When you start a project or campaign for a client one of the first questions is: what is the creative vision? Sometimes it comes from the client, other times it is from an Art Director or Executive Producer. In this case it was an Art Director who also asked for input and ideas from me. He and I sat down for a creative meeting, looked through some work I had done on a similar shoot and pulled a few ideas and planned out some concepts. But I get ahead of myself. First, what was the project? The client is working on a website and advertisement redesign. As a part of the process new product shots are needed to compliment the new designs.
The style and feel for the shoot was to be defined by shallow depth of field, layering of elements in the images and the use of negative space to allow for text placement in ads. The use of pouring and people using the products was also important. Additionally we were going to shoot a lot of tight/close-up images of the products. This was right in my wheel house. Many of the techniques we would be using are the same ones forming the foundation of macro work. Plus I love on location shooting.
Canon 5D III with a 100mm IS F2.8 Macro. Setting F5.6 at 1/160 ISO 200. Einstein 640 flash with soft boxes. Schneider circular True-Pol and 1.2 ND 4x4 filters in a matte box. By using a matte box with filter trays you can use multiple filters were it would be unworkable with screw on filters.
A shoot like this takes a lot of planning and a solid team. There were four of us, myself, the photographer, the Art Director, a DIT (data ingest tech) and a grip / lighting assistant. The DIT is at the computer watching as the images coming over the tether. He is critically important as he is constantly checking the focus points on the images and for imperfections in the background. Some of the setups had a depth of field measured in mm The narrow plain of focus is what makes the image and must be exactly where you intend.. The Art Director is constantly dressing the scene and giving feedback to me while the assistant is helping me change the lights and doing the other things required to keep the shoot moving along.
Now for the planning. What tools do we need to to get this done? I took the 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro IS, and a Zeiss 50mm F2.0 macro. The 70-200 and 50 never made it out of the bag. Better to have them than not if the occasion calls for it. The 16-35 was used for one shot, but what a shot it turned out to be. The other two did the heavy lifting for the job.
Some of the larger setups with multiple products were done with the 24-70, partly because of the need to add the negative space for adding text in ads. Better than half of the images were done with the 100mm IS Canon macro. I can’t say enough good things about this lens. It is one of the sharpest lenses they have ever produced. It also produces outstanding contrast and color nuances.
The creative vision and style will guide every choice in glass you make. The shallow depth of field requires what is in focus to really pop for the images to work, creating the dynamic look the project calls for. The Canon 100mm macro filled all these needs very well. The 100mm over the 50mm allowed me to better control the background elements.
The image above was the only composition taken with the 16-35mm. The Ben Franklin bridge was only a few blocks from the site, basically on top of us. In preproduction and scouting we had decided we wanted to do something with the bridge at night. The Art Director went out to scout the shoot while I was finishing up another setup we were doing. When I got out there he looked at me and said do you want to do a safer shot or go big.
I told him I love the way you think, we are going big. On a side note, you can’t find creativity in safety, push yourself and your concepts. We went with this forced perspective look making the bottles look similar in size to the bridge. Remember the bridge is only a few blocks away and hundreds of feet tall. Always remember you can use wide angle lenses when doing close-up and shallow depth of field work.
If you remember from the creative look we were going for we also wanted images with elements layered in which lead to looks like the one above. The layered elements add the perception of depth to images with shallow depth of field. This is important because this style of shooting can leave an image feeling very flat. Flat can be very dull if not done intentionally.
Having a creative vision and look determined before a shoot will do wonders for the success of the project. It gives you a goal to work towards. Few things can chew up time on set like struggling to find a look.