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  • Aaron: Hey guys, welcome to Phlearn. My name is Aaron Nace. You can find me on Twitter

  • @aknacer. Welcome to part 2 of our talks here with international badass product photographer

  • Rob: You forgot rockstaresque.

  • Aaron: Rockstaresque, Rob Grimm. You can catch him on Twitter @rggphoto. Robb is based out

  • of St. Louis originally? Rob: Originally St. Louis and I've recently

  • opened up a Chicago studio. Aaron: Built your Chicago studio, so you'll

  • be right down the street from our new studio. Rob: Which is great. We're going to be neighbors

  • and yes, I'm really excited about it. It's been great so far. We opened up last summer

  • and it's a studio just for me, so I bounce back and forth between the two cities and

  • it's really phenomenal so far. Aaron: Awesome. Well, welcome to Chicago and

  • Rob: It's actually welcome back. I lived in Chicago after graduating college and that's

  • where I got my first start in the photography business.

  • Aaron: That's where you got into product photography? Rob: No, actually back then I was working

  • with a couple of different people. Saden Photo Group, which is now long gone. Abbey Saden,

  • and Ben Altman, and a couple other people, and Jack Peron. Is that guys still around?

  • Aaron: I think Jack is, yes. Rob: I think he is, too. He was a really good

  • fashion photographer way back when. I started doing some internships and assisting around

  • those studios and that's where I got my foray into the business.

  • Aaron: Cool. Welcome back then. Rob: It's nice to be back in Chicago, it's

  • home. Aaron: Cool city.

  • Rob: Great city. Aaron: We're going through your book now.

  • Rob: All right, let's do it. Aaron: A lot of really great images here and

  • we were just talking about the difference between a book versus digital. Like, bringing

  • an iPad to show people as opposed to a physical book. Let's just touch on that first, just

  • a minute or so before we go ahead and get into it.

  • Rob: Sure. Aaron: What do you think the impact is? The

  • difference? Rob: Well, one's reflective versus luminous

  • and that has a very different quality on the eye. iPads are amazing. That backlit LCD screen

  • coming at you, now the retina display, it's just amazing. The colors are so vibrant and

  • they're luminous and they're just incredible and the technology is something that a lot

  • of people are obviously gravitating towards. Particularly guys your age, you're very well

  • versed with all things electronic and digital, so for you it's totally second nature to flip

  • through an iPad, to look into the different galleries and you can have so many more images

  • in an iPad portfolio than you can in a printed book.

  • Printed books take time, they take a lot of money, you got to assemble them, you're pretty

  • much locked into them once you've printed them, so it's much harder to make changes.

  • With an iPad, you can go back and forth very quickly. You can remove something and add

  • something, you can make an extensive number of galleries, so the iPad has a lot of great

  • features about it. The book does, too. Have a printed book is really interesting. We walk

  • into every portfolio showing with both, printed and iPad.

  • Aaron: You do? Rob: Oh, yes absolutely. First of all, when

  • you go into an ad agency, there's usually multiple people that are looking at your book.

  • Aaron: Right. Rob: Unless you go in with a bunch of printed

  • books, you're going to have an issue. You can go in with a couple of iPads and a printed

  • book and then people can spread out. One thing I try to do is I try to sit with the book,

  • the actually printed book because that's the time where people are most engaged. As they're

  • going through it, there's something about being physical with it and tactile, where

  • they can touch it, and flip the pages, and they can feel the paper, and they look at

  • the reflected image, and they're drawn into it. They want to know more stories. They ask

  • me more about the behind the scenes and about how did this image come to life when they

  • are looking at the printed book than they do when they're looking at the iPad, without

  • question. Aaron: Really?

  • Rob: Yes, it's interesting. Now, the iPad is great though. When you have multiple people

  • coming in, two people can look at it, they can go through it, they can hand it to the

  • next guy, and it's good for that room setting, but this is where, I think, we still really

  • get to engage with the prospective clients. Aaron: Yes, it's real.

  • Rob: Yes, it is. Aaron: It has that real quality to it that

  • it's not justit's interesting because the iPad, it is really great to show work,

  • but it's … you go from emails to Twitter to your portfolio and this is nothing but

  • your portfolio. Rob: I was talking before; it's a mix of different

  • marketing approaches. Same thing here. It's good to have the mix of your website, a portfolio

  • that lives on an iPad, and a printed honest-to-God book that people can flip through. Back before

  • digital came about, we had to make 10 copies of these and you had to have them all cataloged,

  • know where they were because in an ad agency would call and you'd FedEx it to them and

  • they'd have it for a week, and somebody else would call and you'd have to FedEx it, too.

  • You could have books all over the place. Aaron: Floating around?

  • Rob: Even locally in town. You'd have three or four floating around different ad agencies.

  • That's expensive. You had to know where it was. Now, it's great that it's online. People

  • can get that flavor for you, they can know what your work is like, they can easily and

  • quickly send your website or a portfolio PDF. I use portfolio PDFs all the time.
Aaron:

  • Okay. Rob: This book, this exact book is in PDF

  • format and I send it to clients with great regularity. Then, when they want this this

  • can be shipped in. Aaron: Perfect. That's kind of like thegets

  • their appetite a little bit wet and when they bite, you can send this?

  • Rob: Yes, absolutely. Aaron: On their way.

  • Rob: This is a good hook. Aaron: A good hook, there we go, so a printed

  • portfolio is a good hook? Rob: Yes.

  • Aaron: Yes, it's gorgeous. You went with a somewhat frosted plastic at the front?

  • Rob: Yes, this is actually from Lost Luggage. It's one of the ones that they make.

  • Aaron: Oh, really? Rob: You can buy off the shelf, which is good.

  • I did have a completely custom book before. Actually, the guy who owned this building

  • before me was a bookbinder and I had him make my portfolios, which is how I found this building

  • in the first place. Aaron: Nice.

  • Rob: Kind of cool. Aaron: Yes, very cool story.

  • Rob: Those kinds of things are gone now. It's much easier to buy them. There's so many companies

  • that make portfolios. They're very specific and

  • Aaron: They do a great job. Rob: They do a great job. They can customize

  • it quickly and get it to you where it's not… I hate to say, like a six month process? But

  • I think back then designing a portfolio, looking at comps, looking at mock-ups, seeing the

  • first one actually being madeAaron: Wow.

  • Rob: Then, going through the rest of it. It could be six months before you have a portfolio.

  • Aaron: Wow. Rob: It's a lot of time.

  • Aaron: Your work can completely change over six months.

  • Rob: Yes, it can. Particularly now. Aaron: Yes, now it can anyway.

  • Rob: Particularly now, yes. Aaron: Yes, good point.

  • Rob: Let's talk about it. Aaron: Yes, the printing you do in house,

  • right? Rob: Yes, we've done this here. You cannot

  • undersell Epson technology. The Epson printerdigital photography changed this market

  • completely, so did the Epson. When Epson came outand Canon and HP, there are a lot

  • of great printers out, but Epson really changed the game. Before we were looking at sending

  • all of our books out or we were looking at technology called di-sublimation, which I

  • don't even think exists anymore, really expensive printers in the studio. Now, we can print

  • this on a $1000.00 machine. It looks amazing. It's better than offset in some ways. It's

  • just amazing ink quality and you can do full bleeds. Why not do it here? It's fantastic.

  • Aaron: You're not getting paid by Epson to say that are you?

  • Rob: No, I'm not and it's not just Epson. Canon printers do the same thing, HP, there

  • are quite a few different printers that will handle this pro line and it's incredible.

  • Aaron: Almost every professional photographer I've talked to, who prints their own work,

  • they all print on Epson. Rob: Epson did come out with that technology

  • that changed the game and there's no question. You can proof in the studio before we would

  • have to send out for Kodak proofs or approved proofs that you can send to clients to make

  • sure that it was color matching and that everything was right. You can actually do that in studio

  • now. We hardly do proofs anymore, every once in awhile, but when that transition first

  • happened, it was great to be able to make the proofs in the studio. It saved you time,

  • you were able to charge for it, full game changer. Epson really ... they deserve accolade

  • because they changed the game. Aaron: Good job Epson, I know you're watching

  • us. Rob: You better be watching us.

  • Aaron: The president of Epson, John Epson. John Epson?

  • Rob: It's actually Phillip Epson. Aaron: Oh, Phillip Epson. Well, congratulations

  • Phillip. Your book is awesome. I obviously love your photography. I wouldn't be here

  • if I didn't. Rob: Thank you.

  • Aaron: Of course. I want to talk about a lot of these images, but there are a few that

  • I'm going to focus on and we'll put those on the screen, as well. Let's go ahead and

  • start from the back to the front. We're going to start with this image.

  • Rob: Yes, that image is probably one of the most difficult if not the most difficult job

  • I've done in years. That was for a company called Yogurtland and it's a soft-serve ice

  • cream company very similar to Pinkberry, so the creative on this was to have the idea

  • that everything was swirling from the sky and plopping into your bowl, any ingredient

  • you want it was all there for your taking. This was tough because soft-serve is soft.

  • Aaron: That was my nickname in high school. Rob: That was a tough high school at the time,

  • I bet. Soft-serve is never hard, so getting it to cascade and hold in this shape is impossible

  • and it squirted out of a machine. It's not like I could just pony up my camera to the

  • machine, all the lights and get exactly what I wanted and get it to come out in a swirl.

  • This took a lot of time. First and foremost, I hired a Nir Adar, who is an amazing food

  • stylist. He's known for his ice cream. In fact, if you're going to shoot ice cream,

  • he's the only guy that I would turn to. He's out of New York and he's a terrific guy. He

  • and I talked about this in the production stage. How can we execute this? Quite frankly,

  • we didn't know yet. We had ideas, but we spent a day and a half just testing. He came to

  • St. Louis before the shoot two days ahead and we tried one thing after the next. All

  • the machines were brought in and those soft-serve machines are huge.

  • Aaron: Giant, yes. Rob: They weight a thousand pounds and I think

  • the delivery guys were going to herniate on the stairs as they were trying to lift these

  • things up. We didn't exactly have the pathway to it, so it was a lot of trial and error.

  • We got to a point to where we figured outwe basically had to use tubing that we

  • could cut along the slide through packed with dry ice, very fine dry ice that an assistant

  • food stylist sat and ran through a food processor. Aaron: Wow.

  • Rob: Powdered. Basically turned to powder, so the tube was packed with that. Nir did

  • this magical twirl with the soft-serve. It was all placed into a huge cooler of very

  • finely powdered dry ice so it could freeze without damaging the texture because the other

  • thing that's a killer about this soft-serve, since it's soft you can't just set it down.
Aaron:

  • Right. Rob: You can't put it in a freezer without

  • damaging it and with the nature of this being swirled, we had to see the front, we had to

  • see the sides for transitions and we had to see the inside back. Really, every element

  • of this had to be photographed without messing it up, so it was a bear.

  • Aaron: It was a nightmare. Rob: It was a huge challenge. It's not a nightmare,

  • it's a challenge and that's what's cool about it because we got to experiment for a day

  • and a half before we were like, "Bam! We hit it." We tried four or five different things

  • and they didn't work, they were based on very solid ideas and experience from previous shoots,

  • but it's fun. That's actually really fun if you can experiment and come up with a new

  • way. We got it to the point where we figured out how we could freeze these things and then

  • take them out on set and literally remove that tube from this swirl of yogurt and hold

  • it on set and get my captures before it died. We just did it over and over and over. What's

  • interesting about this, we've only got two shots that make up the swirls coming down

  • and then another shot for the bowl. That's done in three shots.

  • Aaron: Okay. Rob: Then all of the fruit that was there,

  • was all hung on wires, shot individually on a background and all that was clipped out

  • and brought in individually. This thing probably took a week in a computer to make it what

  • it is, but we shot everything in different pieces. This was a major, major trial and

  • error, figure it out, make it work, I'm not sure how we're going to do it, but let's figure

  • it out. Aaron: Yes.

  • Rob: It's a great project. Aaron: The end result is awesome.

  • Rob: This gets a lot of attention and everybody stops and goes, "Man, how did you do that?"

  • Aaron: How did you do that? Rob: First of all, you hire the right people.

  • Aaron: Right. Rob: You test, you scratch your head, you

  • figure it out, you go down different avenues until it hits. It's good.

  • Aaron: Yes. Knowing that it's real, you actually did it, really makes it sell that much more.

  • Rob: Here's the thing, I think you have to do it that way. It's really important to show

  • the client's product. You could do this with a fake, you could have an acrylic model made,

  • it would be a lot easier, you could light the whole thing, but it's an acrylic model.

  • At the end of the day, even with retouching, it's still going to have that quality. It'll

  • be a little too plastic. Here, you can see texture in this. You know that it's real,

  • it's not this plasticized thing and that's really important.

  • A lot of clients are very conscious about that for legal issue, too, because somebody

  • one of the things that we have to walk a very fine line with is being hyper-real.

  • We call it truth in advertising where we want to make something entice you. You've got to

  • want that, you've got to want it to the point where you're going to run out and buy it again,

  • and again, and again. We're going to make it look as good as possible.

  • Aaron: Better than it would in your hand? Rob: Better than in real life.

  • Aaron: Yes. Rob: But you have to be careful because it's

  • people go and they say, "Well, this doesn't look at all like it did in the ad." They throw

  • it back and run. It's important to use the real product to be able to say legally, "No,

  • that is our product." It's not that we put completely fake stuff in it, it's all food

  • coloring or whatever. You want to use the real stuff as much as humanly possible.
Aaron:

  • Has that changed? I remember years ago people say that when they photograph ice cream, it's

  • really mashed potatoes? Rob: Mashed potatoes or Crisco with food coloring.

  • Aaron: Okay. Rob: Crisco, powdered sugar and lots of food

  • coloring, that was the magic combination, but keep in mind, that was back in the day

  • when you had to shoot on film, right? Aaron: Right.

  • Rob: You couldn't scoop and put it out there and grab it.

  • Aaron: Right away? Rob: No. It would die very quickly and a lot

  • of time we were using hot lights, not the strobes, so there were a lot of issues in

  • with it. Now, that you're digitalwhen digital photography came into being, the shift

  • in food photography happened, as well, because it went to the more editorial style where

  • it's real food. It's not over analyzed, it's not plastic or an acrylic model, it's not

  • mashed potatoes. Sometimes that stuff is still in there and I don't want to fake it and say

  • it's not because like when we shoot cereal, the bowl is still with mashed potatoes at

  • the bottom then all the little pieces of cereal are put in the mashed potatoes so they stay.

  • Aaron: Oh, no way and then you pour a little bit of milk over the top?

  • Rob: Or something that looks like milk. Yes. Aaron: Yet to be named.

  • Rob: Right yes, yet to be named. I won't let that secret out yet, but milk will absorb

  • very quickly into the cereal. Aaron: Right.

  • Rob: It makes it soggy and it caputs it, so it's dead. If you were just to pour milk in

  • a bowl of cereal, stuff would be floating and moving and going all over the place and

  • wouldn't necessarily look good. Aaron: Right.

  • Rob: There is a placement that happens with these things. There's still some smoke and

  • mirrors. Let notAaron: That's interesting. When we first met,

  • you talked about photographylet's flip to a bottle of Budweiser, I think we've got

  • in here or Bud Light. Rob: Yes.

  • Aaron: You said, "You think all those water droplets on there are real?"

  • Rob: Are real? Yes. Aaron: Tell us about these.

  • Rob: Yes, they're not real. This is done in a very methodical way. To get the light to

  • come through the bottle, and have it look