Tale of Two Perfumes, Part 1

The assignment was to photograph perfume for a 3 image spring theme magazine spread.

I have been stretched a whole lot in the last two weeks.  Through frustration, re-done image shots and balancing colors, I believe that I’m growing.   All of this bluster is due to my Project 52 Commercial Photography course.  The assignment was to photograph perfume for a 3 image spring theme magazine spread.  Images needed included a vertical, a horizontal and a square.  All images must present the client’s perfume using the Fragrances of Spring theme.

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I was due for new perfume so I headed to Ulta to find a nice new scent that would make me happy and that provide me with a full bottle to photograph for my assignment.  The surprise part of this was that only the bottle was in the store to see.  I didn’t have any idea what the cap looked like until I opened the cellophane wrapped box when I got home. What I found was a lid added to the bottle looked like a Marc Jacob’s purse complete with a shiny chain handle.  I bought that scent after squirting some on my wrist.  The scent seemed nice so I got it.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, that perfume choice was the wrong one for me on two counts.  First, I didn’t like the dark bottle for a spring layout but as a commercial photographer, one must work with what the client has provided so I used it anyway.  Second, the perfume proved to be far too strong and something in it caused me to feel icky.   I worked for an entire week shooting, re-shooting, using different props and re-arranging lighting before I finally finished the assignment.  I had no idea how hard it is to shoot an image of a bottle of liquid.  Anything shiny must show as shiny but the reflections aren’t good if they show the photographer reflected like in a mirror. The lighting needs to carefully show the edges of the bottles which many times are faceted.  Most important, the letters on the bottle must be very readable and in sharp focus.  So, a week later, I ended up with this image.

I turned this in for my assignment but was far from happy.  It just didn’t feel right and there were two things that stood out that my instructor analyzed during the class.  The bottle on the upper right shows the lettering very clearly.  However, the letters look black instead of the gold that show on the other two images.  It was the way the light and the reflectors hit the bottle but I should have corrected that in post production.   I was so frustrated that I didn’t even notice the gold missing.  The second issue, I knew was there but could not figure out how to fix it.   In the lower right image, there is a reflection that is very white on the outside edge of the bottle.  It looks like a white vertical stripe on the end of the bottle.  That is caused from the reflection from the backlight to the reflector and on to the bottle.  I now know how to fix when I am shooting.  Fixing it in post I found impossible.  All in all I learned a lot but I didn’t feel good about my final image.  Even though technically it was OK other than those two issues, I just didn’t like it.

My assignment was a free shoot.  This means that we can shoot something that we want to shoot, make up any assignments missed or re-shoot something we want to improve.  I chose #3.  Next week, you will see the perfume assignment with an entirely new interpretation, a new bottle and an image that makes me far happier.  I hope you, too, find it more pleasing for a spring layout.  Hope to see you next week.


2017: A Year of Change

This week’s assignment in Project 52 was a fun one for me.  It did take some thinking prior to shooting, however.  We were to photograph something that could be used for a magazine article.  It had to be upbeat, innovative and revolutionize each of our particular genres of photography.  Since most of my work includes people and the innovation involves something directly connected to me, I thought that it would interest many others.  Now the proof is in the pudding.  Do let me know what you think please.

GloriaMcDonald_Assignment21_NewYearDROP SHADOW
I have been photographing and running Wild Mane Photography since 2004.  It has been a real joy but it has also been hard on my back.  It is the plight of many long time photographers.  Lugging heavy lights, light stands, cameras, and all the accessories to selected locations has definitely taken its toll on me.  Each year it gets harder to recover after a long photo session especially when we’ve moved to several locations as I shoot.  I have been avoiding lugging my heavy camera with those heavy lenses to every place under the sun and have been using my phone for personal pictures.

For Christmas, my husband bought me a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera.  I have used Canon since I switched from my little Kodak Brown as a child.  I’ve also have Canon top of the line lenses.  When I opened my new little Sony, it looked like a toy.  It is feather light, easily fits in my purse and low and behold it produces 24+ megapixel images, shoots in RAW (my preference), shoots in many different modes including aperture priority, shutter priority and manual (always my preference).  It shoots 11 frames per second which is unbelievably fast.  It has a APS-C sensor which isn’t a full frame sensor like my Canon but it is an excellent sensor and by shooting a little wider is easily mitigated. Finally it has image stabilization which may come in handy since it is so small that holding it steady is a little harder and it shoots 1920 x 1080 HD video.  What a dream camera!  The only difficulty for me is learning a completely different camera’s operation.  I have been working on that since Christmas making sure that I can actually make use of all of the creative extras included in this camera.  The left image above was taken with my new mirrorless Sony. The picture on the right shows the difference in size between the two cameras.  Wow, I can even carry the Sony around in my purse so traveling with it is awesome.

As for my assignment, this is my “2017 Year of Change” submission to show my new challenge and my options for the specific shoots that I do this year.  With both cameras, the image quality and options are nearly identical.  These high megapixel cameras can easily print a 40 x 60 print with incredible clarity.

Well, that’s it for this week.  Next assignment is shooting fragrances.   Another challenge!  Talk to you then.   Let me know if you have any questions and have a great week.

How We Roll

Hi again!  I hope your week is going well.  Our beautiful day is reflected in the image I am going to tell you about today.  I mentioned last week that the “Brussels Sprouts” assignment was a flash assignment that was added to this “motion” assignment.  I was to create a brochure cover for an unnamed insurance company that wants to break into a new market.   I chose to bring my idea of motion via motorcycles.  As you look at the photograph below, the right side (as you look at it) is on the front of the brochure.  The left half of the photograph will wrap around and become the back of the brochure cover.   The bikes are placed from the oldest to the most recent from left to right.  gloriamcdonald_18-b

The oldest bike (left) was built in 1956 and the newest one (orange) was built in 2006.  So as you look at this image, there is a 50 year span from the first to last motorcycle.  This was a fun assignment and also challenging.  The sun was on the right side of the picture behind the motorcycles.  It was about 10:30 a.m. so the sun was fairly high and throwing shadows through the trees backlighting the bikes.  The rider at the front of the line was also backlit by the sun so I added a 4′ octobox to light the rider’s face and the front of the motorcycle.  As a side note, it was pushing 80 degrees and that rider was in full gear.  He was definitely not a comfortable model!

Things all said and done, it took several adjustments to bike alignment and lots of pushing those older heavy bikes but the results worked out nicely.

Brussels Sprouts or bust!

My commercial photography mentor came up with a flash assignment last week.  In addition to the weekly assignment for class, he added a brussels sprouts flash assignment. Since I am not a fan of them, finding a way to make them appealing was not necessarily in my paradigm.  My initial plan was to take those icky little green balls and turn them into something we wouldn’t have to eat later.  I decided to make them into a Christmas tree with little peppers or red candies for decorations and then sprinkling the whole thing with white glitter.  At least I wouldn’t end up having to eat my creation that way.  Off I went to the store in search of the dreaded brussels sprouts.  Much to my surprise, I didn’t find any of those little things.  Instead all I found was a giant vine of them.  It was so pleasing to the eye that I couldn’t bear to ruin it so I headed to another store.  Much to my horror, the second store presented me with the same giant vine of brussels sprouts.  So, with a game plan change I bought one.  I had it for two days before I finally decided how to create an awesome image with it.  That second day found me heading off to the store again in search of color, shapes and textures to create my vision.   As a matter of fact, in my sprouts search I learned that it is brussels with an “s” sprouts.  Who knew?

Here is my final image.


For my main light, I used a gridded strip light, a second light with a 7″ reflector with a 20 degree grid and a white board to reflect a hint of light along the base of the sprouts.  I love the way the brussels sprouts twist around that thick vine. Hopefully, the light concentration on the spiral sprouts draws your eye.  I ended up being pleased with the image but now I have to figure out what on earth to do with that green thing.   See you soon!

Product Shot for a Magazine


This week brought an interesting assignment.  I was to shoot a cover shot showing equipment for an individual sport.  The image needed to allow for text in the lower right corner and I knew to leave the top area for a magazine’s name.

I chose to highlight target shooting as the sport and bullets as the “equipment”.  I included the pistol and the bullet box with the company name on it for context and composition.  Lighting had to be very precise.  My lighting setup is shown in this diagram below.  The strobe on camera right is a strip light with grid to control the spill.  The lightstand was moved forward and to the right as shown.  Opposite the strip light was a white board reflector.


This turned out to be another fun assignment.  Now, on to the next one!  Coming next is “How We Roll”.  See you soon!

Expressed by Hands


This latest Project 52 assignment was interesting and fun.  I was to create an image that could be used for a double page spread magazine article focused on small creative businesses.  The article would cover the cottage industry businesses popping up all over the country.and include the hands that create the crafts involved.   There were a number of really good submissions for this assignment.   We are all growing and it shows.

Controlling the light is just as important for this kind of image as it is for portraits.  The lighting is often very different and sometimes from a very different angle than for a portrait.  The light must still be observed, adjusted and carefully planned.  We have been asked to include “pull backs” of the scene so that we can all learn by seeing light placements, type of lighting, number of lights and additional items used by different photographers.  How they interpret their vision is always interesting and there is lots to think about.  In my case, I kept it simple.  I used a strip light with my fabric grid attached to control the spread of light.  I then placed it so the light hit at an angle so light hit parts but only skimmed parts of it.  Since there was only one light, my model graciously held a white foam core reflector in front of her face to bounce back light onto the backs of her hands.   I stood on a stool behind her right shoulder and shot down at the scene I was photographing.   The following picture is the pull back.  I owe her a big “thank you” for being such a good sport.  At one point I had it completely covering her face with only her hands and arms coming around it.

Hope you like the finished image and see the trials and tribulation of being a model in the pull back.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Until next time…………


Project 52, Class Continues

Well, life got in the way so I am way behind posting assignments for my year long commercial photography class.  I missed a couple completely because I had conflicts with my photography business that simply had to come first.  So, I will put assignments up as they are available but not necessarily in order from now on.  That’s life.  You do what you can and improvise for the rest.


The assignment I am posting today was to create a Halloween double spread magazine article.  It was necessary use an image that allows the written article to appear and the image added should entice your eye to go to the text to read.  I had a lot of fun with this week’s assignment. The images needed to be dark so that the white text showed up. Halloween needs spooky and dark looks anyway so that made it easier.

In the image above, the costuming helped lintroduce Halloween as something that goes way back.  In fact, it actually goes back farther than the Renaissance clothing in the image.  I used a couple of different images in layers to create the second spread.  Since I ended up with two final layouts that worked well, I submitted both. They both fit the assignment but were totally different in feel.  My instructor liked them and felt either would meet the needs of a magazine client plus it gave them choices.  I am not sure whether I have a favorite layout.  Maybe you can choose!