Thursday, December 27, 2012

Take the Bread and Run

Last Spring I went to the Painted Hills, OR with a small group of friend photographers to shoot some new images for our portfolios. These are a few from my set.  They are  good examples of a current
trend in commercial photography  and short videos, suggesting a mood rather than telling a clear story. The landscape, the colors and the key objects combine with the movement of the subject to originate tension and create an image able to hold attention long enough to be remembered.  However,  the details of the story are best left to the viewer's imagination.  Why is our hero running through a door frame, holding a red bag filled with bread? Why is he carrying a camera? What role is the woman playing? The point I am trying to make with this image is.. he could be holding anything as long it is colorful or shaped in a way to immediately capture the attention of the viewer. The other clues (the camera, the old cowboy boots) just further enrich the image, without being too distracting. This is what a commercial client 'd require from a set like this.

The lighting is similar in all three images , a softbox to camera side, high and close to the subjects, scene cross lit with the sun. However the images look very different. In the first and second photos the flash overpowers the Sun. Coupled with some post processing that alters the original palette it creates a dreamier,  more staged look. In the third  image the  flash is used only as fill,  to give more of a structure to the floating vest. I noticed that often clients love the first set up and then ask you to 'tone it down' a bit to achieve the second. So it is good to show that one can create a range of images with the same tools and set up.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Portraits with Natural Light

These two images have been taken in exactly the same spot, using two very different cameras, but the same light set up, which I consider 'classic' for studio portrait. Both just use only natural light, but in a way that closely mimics the studio set up I'd use. My point? To show that one can apply  a simple light set-up   independently of the environment  (the photo studio or a fancy bar) and the camera. For this images I used a  good digital SLR (focal lenght was 20mm, almost equivalent to a 35mm at full frame) and an iPhone, with has an  even wider lens.  Both images were shot at f2.8. So where are the lights and most importantly, where is it  that they aren't? Think of how you 'd light this in the studio:

-  Key: large softbox to camera left.
-  Accent+fill: striplight to camera right.
-  fill for face: a white reflector under the subject or a small softbox low and a bit on camera right.
-  hairlight or better a spot light.

 In an bar the trick is to position yourself and the subject in a way to take advantage of where
the natural light sources are, in this case;

1 -   a large, floor to ceiling window a few feet at  camera left, with mostly reflected light from nearby buildings.

2 -   a  door inot a small backyard about 30' to  camera right, at the end of a dark corridor.

3 - an electric light behind the subject

4 - a white table

5 - the most important thing: an otherwise fairly dark room, with  interesting fixtures and dark walls that absorb light and  do not reflect much or any, back onto the subject. The images would most likely do not work as well in a room with white walls, that would make the lighting less interesting.  Also, any bright colored walls would make getting appropriate skin colors pretty hard. So choose your scene carefully....

But at the end pretty similar schemes right?

 The two portraits also show the effect of using  (top) a very  wide lens  to get a  dramatic effect, amplified by the reflection in the model's sunglasses, compared (bottom) with a more classic, 'commercial' framing of the subject. The larger DSLR frame has a shallower depth of field, which shows clearly in the slightly out of focus  bar furniture.  In both cases I did some light skin retouching (to keep the subject 'real' as appropriate for their intended use)  and some post coloring with Lightroom. And if you need to hire a speaker  to talk about planets and stars, you can go here, a website where  you can also hire Salman Rushdie, although his portrait is not as good, at least in my opinion ;).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday Morning, 6AM: never say never.

The Blackberry Bushes Stringband  is a really good  North West based band that I photographed late this Summer on a bright sunny morning.  The Sun provided plenty of backlight and it was windy, so I just added a key light high on camera left (an Einstein head with a large diffuser), a pretty standard set up that is easy to work with two assistants who know what to do (hey Danny and Ashley).

This set  is a good example of how sometimes I try an idea on a test shoot and then I apply it
with a client. The image I blogged about a few months ago used a distressed background and warm colors  to give the feeling of 'Old West'*

The BBBs loved the idea ...and just added the owl and the Budda's head. They were also adventurous enough  to stand in the water with their instruments for the sake of making the image more captivating. We were done by 10am, just in time for brunch...

*I made sure to keep a standard, 'clean' version in the archive, just in case!

Monday, June 11, 2012

As Winter gives way to Spring

This is a test shoot with the adorable Josie Haney we did last Winter. It was a cold, windy day at the nearby nature reserve. I wanted to experiment with colors and distressed textures, taking away the focus from the model (sorry Josie!) or the product. Why? It's an approach often used in commercials, especially splash pages on web sites,  to set the mood of the viewer. Remember, you never sell things, you sell solutions to people problems, or needs.  Let them feel good first! Lighting scheme is easy, just minimal fill with sunlight in the background, exposed to blur the sky. Warm tones reminding of the old West and daguerreotypes.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Making People Happy with Natural Light.

I was hired by Compendium Inc. to photograph their new series of greeting cards and the displays they are going to be sold from.  That posed an interesting challenge. I love shooting still life, but their style is a bit different from the one I usually go for.  They wanted  bright images, with a strong 'natural light' feel to them. This is sometimes easier to be said than done here in the NW, where natural light is often rapidly changing during the day. My solution was to shoot with mixed light, putting the displays (and the model in another similar shoot) next to a large window and letting the natural light to work as a global fill, about 1.5 stops below key. Then I  put a large softbox 6ft high on camera right to be the main light source, well aligned with the windows. Then a strip light behind the display on camera right and two smaller ones pointing and the white background.  To give the image a bit more of a 3D 'punch' (but while under the watchful look of the AD,  to stay consistent with the Compendium look ) I used as  a cheap ring flash adapter  as fill.  The flash  was mounted on an on-camera Canon Speedlite.  So umm,  five lights total. Note:  this set up requires your other strobes to have optical slaves.

Have  you noticed that the format of the blog posts has changed?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everything but the Girl

This is my favorite image from a shoot with my friend Kristin, whose latest artistic project involves singing and writing songs for her band Imaginary Daughter. While sometimes I enjoy doing complex outdoor shoots, this was a simple studio portrait taken with just a large softbox at camera left, up and close to the subject. Why add distractions when the subject can hold the scene all by herself? Nothing else was really needed and even the post processing was kept to a minimum. MUA and assisting by the fast, talented and witty Shannon Colleen. You can find her at VAIN.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Just Shirts. But.

This is my favorite still image from a shoot I did for a fashion company that designs, you probably guessed it, shirts. The most fun part of the shoot was deciding how the shirts should look like, or, better, what should the viewer feel. And who is going to be the viewer? The target customer of the company a +40, married, reasonably wealthy, married guy? One never really sells a shirt. And a shirt is a shirt is a we thought that the buyer (most likely his wife or so the marketing research offered) would rather imagine her partner doing cool things rather than being at the office. The look and palette came together shortly after that: a bit of americana, warm colors, old wood, a truck parked somewhere. Yes the shirts have to 'feel' more than just 'look' nice. This is the final result, or..the final result I liked the most, but not the one that made it to the final campaign. Oh well! But how did I get the shot? $20 worth of wood panels painted to make the wood darker, a softbox with extra diffusion from an opaque plexi panel low and inclined behind the shirts (the bottom of the box was flagged) ringflash on camera and two super thin strip lights on the sides. Shot from above. The most important thing? The styling of the shirts done by the always impeccably perfect Kimberly Swedelius. Oh yes, remember to copyright your images once you are done with the shoot. Just saying.