March 13, 2009

Shooting Will Smith Porcelain Piggy Bank

I recently finished a very interesting project for A Child’s Place – non profit organization helping homeless children. They were getting ready for a big fundraiser in May, where they had beautiful artsy piggy banks for auctioning. Most of them were personally signed by well known celebrities - one of them was Will Smith’s Piggy Bank, signed by Will himself.

So my job was to take “portraits” of piggy banks to be featured on an exclusive website promoting the upcoming fundraiser ( ). My goal was to photograph the pigs the way to minimize all distracting reflections on the porcelain surface. Matt Merkel – the art director and graphic designer – worked with the images further. He had to extract them from the background, resize them and place them on the new website. That’s why I couldn’t use a white background – the selecting and extracting pigs from the background would have been very difficult.

The reflections were the main problem. I tried different approaches – big soft boxes, large reflective panels, light bounced off the white ceiling and walls, but nothing worked. We could see big white reflecting spots all over the piggy banks and if we zoomed in the shot, we could see all the studio reflecting there including us!

So I had to try something different and pretty radical. I surrounded the working table with white paper, including the front side – I just cut off a hole for the lens to stick it through the paper. I used two strobes with reflecting umbrellas to light the pigs from sides through the paper. The 640 Ws strobes had to be set on full power, because lots of light was absorbed by paper and umbrellas. That way we achieved a beautiful soft wrapping light with almost no reflections in the porcelain surface.

To make the post production – and extraction of piggy banks from the background – easier, I used a dark grey background. It made the piggy banks shapes well defined and easier to select later on.

Matt and me had lots of fun shooting this project and it was really tempting to keep Will Smith’s Piggy Bank for myself – I am his biggest fan! Well, at least I have a couple of good shots of it to remember a good cause – money raised by auctioning piggy banks will help many children to make their life happier…..
(images shown here are straight from the camera with no retouching done)

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