I just finished up the most complicated batch of product photography I’ve undertaken in quite some time, if ever. Dig in and freshen up with a behind-the-scenes look at some locally crafted aromas.

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If you were unaware of my obsession with smells, you probably haven’t met me. In the same way that I need music constantly playing while I work, I also go out of my way to ensure there are a variety of scents accessible. They can be anywhere from perfume and cologne, to incense, essential oils, candles, food, body wash, or soap. If we’re ever in a store together and I catch a view of the candle isle, you might as well get your shopping done, because I’m gonna be there for a bit. I figure if I’m lucky enough to have a rather heightened sense of smell, I might as well take advantage of it.

A few months back, my fiancé and I were perusing a local art and craft-good store. We came upon a rack of soaps from a local manufacturer, Cellar Door Bath Supply Company. Not only were they locally produced, but there was an impressive variety, the branding was designed VERY well, and they smelled AMAZING. Added bonus – the descriptions of the scents were pretty funny and descriptive enough to provide a solid visual: “Smells like bonfire, charred cedar, musk, marshmallow, celebrating freedom by shooting roman candles into the night sky – ‘MURICA!” (from the “Acadian Driftwood” bar soap).

Naturally, I bought a substantial number of soaps and tripled my shower time.

Also recently, I put together an image, based on a Legend of Zelda watch my fiancé got me. Check out the blog post about it here. It was a fun project, I realized I was a fan of miniature set design, and, as a by-product of the picture, I had a bunch of leftover diorama props.

A bit of brainstorming, back to the store, a few more crafting supplies… you get the idea.

SOAP #1 – “Sex Machine

Smells like amber, saffron, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, musk, the intoxicating aroma hanging in the air of a sultry burlesque show.

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Starting with the stage, we need to sand down the wood.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-22,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-22,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

Let’s build that stage – A storage crate and the back of a shot glass display case work nicely for a base.

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Crushed red velvet and some clips to start the curtains.

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Testing out the angles with the new pedestal.

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Time to get the lights just right.

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A bit of theatrical smoke for ambiance.

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Next, into Photoshop to clean things up and build the rest of the stage.

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SOAP #2 – “Haunted Woods

Smells like fallen leaves. moss. freshly dug earth. lichen. the aroma left behind by the apparition known as “The Lady in the Woods.”

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Starting out, we’ll need a base for our “hill.”

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-22,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

Next, it’s a matter of adding just “one or two” details.

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We’ll need a background as well.

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For the “haze” in the background, we’ll use some good old fashioned Smoke-In-A-Can.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-22,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

This got a bit tricky, because this smoke was aerosolized and very light, it dissipated to quickly and wouldn’t stay near the ground. A bit of chemistry and MacGyvering to the rescue, and we have our very own dry ice “fog gun.”

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Misty and spooky.

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Into Photoshop to blend it together.

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SOAP #3 – “Mandarin and Black Woods

Smells like mandarin. bergamot. woods. black pepper. the freshly swabbed deck of a centuries old retired pirate ship.

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AVAST! We can’t have a pirate ship without a deck!

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For the crates and props, it’s a combo of $1 balsa wood boxes, some popsicle sticks, a glue gun, and liberal use of wood stain and cheap paint.

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Toilet paper tubes, foam cylinders, and some wood-textured contact paper make for excellent barrels and railing posts.

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A Lazy Susan helps get the angle just right. (Didn’t have time to print the background image, but the greenscreen works just dandy).

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On a pirate ship, the masts and sails can block a lot of the sun, so detail lighting is key.

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Gotta get that placement spot-on.

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Let’s get that greenscreen out of there and clean things up.

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SOAP #4 – “Michigan Dunes

Smells like sea moss. gardenia. clary sage. ozone. a fresh blast of seafoam rising up from the dunes along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline.

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Turns out building sand dunes is trickier than I anticipated. Let’s get “grade school” and start with some good ol’ paper maché.

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After the initial form is built, I mixed decorative sand into the binding agent and applied a generous coating.

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A few more coats and some over time and we have the base of a sand dune!

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Here’s where things went off the rails. See, I have a plentiful amount of reeds, grass, and other set props, but for something of this scale, the “blades of grass” and the “plant stems” were all too thick.

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Stores carry a lot of this stuff, to mimic dry grass, but I needed green.

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After some searching, I noticed some large brushes, for the reasonable price of $1. Mix that with a bottle of fabric dye…

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Grass in hand, it’s time to pimp out that dune! Let’s get some flora in there.

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A rough light check…

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Now, we need a lake in the background.

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A little extra foreground detail and the star of the show means it’s ready for the lights.

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Straightening up the little touches in Photoshop.

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Four pictures, two weeks, and a house that looks like a tornado tore through Martha Stewart’s craft room, but I’m thrilled with the outcome. It doesn’t matter what your craft is, the more time, effort, and energy you put into a project, the better it’s going to come out.

Thanks for checking out the Behind The Scenes! If you’re a scent-aficionado, like myself, or if you’re just interested in spicing up your shower game, be sure to check out Cellar Door. They’re online and in stores around Michigan and beyond!

– Jon

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