Photography for designers or how to shoot in ghetto conditions.
The ask was quite simple, it had to be a photo with desk of a producer (a person who uses the product the most) and showcase actual screenshots in the devices. The goal I had was to create something more custom than most of the photos like that online. Pretty much any digital product has that type of photography on their website, the one where you see a laptop on a desk shot up front/from above or a hand with an iPhone. When I design, and especially recently with over-hyped "flat design" being used everywhere, I go by the rule that your design should be so custom and so branded, that it should be hard for it to be "stolen". I think designer's job is to create visual design that works for specific task, goal, visual branding, you name it. It should be hard to take an image and just swap the logo. That applies to actual digital design — layouts that designers create for the a client or in this case to photography.
The first idea on how to keep it simple but add a little "twist" on it, was to play on the brand name "Float". I thought that all the objects should be floating up in the air, as well as I would select very narrow color palette that corresponds with the core color and try shoot objects that are white and blue (or retouch them later).
I made a very quick sketch of what I was thinking of doing:
Guys thought it was too chaotic and they were absolutely right. That looks like a producer's nightmare, rather than properly organized project. It had to be something more chilled. So I decided to have objects float in an "organized manner", almost have a "Zen" feeling to it. That was the next quick sketch:
Already here I start to highlight, which objects I am planning on painting blue. Also I really wanted to shoot with an angle and not straight or right from above. Angle and the line that desk creates adds something nice and graphic to the scene. Also objects have depth from this angle and get almost "isometric" like.
Concept is approved, time to shoot! I don't have a studio and crazy expensive gear, you can do everything super cheap. I was always avoiding stock photography (for the same reason explained in the very first paragraph of this post, my job is to create custom graphics). If I need a hand with an iPhone, I grab my camera and take a picture of it. It's quite simple. So my apartment turned into a mess for a night.
For those of you, who are interested in gear:
- I was shooting with my Canon 5D Mark III. But any camera will do in conditions like that. Even cropped Canon 60D, it is not the case where you need full matrix
- Lens was Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L. I never use this lens outdoors, there's something with pictures it produces that I particularly not happy with. But to take product shots it is quite perfect.
- Two continuos lights on left and right - PBL EZ 24" x 24" SOFTBOX, they go just for $89 on Amazon. But to be honest I would recommend to go for something stronger. The light was definitely not enough even for a quick shoot like that. Had to bump up ISO and ended up spending more time in Photoshop. This light is ok for much smaller scenes with one object
- SPEEDLIGHT 600 EX-RT was Ponting to the scene through Lastolite 15x15 Softbox
- Old SPEEDLIGHT 580 EX was mounted on a regular tripod and shooting up into the ceiling, so the light would bounce and lid up the scene from above.
- Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT to control the flashes. But can easily work without it via cable, since the camera is always fixed on tripod.
I really needed to shoot with completely closed aperture to get everything in focus. My aperture was almost f/20. I was using Canon's EOS Utility for the first time, hoping to get live preview to make sure everything is super sharp. Unfortunately their live mode does not provide image with a good quality, so had to wait until every shot is downloaded into computer. If anyone has any other suggestions on software like that, would love to hear it!
There are couple of things I learned and would have done differently next time. Shooting everything on one flat surface and then cutting out elements does the trick to some extend. If you don't move objects too far from the surface, you won't see skewed perspective. Because the more you lift an object, the more perspective will change on this object. Ideally I should have shot the same scene with camera completely fixed, but moving the table up and down. So I would have all the objects in different Y position with correct perspective and then use the lowest position as my baseline.
I had to shoot 2 different scenes. Sometimes objects in the scene overlap each other. So after I finally get the right settings on my camera + light, I shot the full scene and then was removing objects one by one from the front, so it would allow me more flexibility on when I had to trace them.
Here's the final RAW outcome of the first scene already color corrected and adjusted in Camera RAW when importing to Photoshop.
In Photoshop I had to cut out each element of the scene, retouch it and lift it up in the air. Some objects I wanted to color in blue to match with the brand. For example the blue plastic card, that I turned into FLOAT business car is a pass for Stockholm subway. The plant was replaced later in the process.
Final image of the first scene.
The second scene was focused more on mobile. I had to highlight that the product is responsive and show screenshots of it in tablet and phone. Same process as above, here's the RAW file imported into Photoshop via Camera RAW with main adjustments, like temperature, shadows and highlights etc
And same retouching process
Final image of the scene
At some point, scene had Braun watch, that we later removed. But while shooting I had to do this "trick" to have actual watch float up in the air, but strap hanging down.
And a nice poster at the end
You should definitely check out Float Schedule if you are looking for a project management tool, guys did a fantastic job and spend a lot of time working on it!