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Knock Yourself Out

Quite a few advertising photos use some sort of knockout technique to isolate The Product so it can be presented against a plain background, or perhaps dropped into another image to create a composite. I’m almost ashamed of how casually I apply this technique. When I worked as a commercial photographer, I spent hours carefully posing items ranging from product boxes to truck clutches on white seamless paper, carefully lighting them and choosing the exact angle that would make the product look exciting and glamorous. Of course, one of my clients’ idea of “glamorous” was any photo of his company’s beloved clutches illuminated by a spotlight, so the work wasn’t as challenging as I just tried to make it sound.

Today, digital photography and Photoshop have made me lazy. Our first exercise is an actual example of a photo I created for an earlier book. I discovered that I suddenly needed a photograph of an external, FireWire-compatible hard disk drive to illustrate a chapter on archiving photos. The only tricky part of the task was that I needed a “generic” disk drive with no logos or other identifying material. I could have set up some seamless paper or another backdrop, lit the drive as if it were a still life, and spent, say, a whopping 10–20 minutes producing a photographic masterpiece.


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