a special setup for this particular photo shoot, and the last thing you want is to show up unprepared. Since we wanted to capture a warm, homey kitchen feeling with the products, we made sure to bring along various lighting equipment to play around with. . Along with it we brought reflectors, strip banks, and diffusion materials to capture the best lighting needed to make that cookware really shine. Here’s a list of what we used at the Gotham Steel Cookware product photo shoot:
- Camera: Nikon D800
- Backup Camera: Nikon D600
- Lenses: Nikon 85mm PC, Nikon 45mm PC
- Lighting: 6 X Einstein 640 Strobes, 1 Profoto D1
- Stands: Manfrotto Tripod Sandbags
- Strip Banks
- Diffusion Materials
- MacBook Pro
- Capture 1
- Passport portable drive
Make sure you have enough help to lug all the gear back and forth as well – some people forget to plan for how much equipment is actually involved!
Working with a Professional stylists will help you bring the right vibe to your product photography shoot. Stylists come in all shapes and forms, and can help you arrange everything from products, food, beverages, and even people! For this shoot, we used Kiki Fischer, a very talented food designer and stylist that we love working with. Since this was a photo-shoot for cookware, we had to be sure the food would compliment the cookware & not overpower it! Planning out the extra accessories to a shoot can make or break the success of your photos, so think of everything!
The key to doing anything right is to prepare. The same stands for product photography sessions. Plan for how long it’s going to take to prep the items/models being photographed, and make sure you are familiar with the products before getting to the shoot. Always overestimate so that you don’t run out of time! For GSC, we used the products before the shoot, making sure we noticed which angles would photograph best, which color schemes complimented the products, and what kind of food can be made best in them.
Having a schedule is critical to a successful still life photo shoot. What is your order of events for the day? If you’re photographing multiple items, figure out how you’re going to prioritize them. If you require fresh food, allow time for those to be prepared while you’re photographing other items. We decided to start with the shots of the product themselves first, and then move to shoot with varying food products. This kept the day organized and let us maximize the time we had on set. – Remember: There are only 8-9 working hrs in a single day, Accomplish as many images with the same lighting setup before breaking down the set & moving on with the next lighting set-up.
With a great crew and the right amount of planning beforehand, you can ensure that a still life photo shoot turns out perfectly and your clients end up with product photography worth showing! We loved working with Gotham Steel Cookware, and we can’t wait for the next project to come our way!