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Commercial Product Photography | A BTS Look At Set-Up, Prep, & Execution

By Holly Roa on March 6th 2017

The title “commercial photographer” carries with it a certain mystique, conjuring notions of grandeur or at least of being somewhat less attainable than say, “family portrait photographer.” Though calibers of jobs, clients, and photographers can run a wide gamut, when you get a big client there can be a lot of moving parts – gear rentals, stylists, hair and makeup, models, art directors and so on. Product and liquid photographer Bill Cahill graciously lets us tag along on a commercial shoot, both stills and motion, for Peet’s Coffee to see it all in action in a cinematic and engaging BTS video.

BTS videos themselves span a wide range in terms of quality, and this one is actually a mini documentary for Praemio, an “independent documentary channel featuring inspiring stories of risk and reward,” and as such is quite watchable and interesting with above average production value. I couldn’t begin to think of a better description of embarking on a commercial photography career and finding success.


The motion section, filmed at Smashbox Studios, is particularly fascinating. Apparently, it takes a lot of light to illuminate a dark liquid enough to shoot at the 1/400th of a second or so needed slow the footage. They used old-school hot lights – and that is very literal. These Mole-Richardson lights are both blinding and blistering – there was a melted espresso machine casualty and Bill found himself feeling a bit scorched handling the product under the intense heat. For a little perspective, my school’s studio had some much smaller Mole-Richardson lights, and one of the first things I was taught in the studio was that you have to be careful with those lights or you’ll set something on fire.

The video is well worth a watch for any aspiring commercial photographers and documentary aficionados alike. On top of offering a glimpse into the action that happens behind the scenes, Bill also dispenses some of his hard-won industry wisdom throughout the documentary.


You can check out more BTS on Bill Cahill’s website.

Via: fstoppers

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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Bill Bentley

    New story title based on the  opening scene. ;-)

    “Photographer in Car Shooting Coffee”

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