Sunday, February 15, 2015

how to prepare for a product / food photo shoot :: slate roof creamery

The blog posts have been sporadic the last couple weeks. I know. No worries. We should be back on track. . .

Where've I been?

Although a vacation has been long overdue, I was not escaping the frigid weather of Philadelphia by sitting on a tropical island with doses of anejo Milagro marinating my gray matter.


Shit's just been quite crazy around the ole Casa de Murphy.

Today, with confidence I can announce that I will be collaborating with the awesome team at the SLATE ROOF CREAMERY.

Together with Jim Kelleher, Mark Ricigliano and Rik Morris, I'll be putting in some crazy hours so we can launch their new line of awesome artisan butters.

And this means exactly what to you? My fellow photo enthusiasts?

Well, I wanted to share with you the pre shoot workflow leading up to the days of production.

The Idea

Say that word at home, over and over again, idea. Sounds funny after a few times doesn't it? loses all meaning to some extent.

I digress.

The agenda on the day of production will be to produce imagery that will compliment the Slate Roof Creamery product and packaging.

Having said that, we will be shooting each variety of artisan butter in the studio with an environmental feel. Along with the environmental work we will also be producing some seamless white cyc photographs of the butter.

How is it that I prepare for such a shoot?

Assuming the team is already in place; food stylist, art director, etc., over the next few days, I will hit my normal pre shoot checklist to be sure that whatever I need and own is in proper working order and what I need and don't have is ordered through the most reliable channels.

Gear Check

I can't emphasize this one enough.


When leading up to a big gig, it would be in your best interest not to, well, fuck up.

Gear failure can be pretty embarrassing. But trust me, if you know your equipment is on point or better, have back ups, then you can minimize humiliation.

Forgetting gear? Unacceptable. Your a pro. Leaving your only CF card on the kitchen table is not an option.

Am I perfect? Fuck no. Have I ever left gear behind. Absolutely. [HERE], you can read about such a disaster and how, by the skin of my teeth, pulled through with minimal shrapnel left in my ass.

Your a pro. Check your gear. Know how every single piece of gear works and how to operate with your eyes closed.

It's a matter of laziness if you ask me. Seriously. It may be tedious to run through your bottomless bag-o-gear, over and over again but believe you me, that extra work WILL pay off.

Trust me. If you don't show up to the big game holding your sack like Ice-T at the Players Ball, you can cause an disastrous ripple effect of negative events.

Think about it. You fail miserably. What happens then? Do you think that client will work with you again? Unless both of you work and live in Buford Wyoming, chances are the client will find another creative. Ok. So you don't work for them again. Big deal. There are other big fish to land. Right?


Therein lies the paradox.

That coin has two sides people. And speaking of fish . . .

You aren't the only striper in the sea either pal o mine.

You've just wasted the time and money of a major corporation. Do you think that word won't spread like wildfire across Montana? It will and it can ruin your career overnight. THEY WILL CALL SOMEONE ELSE.

Moral of the story. CHECK YOUR GEAR PEOPLE!

Forgetting your Pocketwizards, as minute as it may seem, could change the course of your future.

Buy Stuff

As you may know I'm a huge believer in GEAR DOESN'T MATTER.

Some of my absolute best photographs have come from an old ass iPhone and equally old Canon Rebel. I have even gone as far to challenge a skeptic to see if they could identify, on the main website of MICHAEL ANTHONY MURPHY :: PHOTOGRAPHER, if they could distinguish the difference between shots taken with my Betsy (Nikon D4) and those of an antiquated Canon EOS Rebel XTi. They could not.

Cameras are to photographers as hammers are to carpenters.

On the other hand, we can look at that simile from another vantage point.

Yes, give me any camera and I'll create art with it.

But . . .

I may need some accessories to help achieve those creative goals. Maybe a reflector or extra strobe added to the already growing gaggle of lighting gear.

Similarly as the carpenter who has the hammer will need some nails to work with said hammer.

With the SLATE ROOF CREAMERY, I felt I could use a thing or two to help for a better day's work.

What Did I Buy?

Oh boy. I'm feeling the salivation from gear heads across the globe. Relax people. Sadly, nothing from B&H. Frown.

Nope. Just a square, flat, folding table from Amazon.


Look, I've spent many a day improvising with food or product shoots. I feel that there is a level of complexity that we will be creating with this product that I don't think it would be so rad to build the set on the floor. Hey, Just Saying!

It's gear that may not be exciting to unbox but it sure will make for much smoother production.

Oooh. Oooh. 

I forgot. I did order a couple little things that may be slightly more exciting than a utilitarian table.

What the hell are they? You ask?

Housed in these little boxes are the METAL replacement hot shoes for my broken Vivitar 285HV strobes.

Made solidly by Nisha, these suckers should hold up through my sometimes bull-in-a-China-shop treatment of gear.

The only problem with these? Oh boy. soldering, electricity and me? We don't mix. Currently looking for a skilled electrician to help me with this juvenile project.

These shoes cost about 15 bucks a piece. Worth every penny IMHO.

If I could only figure out how to install these enigmas.

What else. Hmmm. Oh. Shit. Almost forgot. Props. Besides the seamless, we will be needing lots and lots of fun props.

Luckily, there are lots and lots of culinary tools in my abode that we could use on shoot day.

Slates, cutting boards, knives and all that good stuff? Check.

Short on props?

[By no means am I advising anyone to act upon my next statement]

It is not uncommon for food stylists and/or food photographers to spend a day shopping at Williams-Sonoma, arriving in studio with a plethora of awesomeness only to return all of the merchandise immediately following the shoot.

You didn't hear that from me. Just Saying.

Ok Gear Heads

I'll break down what it is that I will be using on the Slate Roof Creamery shoot.

  • Betsy (Nikon D4)
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
  • Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
  • Feisol carbon fiber tripod system
  • Pocketwizard Plus ii transceivers x4
  • Vivtar 285HV x3
  • Canon 430EX ii
  • Calumet 10' light stands x3
  • Calumet background support system
  • Calumet Arctic White seamless paper
  • Calumet 45" convertible umbrella x3
  • Westcott 28" Apollo Softbox
  • Photek 60" Softlighter
  • Hong Kong Ring Light
  • and
  • Cosco table from Amazon
Ok, I'm lying. There will be more variables involved but we will save that for after the shoot. I could go through my entire gear closet but I don't know what we will really use until the day of production. 


I'm stoked to work with this amazing team of brilliant entrepreneurs.

Stay tuned for a likely series to develop for this upcoming project. And one more thing. . . 


Until next time . . .