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FakeName 04-03-2013 10:23 AM

Motorcycle Product Photography
In 1984, I entered the photography business with one goal: Help people sell things.

I've never been a root-and-rock photographer and, armed with a business degree in Marketing a penchant for advertising, and a burning desire to own an advertising agency, I opened a photo studio.

In those days, it was large-format transparency film, Polaroid Type55, giant cameras, tons of lighting and plenty of travel. Catalogs and annual reports drove my business for years, with many small clients and a few large ones now and then. Never shot a wedding, and would prefer to insert hot needles into my eyeballs.

In 2000, I threw the digital switch and never looked back. Hassleblad flogged, view camera gathered dust. Computers bloomed where paste-up tables once sat, and color printers sat in piles of failed prints. Darkroom converted to prop storage and makeup areas. Post-production became a powerful tool. Photo assistants became digital techs and cameras have become connected, on the other end of a very long cable, to retouchers in an adjacent room or another country, all in real-time.

I've downsized a lot now- closed the big studio two years ago, and spend a lot more time as "dad" rather than "boss". But I still do a fair business between school drop-off and pickup, much of which is product photography.

I like product photography- it helps people sell things. I like working solo in a darkened room with lots of lights and music. Some of those things are items over which people sweat, labor design, build, redesign, retool, rebuild, give up, re-energize borrow money, spend money, raid savings accounts, re-purpose and eventually try to sell- I admire that.

Which brings us here to ADVrider. For some time, it's been driving me crazy (not a long ride to get there, mostly smooth pavement) that so many vendors to the motorcycling industry try to sell their products with some of the world's worst photography. Images shot on bedsheets in the backyard, images taken (stolen?) from internet posts. "See larger image" links with images the size of a postage stamp. Out of focus or unfocused images with odd shadows, strange reflections or simply too small. I've seen peer-to-peer forum posts asking for a clearer picture of XYZ's product, because they're considering a purchase but can't see enough details to make a buying decision from XYZ's website.

I'm not arguing my sanity, but this does not contribute to it.

So I'm offering my services. Send me your products, I'll shoot them and send them back. I'll make them look like they're worth the investment you've made. I'll make them look like they're worth the price you're (appropriately) charging. I'll help your customers make their buying decision quickly and easily, putting more money in your pocket. I'll honor the products you sell, give them the love they deserve. And if you sell stuff that fits a 990 Adventure, I'll make it especially attractive!

It started several weeks ago- I was doing a product shoot for another client, and the UPS guy dropped off some parts I'd ordered. Nice parts- beautifully handcrafted, and I almost didn't order it because the online images looked so bad. One in particular was not an inexpensive item, but when it arrived, it was amazing- nice bit of kit. I took it out of the box, walked over to my product setup, cleared off my client's work and set the part lovingly into the beautiful studio light. Looked great- well worth the money.

I did the same thing with a few other items I'd bought- what a difference!

ADVrider rules make me state a price, but I'm not selling a static object. Prices will vary- a lot- based on number of items, complexity, and, frankly, if it's something I want to own. But for ADVrider vendors and friends the type of image shown in the examples below, one can figure right around $125 in fees per final image. That includes the license to publish the image as you wish, except for third-party sales. This also includes knocking out the background and providing a grounding shadow similar to the samples here, as well as a nice bit of retouching. In the business we've called it many things, but I call it widgets-on-white.

Complexity opportunities abound for more money- color changes, on-bike installations, step-by-step instructions etc. Want to send me a prototype and have it "fixed" to look right? No problem- it's just a little more. But for most small products, $125 will get you close. Send me more in a batch? Price gets better- send me a list. Does it fit a 990 Adventure? Let's talk, maybe I need it.

So- here are the samples I've mentioned. Some are from the moto industry, others are from former clients- just to give you an idea of the widgets-on-white aesthetic. I'm not picking on anyone specific here- you might (or might not) recognize a couple of these, and feel free to visit their sites to see what their current images look like- I think these images look much better. Click on them to see the very large view.

ADVriders, PM is your friend- let me know how I can help you.


KingOfFleece 04-03-2013 06:53 PM

I'm sending you one-soon!

liferider 04-04-2013 05:28 AM

May be I won't be a client, but just need to say good luck in this new market segment. For the sake of image quality! :clap

FakeName 04-04-2013 08:00 AM


Originally Posted by liferider (Post 21105354)
May be I won't be a client, but just need to say good luck in this new market segment. For the sake of image quality! :clap

Thanks. My expectations are appropriate to the market. ; )

Help vendors understand your frustration by sending a link to this post as a gentle hint. I like to see people sell more of their products.

guiri 04-05-2013 02:11 PM

I really like the pic of the skid plate. :)

FakeName 04-05-2013 02:16 PM


Originally Posted by guiri (Post 21117778)
I really like the pic of the skid plate. :)

Thank you for saying so! Beautiful fabrication skills from that builder.

I can shoot a solid image, but if I had to weld something like that, it'd be quite an embarassment.

guiri 04-05-2013 02:40 PM

Well, it's like me. I have certain skills but there are things I couldn't do well to save my life and I literally mean to save my life...

kelsow 04-05-2013 04:33 PM

Best of luck with this. I know exactly how much work goes into making product shots look as good as possible.
What you are charging is a bare minimum as the amount of time involved in simply lighting, let alone cleaning the images in photoshop can run into hours.

I look forward to seeing more samples if your clients will allow.

FakeName 04-05-2013 04:39 PM


Originally Posted by kelsow (Post 21118853)
Best of luck with this. I know exactly how much work goes into making product shots look as good as possible.
What you are charging is a bare minimum as the amount of time involved in simply lighting, let alone cleaning the images in photoshop can run into hours.

I look forward to seeing more samples if your clients will allow.

Yeah, this is not a high-profit market segment - I'm just interested in photographing products I like for people that deserve it.

I have other work, and have the advantage of a well-established production workflow.

Truth is, that fee is more than most will spend...

KingOfFleece 04-06-2013 05:37 AM

Cover was sent out yesterday USPD Priority Mail.
THX again

KingOfFleece 04-16-2013 06:45 AM

WOW! The shots look absolutely fantastic.
Well done, sir. Well done indeed.

FakeName 04-16-2013 10:07 AM


Originally Posted by KingOfFleece (Post 21197930)
WOW! The shots look absolutely fantastic.
Well done, sir. Well done indeed.

Thanks for your business- I enjoy helping out.

KingofFleece's products are a little tricky- when properly installed, it is difficult to "see" them- to visually differentiate them from the factory seat material.

Here's what I mean:

The cover fits the seat so well it is difficult to demonstrate them without the customer's eye skipping right over it. The product looks just like the seat- it conforms nicely to the lines of the seat, the texture of the material is smooth and compliant. I can use some light sources with different nature- a large, soft light from the top, kicked by a hard light as a edge/skim- that will accentuate the detail of the material. But if one can tell it's a seat cover, the product wouldn't be very good, right?

So, to tell KoF's story at a glance, we use some images to let customers know it's a very high-quality, high value product, not some old baggy old showercap.

Shape form and texture- create an image that makes a product look three-dimensional in a two-dimensional space. Show conformity of the stretchy material, but give enough visual clues to help them understand it's a cover.

At that point, however, the product begins to look like it might be difficult to install. People think they need to be an upholsterer or something and would have to bust out their glue pots and staple guns.

So we serve them this:

AH! Now the customer sees how it is installed and realizes it's pretty easy to do.

But what if we're running an ad, and have 1/10th of a second to get their attention and tell the story? Well, through the magic of digital imaging, we can do that.

One image tells the story. This helps the KoF reduce costs by running a smaller ad, or increase effectiveness by running a larger, or a larger number of ads. An image like this can become an icon of the product line and sell a lot of products.

But wait- we need something more "editorial", something that suggests richness, attention to detail, and speaks more to KingofFleece as a brand as opposed to simply a collection of products. And since the cover is there, the lighting is there and I have a camera (with a lens!) I can bust out something like this:

An image like this is great to have in the arsenal- it can be the cover shot for the FB/Twitter page, a background for other images on the website or for "press releases" as an institutional image. It suggests the idea of value.

I had fun with this shoot, and thanks for your business, Jim!

ciedema 05-13-2013 06:09 PM

Hey this is pretty cool. I wish you well and wish more vendors would use this (or similar) service. When looking at a product I often want to see more detail than their current images show, I am constantly disappointed. Seeing some of the products that you have photographed here and comparing them to the images on the vendors website is quite a contrast.

Edit: And smart - for example with the seat cover the temptation for the amateur would be to photograph the underside of the seat to show how it is fitted, what you have is given the same result whilst still having a nice image.

guiri 05-13-2013 06:46 PM

As a former photographer, big time online shopper and much more (related to this) I heartily agree.

Nothing worse than stinkin' pics or small pics or when you click to get a big pic but you get the same size pic, etc, etc.

More people should invest in good pics and then take the time to actually display them properly.

FakeName 05-14-2013 02:14 PM

You are both kind- thanks. I appreciate you took the time to compare existing work with the samples- I don't want to call anyone out in particular, everyone should make their own decision, but I believe fresh, quality images will sell more product.

Thanks again for your kind words and observations.

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