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adidas-product-photography-completed-edit Tips & Tricks

Not Your Typical Product Photography Image | How I Shot This Floating Adidas Shoe

By Max Bridge on December 24th 2015

As some of you will know, I’ve been getting more and more into product photography lately. Having watched and reviewed the Photigy membership, I’ve been inspired. It may be different to my usual work but I think it’s extremely valuable for us to explore other genres of photography.


My favorite product photography photos tend to be more editorial in nature. That’s what I wanted to achieve for this photo; an image which is a little out of the ordinary; not your conventional product photo. When I saw this shoe, I immediately thought of this image, and it was a lot of fun bringing my vision to life.


The Lighting Set Up

The set up was relatively simple as product photos go, but still fairly complex. As you can see, there were only two lights used. The main light was above the shoe pointing down. The strobe had a standard reflector on it and I placed a scrim in-between it and the shoe. The scrim and light placement is key. By adding the scrim, I was able to control the hardness of the light. Increase the distance between it and the strobe. The circle of light it projected onto the scrim became larger, which for those that don’t know, would give me a softer light. And vice versa.

The second light had a reflector and 10-degree grid placed on it, which made a very narrow beam of light. This was aimed slightly off center toward the back of the shoe, thus filling in some of the shadows. In hindsight, I wish I had taken this light up a notch or two to reduce the shadow further.

Side note – For the keen eyed amongst you, the behind the scenes photo was taken once I moved on to photographing another shoe. The set up remained almost identical.

As I mentioned, the placement of both lights was key. I wanted to bring out the leather texture of the shoe but I also didn’t want the shadows to be too harsh. To bring out texture, we want our lights positioned at fairly extreme angles. Imagine the sun in the sky. Midday is boring for landscape photography as there is little dimension. The landscape is flat. Whereas at sunrise and sunset, the extreme angle of the sun carves out the landscape. The same principle applies here.


Post Processing

The editing of this image was very in-depth. The photo you see above is more or less SOOC. As you can see, there was a lot to do!

Product photography requires extreme attention to detail. We want the product to look perfect. As a result, it can sometimes take a long time. My first step is always to clean. I remove any marks, liquify areas and generally make the product look good. It’s always advisable to do these kinds of changes first. If not, you might have a bunch of adjustment layers and a layer on top with all your cleaning (cloning and healing). What’s wrong with that? Well, what if you decide to adjust some of those layers underneath? Suddenly all that work you put into cleaning is ruined. Always clean first. Same goes for portraits.


As you can see the “clean” phase involved many layers. One which may confuse you is the shape layer with the noise one attached. That’s some bad naming on my part but essentially, I used the pen tool to draw lines on the shoe. In some areas, the lines were not perfect. I filled them in by adding these lines. I then added the noise on top of that layer to make the color appear more natural, more like texture. It’s a really useful technique.



Creating The Base That We Work From

Having cleaned the product, I then like to build my base from which all other adjustments are placed on top. I knew even while shooting that I would be cutting the shoe out from the background and adding my own. However, I wanted it to be close to how it would look in the end and I wanted a good shadow. Creating the base here involved masking out the shoe and adding the background, softening the shadow and adding it to the newly created background, and finally sharpening.


As you may notice, I also added another layer to fix some blown out areas. My mistake. We all make them. This was a simple case of returning to Capture One, adjusting the original RAW and importing the adjusted photo back into Photoshop. I actually did this right at the end of the edit and hence it was a far harder and longer process than it should have been in the first place. As I said, we all make mistakes.


The Fun But Laborious Part

Again, something I knew I would be doing from the beginning with this photo was to create clipping paths for all the different areas of the shoe. Just for fun, I created a visual representation of those masks for you all by adding colours to the different areas. You can see my god awful creation below.


By creating these very precise masks, I was able to have complete control over the look of this shoe. I added contrast, brightened areas, darkened others and so on. All the adjustments were very subtle as I didn’t want the final image to look fake but the masks really helped to accomplish this.


The final step was some very minor colour adjustments to remove some of the blues from the shadow areas, and that was it. Here’ the final image:


For those that want to know, the settings were as follows:

ISO 100

Camera – Nikon D750
Lens – Nikon 50mm f1.8

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Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
Instagram: Follow Author

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tieran Green

    This may sound like a weird question – but I love the seamless tones of you background. What steps did you take in post to generate something so clean?

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    • Max Bridge

      Hey Tieran,

      Sorry for the delay here. I used a very subtle gradient and then added noise to ensure there was no banding. I started with a white background then added a new layer and put a black-transparent gradient on it. By doing it that way, I could move the layer and position the gradient exactly where I wanted it. The final step was to add the noise. 

      Hope that helps

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  2. Kelvin Strepen

    Great tips and tricks to do clipping path for business use. Got a couple of ideas too MAX. You are really a boss.

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  3. Dan Thompson

    Nice job, thanks helped me greatly.

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  4. Justin Lin

    Good stuff Max!

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  5. Unknown Unknown

    IMO, the final photo looks far more unreal than the initial, cleaned up shot.
    For that fake looking final shot, you could’ve saved the time for the wire setup and just shoot it on the white ground, cut it out (which you did anyways), move it up and add a fake shadow. That would’ve given almost the same result in less time.
    But overall its a cool idea.

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  6. Joshua parker

    gave me some cool ideas!

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  7. Paul Nguyen

    Not sure if this trick is widely known or used, but I was on set this one time with a photographer friend of mine who’s really into product photography (it’s really not my cup of tea), but he would spend ages trying to remove things such as wires.

    Now I’m lazy and I dislike editing, so the life-hacker inside me decided to just move the wires (it’s similar to what you’re doing here) around 1cm to the left and right to expose the bit that was covered by the wire. Lighting and all was the same, I made sure not to move the product. Shot another frame and from there, it was just a 10 second clone in Photoshop.

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    • Max Bridge

      Thanks for the comment Paul. That was pretty much the idea I had here, except I added some foam boards underneath to support the wire. In my case, the shoe moved too much and I actually ended up cloning them out. I’m pretty good with that kind of thing anyway so it was very quick.

      In terms of whether that would be worth doing or not, I guess it would depend on how complex the object was, how easily you could move the supports without moving the object and what actual supports you were using. Next time I’ll get some fishing wire, which would be better.

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  8. Andy & Amii Kauth

    And informative, bro!

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  9. Andy & Amii Kauth


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  10. Max C

    This was very well done.

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  11. Mark Henry Dela Torre

    I thought someone has just invented the hover shoes :-)

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