Jay describes himself as an ‘old-school photographer.’ He believes in the value of perfecting an image on set and not relying too heavily on post-production techniques. “One of the things that I make sure is right in every shot is the lighting. It is something most people will just take care of in Photoshop, but I still want to make sure it is right in the shot to evoke the right mood in the photo. I try to make my lighting as simple as possible, yet functional and flattering at the same time. From concept to lighting, I prefer it to be zen-like; simple and clean.”
When it comes to commercial photography, at a glance it can appear to be simple and straightforward, perhaps even uninspiring to some, but the point to remember is that this genre of photography is made to sell a product or service. In Jay’s words, product is king.
“I believe it should not be overpowered by artistry that you can do in non-commercial portraits, art photos, non-commercial fashion shoots. The product’s desirability is the essence of the shot. That means you have to consider how the shot will fit into the client company’s marketing campaign. If they are planning to project elegance and status in their product, definitely you will have to avoid lighting and shooting the product that would say otherwise. If the product is a conservative item, like a fountain pen, why shoot it like it is a fun toy item?”
For Jay, commercial photography is a balance between many aspects, knowing how to manipulate lighting, having an extensive grasp of your gear and also a creative flair for showcasing products in an aesthetically pleasing way. A dialogue with clients is key as their requirements and goals should always be taken into consideration from the very beginning.
Jay loves a good challenge on set, and this is when his technical know-how comes in to play, “There is a challenge every time I set a range of products or food in front of my camera. Why? Because products and food come in different sizes, but also in different shape, form and textures. This will definitely affect the way you set up the camera and light up the subject. How you illuminate a bottle will surely be different to how you might illuminate a bag.”
Light is something Jay is very conscious of when shooting commercial products. He is constantly asking himself, ‘Do I have enough light? Is it at the right place? Does it illuminate the product or the people not only well but also in a flattering manner? Do I need to augment the light? Reduce? Change its colour?’ Lighting is the only element that gives him such immense control when constructing an image, which is why he places such an emphasis on it.
As of late, Jay’s camera of choice has been the Nikon D810. At 36 megapixels, it covers all the print requirements of most printed promotional materials for his clients, including wall sized prints or even a billboard.
“The full frame sensor of the D810 gives wider dynamic range and cleaner images compared to a cropped sensor camera yet at a cost without requiring a loan just to procure an exorbitantly expensive medium format system. Aesthetics wise, it is mean looking but it feels comfortable and solid in the hand, suggesting great quality and craftsmanship from Nikon.”
His favourite image captured on the D810 was taken amongst one of the Seven Wonders and was not done on assignment; it was during a travel to the pyramids of Cairo, Egypt when he was there to host a product photography seminar. Killing time before his flight, he knew he couldn’t miss the chance to see the monolithic structures. On arrival, he was quick to see that the pyramids were packed with tourists all clambering to get inside for a viewing. Jay faced the challenge of photographing the pyramid in a way that would make it appear less busy and touristy.
“Finally when our caravan stopped and I looked back, there I saw the most tranquil yet magnificent view I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The immensity of the pyramid complex yet at the same time it appeared so quiet and still. These are the things that were going through my mind as I prepare my D810 to take a picture. I hope to have captured the feeling as I pressed the shutter button. The weather was fine but cumulus clouds littered the otherwise blue sky, casting light and shadows on an already magnificent historic landscape. This is a type of lighting situation that I really like in a landscape. It makes it more dramatic as long as I preserve the details in the illuminated areas.”