Creative.8 - Keith Romanowski
Lens of perfection for your next product.
Today I have the immense honor of interviewing our first American creative.
Keith has what I like to call an “Eye for perfection” but in this context, “Lenses for perfection” would make much more sense as he is a Photographer that invests not only high-end equipment but also deep effort and much creativity in his work.
As designers, when we design products, specifically packaging, there is usually a specific moment when we know deep within that the concept is ready. It is an unexplainable feeling of joy, victory, and pride that makes us feel eager to show the work to the world. But no amount of images or 3d mockups is enough to really bring our product to reality as a professional studio photoshoot can efficiently do. I was in that exact context when I first saw Keith’s work on my Instagram feed and I immediately knew that The Lit Studio would be the right partner for the job.
Ever since then, I have been faithfully following Keith’s work and he never ceases to impress me with the technicality of his photos, the composition of his photoshoots, and the beautiful colors and light of his post-production.
Let’s get to know him.
Welcome, welcome, Keith! Before starting, our readers might be curious! Can you share some of the pictures that resulted from our collaboration? (And maybe, if you remember, the experience as a whole when working with the HHemp brand)
When you find someone that is on the same page as you, things go so much more smoothly. Together we created some great shots for HHemp. It was a fun project to do, and I'm glad we had a chance to do it together. But most importantly HHemp was happy with the images too. In fact, I still collaborate with HHemp today.
Can you share a little bit of your background with us? Where are you from and how old are you? You are a father, right? Can you also share a little bit about the fatherhood experience with our readers?
I'm 37 from Long Island, New York. Being a Dad has taught me how to become better at listening, patience, and empathy. Kids are like sponges, they pick up on everything and are always listening.
I think most importantly it's about being the best version of yourself you can be. Because they do notice and want to be like you. But above everything, the very best gift you can give to your child is your time.
Now tell us a little bit about your academic and professional journey. Have you always been a photographer? When did you realize you had a true passion for this artistic expression and could turn it into a full-time job?
It started when I was in second grade. My parents would get phone calls from my teachers about how I wasn't paying attention in class. I was always drawing or deep in a daydream. Public school didn't work for me. It didn't tailor to my learning needs.
Art is how I understand the world. It wasn't until I was in college learning became fun. I first got my associate’s degree in Graphic Design. But soon after I fell in love with Photography. Later I got my bachelor's degree in Photography.
But if I had a time machine, I wouldn't do it again. The amount that I learned in 1 year working for a commercial photo studio was more than I learned during my entire academic journey.
Why working with creativity and communication is important to you? Can you explain to our readers what you had to learn before realizing that you had the confidence and experience to safely offer your services to customers?
My parents were entrepreneurs who owned a successful screen printing and embroidery business for 35 years. I learned the basics of running a business from just being around them. So, running a business always felt normal. One valuable thing that I learned is that you can't just wait around until you feel ready. Because that time may never come. I'm always learning, but I still make a ton of mistakes, I just aim for 1% better every day.
What is it about photography that captivates you so much? As a human expression, why is it important?
It's the creative process that I love so much. To get an idea out of my head and turn it into a reality is a serious dopamine dump. I like product photography in particular because I always start with a blank canvas. Every shot starts out with 2 saw horses and a piece of plywood. That's it. Creating something from nothing is the ultimate reward.
From a sale to the final delivery, can you share with our readers how is your business development and creative processes? What is the best way to approach you if a brand needs a photoshoot?
We all want things to be as easy as possible. So, from the very beginning, I made the entire process a piece of cake. First, shoot me an email. I'll pick your brain. I'll put together the content. And then I'll send you a download link. Easy peasy.
Can you mention some of your favorite photography references? What work or literature usually inspires you with ideas?
I currently have 3,096 images saved in my Main Swipe folder. Inside this folder are many subfolders categorized by type. So, if I have someone that says I need a photo of a bunch of joints flying in the air. Within 20 minutes I can have a dozen ideas ready to go. Good ideas are everywhere. You just got to look.
On a personal and professional level, are there other photography fields that you enjoy consuming or even exploring creatively and artistically?
The creative process is also a spiritual process for me. It's where I find my balance. Which is why I will only do work that I'm passionate about and turn down everything else. Product photography feels like an extension of who I am. No other forms of photography interest me.
In my experience, only those who work directly with this craft understand how much of an expensive profession Photography really is. Can you share some information in regard to your hardware? What is your favorite setup nowadays? If you are comfortable sharing, how much is your equipment worth?
To be honest photography equipment is getting cheaper. The cost of admission is so low now. Just imagine having to spend roughly $20k to get some serious equipment. That's what it was like in 2004. It's not even close now.
My thing lately is a beautiful, solid steal, super heavy light stands. That kind of stuff you pass down to your kids... Everything else feels disposable. I don't have a favorite setup because every project requires unique needs.
Keith, we met thanks to a project in the cannabis industry, which is where The Lit Studio is very well established and trusted. I know from experience that this is an innovative market with many different challenges to professionals regardless of their profession. Can you share a bit about your experience so far?
For the most part, I know what every cannabis photographer in the world is shooting. At least what I see on their Instagram and website. For me, this creates a baseline. I focus on who is doing exceptional work and aim to be in the same ballpark. But when it comes down to it you just need a lot of persistence. Experience is the greatest teacher, networking is dead, build relationships, and you will go far.
Why is the cannabis industry important for society and where do you see it going in the future?
I think above all it comes down to choice. No matter where you are in the world you should have total freedom to use cannabis responsibly however you would like. For some people, cannabis can change their lives. I think everyone in this world should have access to this amazing plant.
Next is federal legalization. With federal legalization imagine a huge company like Amazon putting 1000's of little farms out of business overnight. Or on the positive endless opportunities. I still don't know if federal legalization it's a good or bad thing.
Back to photography! Your recent experiments with AI completely blew my mind. How do you see this new technology within your field and how do your experience and skills help you further explore its potential?
I've been using AI as a visual storytelling element to help reinforce my product photography work. So far, it's been a great tool. Creating content is about creating stories. And if I can use AI to help tell a story with nearly limitless opportunities that's amazing. Why not explore its deepest potential.
We see images and screens all around us nowadays. In fact, I have talked about how “Technical Images are the consciousness of a pure information society.” in Design.1. How do you see the future of photography in an ever-growing technological and visual future?
We are entering a whole new era of smoke and mirrors. With AI imagery now accessible to all, we are going to be seeing more and more images every day that are not real. And chances are you won't be able to tell what's real or not. But then that raises the issue of authenticity. There are some people that care that what they are looking at on a screen is real. And other people just don't care. I think a balance between AI and photography is where we are heading.
Can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies? What does your music taste look like and what do you like to do in your free time?
I have a huge library of music, everything from jazz to electronic. I listen to music based on how I feel. But if there is anything that I listen to the most, it's jazz.
In my free time, I like spending time with my wife and two kids. Our favorite thing to do is spend time in nature. Luckily on Long Island, there are a lot of parks to explore.
You are sent to Mars for a special mission but can only take one camera brand with you, which one would it be?
Something that I can strap to my body and forget it was there. I wouldn't want anything between me and the experience of being on Mars. That's generations of inspiration.
A Visual Treat
Jaunty launched their new line of edibles in New York and needed images to help promote their products to dispensaries and customers.
Black Tie won an award for their Fruity Loops flower. And to help celebrate their win we put together a photo shoot.
Package Bros wanted their products to look their best and to position themselves as cannabis packaging leader. So, they contacted me to put together content for their website and social media platforms.