Product photographer Fernando Martins Ribeiro: ‘depart from the typical image of very static objects’

Still life and product photographer, Fernando Martins Ribeiro, gives us an insight into how his studio works and the technique of capturing industrial and fashion photographs.
Tell us a little about your history and how you became a product photographer.

My background is in architecture and I was a practicing architect for 20 years. The issue with architecture is that a building, specifically large buildings, takes several years from first concept to opening. So, most of the time you’re dealing with the technical and economical issues and not with the creative ones. I felt that I needed a more immediate medium for artistic expression, so I decided to become a full-time photographer.

Before architecture, I used to photograph as a hobby, mostly in black and white and had a dark room where I developed my own prints. During my years working as an architect, photography was always present. Transitioning to photography was more like returning to an old passion, rather than starting something new.

“transitioning to photography was more like returning to an old passion, rather than starting something new.”

I’m self-taught in the sense that I didn’t attended a photography course, but I learned a lot from other people, from studying images and finding out what worked for me and from several resources available on the internet.

Your exploded industrial images are both technical and beautiful, can you explain the process of creating them?

Those images are part of a rebranding process for Bilstein, one of the world leaders in the aftermarket car parts. As part of the rebranding, the images were to convey the idea of quality and to depart from the typical image of very static objects.

The concept that I proposed, and ultimately tried to translate into the images, was to have the parts portrayed as if they were mounted in the car in their working position. To create that feeling, the parts had to be floating and had to have some sort of relation between them.

Regarding the execution, I had to learn what each part was doing, what was it that made it special and how it was related with other parts in the image. After that I created a sketch of each image, to study the relation between the parts, to find the best point of view and decide on the lighting. I tried to shoot all the elements at the same time, so I used small wood blocks to keep the parts at an angle and to keep them in their final position as closely as possible.

What are the biggest challenges you face when photographing products in this way?

There are two really big challenges. First, it’s the time it takes just to understand what I’m photographing and making sure that I don’t place the parts upside-down or in reverse. Secondly, it’s placing the parts together, making constant adjustments so that everything is aligned and making sure it won’t collapse like a domino.

What made you switch to using Affinity Photo for your image processing?

I’ve worked with several other software packages and I’m always keen on testing new apps when they become available. I was quite surprised at how easy it was to adapt to Affinity and how fast it was. The fact that there was no subscription was something that really helped me decide to work exclusively with Affinity Photo.

What Affinity tool do you find you use the most?

Inpainting and the Clone Brush tools are my most used tools. In product photography there are always small imperfections that need to be corrected and these tools are my first choice.

What is your favourite feature in Affinity?

Live Filter layers. That is the best tool to work non-destructively and to be able to correct the image after revisions from the client.

What advice would you give to commercial photographers considering switching to Affinity Photo?

Make a list of what you do most often in your current software and its limitations. Watch some tutorials about Affinity, and then have a trial run and see if you can do the same and even surpass your current software. Do it for a few days, not just a session. If you have questions, the Affinity forum is the first place to go as there are a lot of really great people there ready to help you. After that it’s mainly a person’s own decision.

What inspires you?

So many things… Nature in all its colour combinations and varying lights, images from other photographers, simple sketches that spark up ideas, and all the mistakes that happen when photographing.

You’ve worked with some big brands, what has been your favourite client commission to date?

I have to say that the car parts job was the biggest challenge to date. It was totally new to me and being involved from the concept stage made the creative process extremely enjoyable.

“I have to say that the car parts job was the biggest challenge to date.”

What would be your dream commission?

Any commission where the client understands that images are an important part of their brand and is ready to create a brief based on a concept, and give enough time for it to mature, is a dream commission to me.

Does your creative process differ between client commissions and creating photography for yourself?

Most of the time, the images I create for myself are based on a concept, and I create two or three images to tell the story. For most of the clients, it’s a single image with a very commercial purpose that has to fit with previous images the client has. But when the opportunity arises and a concept is put forward, then the process is very similar.

What are your interests outside of photography?

Obviously architecture, music, science—especially space related science.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you. Any final words for us?

Thank you for this interview and for Affinity Photo. It’s been a great journey and I’m truly looking forward to what Serif will bring us.


You can read about Fernando’s top product photography tips on Spotlight and see more of his work at www.martinsribeiro.com.


Artist relations
Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.
Credits & Footnotes

Images copyright © Fernando Martins Ribeiro