GOOD, BETTER, PERFECT: How do you capture a beautiful still-life product shot?

Here’s a fun little video we put together to illustrate the thinking process of when we go about composing a shot.

This product is a dried fig infused sea salt, so the idea was to communicate this very quickly without the viewer having to read the label. The company, La Vie Rustic, is all about a farm-to-table style of cooking, so the selection of the barn wood backsplash, marble counter, and cutting board was perfect for the company’s branding.

Good: In this opening shot, all of the elements were placed in the scene and examined for complementary colors, shapes, and sizes. The weathered background was carefully selected, along with the cutting board and marble surface, to really make the product pop off the page.

We wanted to illustrate “dried fig,” but the challenge was that the actual dried fig was hard to show. Not everyone knows what it is, and sometimes the dried fig just looked like a shriveled black thing, so the decision was made to use some fresh figs. However, we were shooting during a season when fresh figs were not available, so we had to use frozen figs from last season.

What is a salt shot without some salt on the table? Due to the small size of the jar, we had to find the perfect little herb tray, perfectly patina with 100 plus years of rust on it, just waiting for it’s big moment on camera to put the salt in.

Now that all the elements were on set, we played with arrangement and finesse.

Better: In the next series of images, we played with arranging the figs on the cutting board in a visually appealing way. A good rule of thumb to follow is the “rule of three’s.” By adding one more fig to the background, we were able to create a more balanced arrangement. We also didn’t want the fresh figs to draw too much attention because that wasn’t what was in the jar; so we arranged the figs in the background slightly out of focus. Next was placing the fig leaf. The distinctive outline of the fig leaf needed to show quickly and subconsciously that story, so we propped it up just so, and no one was allowed to breathe until the shot was done.

Getting the perfect salt pile required a bit of engineering. We wanted to show a proper amount of salt-to-fig ratio. The chunks of fig can be very black against the pinkish salt, so rolling the dried fig in some salt helped camouflage it just so.

Perfect: In this final shot, we replaced the fresh figs in the foreground with dried figs to more closely resemble the actual product. The salt on the marble was also spread out more to balance the added elements. Of course, some expert shaping of light and a final touch in post-production helped bring the final image together. Warmth was added and the proper crop was applied to finish up the shot.

I hope you like this break down of how I capture a beautiful still-life shot. If you find these explanations useful, and would like to see more, please leave a comment and share it with your social media.

See you on the next post!

Cheers, Thomas