Photographer Phil Sills has shot most of Bowers & Wilkins products over the last decade. Here he talks about the challenge of producing the studio images of the new range, and elevating the work above anything Bowers & Wilkins has done before.
I was warned at the back end of 2014 that things were going to get busy in 2015. Why? Because the new 800 Series Diamond from Bowers & Wilkins was going to be launched.
There was of course going to be the usual product work needed that would provide the core work for the web site, however on top of that due to the complete redesign of the range, Bowers & Wilkins required a brand new set of hero beauty shots. Something had to change to set the bar higher, to push what we would normally be able to achieve.
The plan we arrived at? Lets go to a car studio and shoot them!
This might sound like a crazy idea, however there was a huge amount of logic to this decision. The new Turbine head is rounded and has a fantastic smooth flowing curve that runs down its length as well as wrapping around the new grey Continuum cone. The piano black finish turns that surface into a mirror. You could say this is the perfect storm for a photographer.
The car studio was genius. It gave us a way of handling the smooth shiny rounded black object. It gave us an environment that naturally gave us very large areas of ceiling walls and floor to use. We could work up our lighting to pick out the details required and then let the tones fade off. Our new highlights created off the floating ceiling and floor were more like mid tones – more grey then white. They had to be to make sure the speaker looked black. The range of tones was immense with many surfaces of the speaker fading off to just above black.
In short, the car studio gave us a whole new world to reflect into our speaker.
Of course, every honeymoon has to come to an end! Following on from the successful images created in the studio, came further requests for additional shots – to be shot in the same style. Logistics prevented us getting back into the car studio so now we had a big challenge. We had to match the lighting possible in a small still life studio and achieve pretty well much what we had in the car studio environment. Mmmmmm.
Well, as they say, you are only as good as your last shot so we stepped up the task and looked closely at the shapes of the reflections created in the big space and then made lighting set ups to generate similar ones in my small one. In the car studio, surfaces and lighting would be 6 to 8ft away. In my studio, we were positioning 8ft sheets of Perspex 1 inch off the surface of the speaker! With a little bit of element shooting we were able to build up areas of similar looking lighting. Once these were gathered into the computer and layered up we could craft these highlights to pull the new shots in line with what we had done before.
It doesn’t mean of course that the car studio shoot was not necessary – it is completely the opposite of that. The car studio shoot was essential in forming a new style and approach. After that, using our studio lighting and retouching skills we could recreate it.
Although, I have to say, put me in the car studio any day – its much more fun!