I've been given the following assignment, and unsure what to do with it.

An advertising agency has hired you to photograph individual "pack shots" of a range of packet soups. The soups come in small rectangular boxes, which have a glossy finish. They want the pack to look heroic and important.

Now which lens would be best? I've tried the 100mm macro lens and should I use a filter since the boxes are kind of glossy? I'm not sure what lenses to use best for this and filters.

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    Heroic sounds to me as if it is shot from the surface the pack is standing. This makes the pack look tall. This might be a bit cliche though. – Saaru Lindestøkke Jan 14 '13 at 15:46
  • Thinking outside the box - how about having the packets be placed in the hands of heroic figures going about their ordinary lives - firemen, paramedics, rescue workers, etc. – UserEleventyOne Jan 14 '13 at 16:45
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    Is the photo taken yet? Could we, please, see it? (Well, Lilly has not been seen here since Jan 15th.) – Esa Paulasto Apr 3 '13 at 13:00
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    whoever wrote ....... This looks like a homework assignment for a photography class and not an photography assignment by an agency which is probably fictitious in the problem description ....... you were spot on. I was just researching lenses for an assignment im doing in an online diploma of professional photography and this is part of the first module, so this person didnt try any sort of lens they were getting you to do there assignment for them ....... so whoever posted this annoys me, ive spent a month reading and re-reading my text, figuring things out and some of these people are pretty – user21762 Aug 23 '13 at 11:45
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    This assignment appears to come from an online course from a place called The Photography Institute. I don't know if this is worth the $999 they apparently charge, but I can guarantee that it won't be if you just ask the Internet for answers and copy them back rather than putting in the thought and work yourself. – mattdm Sep 3 '13 at 2:13

That's not much of a brief. I wouldn't take the job without a little more direction or at least without some discussion leading to something more concrete than "heroic and important". Do they want just the packages, without props? Reflections? How about backgrounds? It's not that I need to be told what to do, but that I need to know what the client wants, or at least that they're okay with what I suggest if they don't know. Otherwise you're in the "client from Hell" situation, and that almost never ends well.

There's not much you can do with just the face of a container (and you do need to be pretty much face-on for branding) but I'd be inclined to use a much shorter lens and get as close to even with the bottom of the package as possible. Exactly what length depends on the format you're shooting and the package size, but it is going to have to look somewhat keystoned in order to look heroic in two dimensions. 24mm full-frame equivalent likely wouldn't be too far out, although a 28-35mm full-frame equivalent may work as well if the lens is internal focus, can focus closely enough, and gets short enough at the required distance. (With props you can use near-far relationships and keep the package square, even if that means squaring it in post.) A 100mm lens gives you little choice but to shoot flat and straight on, since if you shoot at an angle, the resulting package geometry will make it look, well, distant and small even if it fills the frame.

A glossy or semi-gloss surface that will provide a reflection would also be a probable choice. Exactly what that surface might be depends on the product and the packaging—it might be a bit of plexi or laminate, varnished wood or polished stone. Whatever works with the colours and the product. For all I know right now, a float may work.

You can manage the glossiness with lighting angles; there should be no need to use a polarizer. Unless, that is, you are provided with less-than-perfect packages having sloppy rounded corners. If that's the case, then you're in for a horribly long time in post anyway, so it might not be worthwhile trying to balance lighting and colour across a wide-angle frame with a polarizer anyway.

I'd be inclined to use a gradient background for a straight pack shot, but that really depends on the product. Without knowing what it looks like, I can't give you any advice other than to work with figure/ground contrast. The product has to stand out.

Again, if I had my druthers, I'd chase a better brief first and try to get a sketch approved before going any further. Without something to work towards, you turn the job into a game of Battleship, hoping that you hit a hidden target.

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    Pretty sure the lack of specifics is part of the point of the assignment, to see how the students will interpret this. This looks like a homework assignment for a photography class and not an photography assignment by an agency which is probably fictitious in the problem description. Mostly a hunch though, maybe the asker can confirm. – Itai Jan 14 '13 at 16:59
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    @Itai -- That was my assumption as well. The point is that the photographer should through it back at the ad agency. The ad agency is responsible directly to the client (and unless you're being hired for your "signature look", the agency is usually responsible for the AD). The correct answer to the homework assignment is "not enough information has been provided". – user2719 Jan 14 '13 at 18:35
  • Thanks so much this really does help a lot! Your input is truly much appreciated!!!!!! – Lilly Jan 14 '13 at 18:42
  • not enough information has been provided Lol stan if only I could get away like that in my college days ! sigh :( – GoodSp33d Jan 14 '13 at 20:47

Try frog perspective from the corner, with a wider lens, still macro, to exaggerate the perspective size from close to far.

Regarding lighting use diffuse light to get an even nonspecular base light and play around with one or more weaker spots to induce the shininess and get a few controlled highlights that balance the composition.

  • It's highly unlikely that the client wants to see the cooking directions, an ingredients list or the nutritional information panel in a pack shot. The three-quarter view ain't gonna work. And diffuse light with glossy cardboard isn't usually a good idea. – user2719 Jan 14 '13 at 16:28
  • diffuse light on glossy material is industry standard to get the desired SNR. It turns the exiting gloss dull, but that's why the spots are there to make some exciting light play, and he can play around with the relative power of the light sources. He didnt mention anything abot background props, so I assume his assignment is solely on generating a heroic shot for masking into another image with whatever size and level of detail they want. – Michael Nielsen Jan 14 '13 at 16:47
  • Industry standard in which industry? The reason to avoid diffuse light is that it also induces diffuse glare, reducing the SNR (signal-to-noise ratio). Appropriate lighting would be harder light at an angle with a pola gel. – user2719 Jan 14 '13 at 18:30

You could use dramatic lighting. You could also use setting-- perhaps packets of soup raising a flag a la Iwo Jima, rowing an ancient boat between whirlpools with Chicken Noodle lashed to the mast, that sort of thing.

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