Product Shot Masterclass

This week we had a masterclass that focused on lighting an object for a TVC. To do this we had organise backdrops, props, lighting and our general concept. My group decided an interesting challenge would be to try and do this shoot with a knife. We went through all the potential problems that would arise if shooting a knife, including the reflection of light, how we would present it and what we were really trying to ‘sell’. During this time we came up with solutions for most of the issues and felt confident going into the shoot. However, on the day we discovered that we hadn’t considered framing nearly enough. We had to spend quite a bit of time going through various set ups of our set. Our original concept was a few knives with the block next to them however when the camera was set up, we weren’t able to fit the entire block in the shot and missing a few knives looked odd. After lots of trial and error, we finally decided on using just one knife in a grapefruit.

Setting the knife in the grapefruit

We wanted to capture reflections and highlights off the glinting knife and we needing a lighting concept to match. To do this we focused on the one knife and also the grapefruit. We wanted to capture the beautiful colour contrast and the shiny objects. After spending a lot of our set-up time on the composition of the shot, we started to set up the lighting.

Our original lighting set up

As a producer, I rarely am responsible for lighting or camera work on set however I am very eager to learn as I would like to be well-rounded to help me in my future endeavours. Due to my lack of knowledge, i was foolish enough to believe that the lighting would only take around an hour… not 6. Going into this fairly blindly was quite a shock to me but also a very important learning experience. We had to use multiple different types of lights, cutters and reflectors to make the knife look ‘beautiful’. The lighting states went through multiple different stages as Nick Paton (guest cinematographer) helped us find the best look for the shots. We started very simply with 3 lights. One was a direct light illuminating the knife, there was one behind it to give the knife handle depth and another on the side to brighten the grapefruit. On first look, we thought this looked fine and would’ve been happy to shoot.

Our original shot choice

However Nick explained to us that if we wanted to show more detail, we needed more lights. We took his advice and added a few more lights that we cut sharply with the barn doors and the cutters so they lit up the details of the handle, the grooves on the knife and the back of the grapefruit.

Our improved lighting set up

By the end of the setup for the first shot, we had a very complicated and busy set of lights, but the shot looked incredible. By having all the small beams of light on the details of the knife and grapefruit, you were able to capture all the reflections the knife gave off while spinning the lazy susan.

Our improved shot- you can see the difference so clearly!

Our next shots were a few closeups so we moved the lighting slightly. Due to the close proximity of the camera, we wanted as much detail on the objects as we could. We removed some of the harsher and larger lights and focused on the smaller ones, manipulating their source until they lit the specific element (grapefruit skin, grooves on knife etc).

Sarah adding more cutters for direct light

As we had to change the lights for every shot, it was a very long and complicated process however the shots came out incredibly detailed and beautiful. The contrast from our original setup was very noticeable

Closeup of the knife

Although our final shots were very different to our original idea, the general concept remained the same. ‘Baccarat’, the knife brand only had one promotional video and it was flat, boring and didn’t sell the product well at all. Watch it here:

We wanted to create something beautiful with lots of depth, which is why we chose to highlight the beauty and detail of the knives, rather than what they can do (like in their video). We only had time to do one of the knives however if we were hired professionally to do more, we’d shoot them similar to the main knife but with added details of the other knives (serrated edges etc).
Overall, I think we did very well on this project and it was an incredible learning experience. I think my group could’ve improved if we had done a practice test before actually shooting. If we had done this we would’ve realised that we couldn’t exactly film it the way we originally envisaged and instead of wasting time on coming up with something new during the shoot, we knew exactly how to fix it. I think having a better understanding of lighting specific objects would’ve helped a lot more as well but also I believe that was a major learning experience for this project.I’m very happy with the shots we created and i’m excited to use the techniques learnt in our major product TVC for Doritos.



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