Essential Preparation for A High Quality Product Shot – Make Your Retouching Process Smooth
Essential Preparation and care before we shoot any image is very important if we want to reduce the chance of mistakes happening that we then have to ‘fix’ in retouching. Whether you do your own retouching or give it to someone else, wasting post production time to correct basic errors is not a professional approach to working. This article works through a few areas that from my retouchers perspective will save money and free up time.
So! I asked my Retoucher Ian to let me know what his thoughts are on essential preparation and his tips for a product photographer when preparing to shoot a high quality image. The reason I asked him, and not just give you my opinion, is that he is the one who has to sort things out if I was to do a poor photography job! His little wish list below should help us think about what steps, checks and workflow we can have in place so to give our images every chance of being the best they can be with minimal retouching time required.
Ians Thoughts on Essential Preparation and Working Clever, Not Harder
Cleaning the Product
Ian’s Words – The amount of time spent spotting dust and cleaning up a product compared to a quick once over with a Microfiber cloth can make a huge difference. This is especially true if the dust or lint is on a textured surface.
My Thoughts – It is easy to forget to clean the product before shooting. Cleaning up dust in retouching can be laborious and time consuming – most of the time it is not necessary. The product may also have sat on the surface for a few hours before you actually take the shot. I think the best thing to do is to first remove all grease prints, marks with a lint free cloth as Ian recommends, and then place the product into the set. After we have finished composing and lighting the product, use a low pressure air blower to remove the dust. Try not to rub the product after setting up, as it may move. Arrggghhh!
Cleaning the Studio, Shooting Space
Ian’s Words – Never use a broom in a studio, it just puts all the dust into the air, vacuum instead 🙂
My Thoughts – Avoid sweeping up before shooting, as it will move a lot of dust around. Get into the habit of cleaning up after shooting if possible.
Ian’s Words – Shoot an empty background i.e. without the product in place. Phil can use ice and water in some images and a clean background shot at the start will always look better then cleaning one up.
My Thoughts – It is very quick to remove the product after we have shot it and shoot the background ‘clean’ i.e. no product at all. For a retoucher, this can give easy retouch options with changing how a shadow or reflection can look. If we are likely to be making a mess, shoot the clean background first before starting to throw things around! In retouching it is a simple process to brush back in clean areas of background. This is much easier then trying to clone or fix areas that are wet or damaged.
Repack The Product
Ian’s Words – Look at the product you are about to shoot, does it look like you want it to look in the final image? This is your Blue Peter time. If you look at packaging in a supermarket you will see dents, flaps that are not glued flat and do those baked bean can labels ever reach the top of the can? Don’t be afraid to deconstruct the product slightly and repack something. Use double-sided tape and some thicker foam core, cardboard to raise, flatten and stick!
My Thoughts – I have a scalpel handy so I can open boxes easily. We can also cut down the back of a label and reposition it sometimes. This is very handy if a main product label is not lined up with the label on the cap for instance. Try and reposition, re-stick both labels in that case so everything is aligned.
Lock the Camera Off
Ian’s Words – Once you get your shoot angle, lock off your tripod and stick some weights on it. This avoids knocking your tripod, and therefore moving any elements shot out of registration. We can use difference in the layer modes to help us realign things however if anything has twisted it is game over. Also shoot some alternatives in your exposures i.e. bracket.
My Thoughts –This is an area I have discussed in the course very early on. It is crucial to a successful image that we have a solid camera that cannot be knocked or jogged by a stray foot or hand. When we shoot lighting or exposure elements the last thing we want to happen is for the layers not to fit properly. Retouching gets very messy if we have to start pushing things around to fit together. Tape and weigh down not only the camera, but the set as well to reduce the chance of any accidents happening. Look at my drinks images on my web site and see if you can see the potential different elements I may have shot in order to go into retouching.
Shooting Helpful Elements – Particularly With LED Screens
Ian’s Words – I have had jobs where there is an LED screen in the product has to be added in later, or needs to be adjusted with a Vector Graphic supplied. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding a little LED to indicate something is turned on. I may need to add a glow to an LED to make it more obvious, or adjust the colour. Shooting the original display both off and turned on saves time with lots of back and forth with the client to get the position correct, and placing in clean text, graphics that can be read. If you ever have the pleasure of dealing with the actual product designer, they will be ever so detailed and exact about what the LED screen, product should look like. After all, it’s what they will have been working on for months.
My Thoughts – Give the retouching a chance to be simple and easy by shooting the LED screens or any glowing light source on a product both on and off. We may even want to go as far as shooting the LED screen with and without a reflection and both on and off! Believe me, this gives lots of options for creative retouching. We have done this so many times, and it is a real time saver.
My Summary on Essential Preparation
As with everything, cleanliness and care is paramount in creating a high quality result. Depending on what we are shooting and how much retouching we expect to be done, our aim with any product shot is to plan well and think about what the result will look like. From here, we work backwards and try and see if we can see traps and issues that may need to be fixed after the shoot. We can then look at what we can do whilst the shot is still live to minimise what we or someone else will need to rectify in retouching. The phrase ‘let’s sort it in post’ is very dangerous! Try not to fall into this thinking.
Shoot Products Like A Pro is designed to raise our photography level. Focus on this as the primary objective and the image quality will soar. Thinking about what essential preparations before and whilst we are shooting are just one of the many ways we can produce great product photography.
Shoot Products Like A Pro – Product Photography Course and Tuition