Capturing the Beauty of Glass: Product Photography Ideas

Your Product Photography Studio

Hi, David McCammon here, David McCammon Photography with Image Power.

I wanted to talk to you today about professional product photography specifically photographing glass. There are 12 images here. I’m going to go fairly quickly. I’ve photographed for this organization for over 20 years. Had a ball doing it. They’re a joy to work with. I mean, imagine getting this product sent to you several times a year. It’s just so beautiful to work with. Beautiful colors. They’re simply intriguing. I find that with most of my clients’ work. It’s just an honor to work with people that create things to sell, to promote, and create wonderful images for them to use.  serve

My  goal here as an advertising photography studio is to light and photograph their beauty. For this client we do it on a white background, so it’s ready to go into a catalog or an advertising piece. It can be close-cropped relatively easily, and it creates a consistent distinct look. And the other piece that is important to me is this company sells their product right across the United States and Canada.

I want somebody who opens up their glass ball, say the second image there, hangs it on their cast iron hanger, similar to the one on the bottom left, and that it connects seamlessly with the moment they fell in love with the image of it that I’ve created, that this company has produced in a catalog or online. So having a process toward creating a quality image that truly represents their product is really, really important to me. I do everything from very small glass balls, three-inch size like the one on the lower right there, the green one, that was a very small ball. Right up to some beast, like the one – third in, it’s a big chunk of glass, let me tell you, it weighs a lot. I remember the first time, some of them we hang because they have the same attachments on the top as the second image. It was a little scary the first time hanging it, frankly, but with care and whatnot, it’s highly manageable. Anytime I hang a big one, I put padding underneath, so that if say the line breaks or something, it’s not going to drop onto a hard surface.

So that’s the care I take with your products whenever I photograph them. And the other piece is that I’ll say, when I get, in this case, the glass sent to me, any products, though, I will look them over. I usually partially unpack them the day before I’m going to photograph them to get a sense of the order I’m going to shoot them in. That makes sense because you don’t want to go from, say, that big, big one and then go to a small one, then back to a big one. Very inefficient because there are subtle lighting differences, the camera position is different with possibly a lens change. I don’t want to just keep going back and forth. I want to keep it smooth and efficient and cost-effective. That’s important to you as as my customer, and that’s important to me as well. So there are a lot of things that I take into account before I start the session. I can do typically 30 of these in a day. I’ve done up to 45 in a day.

I may need to add on a part of a day to cover the last 5 or 10, whatever is required to get it done efficiently and on time. All right, let’s have a look at a couple of these pieces as we go. So one of the things that’s important with this company, and that’s another piece, is I need to find out what are you looking for? What’s the key element here? Colour is very important to them. They do a lot of mixing of colors in their glass. You can see it here. Beautiful!

And the shape, when we’re photographing it on white like this, the shape is not as clearly defined in the base, but my angle illustrating the top gives us a nice sense of shape and size. So there’s a variety of ways of controlling that final outlook, if you will. Another challenge can be when I’m working with sometimes dark, rich colours and sometimes on the outer surface, it’s not white, but it’s quite a bright surface. You can see it here in this area here and here.

So it’s important that I show that, and that requires a slightly different way of handling the lighting. Same thing here. There’s a fair bit of white in that piece. Let’s look at the black in the stands. Well, I want to have some light areas in the stand, so I’m creating some definition in the feet here. I’ve got some highlights here and here and around here. So all these pieces make it that much more interesting and tends to make people want to buy them.

Sometimes we add props. So for this particular item, they wanted me to add water, and these sticks. We might add some cut flowers, so I’ll go out and purchase cut flowers before the session and be prepared. I’ll have had a look at the glass, so I have a sense of the colors of flowers that I want to have. I can always find flowers that work nicely.

How deep do I make the water? Well, I don’t want to have the water go up into this really interesting, colourful area. You can see even the wood sticks, how they interfere with the color a little bit. And the water would do that even more. So it really only needs to be up so high. And typically, if I’m uncertain, I’ll consult my client. I’ll ask, “how deep do you want that?” Especially a new client. As I said, I’ve been working with these people a long time. I’ve left the glass support on the bottom here. That gets removed in post-production.

Just love this piece. The subtle colors are just so lovely. And that inner dimension of those pieces of glass coming up to create a sense of mystery inside that glass. Not only do I get excited about my clients’ products I’m interested in what they’re producing. And this is an evolution from a product they’ve produced in the past. It’s always fun to see new products coming from them as well.

They also do solar lights, where you can have a mount and put your ball it outside. But again, it’s an important piece to get that black right. It’s clearly black whileI’m getting highlights into different parts of the cast iron.

I’m getting a nice highlight here and here and even coming down here. A lot of the time People don’t necessarily see that, but I’m telling you they perceive it. So it adds dimension and depth to the final output.

Again, that complicated piece of adding a nice light ball of glass to a solid black metal piece and incorporating detail and elements in both elements. Sometimes I may do this shot and then I think, maybe I need to add a little highlight to that curved piece and I’ll put it in and then I go, no. And it doesn’t take me long time to do that little extra piece, but then I’ve got it in case they want it slightly different. If I’m unsure, and I really think it’s going to take me a while to fix an issue like that, I will send them a sample and ask how would you like me to handle this? Because they know I’m shooting for them that day they’ll get back to me quickly.

So there’s that process as well. It rarely happens that I have to reach out to them, but it is important that I keep that communication going just in case.

The other piece is when I hang that ball, there are so many different angles I can hang it from, right? So I can turn it. I really wanted to show both of these details on either side. If I turn it, say clockwise, then I may only see one. And I will look at it and make a decision in the process. If I’m not absolutely sure, I’ve been known to shoot something like this 2 or 3 ways very quickly, just to see it to make a decision knowing that I have  options for my client after they see the final images.

A stand, again, black on white, but I want to show all the distinct shapes. I’ve got to position that piece properly. I turn it subtly so that I can see them all separate here. If I turn it too far this way, then these two are going to cross over, which may be appealing for certain products, but not in this case. Even showing the open spaces at the bottom here. These are details that are really important to me whenever I’m photographing products. And I’m pretty fast because I’ve done so much of it. I know what to look for. I know what to change subtly to create options for my clients going forward.

The solar stand I described before. I’m hanging this, so it’s just touching the bottom here, getting a highlight into that face, as well as some highlights coming down into the reflective surface here and up in here as well. So if you don’t handle that properly, it’s just a black blob, right? You want that detail and information in all your products.

Love this piece with those curving elements on top. Now, another important piece here for me for this client in particular, a subtle turn. And I see the definition here. I see that this is a separate piece as well as retaining this. And I make a choice. If I turn this a little… and this was the ideal spot for this particular piece.

And you’ll see, you get air pockets from the blowing of the glass. And I asked client, early days, if that was okay? Is that right? And they said, Yeah, that’s fine. No problem. That’s the nature of the at beast. And even capturing subtle distinctions of the clarity of the glass here versus a slight smoky quality that’s been added to the top portion. I know this is important to my client going forward, and I know it’ll be important to you as well.

Beautiful green product. Again, those light elements wanting to show them off as well. I mean, these little pieces here, that’s something they carefully add to their production process. So I remember asking early on, what about it’s coming white under here? Is that okay? They liked it because it had the feel of glass to them. So again, those questions that I ask my clients create opportunities to create the best result possible for them.

This is the same piece done differently because it’s open at the bottom where the solar light goes in. The ball is designed to fit with this system. But what’s really important is to get that consistency of color from one to the other.

So their clients recognize, oh, I could buy two of these, one to hang or one to put on a shelf somewhere in my home and one to put outside in the summertime to glow at night as well. That consistency of colour and tone is super important. Reach out to discuss your product photography ideas and needs, 519-742-9222 or email me [email protected].

Thanks for listening.