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Cosmetic Brushes Shot: BTS from a commercial assignment

Cosmetic Brushes Shot: BTS from a commercial assignment

This time it was a shoot for the front page of the new aDesign website, and we had new, “creative” requirements from the client. Meaning we were free to select how many products to shoot and how to position them. The most cool thing that we were required was to compose the shot on a dark background.

Why do I like to shoot on dark backgrounds? One of the reasons is because we did so many product shots (mostly for web and print catalogs), and all of them on a white background, and it became a little boring. The second reason is that almost any product looks better, more dramatic, on a darker background: this is why Lightroom and the majority of the photo viewers (now even flickr lighbox) have a gray or darkish-gray background by default.

Rest of the Requirements:
No other props beside brushes are used, no female model or powder (was my first intention to use). The quality of  the brush hair must be clearly shown.
So, after 3.5 hours in the studio, 5+ different lighting setups and different product compositions we got this:


Creative product shot: cosmetic brush set by akex koloskov


Now, let me show you how it was done.

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   In the Gearbox

Lighting, Light Modifiers, and Accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F18, ISO 100

32 responses on "Cosmetic Brushes Shot: BTS from a commercial assignment"

  1. This is my very first time i go to here. I identified numerous entertaining things with your blog page, specially flexibility when they asked you to move one brush a bit, and it became a better picture!

  2. This setup is so intense. As a fashion photographer i often use 1 light or no lights at all so hats off to you and your technical lighting skills.

  3. Really cool! I do like the purple touch.

  4. GREAT set up!!! Love your work! Thanks for posting. :)

  5. Another Great Work to me Alex.
    PS: I am still waiting for your New Jewelry Photography :)

    All the best to you Alex
    Vu Duc Thao

  6. Nope, don’t have the CC yet.. I think it needs a little more field testing and rework before I purchase it.

    Yep, I know… it’s all about technique – your technique.

    Keep it coming Alex – I’m loving your work! STUNNING!!

  7. I thought so..
    Paul C. Buff is fulfilling a long list of original orders and at the same time replacing the Version 1’s with V2’s “Free of Charge” for those that took early delivery.

    So, if you haven’t done so, you may want to get a return authorization and get the newest versions.

    Paul Buff is astounding when it comes to making things right with his customers.

    And before anyone asks, nope, I don’t get paid for plugging Einstein or Paul Buff products (would be nice if I did, though) 8^)

    I have his Cybersyncs and just love ’em.

    Based on these fabulous photos, it’s time for me to order my Einsteins.

    Thanks for the great Tuts, Alex. Keep ’em coming.

    • I’ve got V2, but they still have a glitch with the clamps (those thing used to hold a speedring): it is not secure enough, and PCB supplies a rubber rings to make it work.. So, you may want to wait till this will be fixed. In any case, PCB will be replacing V2 units with V2.01? with fixed clamps… when? do not know.
      BTW, do you use receivers with CyberCommander with old AB or WL units? I have 4 receivers, but can’t use them, as they tend to trigger flash spontaneously, at a rate of 2-3 fires per second.. it may happen any time during the photoshot. Garbage.
      CC works great with Einsteins though.
      Thank you.

      P.S As for the photos you like: Einsteins has almost nothing to do with this result… you know it, right? :-))

  8. Great news…

    Did you use them on this project? Light #1 looks like an Einstein on a Baby Boomer, yes?

  9. Hi Alex, These photos are stunning!

    I don’t see your Einsteins mentioned. Have you given up on them? If so, why?
    I’m ready to pull the trigger on 3 of them.

  10. I think that this shot would have been a good second alternative to submit to the client. My only suggestion would be to allow some of the background color to show under the brush lying down to provide separation from the (plexi)black ice and brighten up the background color a little more, add just a touch more glow.

  11. Oh…btw, I like the original with the standing brush much better than the last one with the brush laying down. Much better lines, composition balance, color seperations, reflections and highlights. Some,clients have no taste ;-) It may have been better if you had a client rep to collaborate with in the studio during the shoot to avoid having to do retakes. Apparantly they don’t realize the time it takes to setup and light a shot. I’m sure a rep after 3.5 hours of setup would go along with your better judgement or at least you would jointly arrive at a satisfactory shot and not have to spend all the time resetting and relighting another composition. Nothing like spreading the guilt if their boss wanted something different later.

    • @Richard, I wholeheartedly agree, the first shot with the brush standing is better, unfortunately the client sometimes is too focused (pun) on the feature of the product rather than seeing good composition that still tells the story. Ideally the close up would have made a good insert into the main photo. Then you would have the best of both. Client needs to be educated about the purpose Advertising photography and Marketing play from the consumers point of view and not solely their own. This is the job of the photographer to sell the client, using subtle and gentle persuasion. They, the client are too close (emotionally) to the product at times.

      • Tom,
        Agree with you: we are always trying to suggest client what we think will work the best. In some situation, clients easily agree with us, in some they have a little bit different vision of how the final image should look like, and we following that route. The difference is in details, and we feel completely fine doing this:-)

    • He-he.. I have few more shots from this photoset, which I liked better then the final.. will post them here as well.
      But with that soft reflection on a first photo, you do not feel the actual glossy finish ob the brush handle.
      Take a look at this, the same brush was photographed some time ago:
      See the difference?

      So, here I am with the client: I like sharp reflection better.

    • Richard, Tom,
      This is the photo I like, raw from the camera:

      It has a cool balance between soft and hard reflection, IMO. Imagine how it will look if we’ll process it in PS.

  12. Another great shot! Like the use of a “touch of Color” to make the image interesting. Would you consider using several different colors on the final shot for client’s selection.
    Also, this image seems like it would be an ideal situation where you would use focus stacking to give the fan brush more detail along the shaft.

    The bottom brush goes black at the bottom and blends with the table. How can you get seperation from the table here? Somewhere, I saw a photographer use a small pocket pen light with a tiny paper snoot with pin hole opening on the front to “paint” a highlight to create seperation. Of course it was in a total dark studio, and he used a ruler to slide the light along to avoid a jigglely line and it took several attempts. What might be faster…In post, Could Genia paint a highligh there and also have it look like a reflection on the table?

    Is the white dot at the end of the handle of the bottom brush a “manufactures Mark” or is it a reflection of one of your lights?

    Last, there is a gray reflection on the table between the brushes. Would a “purple” color here be more beneficial and blend better with the purple background light?

    Ooops, one more. I assume the brush hairs are the subject for attention. The purple light tends to pull your attention to the blury handle. Would it be helpful to move the purpe light so it is behind the hairs, Kind of like a background seperation light used in portrait photography?

    • Thank you, Richard.
      Yes, I would consider different colors, but had only one to work with: a purple was only “approved” by the client.. the rest were black and white. Focus stacking was not needed, IMO: at F18 DOF was deep enough to get me all the details where I need them.

      Are you talking about the bottom photo, where one brush lied down on the table? Asking because on the first photo I see has the separation. If so, it might be a good idea to use a snoot like you suggested, or photoshop. However, I do not think it was necessary there: the top brush hair is clearly visible, and the lower one is only to shot the company TM on it and overall finish of the handle, not a handle itself.

      White dot is a dot from a beauty dish: now I think it might be better to have another stripbox there instead:-)

      I’ve tried to have purple on the table and gray on a BG (did not post that photo here, may add it later), but we are (and the client) did not like it that way.

      Purple behind the hair: I guess it might be. there are so many other options we can have on this shot… I did as much as I was able to fit at given time frame.

  13. Thanks Axel, again, for sharing your approach, I think you really did it fast, in 3,5 hours. I was wondering, and I asked the same question in the blog of the post production, did you communicate directly to your customer, and not via an advertising agency? It’s fine with me, because when a customer directly assignes you to do the job of the openig picture of the new front page of their website, they really trust you!
    And you show flexibility when they asked you to move one brush a bit, and it became a better picture!

    • Hans,
      Yes, we work directly with the customer, no agency involved. They found us and contacted directly, and I enjoy working like this. We have a very fast turnaround time: while shooting in a studio, I often send an intermediate results to a client to confirm the path we are going on the shot. This involves customer to a shoot, even if they are not present in a studio (80% of the time they are not). Also, we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee policy: meaning if client does not like the result, they do not pay.
      I think this is one of the reasons client’s trust us:-)
      thank you!

  14. Bravo Alex – you hit this image out of the ballpark! Keep ’em coming!

  15. woow , unbelievable I liked this way
    Thank you (F)

  16. Another interesting article – they always leave me thinking…

    Plexiglas is a trade mark so treated as a name by the spell checker

  17. Hi Alex, first thank you for the post it’s always intresting to read your blog great work. You explain it reale nice. Would you like to make an blog entry about post produktion with sharpening and so on, this would be nice too :)
    best regards

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