March Madness: 29; A Different Approach to Table Top

March Madness: 29; A Different Approach to Table Top

A Different Approach to Table Top

A very common assignment when it comes to table top product photography is to capture a product in a neutral setting. Often you are asked to have white seamless background with no or without shadows and reflections.
The first approach is to just set the object on a white surface like a white Plexiglass, use a large softbox and a couple of reflectors like you see on the image.


March Madness: 28; Showing Motion

March Madness: 28; Showing Motion

Showing Motion In a Still Image

by Sarah Flannery

Our most recent P52 assignment was a to portray the concept of “speed.”  The image was to be used in billboards and magazine ads for a local motorcycle and bicycle delivery company.  I quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted to somehow show motion in a still image.  I dug out some Matchbox cars from our toy bin, and set to work.  I built a “hill” out of a couple of shoeboxes with a piece of black foam core resting on it.   As you can see in the behind the scene (BTS) image to the right, I used two bookends at the bottom of the ramp to keep the foam core from sliding off the shoeboxes.


To imply motion and show the concept of speed, I wanted to get streaks behind each car, with the car in sharp focus at the bottom of the ramp.  To create streaks, you need three things:  a flash set to rear curtain sync, sufficient ambient light created by using a slow shutter speed, and a moving object.

What is rear curtain sync?  Rear, or second curtain sync, is a speedlight mode where the flash fires right before the camera shutter closes.  It is designated on the flash display by three overlapping triangles.  In front or first curtain sync mode, the flash fires when the shutter opens.  If the flash is set to front curtain sync, the car will be sharp at the top of the ramp and the streaks will appear in front of the car, which is definitely not the look I was after.  Rear curtain sync allows the motion to occur and then the flash fires at the end to capture the object at the end of its journey.  I used one unmodified speedlight positioned at the bottom of the ramp, as I wanted a hard shadow.  I also put a white card on the far side of the scene so that some light would bounce in to fill in the shadows on the left side if the cars.

Why do you need ambient light?  If you were to shoot the image with the flash as the only light source, it will freeze the motion of the car, regardless of the sync mode.  Introducing ambient light into the scene provides light for the camera to track the car’s path down the ramp, showing it as motion blur until the flash fires and freezes the motion of the car.  A slow enough shutter speed provides the ambient light and allows enough time for the car to traverse down the ramp.  For this image, I set up my table next to a window so that it was directly behind the camera and the window light was falling directly on the ramp.  This is a picture with a description of the set up:


After about 20 attempts to release the car in time for the flash to catch it at the bottom of the ramp, I decided to take chance out of the equation and I fell back on a little trick I’ve learned in P52.  Fishing line.  After a couple of different assignments had me throwing things around and hoping my trigger finger was fast enough to capture the object in motion, I bought some fishing line.  In this particular case, I tied it to the back of the cars and was able to slowly release the car down the ramp, while also being able to control the direction of the car.  I shot each car independently and blended them all together in Photoshop.  All I had to do was to edit out the fishing line, which was a quick process using the healing brush.  The three individual shots are below:


Here is the resulting image; does it say “Speed” to you?

P52 Assignment 33-078-Edit v2

There are many uses for this technique, both in and out of the studio.  You can use it to capture motion with someone running or biking outdoors.  Just remember that you need a slow shutter speed, which on a bright and sunny day may require the use of a neutral density filter.  Experimentation is your friend with this technique, so give it a try.

March Madness: 26; Photographing Cosmetics

March Madness: 26; Photographing Cosmetics


By Anjali Fong


Shoot an ad for a local cosmetics company. Use something as a prop to help stage the cosmetic(s) you choose to shoot. Perhaps a stone, or a flower, or a lovely piece of wood. Set off the cosmetic item with a single, dramatic item. It doesn’t have to be in focus, and it is there only to reinforce the cosmetic item.


I love the design of the packaging of this all-in-one makeup for face and eyes, but the color palette is very nude & neutral. So I decided to create a dramatic effect to the provided brush – by having fun with the blusher powder.  Hence, layering of images are required.


I decided there need to be multiple images with different lighting setups:

  • The base image of the makeup box and the brush (darker exposure)
  • The base image of the makeup box and the brush (correct exposure)
  • A brighter bristle brush shot.
    (Note: The above 1-3 images need to be created first before the mess begins with the flying powders)
  • One clean image of some blusher powder on top of the brush bristle.
  • A few shots of the flying powder effect. I found the best way to make the powder fly is by tapping a straw on the top of the brush.


March Madness: 25: One Thing About One Thing

March Madness: 25: One Thing About One Thing

How would you say just one thing in an image?

by John McAllister

Moreover, how can you convey a wide-ranging concept such as ‘just one thing’ that is both immediately understood and eye-catching?  For me, it’s starting with the creation of a list of descriptive words – writing down what pops into my head. Getting ideas out onto paper without restriction, not concerning myself with whether it is right or wrong. Just five minutes later I had well over a hundred words in front of me… a great starting point.  To simplify the list, I put them into vague groups such as emotion, movement, colour, senses and so on.  Now that I had this organised in front of me, I was starting to add more words as ideas feed on ideas.


March Madness: 24; Steaming Coffee Still Life

Shooting a Steaming Cup of Coffee

By Teresa SteMarie


This image was made to respond to a P52 conceptual photography assignment with the task of say one thing about one thing.

The concept I chose was to show that the coffee was HOT.  To emphasize the hot concept I wanted a tight shot of the coffee with a bit of drama in the lighting.

The image was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a 28mm lens at f22 on a tripod. I chose the lens to be able to get in close and show the whole cup. I wanted to have a large depth of field so chose a very narrow aperture.


March Madness: 23; Retouching a Headshot

March Madness: 23; Retouching a Headshot

Portrait/Head shot Retouching Tutorial:

By Alex Baker

Most portraits need some amount of retouching in Photoshop to help them look their best, and to an extent, many clients expect it. The most important thing to remember when retouching is to do everything on a separate layer so that you can easily go back to an earlier stage in the process, delete a layer or reduce the opacity of a layer if things have gone a little too far. My final PSD files have more layers than an onion! A really great retouch in my opinion doesn’t look as though it’s been retouched at all – the skin should retain all of it’s texture and not look plastic or soft, and (especially important with a portrait or headshot) the subject should still look like themselves (albeit after a really great night’s sleep!). I especially find working on skin to be quite rewarding (maybe I don’t get out enough…) and below you will find my methods for retouching. As anyone familiar with Photoshop will know, there are many different ways to achieve similar results, this is merely my preferred method. As you will see I almost never use frequency separation unless I absolutely have to so this will not be covered in this tutorial (there are many great ones online for this). I always keep the brushes at 100% opacity and just adjust the flow.


March Madness: 21; A Unique Pour Shot

March Madness: 21; A Unique Pour Shot

The Beauty of the Pour

by John McAllister

Freezing the movement of liquid will always captivate the viewer.  Each snap of the shutter creates a unique image. Take a moment to think about the multitude of variables involved in the simple act of pouring a wine into a glass; they are numerous, complex and compound.  It’s this random element that fascinates me… the angle and flow of the pour, the timing of the shot, the curve of the glass and a whole lot more result in a diversity of shapes and swirls of varying translucence as the liquid glances off the surfaces. The usually unseen or barely glimpsed turmoil becomes visible and a natural beauty is captured in an instant that can never be exactly repeated again.


March Madness: 20; Making the Image by Making the Shadow

David Travis is a Project 52 member, and a quite wonderful photographer. For the Still Life Class, the assignment was to create powerful images using a “point source” light which would create a powerful shadow.

In fact, the shadow should define the subject in many ways/

This image uses the shadow to make a visual pun. Can you see it?

Lighting setup below.

Without the shadow, we would not have much information about the subject.

Lighting setup below.

March Madness: 19; On Going Pro After Working Corporate

March Madness: 19; On Going Pro After Working Corporate


Quitting the day job for a life as a freelancer?

OK… but here is something to think about.

You can quit that soul-sucking cubicle job, but can you let it go?

I think that is going to be the toughest challenge you face.

Corporate life and the life of a freelancer are so different that they are polar opposites in the mindset of humans. To approach your entrepreneurial freelance career as you would a corporate career will doom you to instant, painful, and ugly death (business wise).

In corporate world:

You have a set time for nearly everything. Go in at 9, go home at 5. Monday through Friday. Two weeks of vacation – SCHEDULED. Sick pay (numbered). A boss that tells you what to do, for every hour you work. Someone is watching and monitoring and measuring what you do. You earn the same amount of money per week whether you fucked up the Jones account, or helped land a new, even bigger account. You get the same money for the hours you work as the person in the cubicle next to you, the same benefits, the same job description, the same parking pass, the same “permission”.

Permission to do a limited, company defined, corporate defined set of actions.

And the good news for corporate folks is that they get used to it.
And the terrible news for corporate folks wanting to become freelancers is they got used to it.

In ‘freelance’ world, none of that exists.

No set time for in or out, no vacations scheduled. No rules on what you have to do, when you have to do it, who you have to report to, when you have to report it, or whether the report was good or not. You do not have the same ‘perks’ as anyone, nor do you make the same amount of money for the same amount of hours worked as a competitor, and you may actually go weeks without making any money at all. You do not have a manager standing over you telling you what to do, and whether or not you did it correctly.

You do not need permission from anyone else, because you are the only one able to grant it.

And if you fuck up the Jones account, YOU take the hit.
And if you bring in a bigger account, YOU accept the gig.

In a corporate world it is them first, you second. In a freelance world it is you first, the world second.

Working corporate means going home at 5, having dinner, watching some “Game of Thrones” then off to read for an hour before going to sleep. You have some balance of life and work. Sixteen hours of life, 8 hours of work.

Freelance means you are working most every moment of that time, and building/making/creating your business.

There is no fucking “work-life balance”. There is work, and more work.

Then if you have done all that work well, you get a job that is work.

Eight hours of life, 16 hours of work.

Does that sound impossible? Does it sound harsh?

if it does, perhaps the corporate world still lives in your head and you are trying to bend a freelance world into what you know… the corporate world.


Stop right now.

They do not mix. They have never mixed. They will never mix.

If you are recently corporate, and struggling with the freelance, you may need to do a mental reorganization. A ‘reboot’. Start over with your life.

Try a freelance retreat, or meditation. Read books by entrepreneurs. Stop watching TV, or playing video games.

Success is only granted to those that demand it, not ask for permission to chase it.


— Don Giannatti

March Madness: 16; Photographing a CD Cover

March Madness: 16; Photographing a CD Cover


By Alex Baker

I was asked by a local string quintet to create some images to be used for their debut cd which they recorded in December. I’ve made a few album covers before and although you can go in pretty much any direction, there are a few things to keep in mind in the process. There are three routes you can take in general:

1. Portraits or group portraits of the musicians. This is very appropriate for a new or starting out musician or ensemble, an individual artist, or one which is establishing a strong brand or identity.

2. Images inspired by the mood of the music, the composer or period of time the music was composed in. This could be a landscape image or piece of art contemporary to the time of composition and is a very common approach with classical music.

3. A more conceptual approach. This is also common in pop or rock music, or contemporary classical and jazz. You can pretty much go anywhere with this one, let the music or lyrics inspire you.

We chose a conceptual approach that would represent the 5 string players through still life images of parts of partially made string instruments and wood (see the bus video below).

The technicalities were very simple: one strobe, shoot through umbrella, a myriad of reflectors and flags. I used a shallow depth of field (f2.8) on a 50mm lens.

The post processing was also very simple as we wanted to retain a very raw natural quality: a small amount of healing out any impurities that were distracting, color correction, slight desaturation and contrast added.

We weren’t given the final dimensions of the cd so I submitted Tiff files to the record label of both a square crop and the uncropped image. The record label has the final decision on which images will be used.

March Madness: 13; Fun with Forks

March Madness: 13; Fun with Forks

The Fork Shot

By Tammy Bogestrand –

The assignment (Assignment 27) was to create a shot with a fork (or forks) for a company dealing in ”change”. Food as props were to be avoided. Other props were fine, as long as the Fork was the star.

Originally I was going to shoot the fork in front of a small mirror. I had made a quick sketch on a bit of paper (which I cannot find) with a fork in front of a square mirror looking at its reflection. I would shoot it outside, and there would be grass and clouds…according to my sketch. Due to the weather here in Denmark…I decided for a simpler shot indoors.


March Madness: 12; Travel Photography Tips

March Madness: 12; Travel Photography Tips

Planning Your Travel Photos

 by Craig Ferguson

With summer coming up a lot of you are probably busy making plans to get away for a well-deserved vacation somewhere. I thought it would be useful to look at a few ways you can plan ahead of time to give yourself a greater chance of capturing some wonderful photos and great memories.It could be said that great travel photographs start long before the airplane is boarded or the camera picked up. What you do at home before you leave goes a long way to ensuring the success of your photography trip. One of the first things to decide is where to go. It sounds simple but it isn’t always. If you have family to consider, you need to choose a place that will appeal to them just as much as it does to you. What do you do when your wife wants to explore museums, daughter wants to go shopping, son wants to go scuba-diving and you want to photograph mountain landscapes? Are there any places that offer all those in the same location? (more…)

March Madness: 11; Still Life with Flower

March Madness: 11; Still Life with Flower

The P52 Assignment Brief: Still Life with Flower.

Bret Doss

“A color, vertical (portrait) oriented still life image with ordinary objects, diffuse main light source, that must contain at least one flower, but the flower(s) must not be the subject of the image. The objects must be simple and not shiny (no chrome or glossy black). The objects should fit within a 20 inch by 20 inch table top space.” 


March Madness: 10; Photographing Women’s Shoes

March Madness: 10; Photographing Women’s Shoes

Shooting Women’s Shoes

John McAllister

Photograph some high heel shoes? How hard can that be?  I immediately called my fashion-conscious daughter to provide a selection of her favourite heels.  I soon realised the design and construction of shoes present a far more complex subject than I had anticipated.  The intricate combination of shape, line, curves, and material pose a demanding but ultimately fascinating challenge.




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