Commercial photography

One Christmas my father received as a gift from the family a Super 8 movie camera, a projector and a screen. He liked it, sort of, used it some, mostly not, he wasn’t in love with it. I’m sure he would have preferred a new putter. It sat around on a shelf for a long time until I picked it up. I made a few home movies, mostly starring my kid sister. I liked it. It stuck. After High School, at my mother’s insistence, and to keep me out of more trouble, my uncle arranged a job for me at a small commercial production house - I had professional equipment at my disposal!! And I used it. A lot! I enrolled at the School of Visual Arts on East 23rd St., a few blocks from the studio, and that was it - it was all photography after that.

On the practical side:

What you want to know about commercial photography:
Like any specialized field commercial photography benefits from talent, experience and equipment - the right equipment in the right hands. We've shot commercials, magazine ads, catalogs, and every other advertising entity in film and stills, and the professionals I've collaborated with who have consistently created successful ad campaigns always knew without hesitation what needed to be done. Amazing I would think. I watched and learned.

First, you want your product, whether a package or a person, to look it's unqualified best for the impression you want to create - that doesn’t necessarily mean looking perfect - it means the best for the impression you want to create.

Choose a photographer who will create photographs that will appeal to your customers, your buyers, and no one knows who they are better than you do. They’re probably like you, or who you would like to be.

Your photographer must understand what you want. For that you want/need excellent customer service. Good communication between you and your photographer will result in what you expect and nothing less.

If You're Curious About Jewelry Photography...
There is more than one way to photograph jewelry. Here are the categories.

Batch Shooting
This type of photography is the favorite of jewelry manufacturers, the goal being speed and economy. This method results in a reasonably decent photograph of each piece, essentially creating a photographic copy of the real thing for manufacturers to show their experienced retailers.

With “batch shooting” only one lighting setup is used no matter the size, shape or color of the jewelry. The setup consists of a “hot box” and 2 or 3 lights and a point-and-shoot camera on a tripod. A “hot box” is literally a six-sided box made from white silk with an opening on one end for the camera lens. The lights used are anything from photographic strobes to desk lamps on either side of the box, sometimes on top as well. The jewelry is placed in the center of the box. If necessary the piece is held in place with bee’s wax or hot glue to keep it from rolling over.

Then click – the photo is taken. The piece is removed from the box and replaced by the next piece. Click. Then the next piece, click, and so on. A virtual assembly line. A hundred or more photographs can easily be taken in a day using this method. THERE IS NO RETOUCHING OR COLOR-CORRECTING. The raw image from the camera is the final photograph. You can see photographs of this type on eBay, Amazon and the rest.

Shooting jewelry for Websites and Catalogs
More time and care are taken with this type of jewelry photography. Usually there is a general lighting setup which can be anything the photographer decides to use for the jewelry and background being photographed. This initial setup might then be added to or subtracted from for each piece of jewelry.

The photographer will turn and angle the piece until the “sweet spot” is found - the angle that presents the jewelry at its best, which means the stones look alive, the color vibrant, the metal brilliant. The photographer might enhance the beauty of the piece by adding additional lights or by simply placing a small showcard at the right angle. This kind of care is taken with each piece, there is no assembly line shooting. Different backgrounds are used, different colors, different textures, sometimes with a shadow, sometimes with reflections.

After the jewelry is photographed, usually on the following day, each photo is color-corrected and retouched to allow the piece to be seen accurately, very important with colored stones.

Shooting jewelry for Print Advertising and Commercials
Even more time and care are taken when jewelry is photographed for print publication (national mags, high end catalogs, national TV ads). The best cameras and lenses are used and compared to other methods, a great deal of time is taken to light and photograph each piece. The diamonds are bright, the cut clearly visible.

Sometimes props and special effects are used to enhance the presentation and to establish a theme associated with the jewelry brand to target a specific market. Illustration and special effects are routinely incorporated.

Working With Models:
I know, they can be expensive, but with good reason: models sell, they put a face on your product, identify it's place in the world, brand it. Awhile back I caught an interview with Oscar de la Renta, he was being asked about his success, he said, I'm quoting verbatim, "90% of it is the girl." Of course he was exaggerating to make a point, but you get the idea. Years before when I began working in photography my first mentor said to me,"90% of photography is what you put in front of the camera." Put those two ideas together.