B&H Portfolio Development

Because a full-time job and a 52 week photo project aren't enough, I attended an image critique session at B&H, the photography superstore, with the goal of getting admitted into their eight month Portfolio Development program.  The aim of this year's program is to get the participants to build a portfolio based on a long term project or a body of work.  At the end of the program, each participant is expected to publish a book of their project and there will be the opportunity to exhibit work in a show at the SoHo Photo Gallery in NYC in July.

At the critique, there were about 25 other photographers in the room, and since my first name starts with an "S," my images were reviewed toward the end.  While they went through the other peoples' images, most of which were macro, landscapes, or street photography, I started to wonder if I would get admitted, as I submitted mostly commercial shots - food, product and environmental portraits.  They were complimentary of my images, but I wasn't sure I was the type of participant for which they were looking.  At the end of the review, they told us there was one more critique session after ours (four in total), and that they let us know after that session if we were selected.  We should expect to be notified at the end of October.  There was no indication of how many people would be asked to participate, so off I went with no expectations.  

While waiting, I brainstormed ideas for a project I could shoot with enough regularity that I could meet the one photo per week criteria, as well as building a set of images that would help me build a marketable portfolio.  I got the idea to buy a bunch of knockoff products on Canal St. in NYC, and create some product shots using these.  I thought it would be a fun idea, especially since the gallery for the year end show is three blocks off of Canal St.  On November 1st, I got the email confirming that I had been admitted into the program!  A few days later during lunch, I took the subway down to Canal Street and had a look around.  After many negotiations with five or six shop clerks, I headed back uptown with a bottle of cologne, a bottle of perfume, a white belt, a scarf and a couple pairs of sunglasses.  I also got an idea of other types of items they sold down there which I can pick up on a future trip.  

My first attempt was with the cologne.  It appears that to get past trademark restrictions, the "knockoffs" are no longer labeled with the actual name of the brand, so I discovered the "Versace" cologne I purchased was actually labeled "Vintage" when I got it home and opened the box.  I thought this now made the project more amusing, and I set out to create the first set of shots.  I found some background material (i.e. scrapbook paper from Michaels) which looked a bit like the pattern on the bottle.  When I got home, I set it up the scrapbook paper in an L-shape as a background and placed the product on a piece of glass in front of it.  Using only one light 90° to camera right and a lot of white reflectors, I tried several options to control unwanted reflections.  Here is the final image:

I wanted to create a couple of different options, so I then set up for an overhead shot with the product laying flat on a couple pieces of paper.  I used the same single light source to the right of the camera, but then used mostly black cards to kill some of the light from bouncing around and to put a darker edge and darker shadow on the left side of the bottle.  I shot two versions, shown below: 

My final attempt was to place the bottle in some water.  I placed a blue patterned paper under the glass dish holding the water and used a shallow depth of field so the pattern wasn't too distinct.  Again, I only used one light, but this one was to the left of the product.  I had a white card to the right of the product to reflect light onto the right side of the cap and the right edge of the bottle.  I then worked to get some waves and bubbles in the water, and here is the final image:

Any preferences?  Let me know in the comments below.

As I mentioned, I have to submit a new image each week for this program, so if you'd like to follow my progress, enter your email address and click the Subscribe button to the right or follow me on Instagram at @sarahflanneryphotography.  I'll be using the hashtags #BHPortDev and #CanalStreetKnockoffs for this project.  

These are the behind the scenes shots for the various images:

Behind the Scenes for images 2 & 3

Behind the Scenes for images 2 & 3

Behind the Scenes for image #1

Behind the Scenes for image #1