An interview with Neal Grundy, high-speed product photographer
In the first of a series of “IN THE STUDIO” for Clipping Path India, we talk to high-speed product photographer Neal Grundy about his work with big brands such as Diadora, Kirk & Kirk and Tron. We gain an insight into his interesting method of explosions, paint and vibrant colours he chooses to work with and take a step into his studio and find out why dark tones are a great choice when shooting and editing product photography. He explains what symbolism dark tones can add to a variety of products that appear across e-commerce sites around the globe and how they can add an expensive and slick feel to products in front of the lens.
What is it you consider when you are trying to create a vision for a new client? What does this entail exactly?
“We are actually doing a photo shoot for a new client at the moment who are a spectacle company, they want some standard e-commerce shots of the glasses against white, and they want 12 key hero shots for magazines. The first thing is to work out what style they want. What we do initially is to create a mood board of various different styles and shots, working out exactly what the client wants. Different angles, shots, examples of different background choices, bases, props, styling and then also lighting considerations.”
“When considering the background or backdrop It depends what the products look like initially to what colours we will consider using – if for example the glasses are very bright, with lots of colour then that is the sort of feel that you want for the background, to compliment the product.”
So why do you think dark tones work best with product photography?
“Different factors come into play when considering the colours that we choose. One factor is if it is a male or female audience – if it is a male audience we use black or greys to make the products look slick, like when we were photographing the audio equipment or male glasses generally uses a dark tone background to make the products look more expensive. If you buy TV or Hi-Fi equipment it is always black or chrome, if the product was pastel pink I think it can look cheaper…and that’s why manufacturers choose black to make it look more expensive normally. So when aiming products towards a male audience, darker colours come into play and this needs to be considered. If the sunglasses for example were opaque or translucent then brighter colours would need to be used to complement the product and bring an emphasis on the product in the photo. If using female range then feminine colours, such as muted, softer green and pinks are used. Young, middle aged, male, female, all these things are considered.”
Expanding on the point that Neal makes when commenting on darker tones in product photography: electrical equipment, male and unisex clothing, trainers and sunglasses can all be some of the products that would benefit from this technique. It doesn’t need to just be within these suggestions that we make here as it can be adapted to a whole host of different products. Dark tones breathe luxury, expense and quality into a product photo, make it stand out from the crowd and become a product that is valued as something special. An important factor that he highlights to any e-commerce photography decision.
When do dark tones not work best?
It is all down to the colours of product ultimately. If you have a female pair of shoes or a bag that was summer themed – light pastel colours or a high-energy summer dress then a black or dark tone backdrop would not be as appropriate.
Also standard shots on e-commerce sites such as Amazon are always shot on a white background and look very standard – this is how they shoot all their products and if it isn’t within these amazon product image guidelines then the photo is rejected. Again, if there were a product that were geared towards a female audience then a dominating black and grey backdrop just wouldn’t compliment what you are trying to say sometimes so this needs to be taken account of.
Colouramas, lighting and paper choices
“We mainly use colouramas, different coloured paper are all used when setting up the background in the studio – we then light the studio to compliment the products that we are photographing. Sometimes we use different boards of painted MDF, although this can be quite time consuming. With colouramas the colours can be picked and hung in the background – it is also much easier to use this method when it comes to post-production as it can be much easier when editing the photo later in Photoshop, it can be tweaked much more easily and manipulated to your advantage.”
Picking up on Neal’s focus on post-production the services that can be offered from Clipping Path India include: Photoshop masking, drop shadow, retouching, raster to vector, image manipulation and other Photoshop services. They carefully create a clipping path with Pen Tool in Photoshop, which can manipulate or remove the background of the image with a smooth finished edge for a variety of images. Clipping Path India are currently offering free trial and quotes for new customers.
Tell us about how you move from the studio to post-production
“There is a lot of post-production involved in product photography. One day’s worth of photography in the studio usually involves around two days worth of post-production on the computer. Within product and commercial photography it can sometimes vary as well, for example I have done a shoot before where there was half a day’s photography and the re-touching was eight days. it can completely vary as the post production is highlighting what is already there, you are not manipulating the pictures , it is still reality but you are highlighting various points and drawing the audience into what you want to sell about the product. The product quite often needs adjustments in fine elements that would not normally be seen, but when enlarged to a scale that is much bigger than normal it can be apparent. it needs to be clean, perfect and slick, which in reality is not a problem but in post production needs to be fine tuned.”
“I shoot with capture one and then I’ll do initial grading with this across all the pictures and edit which ones that I want. Quite often I do a basic edit and then send it to the client and then have them choose which ones they like – unless it’s obvious which picture is the best choice.”
So why dark tones ultimately?
“Ultimately dark tone backdrops work best when working with products that need to radiate luxury and quality – this element in the photos is very important. It doesn’t always work as simply as this, for example, you know when you are shooting and if the backdrop that you are using works or doesn’t work …I have an orange backdrop that in reality looks nice but when I shoot it just pings and looks really bright and doesn’t photograph well. Grey and dark tones can prove to be a great choice in product photography because it is a colour that provides the audience with a degree of quality, something that is very important when marketing a product.”
Speaking to CEO of Clipping Path India
Atiqur Sumon said:
“I started this company in 2009 with the purpose of providing post-production services such as hand drawn clipping path and image retouching at a reasonable price. I did this so photography and e-commerce businesses can send their pictures to us online and we would edit them as per the need and send back overnight. Making it a seamless and time-efficient process for any business requiring assistance with post-production.
With huge response from around the world, especially USA, UK and Europe, we expanded our service rapidly over the past few years. Now we’ve over 300 in-house DTP operatives working round the clock 24/7 to service our customers. No job is too small or too big, we serve customers of all sizes editing one to thousands of images. Our prices start from as little as $0.39 per picture and we provide custom quotation in less than an hour.”