Artist Spotlight: Dana Kapustin
Dana Kapustin developed her eye for product styling and photography through her background in design and fashion. She learned early on that a strong foundation in color theory and the visual arts helped her transition into photography more easily. It also didn’t hurt that she shares a studio in LA with her husband, fully outfitted with broncolor lighting. This afforded Dana the space and time to practice and build her personal portfolio.
Dana’s personal projects give her the freedom to experiment with light more frequently; and ultimately allow her the opportunity to challenge herself to create work that’s completely different from previous works. It is through these projects, Dana says, that allow for the most learning. One of her projects, a spec series for Trader Joe’s, showcased her ability to reshape products and elevate them to engage with a new audience.
Though Dana covers prominent brands in her experiments, she recommends thinking practically when starting out.
“I want to go for the brands that mean something to me and start there. For anyone starting out, find a brand you like and execute a concept. Tell a brand story as if you’re going to pitch them, and see what happens”
As a storyteller, the photographic medium has allowed Dana to communicate using light, texture, and color. She brings all of this knowledge to brands. “Each brand is unique. Finding out how they see themselves and how they want others to see their brand, that’s a really good starting point.” With Rosedale Fine Jewelry, Dana was able to work and collaborate with the founder to create a vision for the line that matches the client’s own vision of the product.
Styling and props are important to Dana, but can only take a product so far.
“Lighting is 85% of telling a visual story. Lighting is its own character, it has such power. You can change how an image is perceived with light.”
Speed was a main factor when choosing lights. Dana’s Scoro packs are powerful, with 3200 Ws of power, three outputs, and pair well with the cameras she uses. “Having a space with my husband allows me to play with light a lot more. We have four or five Unilites, three Scoro packs, and a couple of Picolites, so I have been spoiled. My favorite is the Pulso Spot Projector. It really adds that extra layer to an image.”
Dana likes to start each shoot with a clean slate, then builds her scene light by light. “I start with one light, a bare bulb or P70, usually with grids.” From there, she adds a light each step of the way. Grids become critical for highlighting individual elements, without spilling light onto the rest of the scene.
One of the things introductory photographers don’t realize is the work that goes into a product shot. “When shooting jewelry or skincare with chrome or reflective surfaces, you see one image, but it’s many. Plating for the background, the shadows, the reflective surface, and the diamonds.”
Capturing product, especially jewelry, is a team effort and Dana has surrounded herself with extremely talented individuals that help to make every shoot run seamlessly. As someone who started as a stylist and shifted to behind the camera, it was imperative for Dana to gain as much on set experience as possible. She credits this as one of the reasons for making her transition to photography even easier.
“For anyone looking to get into the industry, you should get on set. Whether that’s being a PA or DIT, or whatever. You’re always learning and I think that’s a huge part of becoming better artists and photographers. You’re learning by doing and seeing.”
While Dana continues to explore the merger of product styling and photography, she still gets messages about her past shoots. “People still reach out about Trader Joe’s and say ‘I love the story you told.’ This was done a year ago now, but I can look back and see things that I’d do differently today. There’s always room for improvement and always something new to learn.”