Shooting tabletop stuff is like riding a bike. Once you learn, you can always do it. However, you won’t be able to do any fancy tricks, unless you practice and push yourself on a regular basis.
Back in the middle to late 1990’s, I was a commercial photographer’s assistant. I worked with photographers on catalogs and advertisements for Neiman Marcus
, JC Penney
, The Container Store
and several others. I watched, helped and learned how to light, style and shoot a variety of items. I still remember when we shot Fabregé eggs for a catalog… the process was insanely complex and detailed to make them look as expensive as they really were in person.
Of course, I got away from tabletop work. As I started shooting for myself, I developed a knack for lifestyle shots. However, I still get an occasional gig shooting tabletop items (like one shooting several hundred vases for a collector’s museum). That’s why I try to practice different tabletop items… I want to keep these skills fresh. I decided that tonight would be a good night to practice.
I was at the local Home Depot today and I saw the sun sitting over this small patch of tall decorative grass near the entrance. I wanted to shoot it, but the giant, boxy building was right behind it. Luckily, with a creative angle, I was able to shoot like I was in the middle of some endless grasslands. It just goes to show that you can take an interesting image almost anywhere!
This actually gives me
an idea for a fun project, taking pictures all over a local Home Depot and trying to transform it into something completely different. Maybe I could find a way to turn its selection of natural stones into a mountain scene. Or, maybe shoot some of the power tools in a way that makes them look like part of a science fiction space movie. I’m sure the ideas are endless. Now, if only Home Depot’s advertising agency were a client of mine… don’t they use Richards Group
I still shoot on my day off… I can’t help it. Well I use the term day off loosely, because this isn’t really a day off. I still have a couple photo shoots to process in the computer and have ready to deliver tomorrow morning. I meant that I’m not actually shooting an assignment today.
Anyway, I was “off work” today and took the two older boys to a birthday party for their friend. I don’t like carrying a bunch of camera gear with me when I’m with the family, because I want to simply enjoy the moment with them. I want to stop having this need/desire to capture it like I’m shooting some photojournalism piece. However, I usually break down and grab a body, a couple lenses and a flash. I can’t help it.
So, as you can see below, I got some nice shots of the “best friend” brothers posing for a snapshot and their friend in action. At least their father’s addiction/compulsion/obsession will give them a lot of nice photos to look back on as they grow older. You’ve got to love the look of that 85mm 1.8f prime lens!
You can’t shoot every assignment you get a call for. Either you’ll already be booked, be sick, be on vacation, etc… You need to have a network of other photogs you can trust. You need someone that you know can get the job done and return the favor one day.
Here’s a great example. The family and I were at Disney World last week and I got a call from one of my music industry contacts. Apparently, Ozzy Osbourne’s
tour needed photos taken ASAP. Nothing fancy… they needed passport photos taken for a South American trip.
Why not take the crew and musicians to a local Kinko’s for a few bucks a headshot, instead of paying a grand to have a pro come to them? It seems like overkill, right? Some shoots aren’t about the quality. Some are simply about the convenience, and Ozzy isn’t going to shut down an afternoon of work in the middle of a stadium tour to drive everyone all over town! It’s actually cheaper in the grand scheme of things to bring in a pro, even if he/she seems pricey. The savings of keeping the tour running is much bigger.
Anyway, I got sidetracked from the main point. I wanted to meet Ozzy and make some extra money, but I couldn’t. I was 1150 miles away, in the middle of a family vacation. So, I did what any smart photog would do. I told the client that I could send them a list of great shooters. I immediately asked my group of trusted peers who wanted to do it and who was available, then sent over three choices to the client. They booked one and everyone was happy.
I got a follow-up from the photog I referred, and she said it was a lot of fun getting to meet Ozzy. I bet it was!
If you want to keep track of what’s going on in the commercial and editorial photo worlds, you might want to keep on eye on these websites: