Apple Photographer Details the Creative Process Behind a Product Shoot

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The name of Peter Belanger, a San Francisco-based product photographer, may not sound familiar, but if you read this blog, you certainly own or have held one of his subjects. You’re right! I’m referring to Apple products. Belanger is the lucky guy who was picked by Apple to shoot the products we consumers only see after the official launch.

When I was starting out I freelanced for agencies that had Apple accounts. Over the years the agencies evolved and many of the designers and producers moved internally at Apple. Because I had a working relationship with lots of them, they kept using me. I feel very lucky that this relationship continued, Belanger says.

He also has several high-profile clients in his portfolio alongside Apple, such as Adidas, eBay, Adobe, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and others.

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Apple is renowned for its push for simplicity and the images they use in their product marketing compliments this ideal. But how are these images created? To obtain the answer, The Verge has gone directly to the source and interviewed Belanger. Here is what he says about the creative process behind an Apple product shoot:

The team at Apple always has a really well developed shot list and sketches of what they need. I work with their talented art directors to translate those sketches into photos. We start by getting the position of the product and then move forward on lighting. Because Apple products have such carefully selected materials it is incredibly important to light the product in a way that will showcase the various materials accurately. I pick an area to start with and think about how that material needs to be described. Once that section is done I move on to the next. This is how my sets get so complicated! I need to have control over each and every surface so when the client asks for a highlight to be elongated, I can do that. It’s similar to working on a file in Photoshop: you don’t do all your work on one layer. I think of my lights as layers that I can adjust individually to get the desired results.

One component in creating the illusion of simplicity is having the proper gear. -. Belanger currently uses a Phase One digital back with a Sinar X view camera with a Phase One 645 camera system for outside the studio, and for handheld work he opted for a Canon 5D Mark III.

Technology enthusiast, rocker, biker and writer of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter or contact me via email: istvan@iphoneincanada.ca

  • Al

    This photographer is embellishing his story to make what he does “sound” creative.

    Speaking from first hand knowledge of this EXACT type of photography, I and any product photographer out there, if they are being honest, will tell you that this is the most NON-creative and frustrating type of photography out there. The photographer is told exactly what is wanted, and he then has to use his technical skills (as he was taught in college) to accomplish that. It’s all very literal. It’s all very technical. And it’s all very exacting. And there isn’t an ounce of creativity involved. Accounting probably involves more creativity than electronics product photography.

  • Right, he just pulls out the manual that tells him which lights to place where when photographing an iPhone 6 straight-on.

    I understand what you’re getting at, there’s probably a specific process and standard lighting solutions for certain materials, but saying that it’s less creative than accounting is a pretty low.

  • …and actually, I just re-read his description and he doesn’t claim that the process is creative at all. He’s just explaining that it’s a very specific and sometimes complicated process. Letting us know that it’s more than just setting up a camera, putting an iPhone in front of the lens, and pushing the shutter button. That’s the main point of his description.

    The only thing that claimed it was “creative” was iPhoneinCanada’s headline.

  • Al

    Refer to the link to the original article.

  • Al

    Depends on your definition of “creative”, I suppose. To me, “creative” means to apply something that was not learned. Yes, you have to take what you have learned and adapt it to fit the situation. But I also include the concept of the shoot in my definition, and that’s all on the client in this type of scenario. A truly creative product photography shoot is to have the client describe the characteristics of a new product (such as a new type of beer, or something) and ask the photographer to both come up with an idea, and shoot it. But you typically only run into those situations with small independent companies.