In Part II of this featured interview, we wrap up our discussion with Janine Pauke, a CGI artist, product photographer, and Photigy instructor based in Best, Netherlands. Janine shares her thoughts on product photography, learning with Photigy, and her new course, Intro to CGI for Product Photographers.
In our previous Get Inspired discussion we got to learn a lot about your background working with CGI as a house visual effects artist as well as a freelancer. Let’s shift gears now and talk about photography. What drew you into product photography? Were you shooting products back when you first started in CGI?
I always loved photography (of objects rather than people) and I always loved CGI, but I never combined the two when it came to products until recently. I ended up doing product photography by a complete detour. When I was sorting out my personal life, I kept myself busy with lots of different creative hobbies, including making colorful jewelry. Naturally, I did my best to take pretty pictures of my creations. I opened a web shop and sold almost nothing (it’s a tough market), but everyone on Instagram loved my colorful photos. So, I thought, why don’t I try shooting other people’s products too?
That’s how it started. I did a giveaway on Instagram for other creative people to win free product shoots and I learned a lot from that. I built a portfolio that way and started doing paid product shoots for more people on Instagram. And then I rediscovered my love for CGI and Cinema 4D and decided to resurrect my career. Photigy had given me a new impulse for that! I wanted to see what I could make if I applied all that new knowledge in CGI.
How did you discover Photigy?
I came across Photigy on Instagram where I hang out a lot. I was looking for other product photos and a post by Photigy caught my eye.
Do you have a favorite course or workshop?
My favorite isn’t actually one particular course but the entire “business” category, including all the interviews about how others got into the business. I think I watched every single one. The challenges those photographers faced and how they overcame them was of particular interest to me. Everyone has got to start somewhere. It’s great that everyone at Photigy is so willing to share their knowledge and story. I love this whole community. It’s much more than just a collection of awesome courses.
Have you learned things in your study of product photography that are applicable to your CGI work?
Absolutely everything I’ve learned at Photigy about lighting is very applicable to CGI and product visualization in particular. The same rules of reflection apply. The same principles of lighting. What used to be trial and error and a lot of guesswork when it came to lighting objects in 3D is now much better informed and methodical because I’ve learned how to get certain results instead of just experimenting for hours.
It’s only thanks to Photigy that I finally really understand what I’ve been doing in CGI! I wish I had come across all that knowledge when I started. If you’ve got any experience as a product photographer, you’ve already got a huge advantage over other CGI artists.
How about the reverse? What do you find challenging about applying what you do in 3D versus real-world photography?
What I find most challenging is that I don’t have an unlimited selection of cameras, lights and lenses in real life!
What do you think of the convergence of product photography and CGI? Do you think CGI will make photography obsolete or can they remain complementary?
I don’t think it’ll ever be obsolete. Some things will probably always be easier to just photograph. You don’t have to choose one over the other. You can combine a CGI environment with a real product or vice versa. I’ve developed my own workflow for taking a photo of a product and turning that into a 3D model which can interact with in a CGI environment—like casting and receiving shadows, reflections, etc. and even acting as a collider for CGI splashes (no more wet photo studio!).
This is something I’ve been delving into more deeply of late and what I want to focus on, this combination of two worlds. CGI and render engines have come a long way in terms of simulating the real world; you can even add virtual hair to a photo of a shampoo bottle. It can also be as simple as making a basic 3D model just to cast a realistic shadow on the ground that you can use for your composition. The only limit is your own imagination—and your CGI skills, but that’s what I’m here to help with!
For product photographers interested in exploring CGI, what skills would translate well into the CGI arena?
Anything to do with lighting and composition. Knowing which camera lens or angle to use to get certain effects is pretty useful as well. And just generally anything you’ve learned about what makes an image appealing.
Your first CGI course for Photigy will be released soon. How would you describe it?
It’s a project-based crash course, basically. Just the right amount of info to get you familiar with the software and start you off on your CGI adventure, with simple but beautiful results. It’ll cover the basics of modeling, materials, lighting and rendering, without overloading you with too much information. There’s plenty of areas of C4D that a product photographer has no use for, I only show the stuff that’s relevant.
The sheer scope of creating CG images can be a little overwhelming–all those elements that make up the pipeline, all those different software applications. What recommendations or advice do you have for people just starting out?
I would try to find an online community of like-minded people where you can just ask your questions and get answers from other users, instead of digging through hours of YouTube videos just to find a needle in a haystack. More and more Photigy members are adding CGI to their skillset so the Photigy Facebook group would be a good place to start. I spend a lot of time there myself and I’m happy to answer questions too.