Recently I was approached by the founder of drinks start up Kombucha Kat, who, caught by a deadline of 24 hours, needed to provide pack shots of their new line of cans to be used for online supermarket Ocado. The time scale was tight but I knew it could be done!
What Ocado had required were cut out photographs which is very common requirement among many online retailers when you take steps to listing your products on their sites. Amazon, eBay, and many other sites like them, require pure white backgrounds showing the product in even lighting with no additional props or quirky angles. This is cut out photography.
So how do you create cut outs?
There are many ways of reaching the end result, but to get the best results you need to take a thorough approach, starting with lint free gloves (I'll get to why in a moment), a white infinity backdrop, and artificial light from two or more sides. The reason that artificial light is best is because it is predictable, controllable, and easily replicated if needed. Here I used strobes with strip softboxes on either side approximately at 45 degree angles to the cans, one strobe at a slightly higher power level than the other to add a bit of dimension. Additional to this there was another strobe lighting the backdrop and masked from any light spilling on to the product itself, this is essentially to over expose the backdrop and make the can stand out. Finally a fourth, low powered, light pointing down on to the top of the can to catch and define the edges.
When handling products you want them to be as clean and dust free as possible, and this includes avoiding leaving any finger prints, which is where the gloves come in. Also as the cans were polished aluminium I had a few reflections of the camera and myself to deal with which were helped by hanging a white shower curtain (yes, very high tech) across the front of the can blocking out all but the lens of the camera and surrounding area.
With the images in the bag there is some processing work to be done to ensure the end result is perfect. Many people will raise the whites and highlights of the backdrop to achieve as white as possible which can often be passable for cut outs, but I prefer to always draw a path with the ever powerful pen tool in Photoshop and literally cut out the product, deleting the background and replacing it with pure white. Doing this often looks cleaner and ensures standards and specifications are met.
Other processing and follow up work includes dust and spot cleanup and proofs to be approved before delivering the final files. The shoot went smoothly, the client met his deadline and the cans will go on sale in November!