Jim Kay is a product photographer based in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been a hobbyist photographer for over 20 years, which involved him in different aspects of photography. Being a member of several local photo clubs helps him grow in the field. He shoots a diverse range of subjects for commercial and small business clients, all with a clean, simple, and elegant aesthetic. It is such an honor to us, and we are proud to share his work as a part of this features interview.
How long have you been a photographer?
I have been a hobbyist photographer for over 20 years. My first camera was a digital camera which at that time was in its infancy. It was an digital camera that had a whopping 0.6 megapixels. The colors were horrible and the images did not look great, but I was hooked! I felt I could learn much more quickly on digital since the images could be immediately displayed on the back of the camera. I have also been an active member of several local photo clubs for several years which I compete in to help me keep growing in my photography. I aspire to become a professional product photographer.
Is it your profession (part-time or full-time) or are you still learning?
What are your goals (or plans) as a photographer? What would you like to do after reaching a level that would enable you to do commercial quality work?
While I am always learning, I am getting ready to start a full-time product photography business of my own. My goal is to take my passion and turn it into my profession by becoming a product photographer.
What made you decide to pursue product photography?
I really love the pristine quality of the images that can be produced in the studio with product photography. It really vibes with my passion for clean, bold, and colorful photos. Also, I really love the ability to precisely control the photography environment and be able to apply my technical skills. The options are unlimited as you can use as many lights, props, angles, and ideas as you want. My background as a Mechanical Engineer has helped with the technical side of photography which I can apply in product photography. Normally for me, homework is an unpleasant chore. But all of my class assignments at Photigy have been so much fun, I never felt like it was work. That was when I realized product photography was a good fit for me.
How did you first learn about Photigy?
While I have long had a passion for photography of all kinds, it was some of the earlier work by Alex Koloskov that got me interested in product photography. His inspiring “splash” photography on dpreview.com I saw back in 2011 left a mark on me. Not knowing who I was, I was surprised when Alex graciously responded to my questions through email and he was very helpful. When I later found out he and Genia had opened a school for product photography it was a no doubt, I had to sign up
When did you take your first course (what year)?
I started the Certification Program in October of 2019. COVID has slowed my progress considerably, but I am nearing the end of the program and picking up steam again. I am anxious to finish the program and start my business!
How many product photography courses or workshops have you taken through Photigy?
Do you have a favorite course or workshop? If so, what made it your favorite?
I have completed nearly all of the coursework in the Certification Program. I have also done a number of other workshops on Photigy. My two favorites are the Splash photography modules in the Certification Program and also the “Flying Burger” workshop. They were so much fun. I really like the way the splashes are so unique, no two are the same. The creativity on Photigy is very inspiring. I had never seen a shot of a hamburger quite like that. It’s not just the same run-of-the-mill shots you see everywhere, always something new and interesting.
When you first got started, what did you find to be the most challenging aspect of photographing products?
For me, the most challenging parts starting out were the lighting, composition, and using colors to improve the impact of an image. I also had a hard time with unwanted reflections on highly reflective subjects and trying to identify where they were coming from. On one assignment, I remember spending hours trying to find and eliminate a reflection that ended up being from my chrome-plated C-stand. Black gaffers tape to the rescue! Also, I have learned so much about Post Production. That initially was difficult for me as learning a program such as Photoshop is so deep and takes years to master. I was surprised how much a bit of cleaning and processing could improve an image and make it look more professional.
What is your favorite product image you created since taking courses/workshops through Photigy?
That is a tough one…I would have to say it was my “Three Colored Splashes” shot as not only did I love the shot, my daughter was helping me as my assistant. The timing of these shots is very critical and it’s very difficult to capture the right moment. Knowing how difficult these shots are, I jokingly declared to her in the beginning that “we will nail this on the first shot!”. Interestingly the very first shot we took was from the keeper! Even after many, many more tries, none were nearly as good as the very first one!
What specialty in product photography interests you the most (beverage, food, jewelry, cosmetics, etc.)?
I really enjoy making product photography shots that allow me to be creative and challenge my lighting skills. I like subjects such as beverages, guitars, cars, shoes, and cosmetics. Also, the use of splashes in product photography has always interested me because they are all unique as no two are the same. It is really cool when you get a great splash shot and the hard work (and mess!) pays off.
How has your learning experience with Photigy affected your success as a photographer or pursuit of photography?
For example: Are you able to create images you couldn’t previously? Did it enable you to earn money photographing products? Did you start a product photography business? Did it increase your overall photography skills, etc.?
It is difficult to put into words how much Photigy has helped me. Alex’s expert skills and amazing ability to teach were paramount in my learning. His lessons made it easy to understand and he covered everything! And it is really fun. His incredible staff provided much-needed feedback, but in a gentle and honest way. I recently looked back at some of the first images I submitted to the course. I cannot believe how much better I have become. I believe now my images are professional in quality and worthy of starting a business. It will be a dream come true to pursue my passion for product photography and make it my work.
What advice do you have for people interested in pursuing product photography?
Learn as much as you can from people whose work inspires you. Whether it is just studying the images and trying to figure out how it was done, or by watching a video or taking a course. We are lucky to have access to so much good quality online content from people all over the world. But just watching videos is not enough. You have to practice and get out there and do it. I learned the most from actually doing the exercises at Photigy. Also, it is a great help to get your work in front of other photographers who will critique your work and be honest with you. Don’t take criticism personally, but use it to grow. Photigy gives you all of this in one place which is why I signed up.
What other areas of photography interest you?
I like most any type of photography. I will often try photographic genres that initially I thought would not be interesting just to see what I can learn from it and apply to my product photography. I find that all of the skills I have learned at Photigy have also helped all other aspects of my “hobby” photography. Some of my favorites are nature, wildlife, macro, landscape, abstract, and portraiture.