Straightforward, Yet Highly Effective
William Caste doesn't just read magazines for the articles. This digital photographer loves the ads. On a monthly basis, he digests W, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and other high-end consumer publications, to draw inspiration for his striking commercial images.
"I guess what really excites me about commercial photography is the challenge of making an object stand out by focusing on its inherent qualities, such as its overall design," he says.
"Every day we see the same kinds of images in print, whether they're for sneakers, cosmetics, or watches. Because of this, people become desensitized to images. I photograph certain products because I'm attracted to their texture, overall design, and reflective qualities. To me, these are the most important qualities about the products. They're the details that make products stand out."
No question about it, Caste's images stand out. Take the full-page image of the Cartier watch (p. 46). He photographed that image—as well as every other image in this article—using a Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro, with a Nikkor 60mm f/2.8d AF lens, and Profoto Pro-6s and Pro-5a lights.
"I tried to focus on a classic design," says Caste. "I emphasized its shape and reflective qualities, like the slightly brushed texture in alternating links that can only be observed when the light hits it just right. This is why for some objects, I like to shoot the products in pieces, because it affords me the luxury of creating that 'hyper real' effect I'm looking for by controlling the lighting on the individual elements."
He loves the resolution of the Fujifilm S2 Pro and prefers Profoto lighting because the flash duration of its packs are "so fast they allow for extra sharp images, and give you the ability to freeze motion with very crisp edges."
The New York-based photographer used a similar straightforward approach for the Oakley sunglasses image (p. 48). "I have no special technique for approaching these individual pictures, other than having a strong visual sketch in my head and highlighting a product's stand-out features."
Light Just Right
Caste was formerly a lighting technician, so he knows when the light hits just right. "Most of my pictures can be made with just one light since I shoot individual elements and compose them later," he says. "So in reality, the technique is just about moving the one light around to access the detail and quality of the light, then putting it all together later in Photoshop."
Once the image is in Photoshop, he begins to create adjustment layers addressing global color/contrast issues and further refines color and contrast "locally" with adjustment layers using masks. When the image is to his liking, he clicks "Print" on his Epson Stylus Pro 2200 printer.
But beyond that, Caste says the most important aspect of any workflow setup—as well as every final image—is calibration. His color management tool of choice: GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display.
"If you're looking at a monitor that isn't calibrated to prepress standards, or to your 'closed-loop' print setup, ensuring accurate results is very difficult when it comes time to print. Profiling as many devices as possible in your setup is critical so that each device in the chain knows how to handle and interpret the color profiling and tagging you've assigned to it. That's the only way you can ensure predictable results," he says.
Like many photographers, Caste never expected his career path to end at "Photography Road." He studied philosophy at the State University of New York at Purchase in the 1990s. Photography was the furthest thing from his mind until Caste picked up a book by Josef Sudek.
"I instantly became mesmerized by his pictures," says Caste, "especially the windowpane series he shot through his studio window in Prague. At that moment, I decided to sign up for a black & white 'Photo 1' course and began to put together a portfolio in hopes of being accepted by the visual arts department." He was accepted and the rest is history.