The first in our Clipping Path India series “IN THE STUDIO” we talk to freeze-motion product photographer Neal Grundy about his work with big brands such as Diadora, Kirk & Kirk, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Ibis Hotels, and Tron.
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Grundy has built a stellar reputation and client roster through his unique mashups of colourful paint explosions and client products, using freeze-motion imagery to create visuals that seem to defy gravity. We got a unique peek into his South London studio (he’s also located in Brighton) where he shared insights on the advantages of using dark tones when shooting and editing product photography. He explains what symbolism dark tones can add to a variety of products shots, especially as they appear on ecommerce product pages, and how this approach can add an appealing, seductive, luxury touch to any product photo.
Clipping Path India: What is your approach and process when launching a new client project and crafting a vision that meets their requirements?
Neal Grundy: We are actually doing a photoshoot for a new client at the moment who are a spectacle company. They want some standard ecommerce shots of the glasses against white and 12 key hero shots for magazines. The first thing is to work out what style they want. What we do initially is create a moodboard of various different styles; 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. For example, if the glasses are very bright with lots of colour then that is the sort of feel that you want for the background, to complement the product.
Clipping Path India: Why do you think dark tones work best with product photography?
Neal Grundy: Different factors come into play when considering the colours that we choose. One 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. When we were photographing male glasses, generally uses a dark tone background to make the products look more expensive. If you buy a TV or Hi-Fi equipment it is always black or chrome. If the product was pastel pink I think it can look cheaper. 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 [we’re targeting females] feminine colours such as muted, softer green and pinks are used. Young, middle aged, male, female, all these things are considered.
NOTE: When it comes to creating a moodboard, developing that look and feel goes beyond gender. It’s about knowing the unique attributions of your target audience (age, lifestyle, geographic location, affinities), the brand identity of your client, and bringing it all together with the brand feel of the specific product line.
Clipping Path India: When are dark tones not the best choice?
Neal Grundy: 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 [like a] light pastel colours or a high-energy summer dress then a black or dark tone backdrop would not be as appropriate.
NOTE: Products listed on ecommerce sites such as Amazon always require a white background with a standardized look and feel. Meeting Amazon product image guidelines is critical to prevent a listing being rejected.
Clipping Path India: How do you approach lighting and paper choices when setting the stage for your product shoots?
Neal Grundy: We mainly use colouramas. Different coloured paper are all used when setting up the background in the studio. We then light the studio to complement 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.
Clipping Path India: Tell us about your move from the studio to post-production.
Neal Grundy: 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 [or more] worth of post-production on the computer. 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.
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.
Related content: How To Hire A Product Photographer: 11 Questions You Need To Ask
Clipping Path India: So why dark tones ultimately?
Neal Grundy: 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 [but] it doesn’t always work as simply as this. You know when you are shooting 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, 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.
We thank Neal Grundy for his time and for taking us into his product photography world. We look forward to bringing you more “In the Studio” insights, tips, and techniques from the leaders and visionaries in ecommerce, photography, and retail.
A message from Atiqur Sumon, CEO of Clipping Path of India
“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 ecommerce businesses can send their pictures to us online and we would edit them as needed with overnight turn-around delivery. Our service was designed as a seamless and time-efficient process for any business requiring assistance with photo post-production.
With huge response from around the world, especially in the USA, UK and Europe, we expanded our service rapidly over the past few years. Now we’ve over 300 in-house DTP (desk top publishing) 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.”