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How to turn the ordinary into something bidders will be fighting over

How to turn the ordinary into something bidders will be fighting over - David Cantwell shares some of his tips and tricks for great product photography.

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The box shows what's for sale but it's a bit boring.
Here the background and dvds make the scene far more interesting.
Product photography can mean taking pictures of your dvd collection to sell on Ebay or you could be shooting a beer campaign for a multi-million pound company.
 
If you think product, then this can be anything,” explained Advertising Photographer David Cantwell. “I have shot the strangest things from chewing gum for kids called snot balls, with a slogan that read "eat your greenies" to a brace to hold a head steady during brain surgery where I was present at a real brain operation for the photo shoot.
 
Product photography can be difficult. From the start you must establish what the photographs will be used for and who the photographs are aimed at. For example is it for trade or public? If it's for trade David says they will usually want to see what the product looks like, the dimensions, height, depth and so forth. If it's for the public then you must photograph the product in a way to make the consumer want to buy it, showing it's best side etc.
 
Take a lamp for instance, I would photograph it in a sitting room with maybe a fire in the background. The lamp on with a book on the side table and a coffee. If it was for trade then on a white background.

You need to know your market. When shooting in a hotel I always think what market are they trying to target. For example is it young couples or retired couples? There's a big difference here. When shooting coffee, is the crème correct? Is the cappuccino technically perfect? Do they want froth or latte art? You really must become part of the marketing department when you're shooting product photographs.”
 
When it comes to shooting times every shoot is different. What you're photographing and what you want it for will alter the amount of time you spend on your photograph. If David's shooting watches and diamonds he could spend 2-4 hours on a shot where as doing a shoot for the launch of the Casino Royale film took two days.
 
Good lighting is the key to a good product shot, a rule which applies whether you're working in a studio or in your bedroom working on internet auction site shots. For catalogue products David shoots them all on the same background with the same type of lighting but for stylised shots every product is different as textures and surfaces make the light react in different ways.
 
I have bowens 500, 100, 1500 Flash heads for standard portrait shots and 7 red heads and 6 dedolights for everything else which includes working in hotels food shots, jewellery and some portraits.  I really like the dedo lights as they're very controllable and precise, I can pin point a light with great accuracy.” 
 
If you're just looking for ways to light products you're photographing in your own home try to shoot near a window as natural light will always make products look great. David feels the worse type of light is direct flash.
 
If you look at the scales you will see that the direct flash is too harsh where the available light is much more natural. Using a white card or white balancing your shot in camera will also help your shot, of course you can do this later on in post-production.
 
David can't be without a tripod and his trusted 50mm Macro lens but if you don't have this sort of equipment at hand you can even use a camera phone. These were shot on a Samsung Pixon camera phone which produces an 8Mp 24Mb file. You'll be surprised what you can achieve with very little kit.
 
 Direct flash is a little harsh.  The picture looks better without flash.
That's the great thing about photography, you can do anything you want! It's great to try new things with photography. I'm quite a traditional photographer, I've been pushing myself lately with portraits and product photography to try and break the mould a little.”  
 
Bring some creativity to your shoots because if someone is employing you they are paying you for your creativity and if you're shooting products just for Ebay you want them to look as good as they possibly can.
 
You can't take a brilliant photograph if the product looks sub-standard to start with. Always ensure your product is clean and looking it's best.
 
For the Bond Shoot I was photographing 1 beer bottle and we received 6 crates of 144 bottles so I could choose the best one.
 
Of course the eye can't see everything and post-production can be your saving grace, although getting it right in-camera first time is always advisable.
 
Every shot goes through Photoshop. Saturation/sharpening etc. But the most important thing about Photoshop is knowing when to stop.”
 
Visit David Cantwells' website for more details.

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