Live Talk Show – Product Photographer Barry Makariou

If you’re interested in product photography, this talk show is for you! Karl is joined by one of the UK’s top product photographers and liquid specialist – Barry Makariou.

Barry has worked with clients such as Pepsi, Peroni, Dove, Tom Ford and Samsung, photographing a wide range of subjects. He shared his experiences working on some of his biggest shoots, revealed how he created some of his shots and shared some fascinating behind the scenes footage.

The pair discuss everything from what Barry most enjoys about his work to marketing your business to getting work as an assistant. If you’re interested in product photography or getting started in the business, this is a show you definitely don’t want to miss.

©Barry Makariou

Topics covered in this live photography talk show:

  • Product photography
  • The value of establishing good client relationships
  • Marketing you and your business
  • Pricing your work
  • Working with agents — what to consider
  • Controlling and capturing splash shots
  • The importance of originality
  • Combining photography and video

Please comment below with any further questions. Barry, Karl and the team will do their best to answer them for you.

Links:
www.barrymakariou.com

Comments

  1. Hi Karl,

    Really fascinating work and BTS footage – thank you.

    I could really use some advice about a commercial watch shoot I had yesterday — I have a specialty with fine jewelry but rarely shoot watches and it didn’t go so well. It was a 20k watch with a dial completely covered in diamond pave set behind a flat cylinder of crystal. I don’t want to say the brand but they don’t do metal cases – the crystal encases the entire watch. Client couldn’t tell me anything about the watch until it was delivered and I had 2 hours to shoot the front and the back. Yikes! It was one of the most technically challenging shoots in my career.

    The main problem: I was not able get light into the dial and the diamonds (using reflectors) without getting big glare and reflections on the crystal. I tried small black flagging up above (a technique that has worked with jewelry and eliminating some reflections on particular stones) but the crystal surface was just too large.

    Should I have used a polarizing filter? Do you think this would have solved my issue? I always try to do everything in camera with expert lighting, but in hindsight, I wonder if polarizing and extensive photoshop work (i.e. comping and contrast levels) were my only options with this piece. I was very stubborn to do it with lighting and it cost me.

    Any suggestions would be so appreciated!!

    Best, Mickey

    1. Two comments:

      1) Your videos are loading very slowly on my PC, though videos from other sources load seamlessly. That makes me think you may have an issue with your server. This video for instance, took over two hours to play though it is only thirty-seven minutes long.

      2) CG and photography. Some time ago, I worked as a CG artist, then as an art director and CG supervisor in the feature film and video game industries. From that experience, I find it difficult to believe that CG would supplant photography as a medium for advertising.

      It is true that CG can do things that cannot be done in photography. For instance, you can have a light source in a scene that projects light but is itself invisible to the camera. You can suspend a product in mid-air without any kind of support. You can render an image all at once that has certain lights affecting only the part of the object you want them to illuminate. A CG rendered object can easily be made so that every surface is perfectly clean. You can even (unlike what you said in the video) make many variations of splashes using identical elements. This is because the better liquid simulation software uses a random seed as part of the algorithm that calculates the splash, guaranteeing variation every time the simulation is run.

      There are also things that can be done in photography that are very difficult to do in CG. Certain types of textures are difficult to make in a convincing way. Some things are very difficult to change on the fly. If you are shooting a food still life and happen to see something in the kitchen that would look good in the shot, you can add it easily. In CG, it could take considerable effort to do the same thing because you would have to make the object. Overall, I would say that CG is usually more expensive and time consuming than photography unless you are talking about lower level quality standards. Where CG is more competitive is in video or anything involving motion. This is because once your assets are made and lit, it is very easy to make them move. At that point, although animation is an extra layer of effort, CG becomes more cost effective. It is still quite costly.

      I remember one shot from the movie Space Jam that was only eight frames long. The client was charged (according to my colleague on the project) $125,000 for the shot, though it was on screen for only about a fourth of a second. And that was only for the CG elements of the shot. The photography of the actor and background was charged separately.

      To give another example, if I was the creative director on an ad campaign for Audi, I might consider using a CG car for a television commercial if the brief met very specific criteria. If not, I’d want a real car. For instance, if the car had to be shown in a complex environment, such us driving through a muddy creek in a forest, it would be cost prohibitive to do in CG and it probably wouldn’t look as good as a photograph.

      For a still shot, about the only reasons to use CG would be: 1) the physical car hasn’t been put into production yet or is otherwise unavailable, 2) and/or Audi has a render-ready CAD model available. They always have a model of their cars nowadays but whether it is render-ready is a totally different story. The CAD models at the factory are meant to be used to build the car itself and have much more detail than can feasibly be used in a rendering. More importantly, the amount of information contained in these models is enough to crash even very high end computers (I’ve seen it happen with partial models, such as of a Jeep’s front door unit). Converting these into renderable models can be as time-consuming as making the model from scratch.

      Simpler objects, like shampoo bottles or soda cans are very easy to make in CG but the rendering process can take a great deal of time before the lighting really sings. Again, my feeling is that practical lighting is normally the better method. When I was working at Rhythm and Hues in Hollywood, I had to make the texture for a package of Cheetohs. I only made the texture, yet it took a couple of days to make because it had to be from scratch and had to be exact. That was a lot of money just for my end of it, but someone else had to make the model of the packet, someone else had to animate it, and then it had to be lit and rendered. In that case, I think it was done because they wanted a cartoon character emerge from the package for a TV commercial and couldn’t come up with any other way to do it.

      On another movie, I successfully lobbied for the use of photography over CG. It was for the film Smilla’s Sense of Snow. The movie opens with a shot of a snowflake at high magnification. I was asked to build the snowflake in CG. However, to do that, I had to know what they looked like. About forty-five minutes of research told me that such images can only be made with scanning electron microscopes, and that the NOAA had loads of these for sale at seventy-five dollars apiece. Since the snowflake was not intended to animate, it made little sense spending thousands of dollars to have me build one when multiple variations could be had for seventy-five each.

      I once made a highly detailed 3D model of a human skull with a student, inside and out, without textures. At the time we made it it was the most detailed model of its kind in the world. If I were to rent or sell it to a studio to use in a commercial, they could texture it in a few days and then render it for a reasonable fee. Prior to making that model, a render of something as detailed simply couldn’t be done. Making the skull took about 800 hours, so it could not be done just for one still image. Too many objects are like that. They are unique enough, such as watches, that you cannot buy a model pre-made. You either have to make it yourself or the manufacturer has to give it to you and then you have to convert it.

    2. Hi Mickey, it does sound like a tricky one but it’s very hard for me to say without seeing the watch but it does sound that a polariser might have helped you. I don’t use them often in the studio but they do come in useful from time to time. These synthetic flooring shots were a good example, on these I needed to polarise some of the lights with gels and use a polarising filter to get the texture of the wood from the angle of the lighting but not the reflection of the lighting. https://karltaylor.com/cegzvvblbc23bg7bjpmq0wtlf5z935 and https://karltaylor.com/objects/6ietd0eczrsy75gald18i7is8bjxr1

  2. Really enjoyed the show. Keep up the good work. Also if you can get him on a workshop with you that be really nice ! Love to see you guys work a few shots!

  3. Hi Karl and Barry,
    Thanks for the great interview.

    Following on from the question about copyright when using bought products for testing/example images:

    My main concern would be if I am in danger of misrepresenting myself to clients as having worked with these brands? As it could be argued that I’m essentially using their brand or an implied association with their brand to promote myself.

    Would you ever add a note to an image along the lines of ” I have no association with this brand, this is an example image”?

    I would also be really interested in more content about CGI and it’s use in product photography. Would you consider getting a CGI artist in for an interview to discuss the current uses, pros/cons of CGI vs photography and how this may develop in the future.

    Thanks again Karl and the rest of the KTE team for all your hard work and great content.

    Mark

    1. Hi Mark, I wouldn’t worry about brand misrepresentation. At the end of the day if a prospective client likes the pictures they like the pictures. We have David Lund on next month, he’s done some CGI work so I’ll quiz him on this.

  4. Thanks Karl
    It was a great interview. There are some shots that look like paint or fabric moving through water and I would love to know how that is done.
    Thanks, Deanne

  5. Hey Karl, have been your follower for a couple of years now, and I’m used to your excellent shots and ways how you approach them. But Barry’s concept and easy thinking approach blew me away. Thanks for bringing Industry’s best continuously and serving us on the platter. Much appreciate your efforts.
    P.S. would love a joint workshop between you two, it will give us a more detailed knowledge. Won’t even mind paying a small price for it also if required.

  6. Thanks Karl, I bought your business tutorial a while back and there’s lots of good info there. That’s very open of you to offer to divulge your income from some of your commercial shots – I’ll have a look! The reason I’d like to know what the top pros charge is I often feel like I’m leaving money on the table. Another problem is I usually quote a price, but then take way too long perfecting the shots, I quote for a couple of days and then take a week or more – in some cases I’d be better off working in Lidl!
    Maybe instead of probing your guests for their rates, it might be better to ask them, what was the clients budget for this shot?
    Have you ever looked at this website btw?
    http://aphotoeditor.com/category/pricing-negotiating/
    Some of the quotes he publishes are pretty astonishing, maybe that’s just the US market.

  7. Really interesting, but the discussion about pricing is as usual somewhat vague. I would like you to ask the guests “how much did you get paid for that shot? how long did it take you? how much was the usage? how much did the retouching cost?”

    1. Hi Donald, most photographers are fairly secretive about their rates as they can vary from client to client based on the responsibility level of the job or the amount of national or international usage. If you wish to choose images from my website at karltaylorportfolio.com I’ll happily divulge that information with you. In addition our business section also has some information on pricing. The reality is that apart from the day rate that you set for a client then all jobs can be different. Retouching is charged by a third party and is usually around £350-£600 per day depending on your supplier.

  8. I am vikramsingh from Chandigarh, India. This is my first talk show since i have joined Kalrtaylor education. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Also watching amazing videos of Karl, which is enhancing my ability of photography. After these I am change photographer.
    Thanks

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