Photography For Some Giants

A few weeks ago Nashbox Studios was hired by a design & manufacturing company to photograph their giant trash segregating machines. Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, BHS designs, manufactures and installs processing systems tailored to extract recyclables from the waste stream. You can read more about the company and it’s work at the link below:

At Nashbox Studios, we have always believed that a project is successful only if we get ample client feedback. In that regards, BHS has been a great client to have, with a very co-operative team that continuously provides feedback.

Amanda and I went all guns blazing on this assignment. By the end of it, we were extremely tired as we were constantly on our feet to capture every possible angle needed, and then some more.

A line-up of some BHS products

Below are some of the challenges we saw in this project:

  • Owing to the size of the machines, we needed to have a large setup in a relatively small space. A lot of the company’s warehouse/assembly/testing space was occupied, which could have otherwise been used for revenue generating activities.

  • The machines have transparent windows to see the inner workings. Problem is you also see everything on the other side - walls with pipes, other machines in the space, and their client - trash. Not to say that trash is lying around, it’s properly stored. But at certain angles we did end up seeing those storage containers.

  • A forklift operator is constantly required, to move the roughly 20ftx15ftx12ft giants around. A lot of time was wasted in moving the machines around to find the optimum angles, and to avoid seeing unwanted things through the windows.

  • We did use white screens behind the windows, but the challenge there was the logo on the windows is white. And clipping out the screens in post-production was also challenging.

  • We had a short window to shoot everything - 5 hours. Why? Don’t quote me, but probably because machines are built to order, and shipped out within a few hours. From a business perspective, that is the right thing to do. No one wants the burden of expensive inventory.

As we were conducting the session, I asked one of the engineers whether I could get access to a 3D CAD model of one of the machines. There was some reluctance, since they had tried digital renderings without much success. They still decided to give Nashbox Digital a try. Since then, I have been working with their marketing team to generate some photorealistic renderings for them.

It has been an exciting and challenging project, for several reasons:

  • First off, the machine is an assembly of scores of components made of different materials with different surface finishes. Each components needs to be rendered well to achieve a high degree of reality.

  • BHS sources components and sub-assemblies from it’s vendors and puts them together. The 3D models from these vendors are representative with some details left out. I had to make some judgement calls to make do with what we had at hand.

  • Metal everywhere - with the exception of may be the HMI (monitor), the window panes and the robot bases, the machine is an assemblage of metals. Titanium, steel, aluminum, brass, alloy. Brushed, rolled, cast, machined, sheet. Everything you can think of. And anyone who does renderings knows that getting the metal shine and texture right is the difference between photorealism and cartoons.

  • Finding the right backgrounds/backplates: We couldn’t just pick any backplate. They needed to make sense.

Despite all these obstacles, we have been successful. The best part - You see the background through the windows, and still see the logos on the windows.

The un-rendered CAD model & some of the final renderings


I am a commercial product photographer based in Nashville Tennessee. I have been asked at times whether my digital renderings company Nashbox Digital is the way of the future and whether renderings will cannibalize some forms of photography. My answer is, I am a photographer too - in fact this project was a combination of photography and renderings. Several of the companies that do renderings use it as an extension of their photography and video capabilities. And my intent is to do the same. I enjoy being on sets with several people and the team work. At the same time, renderings are a natural extension of my engineering background.