A Basic Product Shot & Lesson In Simplicity

Photo of an Olympus Pen-F camera, made by Scott Bourne

A Basic Product Shot & Lesson In Simplicity

to be simple is to be great.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am continuing my experiment with product photography since all my usual bird photo travel has been cancelled for the rest of this year.

I have built up quite a nice little product studio and frankly, I probably went overboard with all the rigs and lights and, well you get the idea.

In any event, I enjoy the challenges of rigging and lighting difficult shots. BUT – I also enjoy stripping it all away and going for something simple.

Simplicity in photography has always appealed to me. Many of my best-selling bird photos are just simple, naturally and front-lit bird portraits. A close up of the bird against a clean, distraction-free, background. This always appeals to me because at the core of photography is the need to tell a story or convey a concept to the viewer.

Some people think that simple is boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simple doesn’t have to be dull.

The more there is going on in the photo, the harder it becomes for the viewer to understand what it is I want to convey.

There’s always the worry that a photo will include too much information. This is where simplicity comes in. Through taking way or EXCLUSION, we can drill down to what’s important and give the viewer the chance to study the one thing that we thought important enough to illustrate, using our camera.

In my product studio, I have two reflectors, and five LED lights, plus a natural window light (if I want to use it) for a total of eight potential light sources.

Photo of an Olympus Pen-F camera, made by Scott Bourne

In this image, I used just one light. I used a scrim to block the window light, turned off all the LEDS but one, and brought it to the scene.

I used one of my Intellytech Pocket Cannon LEDs with a globe adapter to light this shot. I put the LED light low and close. The closer the light, the softer the light. Since the camera has several silver surfaces that might produce a lot of specularity, I wanted to keep the light soft. I also wanted to create a simple reflection on the surface in front of the camera. This draws the viewer’s eye to the subject and balances the foreground.



Mark Twain once said, “I wanted to write you a short letter, but I didn’t have time, so I wrote you a long one.” What he meant was, to write simple, short and tight, takes more effort than to ramble. In photography, we can “ramble” or tell a simple, concise story. It may actually take a little more effort to strip things back. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but because of how our minds work, it’s often the case.

I understand the desire to make things complex. But show us if you can do the harder thing. Fight that urge and keep it simple.

I used the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk III & 12-45mm Lens to make this photo. I used backgrounds from Replica Surfaces. I mounted the camera to a Robus RC-5570 Vantage Series 3 tripod and Benro B2 Double Action Ball Head.

Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: nbuchanan@huntsphoto.com or Alan at alansamhunts@gmail.com or Gary at: gfarber@huntsphoto.com. Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.


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