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The Illusion of Simplicity
May 9, 2013 6:09 AM   Subscribe

The most influential photographer you've never heard of, Peter Belanger, on shooting product shots for Apple
posted by brilliantmistake (18 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems like a lot of work to make something indistinguishable from a render.
posted by smackfu at 6:45 AM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


My neighbor is the official portrait photographer for Mattel's Barbie. He's just as influential, perhaps even more so.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it seems like he does awesome work, but I was surprised to learn that most of those perfect-computer-on-perfect-white-backdrop Apple shots aren't just done as renders anyway. I guess that speaks to the quality of his work, but I wonder if he feels threatened.
posted by aaronbeekay at 7:04 AM on May 9, 2013


Canon 5D Mark III, this is my go-to camera.

What's with the Hasselblad in the behind the scenes shot, hmmmmmm?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:11 AM on May 9, 2013


Seems like a lot of work to make something indistinguishable from a render.

It saddens me how many people are surprised when someone else cares more about doing it right than doing it quick.

Microsoft used Keyshot for the SurfaceRT packaging, and I think it says a lot about how they run their business: that they don't care about doing great work, they care about getting something out the door as cheaply and quickly as possible.
posted by frijole at 7:14 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's with the Hasselblad in the behind the scenes shot, hmmmmmm?

Later he mentions using a Phase One for studio work.
posted by TedW at 7:24 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It saddens me how many people are surprised when someone else cares more about doing it right than doing it quick.

Eh, it seems like the super obsessive people involved here are the Apple folks, and the photographer is just catering to their whims. If those same Apple folks were directing someone creating renders, do you really think they would produce a different output? I don't think so, and it certainly would give them a lot more freedom to experiment.
posted by smackfu at 7:50 AM on May 9, 2013


I don't know that they'd really save any time by rendering a model instead, assuming the same level of attention to detail. You wouldn't have to worry about fingerprints, I suppose, but all the light placement and tweaking is remarkably similar to doing it physically. Any time you saved would probably be eaten up by having to model & texture the product very precisely.
posted by echo target at 8:00 AM on May 9, 2013


Sounds like all the product shots are done with a Sinar monorail camera with a Phase One digital back. That's a traditional 4x5 setup which allows the kind of tilt and shift control you need to do product shots like that. For example you can shoot a mirrored surface from what appears to be head-on, but not have the camera reflected in the surface, by actually being a bit to the side and shifting to center the subject. You can also get much better depth of field when photographing a flat object like an iPad at an angle by tilting the lens and the back to make the 3 planes meet at a common point.
That degree of control is essential to this kind of work, so it's a shame he even mentioned the Canon he uses to take pictures of his kids, as that really confused a lot of people.
posted by w0mbat at 8:07 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Any time you saved would probably be eaten up by having to model & texture the product very precisely.

I would assume the modeling already exists by the time the actual product exists, though, right? I mean as long as your product is all made of custom parts as most Apple products are, anyway.
posted by SharkParty at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2013


The most influential photographer you've never heard of

The story of such-and-such photographer doing commercial work to pay the bills is so common, it's neat to see something focused on the artistry of that kind of work as its own end.

"Advertising images aren’t associated with an author. It’s as if their presence were complete—classical in fact. They are too good to be true. They look like they have no history to them—like they showed up all at once. They look like what art always wants to look like." — Richard Prince
posted by Lorin at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2013


The post would probably have been better without the "influential" reference. I see no evidence that he is influential with other photographers, certainly not "the most" and if his influence is to get you to buy more Apple goodies then the term is probably not being used correctly.
posted by caddis at 8:36 AM on May 9, 2013


What's with the Hasselblad in the behind the scenes shot, hmmmmmm?

Some big-name photographers have sponsorship deals. They claim to use a particular brand of equipment in interviews and flaunt it during workshops... but they'll typically use something different when making images for money. Often they'll have an array of camera and lighting systems, depending on the requirements of the shoot and their own preference.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:56 AM on May 9, 2013


Sorry for the editorialising but in teaching product photography the number one request I get is how to shoot 'like they do in the Apple ads...'
posted by brilliantmistake at 9:20 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cool, perfect timing, too, since my boss has just asked about lightboxes this morning and all of a sudden I'm transitioning from writing to video demos and OMG. (I'd be perfectly happy to just record screens but they seem to want HANDS and the warmth of physically handling a device and WHAT HAVE I GOT MYSELF INTO but it should be fun.) Already feel like I picked up a couple of tricks just from reading the article and watching the video.

So thanks!
posted by Eideteker at 9:37 AM on May 9, 2013


Art is a beautiful thing. Seeing artists care about the details is a beautiful thing. Thanks for posting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


My neighbor is the official portrait photographer for Mattel's Barbie.

How much does she ask for to get out of bed in the morning?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:53 AM on May 9, 2013


Seems like a lot of work to make something indistinguishable from a render.

I think where you're going wrong is assuming that a render that looks like that wouldn't also be a lot of work.
posted by RobotHero at 5:07 PM on May 9, 2013


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