The beauty of product photography

My favorite type of photographer is one who sees his subject as a combination of shapes, textures, colors and lines, whether it's a flattened soccer ball or a sparkling diamond. He's an artist first, cameraman second, and he'd see objects the same way if his medium were a paintbrush and canvas.

A few months ago, my art director turned me on to the work of American product photographer Mitchell Feinberg. We were trying to come up with an interesting way to shoot luxury jewelry — something more creative than your standard plain black, white or grey backdrop.

As it turns out, Feinberg's website is an treasure trove of inspiration. Not to copy, of course, but to marvel over. With campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and YSL and editorials for Vogue, W and National Geographic in his portfolio, Feinberg is one of the world's most respected still life photographers. His lighting is exquiste, his concepts are brilliant, and he always manages to sell the product.

But most of all, I love the way his images take the subject out of its typical context and give the reader pause. The closeup on a jacket becomes dark ocean waves; the opening of a handbag become a blooming flower; leather shoes become the site of battlefield for cowboys vs. Indians. Every image is meticulously crafted to perfection.

Taking inspiration from Feinberg, we decided to come up with a fun, outside-the-box concept for our luxury jewelry shoot. We knew we wanted to shoot one striking piece of jewelry. I was in charge of styling the story, so I did a little shopping beforehand to see what we might be able to work with. I visited JB Hudson Jewelers and took cameraphone shots of potential items, then met with my art director to see what kind of concepts we could devise around those pieces.

A set of spiky gold jewelry proved the winner. Piled on top of one another, this H. Stern necklace and bracelet looked like some sort of 14k gold birdsnest. And thus came our concept:

Photo by Tate CarlsonA cute little bird building a very expensive nest. I'm pretty happy with the way the image turned out and hope to style many more unusual still life shoots. Click here to read the accompanying story I wrote on tips for buying high-end jewelry (titled "Spending Your Nest Egg," hee!).

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