Product photography and book cover photography are similar in that the product is what should stand out, just like a title and author name on a cover. The art should support it, and match the theme but not take away from the title or product. This is the same ideas I put into practice on my scripture photos too.
It shouldn’t be overly busy and the text should either be light so you can use dark text, or the reverse. They are both basically an advertisement. Color choices and combinations combined with the “less is more” works the same for both.
I ask for keywords similar to the questionnaire that I have for designing a book cover. I use those keywords to come up with an idea. It’s subjective, so the more I’m told what a client has in mind, the closer I can come to achieving that, without giving up my creativity, design, and use of colors to make the product the spotlight. Same as with book cover photography and design, there is a limit on the revisions.
Just like in cover design there are factors that determine the price. Sometimes I have to purchase products, sometimes just gather or borrow them. Sometimes I have to take the products on location and do a shoot. Sometimes I have to combine them as a composite with a background with a photo I’ve captured in the past. Composites are at least two photos combined, and cost a little more as do products shot on a pure white background because both are more time-consuming.
My most recent job for New Sun was for 4 single products on a pure 255 white background plus 5 banners, what they call “sliders” to go at the top of their website. See the box of products at the top of the page.
While working on these sliders, I was also given the job on the third book in a series by a previous client, all while my computer is still being restored and is not at full functionality. I prefer to do all my shooting at one time so I have less tearing down and setting up the studio and lights, putting products up and out, then back, is time-consuming. It takes me longer to set up and tear down and it cost the client more so I try to group photo sessions when I can.
New Sun is pretty good about labeling what they want in each shot but sometimes there is a product in the box that is not on the list and vice-versa. They do not want any light glare or reflections but they always know their sizes needed!
These products came with the instructions of needing a slider for:
blood pressure— veggies, fruit, nuts, dry beans, seeds, verbally told “calming”
diabetes— fresh, outdoors, action, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fresh veggies
arthritis—writing on the sheet, acid/alkaline
oils— split sides w. product “summer, hot, insects”
thyroid—verbally told just one word “fog”
We were almost to the limit on products for one shot with the 2 to 1 ratio size, shot in the studio, leaving room for writing, and being able to clearly see each product without it looking cluttered, plus there was considerable more editing to remove glare from every product. I can only get so far away from one side of the room to the other and my backdrops are typically 3′ to 5′ wide. It is starting to take more brainstorming and planning, some very creative scooching, rearranging and turning of products to fit it all in a slider frame before I ever press the shutter. For those who do photography, you know how hard it is to get crisp shots of products at multiple distances from the camera and hopefully leave an out of focus background that is simple enough to have writing added over it. The two shots below, only the camera was moved. The products stayed in the same spot.
On the blood pressure slider, I got the black stones and stacked them with clay, added nuts, and an apple, the cinnamon sticks and made a cup of hot tea with steam no less. I had purchased some new vinyl backdrops and thought the cobblestone rocks and muted tones looked calming. I managed to get it all to fit, and used a Pepto pink backdrop. Unlike most clients, New Sun has colors too close to chroma green or blue to select around the products. I replaced the pink with a muted backdrop of golds to go with the rocks and complement the red apple. I would’ve used deep red for the type on this. I got rid of all the glare and uploaded it. They were not happy and wanted a lighter, more green background… more fresh. I had ‘fresh’ for one of the other sliders, but the only word I had for this one was “calming” but since I’ve been working with them for years, I reselected around the products again and put in a different background composite, as light and green as I could go without it looking odd with the golden floordrop and rocks. The steam was lost in the lighter background so I added sunbeams.
On the diabetes slider, I had “fresh, outdoors, action, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fresh veggies” words to work with. I added the walking shoes, weights, towel, water, and apple. This was another product photoshoot composite with another photo. After selecting the product again I choose a trail after rain photo that I shot from up near Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway. What could be fresher and more outdoorsy than that?
My thought was light text would show up nice plus make the products stand out. This is another slider that was very full—in fact, it didn’t fit width wise across my foam board so I went and bought a gray fabric backdrop (not pictured). I used yet another new vinyl background I bought, and even though me searching through photos for a composite is not part of what I typically do, I looked for a photo that the wood and the scene didn’t contrast too much and take away from the product. This one should look good with white writing.
For the arthritis slider, I had “writing on the sheet, acid/alkaline” and one of the products was geranium so I bought flowers and the fern props along with several others I can use later. I tried something new with this one. I shot down on it and did a quick one to make sure New Sun approved of the new angle. I’m still waiting to hear back.
It was hard to make the products quit rolling, especially the empty bottles. Since I had bottles of the CBD, I had purchased from them, I left their sealed bottles there. Next time I’ll take them with me! I used my own bottles of CBD oil and sadly, they leaked and I lost some of my oil. I used another vinyl backdrop of wood for this one. It probably would’ve been easier to get the bottles to quit rolling if I’d just set them on the oak floor in the studio. This one required props but didn’t require the extra charge of working with a composite as it was shot on the background. I never did hear back from them and I needed to move on to other client jobs. I reshot this one in the same method we’ve been using, no less than 6x. Every time I’d get back to the computer I’d see bottle covered just a bit too much from another one. That is just a lot of products to fit. I purchased a spice rack and tried to gain height to make each bottle legible within the space I had available, in the studio and per their banner size leaving room for writing. I purchased props, I shot indoors and outdoors, on the floor, on a table, I even bought new rod hangers to hang backdrops wider than the stand I had, and I had my hubby permanently fix them above my windows. Yes, I modified my home studio just for them. Even with all this, I still had to edit in some things where I still did not have enough room. I went way above and beyond on this one, and I’m happy with the final.
The oil slider came with the request to split sides w. product and keywords; “summer, hot, & insects”. I walked around and around my yard. I set the products up in multiple places, but there wasn’t enough depth or width in several of the locations and the best place was our front steps which are a solid stain grayish blue. To make it look more summer-ish, I shot it while it was bright and sunny outside and used a timer so I could have my hands free to hold a diffuser. I also used some of the new burlap I just purchased to keep it lighter than my stairs are. I went to a field and picked some yellow daffodils and put them in a pretty watering can and added a few blooming twigs I cut off our own Bradford Pear trees. I used the lavender and little whirlygig I bought and added some wrapped balls. I split the products as they were in the diagram, left room for writing, then edited out any light glares. I also muted the texture of the burlap and put in some warm light rays. I had a few bees checking it out but none were there when I was finally set to press the shutter. This one also required props but didn’t require the extra charge of working with a composite as it was shot on the background.
Even though New Sun has never mentioned using a model, my best friend was over and she happened to be wearing blue. The only word I had for the thyroid slider was “fog” which has a blue cast and blue looks good with brown… well you get where I am going. A model shot, free of charge on another composite, that I again went through my collection of photos to find.
When I bought the new gray fabric background, I also picked up some burlap by the yard. I had called around trying to find burlap bags but no one sold them anymore as all animal feed now comes in plastic bags. I wonder if the burlap that landscape places use is any sturdier and less fuzzy?
What a mess burlap yardage is!! It was making burlap dust everywhere. I read you could wash it. Well, I guess you can but you may not want to. I picked the delicate cycle and double rinse. It frayed badly, the fibers were everywhere but the worst part is, the burlap is still shedding like crazy.
So that is a glimpse behind the scenes. Wonder if the next time you see something for sale or pick up a book you’ll look at it any differently?
I treat each client and job as an individual. I can’t tell you how much time I spend brainstorming and writing myself notes of what may work for a client. If you decide to buy from them, let them know where you saw the photos 🙂
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