Storytelling Product Photography
Storytelling Product Photography: Marc Jacobs
September 2nd, 2019
I think, especially in product photography, product photographers focus on taking a beautiful product on an aesthetic prop with nice lightings do the job. It is true but is it a showstopper? Maybe. I also thought that way when I was taking a product photography class at Art Center and still do. Majority of my product works are concept based, and little has to do with story based. It is part of my practice because I still do struggle to photograph certain product and practices whenever I can.I am sure some product photographer can make it better than I did and take their spin on it. However, I want to be different.
A photographer I look up to is Irving Penn. Not only his fashion works but his product works as well. His product work has a story and simplicity. One of the product work or still life work I get inspired the most is Theatre's Accident. It really looks like a lady dropped her purse and everything in her purse came out. The detail of the background to match the theatre carpet, can tell what class in society this lady could be in through the products she is carrying in the purse, and the color palette of yellowish green background, gold yellow products and hint of complementary color of pink pill to accentuate the overall image and to get our eye to go to the bottom of the image.
Whenever I have a photoshoot, I do a research and examine the product. Marc Jacobs lipstick I have is simple black and has a silver chrome circle in the middle. It is the Le Marc series. From looking at the lipstick, I thought a teenager would have this and a black ribbon will go well with it. However, ribbon and cosmetic has been done before many times. You can see them on Pinterest.. So that is a no no. Bottom line, the lipstick has a playful look to it. So I thought, what if i do l a party scene from a Roaring Twenties like Gatsby's party scene. Even though Marc Jacobs brand was not found till 1980s. Why not.
Historically, during Roaring Twenties, alcohols were banned due to 18th Amendment. So the underground bars were on a rise. Even though it was called an underground bar, it really wasn't, just like Underground Railroad. The bars were nice but well hidden. For my lady in the photo story, she is an unmarried middle class bourgeoisie lady around 26 years old. She likes to show off but not in a class to be bougie. So she works with what she has.
As for background, from assessing her class, she would go to a cheap but classy underground bar. So I would say concrete wall and it works with simplicity and overall color tone of the image.
As for props, I went to a vintage store called Pasadena Antique Mall. I got a cigarette holder and a set of vintage champagne coupes. Sadly, cigarette holder was gold and did not match the overall color tone. For jewelry, I looked for anything pearl like props and sparkly. Hopefully, I will have an awesome prop stylist in the future who can pull relevant yet expensive props. haha.
For the lighting, bars are usually dark and usually photos has flash on it. One of the example I saw was this image:
It looks like taken straight out from an iphone flash. Iphone's flash is basically right next to the lens, so to mimic that, I had to have either ring flash or have a small source of light right next to the lens. First, I knew ring flash would not give the highlight I want on the product. So I went with a hand-held flash Nikon SB-700.
I had LED light to add 1/5th of an ambient light. The flash light is resting right on top of the lens. It is not plugged in to the hot shoe. I am using wire to relay the flash so flash could be right on top of the lens.
This is very different from how I usually photograph as in concept and lighting. It was a fun experiment and I will try to do this more.
Thank you for reading!