Checklist for product photographer


still being picky Vicky
Feb 21, 2005
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I've just got a new part time job as an advertising photographer for a newspaper company in Australia.

Basically I'll be racing around town taking photos for business's ads that are running in the paper. ie. bottles of wine for a bottle-o's sale. or furniture for a furniture store, food at restaurants... you get the idea.

So what should I take with me. I'll be shooting sometimes 10 clients a day, so I don't have hours with each to set up lights and softboxes etc... otherwise I'd be fine... but I don't know how to light this stuff without my studio lights.

So far, on my list of accessories to take I have:

Cardboard in white, silver, gold (for backgrounds, and reflectors)
my big reflector.
roll of duck tape
Small Ladder

Is there anything else you can recommend I pack in my car for this type of job?
If memory serves, you shoot Canon. If you shoot Nikon the CLS system will work for simi-studio lighting. If not Nikon, try pocket wizards and off camera hot-shoe strobes via the Strobist method.
Extension cord
Outlet strip
Clamps for lighting (manfroto super clamps)
Small spring clamps for holding back curtains, holding together B/G or reflectors.
Laptop for image preview before you leave, prevents re-shoots.
Spindle of CD-R's for backup from laptop.
Black and white sheets.
B/G stand.
Light stands even if using hot-shoe strobes.
Tripod, you may see an advantage to available light here or there.

I put most of this stuff in a large Rubbermaid tote with a tight lid in the trunk of my car. There it stays. The sheets and spring clamps are kept in canvas shoulder bags in the tote. I would recommend more than one roll of duct tape, some jobs take more than you might realize.
With 10 clients a day and driving in between, I doubt you would get much time to review or backup image on a laptop in between.

But bring as much as you can in your car, but I would probably go for a portable flash with a softbox and then work with available light and backgrounds.

If you need to do clean product shots, get a lastolite cubelite or something similar. If you have a big car you could even have a cubelite setup in the back of your car, always ready to do product shots.
Sounds like a job the 'the strobist'. There is a great tutorial for a compact travel kit, in the lighting 101 section.
Like others have said, STROBIST. I'm able to carry about 6 lights with me in my bag along with 2 bodies and 4 is this possible? The lights are small flashes. I use pocket wizards to fire them and all is shiny! I highly recommend the strobist method...I try not to take my studio lights anywhere, I just use them in my studio now.
Some small mirrors for reflecting light as fill, also a packed lunch each day so you can eat on the run!

Best of luck.
Thanks for the ideas everyone.

I had my first day yesterday and it went swimmingly. It's a lot more lo-tech than I'd imagined. So we mainly just do it all with natural light and some bits of white card for fill etc.

Next week I'll show you some of the work and you'll see why I'm not stressed out anymore. hehehe. :)
duct tape
they dont make it out of ducks. they tried, but it didn't stick as well
I have been an ad photographer for years. You are psyched! Believe it or not you will learn a lot.

I run a tungsten (hot lights) set up because most businesses in my area use tungsten with a little daylight. Hot lights help because they are constant making it a lot easier to light still life in any situation. Minimal is key. Two lights with barn doors and umbrellas will more often then not get the job done.

Working with the client is of course the main thing. Try and make sure that the shots are approved before you leave.

Love & Bass
If you are shooting on location with available light then I would recommend getting a selection of these. Easier to use and far more versatile than card - especially if you are carrying them around.

And get a decent portable flash.
I had a Metz 60CT with slave and used it for location work including portraits. Smaller than a portable 'studio' flash system, almost as powerful and far more versatile.
Metz still do something similar.
Hertz seems to make a habit of being right. (Hertz, you can make that check out to...:))

You can find Metz 60s on e-bay and they still make batteries for them. And they are much cheaper than the new Metzs' are. (TTL, We don't need no stinkin' TTL!) ((apologies to Alfonso Bedoya))
thanks guys.

Yep hertz I've already got one of those fancy multi sided reflector fold up thingys.

I'm not too worried about the extra flash.... no one else at the paper seems to be.
I'm not too worried about the extra flash.... no one else at the paper seems to be.

But they work for a paper!
Do you want to be like them or do you want to be good? :lol:

And I could say that if I'm right so often maybe it's because I know what I'm talking about but I won't because I'm modest ;)

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