Anatomy of a Consumer Packaged Goods Photo Shoot


A commercial shoot requires much more than a photographer. On this shoot I was lucky enough to have a crew of six talented people who made this whole thing come together. It is also important to have a client that knows enough to give the photographer freedom to work. Though the Chicken Soup people didn't have any first-hand experience with a shoot of this caliber, they were fun to work with, very professional, demanded high standards, and yet allowed me to do my job. VERY pleasurable to work with the good people of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

This page is dedicated to the back story of the production... a sneak peek behind the scenes. Enjoy.



I had originally lit the set using a variation of typical portrait lighting with the addition of a few kicker lights to get a pure white background. However, after doing a few test shots I realized that the portrait lighting was not working since there was no telling what the pet and human might be doing at any moment. After the test shoot, I adjusted the lighting to what you see in this image. My Key light became an centered overhead so it wouldn't matter which way the talent and pet were facing. I also used a hair light (dead center and behind) as well as a fairly large fill light which I set low and to the left of center. This would fill any shadows caused by the overhead key.


My "go-to" wardrobe and makeup person is the incredible Kathleen Richards. I've been working with Kathleen for years and we have that shorthand that you only get with a healthy and productive relationship. Kathleen is amazing. If you peruse this website you will see Kathleen's work in nearly every commercial project.



I made sure that every one of our talent had at least three options for pants and tops. This means that we needed 45 outfits on set. In this image we see Kathleen Richards assistant preparing the wardrobe ahead of each shot.


We tapped the talents of the Doggone Smart Daycare for our pet handling and grooming. Talk about a challenging task? This woman expertly handled more than 20 pets in two days. Remember that these cats and dogs are all from a rescue shelter, some of which had never been groomed professionally. She had to work with everything from kittens to angry cats and puppies to a dog who had been in the streets until 3 weeks earlier. She did a fantastic job.



Our "Pet Whisperer" was Jaimee Kelsey, also from DogGone Smart. Without Jaimee this shoot might not have been successful. I'm not really sure how she does it, but she gets inside the head of any pet we put in front of her. She instinctively knows when to push the pet to perform and when the pet needs a break. Not only did Jaimee need to be on set while we were shooting, she had the difficult task of soothing the next pet in preparation for their time in front of the camera. Imagine having to try to get a cat to settle down when it is surrounded by dogs! I have worked with Jaimee on several shoots and she is amazing.


Because of the limited space on the Chicken Soup packaging, I decided that all of our shots should have the human sitting and the pet nearby on in their lap. Of course, this meant that I had to spend two days sitting on the floor as well. I shot exclusively with a Canon 70-200 L series lens which allowed me to sit away from the pet to minimize distracting it. Our space was so tight on the packaging that I put technology to work. We would routinely import the images to my computer and make sure the image fit inside the artwork.



We had 4 professional models and 11 completely untrained models. In this image I am working with Kristen Jensen. Kristen is a former supermodel who luckily agreed to do this shoot with us. Although all of the human talent was fantastic to work with, it was a great experience to shoot with Kristen and the other pro models.

All of the pets were provided by OPIN, a non-profit rescue shelter that promotes the adoption of homeless animals. The OPIN pets came with their happy new owners to the shoot.


By the end of the two-day shoot we got everything we needed to put together the label images for the new packaging... but not by much.
I shot more than 2000 images and barely ended up with 15 that would work for the packaging. Between children (some of which wanted nothing to do with this shoot) and untrained pets, this was quite a challenge. Not something any of us will forget anytime soon.



Another interesting challenge. Chicken Soup decided that they wanted an updated image which represents the ingredients in their products. In an effort to minimize brand identity issues, it was requested that I use the previous ingredients photo as a template for this photo. In some ways this makes the job easier since you don't need to reinvent the creative wheel, but in other ways it makes things more difficult since there is an imperative to match an existing creative treatment.
I brought in Paul Piccuito as a food stylist for this project and as you can see, he did a fantastic job.


A few weeks after the shoot, I was again contacted by Chicken Soup and asked to photograph the printed packaging. I could fill another web page with the challenges that this shoot provided. The beautifully designed bags were less interested in cooperating than a 5 year old throwing a tantrum. In the end, we built a rig of plywood and layers of foam padding/batting that we could insert into the bag to make it present properly. To add insult to injury, the bags are high gloss which meant that every small warble in the package would pick up a distracting highlight. Eventually I decided that I had to buy Polarized gels for all of the light sources. Coupling polarized light with a polarizing filter on the camera lens and I was able to effectively dial-out the distracting highlights. I owe the success of this shoot to Tracy Furgason for the exceptional work she did in prepping the bags for me.


Want to see more of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Packaging images? Clicky

© Copyright 2022 by Matthew C. Abourezk & Talkingbox DMG, LLC • All rights reserved • Located in Bridgeport, CT
Privacy Policy