Sleeve it out! Styled Product Photography for The Cufflink Store.
Beauty truly comes in all shapes and sizes. Our last post detailed our efforts shooting Corbeau’s big, bold racing-car seats, whilst today’s tiny, yet perfectly formed subject is one more likely to get lost down the back of the sofa. The Cufflink Store approached us to shoot their huuuuuuuge range of products and we recently set to task on their miniature creations. The client asked for the type of styled product photography popularised by sites such as Etsy and Notonthehighstreet.com (Not On The High Street). We’ll admit we breathed a sigh of post-brief relief, as lifestyle photography entails a little more creative satisfaction than shooting endless Amazon-friendly white background cutouts…. but then we began sweating a little at the prospect of crafting, hundreds – potentially thousands – of individually styled shots on a competitively tight budget and timescale. We’ve accrued a mountain (well, store room or two) of props, backdrops, materials and sets over the years and realistically we knew some would be implemented over several shots and between different products, but the challenge remained to create a huge array of consistent, cohesive images that nevertheless looked distinct and self-contained, as opposed to mere replicas of one another. Time to roll our sleeves up!! ….BLAST! Did anyone see where my cufflink landed?….
This type of styled product photography generally benefits from diffused natural light – the type you get through a large window. If you’re only shooting a few items, waiting for the right time of day can do wonders for your images…..yeah, that’s great, but when a) you have several hundred pieces to shoot to deadline and b) it’s England, it’s Winter, there’s NO light…. it’s time to bring out some bulbs. Simulating our window-light with large softboxes and occasionally using grids for more contrasty, directional light, we set to work crafting a host of macro lifestyle dioramas.
Although we planned to retouch each shot, removing unwanted reflections and deepening contrast to reveal details such as engravings, we also knew this time-consuming and potentially costly part of the process should be streamlined as much as possible, so care and attention while shooting were paramount. With any product photography, a clean, dust free environment is your aim, but when shooting macro, unwanted elements which might normally go unnoticed get all “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”-ified. Biscuit crumbs turn in to boulders, bits of fluff become grazing wildebeest and greasy fingerprints on metal are…are….just don’t even go there ok! You catch our drift. Take care in the studio and save time and money in the edit.
Another challenge when shooting reflective metals are their shifting appearance and colour depending on what they reflect so we implemented all manner of bounce cards and flags to shape the light and maintain a consistent colour checked light temperature.
Donning cufflinks is often about making a statement – quite literally wearing your heart on your sleeve. You might want to suggest a character steeped in tradition, prestige, elegance, playfulness or irreverence. Much more so than white background cutouts, lifestyle photography allows us to reinforce these notions in the way we dress the shot, the tones, the materials and the props we include. You don’t have to show a lot (it’s macro, you can’t show a lot) but a mere suggestion can really help sell a shot or give potential buyers a glimpse at a desirable “lifestyle”. Personalised cufflinks containing a family photo were shot in a cosy, domestic setting. Engraved pairs celebrating special dates for couples in love were shot among rose petals for obvious reasons (if it’s not obvious to you, you need to work harder on your wooing!!) and playful miniature glider cufflinks sat atop colourful model aircraft. Ultimately, a lot of what we shot might be deemed “novelty” items so we aimed to inject a little bit of fun and life where possible.
Lifestyle photography is about equal parts photographic skill, art direction and imagination and when done well, it can really sell a product or whole brand. The key is to not overcomplicate your images or distract attention from the real star of the show. Take care and plan your shots where possible but prepare to adapt to what works. Especially when shooting in bulk, the key to saving yourself time and your clients money is the ability to be creative and spontaneous. Case in point; pretty much everything we shot was entirely off the cuff….
…. that was a joke.
Thanks for reading.