04/8/15

Miami Jewelry Photographer Kate Benson | Arme de L’amour Jewelry Shoot

Last week, I worked with Arme de L’amour, a jewelry company planning to launch their website soon. They had a few ideas in mind as inspiration, so we worked to create a similar style while making their pieces look as fabulous in photos as they do in person.

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Photo: Kristin Stickels

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Working with the designer to style the shot. Photo: Kristin Stickels

It was a great day of shooting their wonderful pieces.

More work by Miami Jewelry Photographer Kate Benson.

03/25/15
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Product Photographer Miami Kate Benson | Jewelry Billboard in Miami

A few months ago, DiModolo hired me to shoot their e-commerce product shots for their website. The client liked the photos so much that they ended up using one for a billboard here in Miami.

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Follow this link for more work by Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson.

03/11/15
The wind was difficult at times, but we were flexible and moved inside for some shots.

Zacasha On Model Shoot

On Monday we had an on-model shoot for Zacasha, fabulously elegant bohemian necklace and bracelets. The shoot went really well. Jennifer, the designer, and her team had put together some great wardrobe choices for the carefully selected pieces we were to shoot. The models were fantastic and the weather was great (except for a little too much wind). We shot on location at the beach in Hollywood, and then at a private residence nearby. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot.

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The early morning sun was gorgeous and provided us with some fantastic light.

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We took advantage of some of the unique parts of Hollywood Beach.

Shooting Laura and Ailidh together .

Shooting Laura and Eilie together .

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The wind was difficult at times, but we were flexible and moved inside for some shots.

The wind was difficult at times, but we were flexible and moved inside for some shots.

Having talented models is always a plus.

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Laying down was one way to beat the wind.

The private residence had a wide variety of areas to shoot in.

The private residence had an amazing backyard with a lot of variety.

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Melanie and Eilie.

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The tiki hut was a beautiful place to shoot.

It was a great day and we have loads of amazing photos to sort through. We’ll share some when we finish processing them.

A huge thanks to everyone who made it run so smoothly:
Jennifer – the designer
Melanie – her assistant who also modeled for us
Leah – Jennifer’s daughter who also modeled for us
Robin – the owner of the restaurant we used as our “home base” at the beach and the private residence
Alex – our “gopher”
Marina – our intern
Laura and Eilie – the models

03/9/15
Lola James Jewelry

Miami Product Photographer | Photoshop – A Useful Tool, Not Divine Intervention

Post-production of photos is extremely important in product photography. In this blog, we will examine Photoshop and its uses and misconceptions.

What Photoshop is NOT: Photoshop is not divine intervention to airbrush your photo and make it suddenly incredible. There is a common misunderstanding that by using Photoshop, any photo can magically become amazing. This is most definitely not true.

What Photoshop IS: Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can help make great photos even better by modifying certain facets of the photo.

It is crucial to begin the post-production with an effective photo that conveys a compelling story relevant to the product. The old saying “garbage in – garbage out” is a very basic way of saying that if you begin with a poor photo, no amount of Photoshop in the world will be able to make that photo great. As a photographer, I do not cut corners during the shoot. I take my time and focus my energy to create the best photo possible. I am then able to enhance this photo with the various tools available in Photoshop.

Here is a list of things that Photoshop cannot fix, taken from the blog “Six Things You Can’t Fix in Photoshop,” by Shutterfinger:

  1. Camera position – if the camera is too close to the product, it is impossible to “back it up” in post-production
  2. Lighting direction and quality
  3. Focus
  4. Blurred image due to motion of the camera or subject
  5. Lost data
  6. Lack of creativity/spark/intent
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Here is an example of a jewelry shoot I did and then enhanced with Photoshop.

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Here is an example of necklaces that were not conscientiously shot and therefore would be difficult to improve with Photoshop (and certainly not cost-effective).

 



Click here for more info on Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson

03/6/15

Miami Product Photographer | Raw Image Files – Better Known as “Digital Negatives”

The term “raw file” is often mistaken or misunderstood. Nowadays, with everyone taking photos on their phone and sharing them with the world, the idea of a digital photo seems relatively straightforward and easy to comprehend. But that is not really the case. If you don’t fully understand the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file, don’t worry, you are not alone! This is a common issue that I hope to clarify here.

It is essential to distinguish between these three terms (raw files, processed files, and retouched files) in order to get exactly what you need and can use from a photo shoot. Sometimes clients will ask me for the raw files from the shoot when they actually meant to ask for the processed files (they want files that have not yet been retouched, but that are in a format that they can use).

So let’s start with the basics. First of all, it is important to know what a raw file is. Believe it or not, raw is not necessarily what you think it is. Many people think that “raw”simply means that it hasn’t been re-touched or edited using Photoshop or a similar program. This is not the case. To clarify, a raw file means “camera raw.” But what does this mean exactly?

Consider this: years ago when you wanted to shoot photos, you had a roll of Kodak film, for example. You placed the roll of film in your camera and began shooting. After you shot all 24 or 36 photos on the roll, you would typically take the roll of film to a photo center to have it processed. The roll itself was no good to you until it was processed. What you got back from the photo center was the developed film (as negatives or slides) and prints (if you opted to print them). In terms of the digital world of photography, think of the raw files as the undeveloped roll of film that has been shot, the processed files as the developed film and the retouched files as the prints that you would get.

Part of the reason we shoot tethered (with the camera attached to the computer by a cable in order to send the files directly to the computer) is so that we can show the client a preview of a processed file that doesn’t actually exist in reality yet. It hasn’t been processed at this point, but it can be viewed as if it were. Shooting tethered is a great way to give the client a general idea of what the photo is going to look like when it is processed. If I were shooting to a CD or memory card, you would not be seeing the hypothetical version of the image. You would be seeing the raw version which is hard to understand unless you know how to read them.

So, after the raw images are shot, they need to be processed. Clients hire me because they like my work and part of that work is file processing. It is the part of post-production that occurs after the shoot, where I make sure that when I give you the files, they look exactly like they are supposed to. In the past, when using film, photographers would shoot photos with the idea in mind of how we were going to process it. Pushing or pulling the film during the development process was a way to adjust what we shot in order to create the best image possible. Now, with digital images, this is done in the “digital darkroom” or in the processing phase of post-production. Some of the things that can be done during processing are (from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_image_format):

  • decoding – image data of raw files are typically encoded for compression purpose, but also often for
    obfuscation purpose
  • defective pixel removal – replacing data in known bad locations with interpolations from nearby locations
  • white balancing – accounting for color temperature of the light that was used to take the photograph
  • demosaicing – interpolating the partial raw data received from the color-filtered image sensor into a matrix of colored pixels.
  • noise reduction – trading off detail for smoothness by removing small fluctuations
  • color translation – converting from the camera native color space defined by the spectral sensitivities of the image sensor to an output color space (typically sRGB for JPEG)
  • tone reproduction – the scene luminance captured by the camera sensors and stored in the raw file needs to be rendered for pleasing effect and correct viewing on low-dynamic-range monitors or prints
  • compression – for example JPEG compression
  • removal of systematic noise – bias frame subtraction and flat-field correction
  • dark frame subtraction
  • optical correction – lens distortion correction, vignetting correction, and color fringing correction
  • contrast enhancement
  • increasing visual acuity by unsharp masking
  • dynamic range compression – lighten shadow regions without blowing out highlight regions

And after the images are processed, they are typically retouched.  Retouching is a digital way to make your photo look even better. Sometimes, in order to produce the best shot, you have to shoot multiple images and put these images together into one photo. This would occur in the retouching phase of the post production work. Jewelry photography is an excellent example of this.

So, as you can see, just as in the days of “old school” film, digital photography involves multiple steps that all lead up to the final, usable image. And hopefully this clears up the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file.

If you are still a little confused, here is another photographer’s explanation

Click here for more info on Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson

03/4/15

E-commerce Photographer Miami | Kate Benson | Client Feedback

After our shoot with Jennifer Belcourt, the owner and designer of Zacasha, I received a wonderful email thanking me. Jennifer had previously expressed to me how difficult it was at times to convey her wide-ranging ideas and how sometimes people became frustrated with her because she is an extremely artistic thinker.

This is an excerpt from her email:

 “Shooting with both of you was honestly a real moment of pleasure, in total peaceful creative harmony between us! Even though, when it comes to my artistic way of expression, I am so crooked in my mind and often scaring or annoying people around me, I never had this feeling with you. Thank you so much. I respect your work a lot and that you commit heart and soul to your shooting with us. Even committed your arm muscles, Lol! You totally dedicate yourself to your work and have an amazing balance between creating and staying focused!!!!
Thank you so much , I am so glad we met! I love your pictures !!!!

Big big kisses,
Jennifer”

It was a true pleasure working with Jennifer and translating her ideas to beautiful photos. We are thrilled that she was so happy with how well the shoot went.

 

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Click here for more info on Miami E-Commerce Photographer Kate Benson

02/2/15

Miami E-commerce Photographer | Zacasha jewelry

Over the course of a week, we worked for Zacasha, a prominent jewelry designer with necklaces and bracelets at upscale stores. Our team consisted of Kate, Kristin (her assistant), Jennifer (the designer), and Jennifer’s daughter. Together, we worked to create the story of this gorgeous jewelry.

The pieces have an elegant Bohemian feel to them. The beads and tassels are so unique, and yet they work really well in groups. We decided it was best to tell the story in groups and develop a dreamcatcher effect.

We were lucky enough to get a few of the fabulous pieces. We wear it everywhere and everyone loves it! We get constant compliments on the necklaces and bracelets, with questions about where to get them.

These are some of the photos used on Zacasha’s website (http://www.zacasha.com/)

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In-house we decided to experiment and play around with the backgrounds to really make them pop. This is what we came up with:

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Here are some behind the scenes photos from the shoot:

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Kate shooting Zacasha.

Photo: Kristin Stickels

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Working with Jennifer to style the product.

Photo: Kristin Stickels

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We took advantage of the studio space for organizing all the necklaces.

Photo: Kristin Stickels

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A closeup of some of the jewelry we were about to shoot.

Photo: Kate Benson


01/27/15

E-commerce Photographer Miami | How to Produce a Professional Photo shoot, aka “What the heck do I do now?”

Everyone has to start somewhere. Chances are good that if you are reading this blog, you are wondering what the heck do I need to do to produce a photo shoot? It’s OK! No one will tell! In fact you can message me with any questions you might have. My goal is to help my clients or anyone who finds themselves needing to produce a photo shoot. Ready? Here goes!

When planning a shoot, there are a multitude of things to consider in order to make your shoot successful. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Here are ways to plan out those details to make for a successful shoot. While this is a list of important items to keep in mind, the descriptions are purposely broad with some specific examples given; your distinct needs for your shoot will require you to refine, add and/or subtract items as necessary.

Some of the very first things to take into account are your budget, due dates, the shot list, and usage. Identify the budget for the shoot, and determine how rigid it is. This will help shape the decisions you make regarding the entire production. How much flexibility do you have if unexpected costs come up? Due dates are crucial to keep in mind. When are the images needed? Understanding your time frame will allow you to work backwards in creating a schedule. A shot list is also imperative. Brainstorm what photos you will need. Does your product need to be shot on-model and/or still life? Do you need various angles of each item? How many total images do you need of your product(s)? And don’t forget to keep in mind the usage. How will your photos be used? For advertising? Internally? On the web?

The next thing to plan is the art direction. This is something that can be done in-house or outsourced, but is a significant aspect of your production. Art direction involves sourcing inspiration for your photos (I suggest collecting visual examples for this), making sure the photos line up with your company’s image, and ensuring that the photos convey the mood and environment that you want your product(s) to have. And, of course, this all dictates the type of photographer that you will use. You wouldn’t choose a nature photographer for an action shot of a model, for example. Which leads us to the casting…

Your next step involves casting and determining the details of the actual shoot. Your casting may include hiring models, stylists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and, of course, the photographer (to name a few). You may also need to hire a professional retoucher for post-production. Some photographers can do their own retouching, but it is important to determine whether they can do it well. You then need to ascertain whether you will be using a studio or a location for the shoot. If you plan to shoot on location, you will need to obtain permits or permission to use the site, and you should have a back-up plan in case of weather issues. You also need to consider your set. What inanimate objects will you need to complete the shot? What wardrobe or accessories might you need for the models? Is a manicure necessary due to close-up shots of a model’s hands?

Within the location details (whether on location or in studio) it is essential to plan food and beverages for everyone at the shoot and possibly transportation to and from the site. You may even need to provide lodging for the clients, models and/or the crew, depending on the location.

Image selection is an important part of the process. This can occur either on set or after the shoot. If the photographer shoots tethered to a computer, you can see the images immediately as they are shot. This gives you the opportunity to select your images while on set, and it also allows you to confirm that you have everything you need before the shoot is done.

After the shoot has taken place, there is still work to be done. The post-production work includes file management (naming, re-sizing, and delivering the images as digital files), as well as any retouching that may be required. When budgeting for your shoot, it is important to determine whether these costs are built into the photographer’s fee or will be charged additionally.

After taking all of this into account, the big question is can this all fit into your budget? If the answer is no, it is time to re-evaluate some aspects of your plan. Can you get a higher budget? Can you be more specific in your usage? Can you reduce your shot list? What can be done in-house?

And lastly, don’t forget about payment. When are people expecting to be paid? How long will it take your company to pay?

So, here is a quick checklist to help you plan your shoot:

budget
due dates
shot list
usage
art direction
casting
shoot details
location details
image selection
post-production work
payment

Just remember, this is a list of important items to keep in mind, but the descriptions are broad. You will need to tweak the list depending on your own needs for your shoot.

Here is a handy flowchart for your reference:

HowtoProduceaPhotoshoot

11/4/14

E-commerce Photographer South Florida | The Picture Sells the Product

Sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost of e-commerce photography, especially when the product will be photographed on a model. Instead of just paying for the photography, the client will need a whole team to produce photography that will sell products. That means (in some cases): photographer, model, hair & makeup (not always one person for both), stylist, assistants, location, catering (if the shoot is going to be a full day), etc., etc., etc. It’s hard to imagine getting all that on the budget that most startups have.

So, how can you make the photo shoot worth it? Considering that a startup has a smaller budget, the goal would be to shoot less product perfectly, rather than shooting all of your product in a mediocre fashion. Think quality, not quantity. It certainly isn’t worth wasting the budget on sub-par shots. In the world of e-commerce photography, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it.

Recently, I came across a photograph of a swimsuit I liked. The still life shot looked really good and it was selling to me.

Super cute swimsuit photograph, still life.

I even don’t mind the wrinkled fabric in this photo.

So I decided to follow the link to the website where I could buy it. Once there, I saw more shots of the swimsuit, including some that were on model and I really, really liked the swimsuit!

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Here we see how nice the back detail of the swimsuit is…

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Another photo to show that the swimsuit is reversible.

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An additional still life shot of the bottom shows the details a little better.

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This was the main (first displayed) on model shot of the swimsuit

But, unfortunately, it was sold out. Lucky for me the company had put the designer’s name on the swimsuit so I did a quick search to see if I could buy the swimsuit directly from the designer’s website. And that, my readers, is when I did a double-take. I could not believe it was the same swimsuit. The designer had different colors but I had NO desire to buy this product in any color. It looked terrible in the still life; all the various colored swimsuits were shot differently. On model it was unflattering as well.

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I don’t like these wrinkles.

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A different front and back still life shot than the others.

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Another very non-symmetrical shot of the swimsuit.

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Another version of the laydown still life.

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As you can imagine based on these photos, I’m not sold for a lot of reasons. Let’s look at this on model first. The suit isn’t showing me the side details at all, her pose is awkward and not relaxed which makes me wonder if that is because the swimsuit isn’t comfortable. This isn’t clear to me that the swimsuit is reversible here. I can’t figure out why I’m not seeing the back of the light blue swimsuit (it takes me a while to figure out that the dark blue is the outside of the light blue swimsuit and that is what I’m seeing).

The still life images vary quite a bit. One shot makes the bottom look uncomfortably small. The straps are all different on the tops and it just looks messy. The description on the image tells us the color of one side and the bungee but not the reversible side which makes me wonder if they are all reversible , especially for those whose color is closer to skin color. Or, in the case of the palm print suit, I have no idea if it is even reversible.

I can only imagene the return on investment (ROI) for the first images was astronomically higher than the ROI of the second set of images. I’m sure the budget for the first set of images was also much higher. So to be fair, this is a “you-get-what-you-can-pay-for” situation.

Now, here’s what I would have done. If the client didn’t have the budget for great shots in all colors, I would have recommended that we shoot one swimsuit perfectly, then shoot color swatches of the details for each alternative colored swimsuit. If the budget allowed for it, I would say shoot that swimsuit on a model because the ROI will be bigger. If the budget didn’t allow for it then shoot one perfect still life and, if possible, one group shot with each swimsuit stacked showing the detail of each swimsuit displaying the bungee, the color inside and the color outside.

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Not exactly the crop I would use, but you get the idea.

This would save time (and hence, money) by not having to style the whole swimsuit.

So there you have it. My two cents, from an e-commerce photographer’s perspective on what to do to optimize your e-commerce photography ROI.

07/21/14

Testing E-commerce photos for new clients

One of the most valuable strategies for getting ready to shoot e-commerce with a new client is a test shoot. I almost always will recommend (or even sometimes insist) that a brand do a few hours of test shooting with me before we dive into their inventory and shoot all of it. The test shoot is my way to make sure I am giving the client the shots they need with the right consistency for their website. It is also how I double-check my per shot estimate to make sure that it is on track with the quote I gave.

My e-commerce photography clients range in size from  less than 100 to 10,000+ shots a year (yes, I shoot a lot of inventory). The test shoot might be the most important shoot I do for those clients in our whole relationship. It is where I will lock in the lighting, styling, pre production preparation, retouching, and file delivery for everything we do moving forward. I usually ask to see some examples of what the client wants the final images to look like. After seeing those, we discuss the files they like and why. Then I get my hands on items to test shoot and we schedule the time. One of the nice things about my workflow is that the client doesn’t have to be present while I do the test shoot. I can run a screen share via Skype for example and I shoot tethered. So the client can be discussing with me each shot as they appear. This has been a  huge help because now art directors around the country can be hands on in the test without actually having to get on a plane.

It’s after the test shoot that I start in on the actual e-commerce photography for the website. Sometimes as fast as the next day or later that afternoon we can get the ball rolling for clients. In the e-commerce world, inventory that hasn’t been photographed is money lost so moving fast is critical. That test shoot lets me build realistic time estimates for clients so they know how fast the files can get back to them.

To the photographers reading this, whether you shoot portraits/weddings/anything it’s always a good idea to run a test shoot. Any big advertising gig’s I’ve ever had I dedicate a day in my studio with whatever team I need to work out the kinks of what we will be shooting. My husband has had to jump in front of my camera many, many times while I confirm lighting for a portrait to make sure the settings are where they need to be. A very good goal to have in photography is to make sure the time with the client/on the clock is used as efficiently as possible so test what you will be doing!

 

Example of testing lighting/angles for e-commerce on handbags:

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Then the same shot but without reflection so client could choose:

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And finally, an example of how the client decided to use it:e-commerce_Photographer_Handbags3