Shooting Flowers in a studio is more complicated than it might seem. Especially when the colour of those flowers is white!
We spent a couple of days this week working with the Floraccasion gang to provide images for their web site.
The brief was to shoot lifestyle images on location in a suitably decorated house. Our own house in Ironbridge fitted the bill perfectly; a country cottage with original features, recently decorated in neutral tones. We talked about the web site and what it was actually for and developed the scope of the shoot to address the issues we discussed. We came up with four sets of pictures. A domestic location, an office location, catalogue shots and detail.
Shooting for E-Commerce
There's an art to web sites that many people simply don't get. It is to design for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is to get your goods and services in front of your most appreciative audience. If you're selling something, then the web site needs to provide the benefits of the service to potential customers and answer any objections before they come up.
For people buying artificial flowers, the objection is about quality - so in addition to the lifestyle pictures, we took a number of closeups to show the Floraccasion quality in detail. Floraccasion source the most excellent materials and I have to say, the closeups of their flowers look better than real!
The second challenge for a commercial web site is how to show the catalogue. Some people favour lifestyle images, others packshot style, white backgrounds. My preference, if I'm looking at a catalogue of goods is for white backgrounds. The reason is that I like to be able to compare like with like. If lifestyle images are used to illustrate a catalogue, then its hard to compare the goods unless the images are similar.
We used three locations, two with fireplaces to provide a sense of scale and one by a window that was providing gorgeous, soft, diffused light.
A good set of images were achieved quite quickly, edited that evening and the next morning we set off for the studio to complete the assignment.
We use white backgrounds and the art with flowers is to light the background directly so that the reflected light backlights the flowers and then use a single fill light on low power to flesh out the detail. I used two lights on the background and a light with a square diffuser, above the flowers, slightly in front and pointing down and back. The results were well worth the forty minutes it took to get the lighting properly balanced.
Worth going into a little more detail. Often when I shoot products against a white background I'll boost the white levels in Photoshop until the entire background is pure white. With large objects like this vase of flowers, it's hard to get even lighting across the whole background without using a lot of lights or blowing out the whites dramatically. Now, these flowers are red but if you're shooting something that is white, then boosting the white levels in photoshop won't work because you'll lose the detail in the white parts of the picture.
The way around it is to light on the cusp of blowing out so that you have the detail in the raw file. Then use photoshop to remove the slightly less than pure white areas where the light has fallen off in the picture. Be careful with this because some of the off white will not be visible on a backlit screen - but viewed from an angle it's there in spades! Make sure you get it all. The safest way is to start with a large hard edged brush around the outside, taking large swathes of the background out. Then use a smaller brush to get into the detail around the leaves and finally a very small brush with a soft edge to get really close to the edges. Don't try selecting plants with the lassoo tool, you'll lose leaves.
It's time consuming and dare I say, the processing is tedious at times, but definitely worth it! Shooting flowers in a studio is tricky, but rewarding.