In Conversation with Product Photographer – Jeff Robertson

Product photography is a branch of commercial photography which is about accurately but attractively representing a product. The principal application of product photography is in product catalogues and brochures, with a proportion of product images also being used in advertising. It can be used by individual brands, e-commerce sites, websites for commercial use etc. This is a distinctive and interesting branch of photography which is still less explored. We at WeekendTrivia decided to do a series on Product Photographers and in general trying to understand it a bit more.

So starting the series with Jeff Robertson from Vancouver, Canada. His penchant for viewing objects in a unique, observant and efficacious way has created his style of capturing his subjects with a rustic flavour. To know more read our conversation with Jeff.

But first, follow him on –

Instagram@smokeportrait ; @robertsonstudioworks ; @iamjeffrobertson

P.S. All the pictures and videos are owned by ©Jeff Robertson and reproduction in any form, without prior permission, is prohibited

Q. Would you kindly introduce yourself to our reader? Along with the genre of your photography and on which project are you working currently?

 A: Of course! My name is Jeff, owner of Robertson Studio Works, I am a Vancouver Canada based Photographer and videographer. My main genre of photography is Product photos (Cigars, Coffee and Liquor to be exact). Be it stock web shots or lifestyle. But I do portraits and dabbled in Boudoir as well.

Jeff Roberson

Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: Hands down, getting wrongfully dismissed from 3 different trucking companies, then starting my own brand, and getting my first paying client! Wait… not the wrong full dismissal… lol

Q.  What attracts you to your genre? Whose work has influenced you most?

 A: Quite honestly, the fact that you can make money doing it. Let’s be real. You can do anything for the love of it. But at a certain point you have to take into account gear costs, gas and or lodging, etc etc. But. There’s something raw about product photos that are so real to me. The goal of it is to make someone want that product that they only see long enough to double-tap an IG image. And that is such a cool challenge. 

As for the inspiration. Its three guys. One I know personally, and two dude I want to meet in person one day. First is @Gilsphotography. His style having that dark faded vintage look is sooooo appealing. Second and third Peter Mckinnon and Jeremy Siers, they both have similarities, except they differ too. Pete has this glass-like finish to his photos, and Jeremy has this sitting in a speakeasy shooting photos of cigars and whiskey (my main breadwinner on the ole gram) vibe. All three combined would be a MONSTROUS shot haha.

Q. Is it important to have any professional training to be a photographer? Did you have any at the time you set off your journey?

A: frankly no! All you need is creativity and an eye for composition. It really is that.

Not at all. Gil would do live streams on his account around the time I started, and I learned so much from him! ISO, F stops, film, I’ve been bugging him to do them again. But we will see hah.

Q. When you go in one of your photo-shoots which one is your favorite lens and why do you prefer it?

A: Oh boy. Here is where my inner nerd comes out haha.

So I am currently shooting on a Sony A6300. I started on this camera about a year ago. I have an Olympus Om-1 film camera at home and it came with a few lenses. One being the 50mm 1.8 (full manual because its a film cam).  So I use a 30$ amazon adaptor to fit that to my Sony. The other one I looove. The Sigma 35 1.4. The bokeh surprisingly is quite similar on the two lenses and the blow out too. As for which I prefer, it really depends on what I’m doing. If its just a portrait gig or at home product Ill go Olympus for that tighter framing, and also the vintage warmth that the lens offers, if I’m doing a portrait or product gig with people walking or moving a lot ill go Sigma. Its honestly just what I feel like at that point haha.

Q. How important is the light in product photography? How do you find your perfect sets of lights?

A: Lighting is ALL that matters in any genre of photography! You can shoot AMAZING photos on an Iphone or Android and they will turn out amazingly well if you light them properly.

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As for finding them. Youtube is your best friend. Look up reviews, I recommend creators like Mckinnon, Potato Jet, Jeremy Siers,  and Jarred Polin for reviews. Honestly, though, your light will nearly never beat natural light. On my account SmokePortait, most everything was lit with my living room window up until about 4mo ago when i grabbed a pair of Neewer Softboxes on amazon.

Q. Do you find it difficult than other kinds of photography? If yes then why?

 A: For sure! With portrait work, you have a model (pro or not), and their personality will come through a facial expression or a look etc. But, with Product, you have to create the entire feel of it. Give it personality, character. Everything. But that’s what makes product shooters so unique!

Q. A “Good Camera can make a Picture perfect” do you believe this myth?

A: Yea for sure! Let’s be clear all the guys saying gear doesn’t matter. Forget that. Yes it does. Going from an Olympus Em5 mk-1 to a Canon 5d mk2, let me tell you. Yes, it makes all the difference. 

That being said! It’s not the be-all and end-all. Not even a Leica (#LMOUUNTALLIANCE, watch a fro knows photo video on Leica and that will make way more sense haha) can fix poorly composed or lit, or shot photos.

Q. What is that you have adhered and learned through photography over the years?

A: Hard work. Treat it like a job and it will treat you like one! 

Yes, you will work your TAIL OFF. But it is so much more rewarding than anything.

Q. When are you doing product photography what is you first priority? The expectation of your client or the creative ideas that you have?

A: ooh, good one! Its both for me. I ask leading questions in the consultations. Then when I go into shoot I already know the expectations of the client. That being said, sometimes as the photographer I will tell them “no this would look better because XYZ”.

Q. Which post processing software you use for your pictures?

 A: Adobe Lightroom (the OG one not CC. Cc is basically my modem so I can edit anywhere) and I’m getting into Photoshop now too.

Q. Which type of backdrop or light do you suggest for the beginners? And where to find them?

A: Something with texture. A beat to tar slab of wood on the side of a road is amazing for it, texture helps lead to theme. As for light, window or a massive softbox. The bigger the diffusion the softer the light!

Q. Name the last photography book/journal that you read.

A: *slowly looks for the door to escape*. Frankly none. Its all Youtube videos.

Q. Nowadays almost everyone has access to devices with which it is possible to take pictures. What do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other amateur photographer?

A: Yes yes they do. I have had potential clients tell me, it just doesn’t make sense. I have an iPhone and all I need is a light tent off amazon.

As for the pro, There’s one simple thing in the time that the shutter takes to click. The professional has already thought about the keys of photography:

Composition, ISO, f-stop and shutter speed.

Anyone can take a photo. Not everyone can give the gift of photography!

Q. Any quick message for our blog? Thanks for your time!

A: Thank you! This is a true honour! 

Thank you Jeff, for being so kind and taking time to talk with us! We loved your inputs and insights. We look forward to your excellent work even more and wish you all the very best for all future projects.

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