Jun 28, 2016458 views

Behind the Scenes: Ultralight Shoots at Massdrop

Get the picture? Like everything else on Massdrop, our product photography is there to provide as much accurate, relevant information as possible, so you can make educated decisions about the things you buy. It works alongside the product descriptions and ongoing conversation on the Discussion pages to help you discover, grow, and share your ultralight obsession.
When we shoot a new piece of gear, we strive to show the aspects that make it stand out to us, and the ones we think the community will love, too—whether it’s a bunch of cool features, or on a minimalist item, the wonderful lack thereof. Along with wide shots that show the whole product in the frame, we take close-up shots of small details, like pockets, zippers, and attachment points. We also try to anticipate questions that savvy ultralighters might ask, like “Can it double as a pillow?” and “How small does it pack down?”
We want community members to do more than just see the products: We want them to be able to see themselves using them. So we work to show each item in the most realistic environment possible, used realistically, and staged with other products that would realistically complement it. That means that, if a backpack claims to be waterproof, we’re going to get it wet. If a wrap can be worn several different ways, we’re going to show them all. And if an insulated bottle comes with a strainer, you better believe we’re going to make tea.
Our favorite thing about product shoots? They bring us outdoors. And because everyone involved in these shoots (both in front of the camera and behind) is a member of the ultralight community, we think that’s a pretty good place to be. We can’t always make it to the Pacific Crest Trail or Mount Everest on a typical workday afternoon, but we’ve found there are plenty of gorgeous areas to set up camp within walking or driving distance of Massdrop’s San Francisco HQ.
We select our sites based on which setting will best showcase the products in action. If we’re shooting a hammock, we’ll go somewhere we know we can find thick trees to hang it from. If we’re shooting a tent or a set of stakes well suited to a particular kind of soil, we’ll make sure we have the right terrain. Golden Gate Park, Mount Davidson, and Land’s End are reliable favorites, as are some of the smaller parks near our downtown office, and we’re always looking for new landscapes that make sense for our products and make our pages nice to look at.
All of this is exactly as fun as it sounds. We get to explore the city and play with some of the neatest products on the market alongside our coworkers, who are also our adventure partners and our friends. It’s a small operation: The average shoot will comprise of a photographer, an assistant, and a model or two, each carrying a bag stuffed with products and props.
Our models are Massdrop employees from various corners of the company: logistics, engineering, creative, and beyond. Sometimes, it’ll just be the photographer for the Ultralight Community and the buyer (who often serves as the designated model and photo assistant, too). The photographer will help the buyer with setup, and the buyer will hold branches out of the way so the photographer can get the perfect shot. At the end of the day, we have a lot of great photos to choose from, along with some priceless B-roll we can laugh about later.
Thanks for going behind the scenes with us! Stay tuned for more ultralight tutorials and peeks into life at Massdrop, and hit the "Follow" button to be notified about future posts from this account. In the meantime, if you have questions, comments, personal recommendations, or stories to share, leave them below. We’d love to hear them—and see pictures, too!
em93, mattbloom, and 12 others

Pacific Coast Trail?, giggle. California Coastal Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. Looks like fun regardless.
Whoops, good catch! We've updated the post.