As Commercial Photographers we are often asked to make something fabulous out of products that may have very little interest if any at all.  This is the point at which you have to begin to pull camera, lighting, propping, and special effects techniques out of your tool box and let the image scream excitement even if the subject doesn’t.

Sometimes you may be shooting a common everyday item that the art director wants to see presented in a different way than usual.  A combination of lens selection, lghting effects, special effects, propping, and post processing can lend a very different point of view to products or themes that have been done to death through the years.

For your assignment you will research specific lighting and special effects techniques on the web and apply your findings to a common household item.  This item could be a shoe, a basketball,  a bowl of cereal.  Anything that we could all recognize and would easily find around the house will work.  Next, do the research.  Look at all of the options from the perspective of achieving a result you have not seen before by trying a technique you have never tried before.

This could include light painting, home made light modifiers (lots of web sites show how), cross processing film, or using selective diffusion during exposure.  Either way, the idea is to create an image that has much more going on visually than simply showing the subject well.  Basically we are trying to compensate for the subject by making the image exciting in other ways.

The image can be digital and can be retouched.  Drop your untouched jpeg along with the final jpeg on the server under a folder called Assignment #4

Whether we know it or not, or care to admit it, we all have one or more photographers whose work we aspire to. Their work either facinates, excites, or inspires us in some way. It may be that their work is what motivated you to this place in your life. This person whether you know them or not can be considered your mentor. In small ways you look to them for guidance or reassurance, or just some visual inspiration.

For the first phase of this assignment you will identify your photographic mentor and present their work to our group. You should be able to tell us what it is about this person’s work that interests you, and tell us ways that your own work has been influenced by them. This person does not need to be a name we have all heard of, but we do need a way to see their work, preferrably a web site or book, so that we can discuss what makes them different from everyone else.

Phase one will take place on the afternoon of September 12th

Phase two of this assignment is to really explore what it is about this photographer that inspires you, and create an image of your own in honor of their style. For example, do you like a certain photographer’s use of light, digital manipulation, use of color, conceptual themes, lavish productions, work with people? These things and more go into creating amazing images and can be used in infinite combination to achieve great results. After presenting your mentor in class we will discuss as a group some ways in which you might go about creating similar imagery for yourself.

The final part of phase two is to execute the image. Choose a subject matter that is in keeping with that of your mentor and try your best to figure out what things you would have to do to get that look. Obviously there will be significant production and budgetary differences between your imaging process and that of the person you aspire to, but that’s kind of the point. Once you begin considering all of the mechanics of an image and the production behind that image, then the real photographic work has been done and the rest of the effort is in styling and making the shot “pretty”.

As we discussed in class, a product often needs to be presented a few different ways to the potential customer before they realize why they must have it and make them wonder what did they ever do before owning it. Whether it’s shampoo, makeup or the latest running shoe, the job of the advertiser is to both inform and romance the audience into a buying descision.

When this is done with photography it is often necessary to have more than one view of the product. Some views are designed to inform, some to romance, brought together they work to make the buying public believe that their life will be better if they have whatever it is that is selling that day.

First, the product shot: This typically answers the questions what, when, where. What does this product look like? What colors does it come in? Where are the buttons? What are the features?

Second the demonstration shot: This answers the question how and who. Showing the product in use helps a viewer understand the benefits of owning the product and also gives them context to show how they could use it themselves. It can also show the type of customer targeted. For example a medical company may have several different product lines for both young and old patients. Showing their products in use helps people better understand what the use is and who might benefit from it.

Third the aspirational shot: While the other shots may inform, this shot inspires the viewer into action. It’s the reason that makeup companies use young attractive models, why shoe companies use athletes, and why products like Viagra try really hard to convey how much of a better person you would be if you used the product without showing you a photo of what the product actually does for you. Aspirational images are ones that get to the emotional side of people by making them excited, comforted, or feeling like they are missing out on something if they don’t at least try it. While the other two types of shots are imortant, the aspirational shot is the real money maker, and take the most effort in both the creative and production stages.

For this assignment You will need to choose a fairly common product. It can be anything you have laying around the house and study it. When I say study it I mean look through magazines and find examples where that product (not specific brand, but the product in general) is marketed and advertised. Is it mostly an aspirational product (like shoes- can they really make you jump higher, or be like Mike?) Or is the product best presented in a technical manner (answering what, where, when)

After studying the product You will make two images. The first sould be a straight forward but flawless product shot. It will be on white seamless background paper and should show as many of the product’s design features, logos and other company branding or trademarks as possible.

The second is the aspirational shot which should inspire the customer to go beyond just feeling like they might need the product, but actively wanting it. This shot should be concepted and planned out on paper before shooting and should incorporate motion of some kind as a major design element. Keep in mind that with the aspirationl images it is not as important to feature the product. We are going beyond that to feature an idea, or a lifestyle. This is much more powerful than taking pictures of stuff.

You may shoot this in whatever format you like. I need files for both shots on the 215 server space along with a scan of your concept. If all goes well, your image should resemble your concepted drawing, but hopefully evolve somewhat as you get the product in front of the camera and begin working out technical issues.

It sounds strange, but in this world of internet, email, cell phones and other forms of impersonal communication people still want to see who you are and what you look like. For this assignment you will concept and execute your first PR photo for yourself. This is the image that will later perhaps go onto your web site or on press releases (think big, why not) and represent you. You will need to sketch and describe the concept so that a fellow classmate can shoot it. I will expect to see the concept sketch scanned in and a few out-takes of both your images and the images you created for your partner posted to the assignment section of the PHO215 server. We will share all images in class next Tuesday and get your commentary about your reasons for doing what you did.

Make it good!

Please note that the assignment to create your own blog for this class has been changed. A new Assignment #1 will be posted shortly.

We are all familiar with websites as a way to showcase our work and communicate to an audience of potential clients or employers. A blog (short for web-log) is a hybrid between a way to easily show up to the minute examples of the work you are doing and also a less formal environment where you can showcase yourself a bit by giving insight into your methods or thought processes or relaying to the audience how your past or recent experiences are influencing the work that you do.

The first step is to set up a blog account. You can do this for free from any internet equipped computer by going to and following the registration steps.

Next select the look or the template for the blog. Be sure to select one that allows you to change the header image.

The final and most challenging part is to fill the blog with content. Blogs should be fluid and ever evolving. Meaning they should be updated frequently and give the audience a reason to come back often.

For the first part of this assignment create a few different categories. The first should be a portfolio category that contains ten or more of your best images. The ones that define your skill and talent so far. The other category should be personal work. The third should be assignments, and the final can be called notes, random thoughts, ramblings, something along those lines.

The second part is to concept and execute your firs PR photo for you blog. This is the image that will go in the hader and represent you. You will need to sketch and describe the concept so that a fellow classmate can shoot it. I will expect to see the concept sketch scanned in and a few out-takes of both your images and the images you created for your partner posted to the assignment section of the blog with commentary about your reasons for doing what you did.

The point of this exercise is to give you a place to show your experience to others and share information. It’s not just for photos, but also for sharing with others what is going on in your career.

Some technical considerations when posting photos to a blog. You typically want the width to be no more than 500 px and want to use the save for web feature in PS at medium setting so things will load fast. Also, be sure to sharpen, but only after scaling down.

I would also suggest making your own logo frame for each image you post. I will walk you through how to do this in PS.