How Ben Kuhns Brings Backcountry.com Products To Life With The Raven
If you’re like us, you’ve come across Backcountry.com while shopping for gear for the next big outdoor shoot. While on Backcountry, you’ll likely see some incredible photos sharing inspiration and insight into how to use the gear for sale. And you can bet that many of the photos were taken by Ben Kuhns. Ben specializes in narrative product photography that makes use of knolling to tell stories.
Knolling is a creative technique where items are arranged at right angles in a neat grid. It helps Ben tell a story about a product assortment and gives him an opportunity to throw in a few fun props to boot.
The Raven by FusionTLC was used on Ben’s most recent (and biggest shoot of the season) for the Backckountry.com Summer Adventure Guide. The guide combines gear and inspiration for warmer months.
An image from the Backcountry.com Summer Adventure Guide that utilized the Raven by FusionTLC. Photo Credit: Ben Kuhns for Backcountry.com.
Workflow of the shoot
For the guide, eight unique sets were built from scratch inside Ben’s studio. Ben shared that “the selection of products is what decides the environment you are trying to build. That informs which approach to take and the set build informs the base look and feel of the campaign.”
After careful planning, Ben had over 400 pounds of sand and rocks delivered as well as a commissioned rock surface from a local scenic shop.
After the set build, “the products are handed over and then the puzzle starts as a stylist and I start to arrange the items. To figure out how to work with an assortment of products and make them look compelling is a fun and creative challenge”.
Each layout needs to support the campaign, the story of the brands displayed, and the passion of the customer.
A two light setup was used to create this image -- with the fill bouncing off the ceiling and a diffuse key light. Flashes triggered using the FusionTLC Raven. Photo Credit: Ben Kuhns for Backcountry.com.
The setup for a shot like this starts with trying out many product placements and orientations. Large items like coolers need a home early on so that the rest of the items come together cohesively and lend a sense of balance. “We also have fun thinking about waterproof vs dry items and fun props that help further the story”. Ben's goal is “to build something clean and intentional.” Although it’s a time intensive and physically enduring task, “once you get a solution to the puzzle, you lock it down and go through each item with a fine tooth comb.”
“Adding tiny details in the cooler might not be noticeable by most people, but filling that space and making it look authentic is a nice touch compared to an empty cooler. Placing objects inside the products makes them real and lived in” says Ben.
The lighting approach
“The more I set up these shots, the more I have realized I can simplify my lighting to a key and a fill. If you know what to do with those two lights and know how to build a relationship between them then you don’t need much more than that.”
Ben and his team place Backcountry.com products across the set to create a captivating story image using the two light setup triggered by the Raven. Photo Credit: Ben Kuhns for Backcountry.com.
“In this case the light was more diffused and so the shadows seemed natural and interacted with the surrounding products. The organic interactions help me make it clear to a viewer that the image was actually shot and the products were not simply put together on a seamless background and photoshopped” says Ben.
“A revolution in my workflow”
“I work with Profoto Air, Paul Buff Cybersync, and PocketWizard products and have always been restricted to one brand or loss of features. But the Raven has transformed my studio. The fact that this single unit can replace all of those and can address any of the lights those systems would have talked to previously is remarkable” says Ben.
The Raven gives Ben and his team more control over photoshoots, saving time and money. Photo Credit: Ben Kuhns for Backcountry.com.
Ben can’t imagine his studio without the cross compatibility of the Raven with other devices. “I’ve had multiple instances on the set where a flash stopped working as expected (in fact, last week one of my packs exploded!), and because of the Raven I’ve been able to replace the flash with another brand seamlessly.”
“The Raven has literally saved a number of shoots where I would have had to rent additional gear had I not been able to combine brands”
The interface of the Raven has also been a great benefit to Ben. “It’s not that it can’t be done with other systems, it’s just that you can't do it as quickly and elegantly as you would with the Raven and in a professional studio time is money and set wide, precise adjustments are critical. The easy power level adjustment with the ring dial is something I’ll never go without.”
Photo Credit: Ben Kuhns for Backcountry.com
Personal Portfolio: BenKuhns.com