Photography: What’s Your Process?

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Case Studies, Creative Process, NAPP, Stock Photos
Photography: What’s Your Process?

How do you pick a good photography process? Do they evolve over years or do you hit the ground running with a process in place?

To help answer some of those questions and position you for an organized approach to photo shoots, we’ve interviewed a few professionals in this highly creative field:

Kelly Parke | Nicole Long | Judy Rozbicki

Museum brochure cover design and photography by Kelly Parke

Pioneer Museum brochure cover design and photography by Kelly Parke.

Kelly Parke: People & Products

Photography is another way to communicate in this age of digital storytelling. Whether it’s a cropped casket image dipicting grief, a micro-texture shot for depth, food pics of great recipes, new glasses or quirky pattern shots to be used in one of my designs. Where words often fail, I’ll opt for an image every time. Although personal and social in nature, these images play an important role in our own “branding”. Compelling visual communication in a commercial or corporate setting is just as important.

From my perspective as a corporate in-house designer and photographer – styling, format, lighting, setting, product state – everything about that image reflects a brand. It is a voice and you want it to scream quality. One way to reach a consistent level of quality every time is to develop a process that works.

Examples in this article barely scratch the surface of photographing products but the use of tried and true processes will hopefully inspire successful time management, efficiencies and if you’re a contractor – help you to become more billable.

Product photo shoots have many variables: multiple settings, budgets, deadlines and methods. Some are action shots, set up in the engineering department of one company and in the showroom of another corporation – these take planning and coordination between multiple departments. These shoots can be fun with long-term results. Some of my images are still in use on retail packaging, labels and training booklets.

Other shots involve employees active in their work environments. This type of photo would typically be used with HR or Career Opportunities, but if done right can be used in your brand story. Employee photos require a release form and must be signed before taking any pictures. This releases your employer of any extra or future compensation claims.

In a crunch, simple and small product shots can be done right there at your office desk – that means heavy edits in Photoshop but sometimes you have to work with available resources (until you make a case for something better, but that’s a different article. 😉

For Photoshop-savvy photographers looking for quality results on a small budget, a more preferred method is the small counter-sized photobooth tent kit (like this one) that is isolated from office lighting. Add a couple light and metal diffusers for a complete in-house option.

For a more complex shoot and process, a multiple off-site shoot with hired talent provides an effective case study. In such a specific product shoot, direction is very important. Example: all imagery in the shoot is there specifically to appeal to a certain market. Make sure your market info is correct before going forward with this type of shoot or you’ll face resource drain and possible cancellation down the road. Tossing aside 75% of your shoot is not fun.

Photographer, Photoshop editing and web banner by Kelly Parke

In-House web banner created for product launch, a companion to overall marketing collateral. Every piece in this web and print project – photo shoot, photography, photo editing, corporate web page development in PHP, graphic design, print brochures, tradeshow booth, HTML email, production and execution – on time and on budget – by Kelly Parke.

My Shoot Process:

  • During a team campaign brainstorming session or straight from your marketing colleagues, a concept is born.
  • Draw up a timeline.
  • Establish a schedule so finished images are ready for all deadlines. For this case study, a good timeframe is 2 – 3 months from concept to distribution.
  • Procure talent, signed release documents, PO approvals early – especially if you are a lone in-house designer.
  • A note about hired talent: it can be a difficult and expensive to secure props, costumes, uniforms, etc. seperately. It is in your best interest to hire professional talent who is trained and ready to go. Be flexible when circumstances aren’t ideal but make sure your release clearly states how these images will be published. This crucial legal task could make or break the shoot, or you are stuck with schedule-breaking edit time – a clear resource hog. Not good.
  • Research locations, take pictures, secure permits and budget for fees if necessary. Free public places, roads and parking lots are ideal.
  • Establish contact times and methods so everyone involved in the shoot can communicate at any time in the shoot schedule.
  • Make a shoot plan. Click here for your free shoot plan template. This is especially useful for establishing a very efficient process as well as a smart visual for your talent to familiarize himself with your expectations before the shoot. Tactile methods like sketching and writing notes on the plan is an inspiring part of the overall creative process.
  • Coordinate products to arrive with ample time before deadlines just in case a re-shoot has to take place. Take special care to involve all departments when it’s a new product launch and make sure to bring a product manager with you to the shoot – they know this product inside and out and will make sure it works.
  • Bring a shoot kit: lighting, correct lenses, extra release forms, power source, stepping stool, double-stick tape, string, extra charged camera battery, product covers and cleaners, tripod, laptop, digital cables, white foamcore, boards or cloth.
  • Build in extra shots of close-up product components in various modes as well as the venue before props or vehicles get in the way.
  • View all shots before leaving each location and archive/backup before transferring raw files to your work computer.
Horse Therapy Photo by Kelly Parke

On-site horse therapy shoot with model. Photo by Kelly Parke.
©2013 Parke Creative. All rights reserved.

It has been very beneficial to have many advanced photographers in my professional network. This article includes a couple of those professional connections, photographers that are specialists in their field: Judy Rozbicki – Nature and Scenery and Nicole Long – Weddings and Portraits. Check out their process and use it as inspiration for your own photographic needs – consumer, novice or pro.

Kelly Parke’s Portfolio
Photoshop Elements 10 Instruction: Memes, Masking & More


Nicole Long Wedding Photo Comparison

Nicole Long Wedding Photo Comparison. Photos by Nicole Long. ©2012 Nicole Long Photography. All rights reserved.

Nicole Long: Weddings & Portraits

So here I go. Actually sitting down to think about my process of taking photographs is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Translating what goes on my brain onto this keyboard is even harder, so I’ll start from the beginning. Once I decided that photography was what I wanted to do I knew that I would love it. When I was younger I always had my camera when I hung out with my friends. And I have millions of photos of my friends, pets, flowers and many more things. I didn’t decided until my junior year in high school that that was what I wanted to do. So upon graduating from High school I got my associates degree in photography and started Nicole Long Photography.

When a client contacts me to do a session I first find out what exactly they are looking for. I strive to make sure that my client is happy and love the work that they receive from me. I start out asking if they have any locations in mind, if not suggest locations that I have previously used. Then I ask if they have any specific photographs they want. Sometimes the clients knows the exact photo they want and others have no idea. From my perspective its good both ways. If the client has no exceptions I have total freedom to do what feels natural with their personalities. If the client has ideas that’s good also because I have something to draw from, photograph around that idea they had.

Once I set up a date with the client I set to work. If they have ideas I get them from them then and try to find an example online. I also have folders saved of example work. Sometimes I need something to draw from to get my mind going where as others days I don’t need them. And then I put those photos on my iphone so I can use it during the shoot if needed. I normally try to take a look at the photos before hand so I don’t have to mess with my phone. I also pull aside any props that I have that I feel would be good for that shoot. I try to think of as many things as I can before hand to make things run smoother that day so I can maximize the time that I have. Then I get down to shooting.

From the minute I meet with the client I feel from them how they are feeling. I can tell instantly if the personal is excited for the shoot or if they are resistant. If someones excited they immediately start throwing out ideas of what is running through their mind. Where on the other hand they look at me for direction. I try to joke around with the clients to get them to loosen up because if not they are gonna look ridged and uncomfortable. And you don’t want to look back on the photographs and see that. I try to make the experience the best I can for the client so they hopefully look back on the experience and realize they enjoyed it. And hopefully refer me to their friends and return for more photos. After the session is complete I come home and start working on editing the photos. Once they are done I get the disc of photos to the client. Most of what goes on during the process is in my head and putting my creative side to use.

Looking back at my work from August 2010 to what I have current done in 2012, my work has improved so much. Back in 2010 I think to most of my photos I just added some contrast and lightened the photo a little bit. Now I take so much more care in my photos because I know how to. Both in camera and also in photoshop. In my college digital photography class I learned more about my camera and how it works, so I know that better. I also learned some editing through adjustments in photoshop. And in turn took that and self taught myself blemish touch ups and things like that. I definitely have more to learn but Im getting there.

Ballerina Portrait by Nicole Long.

Ballerina Portrait by Nicole Long. ©2012 Nicole Long Photography. All rights reserved.

Nicole Long Photography Website
FaceBook Fan Page


List of Top 20 Photoshop Tools

  1. Masking/Quick Mask
  2. Pen/Path Tool
  3. Actions
  4. Brush Tool
  5. Image Adjustments
  6. Layers
  7. Crop
  8. Gaussian Blur
  9. Marque
  10. Eraser
  11. Sharpen
  12. Magnetic Lasso
  13. Levels
  14. Liquify Tool
  15. Clone
  16. Alignment
  17. Manual slicing
  18. Healing Brush
  19. Image Size
  20. Free Transform

Nature Bridge Photo by Judy Rozbicki

Nature Bridge Photo by Judy Rozbicki. ©2012 Judy Rozbicki. All rights reserved.

Judy Rozbicki: Nature

I’ve always been a person with a connection to the outside world. As a kid I spent many hours admiring the sights and sounds that existed outside the back door. That has carried on through the years and evolved into a passion for nature photography. Although I studied Graphic Design in college, I never put my camera down. There is nothing quite like walking through the woods, the crunch of twigs or gravel under your feet as the sound of a waterfall grows louder through the trees. Once you have it in your sights, finding the right tree to lean against, or rock to balance your tripod on. I thrive on experimenting with the varying degrees of angles. Nature photography is all about location, timing, patience and preparation.

One such example, is the photo of “Emerald Falls.” Located in a narrow hidden glen, it’s not a hike for the faint at heart. You need to traverse water, varieted terrain and loose shale rock without slipping. The glen can be either too dry, resulting in waterflow that is too low, or too high making it too dangerous to get to. There is also the matter of the sun, which can fall right across the falls resulting in a overexposure of the water. Last summer, all the elements finally came together and I was able to get the shot I wanted. I took full advantage of the conditions, and spent several hours there photographing the falls, and the one below it. I carry multiple batteries and memory cards so that I have every opportunity to get as many shots as I can fit in.

I generally carry my camera wherever I go, even if I am not planning on shooting. I remember one particular day in the fall of 2010, and I decided to wear my riding/muck boots while out on a hike since the trails were wet and muddy. It turned out that the trees were at peak right near this one waterfall, but I had already photographed it from the trail on a prior visit. Considering that I had my waterproof boots on, I took advantage and decided to get down into the creek for a different perspective. After having taken a few shots I looked up behind me to see several other photographers lined up with their tripods and cameras. Afterwards, my friend remarked to me that they overheard one say to another that “Out of all of us there, she was the smart one” while pointing in my direction. You never know when preparation might set you up for more photo opportunities later on.

Dew Leaf photo by Judy Rozbicki

Dew Leaf photo by Judy Rozbicki. ©2012 Judy Rozbicki. All rights reserved.

Prints on Imagekind
Ithaca Stock


Kelly Parke | Nicole Long | Judy Rozbicki

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