For my Product and Jewellery photography, I sometimes photograph antique and second hand products, as they are easy to come by in local shops, they are inexpensive, they are great for practising and refining lighting product photography skills and there is an abundance of exciting and unusual artefacts to choose from.
The lighting and shooting process generally goes smoothly. For this shot, I hung one shoe from a C-Stand with wire and tilted the other upright. (I later turned the image 45% degrees in Lightroom). The concept that I dreamt up was that I wanted to show the front of the shoe from one side and the pump and heel on the other shoe from the other side.
I used two strobes with 18cm reflectors and 12 degree, grid spots attached to light the shoes. A third strobe lit the background which had a 21cm reflector also had a gel attached to achieve the colour. The shoes, lit with the grid spots were photographed in a number of different exposures, in order to light a specific portion of the shoes in each shot, which were then masked together in Photoshop.
Because there can be significant wear and tear with used products, there is a lot of retouching in Photoshop that needs to be done. In the case of these women’s shoes there were tear marks and white spots, wrinkles, creases and dirt. The Clone tool and the Spot healing brush, makes the retouching process easy. However it is no quick task, especially when there is a texture on the shoes, so I cannot blur every tear and dust spot out easily with the ‘Dust and Scratches’ filter, as I am likely to lose that texture in the process. So the only thing to do is zoom in and put some music on and retouch, retouch and retouch some more.
When all was completed and the shoes looked new, I noticed that the image needed to be taken further. The shoes on the background looked nice but it needed a texture. So I thought of using a scarf to drape across the scene, but the product I am showing off is the shoes, not another piece of clothing.
I opened up my trusty treasure chest of props and toys and I found something that would represent the a current timely trend. Autumn leaves. I can tell an autumnal walking story with these shoes and leaves.
I used a softbox to light the leaves evenly, on a white foam board. After shooting, in creating this composite, I cut out each leaf using the Quick Selection tool, I then masked them in on separate layers and used the Transform tool to get the leaves in the right position and angle. I reduced the opacity by approximately 50%, so that they were not visually competing with the High Heels and I adjusted the brightness of each leaf, depending on what portion of the background gradient they were on so that they blended in with the scene.
I believe that the lesson here is what else can you add to take your Product Photography shot further? A beautifully lit whiskey bottle on a black plexiglass background is fine, but is it enough? Sometimes it is, but it is also important to experiment and see if adding another prop, ice, fire, smoke, wood chips, will take your images to the next level. In the case of these shoes, the leaves helped contextualize the photograph giving it a timely trend.