Trial and Error


Ultimately, this may have been a project that I should have declined, however, the challenge was welcomed. Shoot the cover of a brochure – no deadline, limited input from the client, and the only request is that it feature a variety of products and look nice. My own self-imposed guideline was that the end result needed to stand out and be something different, and without any other rules to follow, it was hard to know where to begin. Too many options does lead to creative paralysis.

Product samples were in abundance, so what resulted was a process of trial and error. The first shots came out mundane, flat, or colorless. Not the greatest start, but it ruled out some of the more obvious ideas. Certain products didn’t photograph well at all, so those were easy to discard and replace with something else. Gift wrap, a product that needed to be featured, came across early on as lacking depth and by the end I had it wrapped around boxes to show it off. Greeting cards proved to be interchangeable as long as they were colorful.

As I moved past the boring snapshots and started to get creative, the first thing I pictured was a glowing envelope that would somehow have rays of light bursting from within. I wanted all of the other products to be flying out from the envelope and was never quite sure how. I cut a hole in the side of the envelope just large enough for my flash head to fire through, then lined the inside with reflective silver material. It mounted to my flash like a bizarre snoot. Take a look at the green envelope photo above and you’ll see one of many test shots that resulted from this idea. It all looked a bit too alien to me, and while it worked, I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate it into a larger idea.

In a moment of experimentation, I shut off the lights of the room and decided to try lightpainting the products with a flashlight. With a 30 second shutter speed and a trigger cable, I tripped the camera and set out to illuminate the various products without lingering too long in one spot. The quality of light was interesting enough that I tried a few variations before something else occurred to me. I printed out the logo of the company and cut it out of the paper with a knife to create a stencil for my flash. After adjusting both the flash intensity and the aperture, I found that the logo became nice and crisp when the flash fired in the dark. With the angle of the camera set to look directly at the flash, it appeared that the light spilled down the length of the table in a single beam of light to provide interest.

I was starting to see something I liked, so I added the lightpainting back into the shot after the flash fired and felt like I had something that might work for a cover. The product was too small, so I reconfigured and tried again. The products jumped out of the darkness and grabbed my eye. It was dramatic, flashy, and different. All of my other ideas paled in comparison, and while I was coming up with more elaborate setups, I didn’t want to put in the time if I didn’t believe in them wholeheartedly.

As an afterthought a day or two later, I tossed some of the products together and snapped a quick image only to have it be the one that the client chose. I liked it for it’s vibrant colors and simplicity, however, it soon came down to replacing nearly everything in the shot at the request of the client. While I won’t show you the final image, I can safely say that something was lost, but I suppose that is only my opinion.

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